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

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By Bonnie Gross on  in BeachesBirdingKayak & CanoeSouthwest Florida

Last updated on October 11th, 2018 at 04:30 pm

Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach
Near the north end of the beach at Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Lovers Key in Fort Myers Beach is full of shells, birds and beauty

Lovers Key State Park kayakers
Kayaks and manatees are both drawn to the waterways at Lovers Key

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

The best known destinations in southwest Florida may be two popular islands — Sanibel and Captiva — but there are many other wild and natural spots to discover including this state park.

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

In summer, people will love 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 or kayaking the waterways.

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

During our 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 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 landscape has been altered.

Lovers Key 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

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)

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.)

Lovers Key State Park birds
The beach at Lovers Key is a magnet for birds.

A more demanding — and very rewarding — kayak outings 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.

Lovers Key State Park bridge
One visitors described manatees that seemed to play tag under this bridge at Lovers Key State Park


Lovers Key osprey nest
An osprey and its nest along the Lovers Key beach

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 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 kayak and boat launch is on the west side of Estero Boulevard.

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 rents and other services at Lovers Key

More things to do near Fort Myers Beach area:

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