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Why we love Lovers Key State Park: kayaking, manatees, beach, shelling

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Last updated on July 5th, 2024 at 10:49 am

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.

Lovers Key State Park is known for its wild white-sand beach and its seashells. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Lovers Key State Park is known for its long white-sand beach and its seashells. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

In summer, we love it for its fabulous 2.5 mile long pristine beach with powdery white sand and a natural shoreline.

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

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 had 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 State Park is a good place for birding. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Lovers Key State Park is a good place for birding. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Lovers Key hurricane damage

Lovers Key State Park got walloped by Hurricane Ian in September 2022, and was closed for several months. But it’s bouncing back.

Gone is the bait shop and kayak rental on the east side Estero Boulevard. Gone is the gazebo, site of many beautiful weddings. But the beach is as beautiful as ever. Shells abound. Wildlife is present. The trails are open.

As of November 2023, however, the park still does not have electricity — it operates on generators.

Trails at Lovers Key

Lovers Key beach has two hiking trails, each just over two miles, that are good for walking, running or biking on fat tires. The trails go through secluded estuaries that were dredged to make way for development on the island. 

On the trails, you might spot a bald eagle, West Indian manatee, American alligator or crested caracara, all of which frequent the park.

The Black Island Trail, located off Parking Lot #2, is known as a good place to spot gopher tortoises.

Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.

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

The Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park does an excellent job of telling you a bit more about the special environment you are visiting. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park does an excellent job of telling you a bit more about the special environment you are visiting. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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 explore the life of barrier islands, its habitats, wildlife and plants. A large indoor room has space for programs and performances.

The Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park has a shaded second-story space where you can relax and enjoy the view. It also has shady picnic tables. (Photo: David Blasco)
The Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park has a shaded second-story space where you can relax and enjoy the view. It also has shady picnic tables. (Photo: David Blasco)

In addition to exhibits, there are weekly coloring pages for the kids, immersive videos, and a shell ID table to help you learn your local molluscs. Here’s more about the facility.

As of November, 2023, the Discovery Center is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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, rents kayaks, SUPs, beach chairs and umbrellas.

Admission to Lovers Key State Park is $8 per car.

Lovers Key does not have camping.

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

Map of Lovers Key State Park

Map of Lovers Key State Park, reflecting changes after Hurricane Ian
A new map of Lovers Key State Park, reflecting changes after Hurricane Ian

NOTE: See our updated Florida Red Tide Report.

More things to do near Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key great blue heron
Great blue heron poses at Lovers Key.

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