One of SW Florida’s most beautiful nature provided attractions is just south of Ft Myers Beach and Estero Island. Lovers Key State Park is made up of four barrier reefs. The four landmarks are Lovers Key, Inner & Long Keys and Black Island. In the early 1900’s the island and its surrounding keys were only accessible by boat. It was said that mostly lovers went over to the romantic island for its serene and quiet setting. The reefs were slated for development in the late 1960’s and 70’s. After some financial melee with the developer, the State of Florida stepped in and acquired the now surrounding preserve in 1996.
The park’s entrance, which is located on Black Island has a minimal entry fee that starts at $2 a person on foot or bike, $4 for a car & 1 person and $8 for up to 8 people in a vehicle ($2 extra per-person). Once inside the park there is a central area with a gift shop that offers rentals on kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards, peddle boats and bicycles. They also make available park information and maps.
The central area is a starting point with either a self guided tour or a prearranged tour for larger groups. This is where you can also hitch a ride on the tram that takes you to the beach. Another great way to see the park is by renting or bringing you own bikes. We preferred to start our trip on foot. From this point we crossed over a bridge onto Inner Key.
We selected the trail that leads to the beach. The paths are well groomed and easy to maneuver. There are lots of stops along the way to view the greenery, wildlife and waterways that intertwine between the keys.
There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way. The park is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Everywhere you look presents a picturesque view of nature at its finest moments.
The bird photo above left (on tree branch) is an American Oyster Catcher (not officially verified) and to its right a Blue Heron. As we traveled further down the trail, we approached the bridge that took us onto Lovers Key and one of the many beach locations in the park. Here is where you can spend a day suntanning, bird watching, relaxing and/or enjoy the warm Gulf waters.
From this point you can walk for miles in either direction. We selected the southern route that takes us towards the channel that separates Lovers Key from Bonita Beach. The wildlife is always present and watching your every move. I will try to post as many pictures as this page will allow.
The uprooted sea-washed timber with the Mangroves and various trees close behind, gives a wondering look at natures selection of life and death. There are beds of seashells that cover the sugar white sand that blankets the beach’s shore.
Florida’s Osprey is one of the most gorgeous aerial creatures that I have witnessed. They usually nest in tops of dead trees or on overhead structures. I have also witnessed them nesting on highway signs that stretch across Florida’s roadways.
Take note that in the picture below it shows the Osprey turning his head 180 degrees to its backside. Looking even closer, you can see that it has the afternoon’s feast clinched tightly in its razor sharp claws.
Just to the south of the trolley stop is a walk-only path that leads to a pier. It tunnels you through a dense tropical forest of mangroves. The covered gazebo at the end of the pier provides some great views of the waterways that separate Lovers Key and Inner & Long Keys.
There are specific places throughout the park that allows you to listen and view its habitation. Another great way to explore this beautiful right of passage is by kayak. You can bring and launch your own kayak or rent one from the gift shop.
We took a walk along the northwest side of Lovers Key that borders the Big Carlos Bay. It offers a little over a mile of shoreline and is filled with lots of marine life. It is not unusual to see dolphins frolicking within yards of you or possibly viewing a manatee slowly lumbering by and snorting just above the waterline. Another exciting part of this tour was spotting a Great Blue Heron. This magnificent bird with its beard like feathers watches over its domain like a farmer over his crops.
It is very easy to spend a full day walking, biking, kayaking and exploring this beautiful sanctuary. It’s very family oriented and most trails are stroller friendly. At the end of the day, take the time to find a comfy spot facing west and next to the water’s edge. Then relax and watch the sunset over the Gulf Of Mexico in one of SW Florida’s most romantic places.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photographer: Anthony & Maureen Scopel