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Lovers Key State Park: Great beach plus kayaking, manatees & birds

Lovers Key State Park is full of shells, birds and beauty

Note: Lovers Key State Park took a direct hit from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. Effective Jan. 23, the bayside of Lovers Key State Park is open for limited day use activities. Paddling and picnicking are available along the estuary. The boat ramp and the beach side of the park remains closed. This article was written before the storm. See update on Florida State Parks here.

There’s a lot to love about Lovers Key State Park.

Just south of Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key State Park is comprised of four islands. It feels unspoiled and natural and makes a great destination for any season.

In summer, people will love it for its fabulous 2.5 mile long pristine beach with powdery white sand and a natural shoreline. At the north and south end there are bleached out tree trunks that add drama to the scene and delight photographers.

In winter, many will still swim, but others will enjoy just walking the beach and collecting seashells, kayaking the waterways and spotting the many birds.

Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach
Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach: The beach gets wilder as you walk north along the shore. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

During an April visit, we were delighted to see nesting shore birds — willets, ostercatchers and black skimmers — on the beach in an area cordoned off to protect them. There were also several active osprey nest visible from the beach. (And while we didn’t see them, the park has two active eagles nests.)

The four barrier islands that make up Lovers Key were originally destined for development. Canals were dredged; mangroves uprooted. Lucky for us, the state acquired the land in 1983 and today you’d never guess the history of the 1,616-acre park.

Lovers Key Fort Myers Beach is great for kayakers
Kayaks and manatees are both drawn to the waterways at Lovers Key. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Lovers Key beach also has two hiking trails, each just over two miles, that are good for walking or biking (on fat tires.)  The trails aren’t terribly special; we preferred a long walk on the hard-packed, barely populated beach.

Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach
Surf fishing at Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Kayaking at Lovers Key State Park

This park is an ideal destination for kayakers.

The park’s concession company rents single and double kayaks, stand up paddleboards and canoes.

A paddling trail through the park’s waterways is 5 miles roundtrip. The route takes you through mangrove-lined waterways where you have a good chance of seeing a variety of birds and possibly manatees. (Occasionally, an alligator is spotted too.)

The gazebo and tram at Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach. (Photo: David Blasco)
The gazebo and tram at Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach. (Photo: David Blasco)

A more demanding — and very rewarding — kayak outing is to paddle to Mound Key Archaeology Site. Lovers Key State Park is a stop along the Calusa Blueway paddling trail and so is Mound Key, an island that was the center of the Calusa Indian kingdom starting 2,000 years ago.

The trip to Mound Key is over open water in Estero Bay. It’s a beautiful paddle with good chances for seeing dolphins and manatees, but it can get windy and choppy. Here’s our story on the kayak trail to Mound Key, one of our favorite Florida kayak destinations.

Bridge at Lovers Key, Fort Myers Beach
One visitors described manatees that seemed to play tag under this bridge in winter at Lovers Key State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The sprawling park has a tram that transports visitors and their gear from the parking lot, which is on Black Island, to the beach, which is on Lovers Key.

At the beach, there’s an attractive elevated gazebo that is a popular place for weddings. When it’s not reserved, it’s a great place to relax in the shade and enjoy the view.

The park has two playgrounds and several picnic areas.

Lovers Key Welcome and Discovery Center

The active volunteer group at Lovers Key accomplished something no state park has done in 20 years — built a brand new environmental education center that opened in 2021.

Located on a scenic waterfront, the building is designed with glass walls and observation decks to take advantage of the stunning view. Exhibits in the welcome center will explore the life of barrier islands, its habitats, wildlife and plants. A large indoor room will be a space for programs and performances. Here’s more about the new facility.

Osprey nest at Lovers Key Fort Myers Beach
An osprey and its nest along the Lovers Key beach (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Planning your trip to Lovers Key State Park

The park concessionaire, Lovers Key Adventures and Events, sells bait as well as food (hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream and beverages.)

The Lovers Key kayak and boat launch is on the west side of Estero Boulevard, a good distance from the beach area. 

Lovers Key, Fort Myers bech attracts birds
The beach is a magnet for birds. (Photo: David Blasco)

Admission to Lovers Key State Park is $8 per car, but if you just want a chance to spot manatees in winter, here’s a good tip. The manatees love to congregate in front of a viewing deck right inside the park entrance — and before you have to pay admission. So you are welcome to pull in and check whether any manatees are hanging out. On one winter visit, we spotted two, but a chatty British couple gazing into the water told how they have come every day of their vacation and on some days had seen eight manatees in this spot.

Just south of Lovers Key State Park is a popular dog beach.

Lovers Key State Park
8700 Estero Blvd.
Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931
(239) 463-4588
Lovers Key State Park official site
Friends of Lovers Key
Mound Key State Archaeology Site
Boat rental and other services at Lovers Key
Lovers Key does not have camping, but here is a Florida Rambler story on best camping near Fort Myers and Sanibel.

Map of Lovers Key State Park

Map of Lovers Key State Park
Map of Lovers Key State Park

NOTE: See our updated Florida Red Tide Report.

More things to do near Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key State Park driftwood
Bleached tree roots along Lovers Key State Park beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Lovers Key great blue heron
Great blue heron poses at Lovers Key.

Editor’s Note:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits. 

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Kennedy Rice

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

I miss home soooo much had flee MC for irma never made it back only place I ever found happiness.

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