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.
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 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
NOTE: See our updated Florida Red Tide Report.
More things to do near Lovers Key State Park
- Koreshan State Historic Site: Wacky Florida history; lovely spot preserved
- Fort Myers Beach is a charming seaside getaway
- Clam Pass Park, a Naples beach where you ride the tide
- Kayaking Imperial River in Bonita Springs
- Kayak Sanibel and Captiva
- What makes Sanibel so special
- Bicycling Sanibel Island
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.