Have the ultimate beach day at Lover's Key State Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Southwest Florida with these tips and must dos.
If you love the beach life but doesn't really like the crowds, then Lover's Key State park is the place for you at Fort Myers Beach.
The park sits between Bonita Springs and Fort Myers beach. The preserve is about 1,616 acres of beautiful greenery, local wildlife and so many activities that you are sure to stay busy here.
Although we are locals and live only about 30 minutes from the park, we wanted to experience exactly what tourists experience and opted to stay on the island and we can safely say that it was worth every single penny.
Want to find out why? Keep on reading!
Where to stay
We stayed at the Lover's key resort which sit directly across from Lover's key state park North entrance and only a couple of minutes of driving to the South entrance.
If you opt to go to the North side of the park, you can easily walk there as all you have to do is cross the street.
We stayed on the 7th floor and the views of the Estero Bay and Lover's Key preserve were absolutely stunning. The sunset and sunrise are so beautiful and you can see a sunrise time-lapse that I did while staying at the resort.
The restaurant Flippers on the bay is also located right next to the resort which makes it super convenient to grab a bite to eat. Just keep in mind that they do not open for breakfast and closet at 10pm.
We chose the Lover's Key Resort because of the location but also because they offer kitchens in their units and we love to cook breakfast for their kids. They also have one and two bedroom units which are big enough for our family of six.
The resort is a bit outdate and the service was as great but the view and location made it up for it.
Where to eat
As previously mentioned, Flippers, a local restaurant is conveniently located right next to the resort but if you are staying for a few day and want to try something different, here are a few other restaurants close by:
Where to play
Around the Lover's Key area of Fort Myers beach you will find that there isn't much to do except for water sports related activities but the State park alone has so much to do for both children and adults.
Everything you should know about Lover's Key State Park before visiting.
1 - Parking
South side is $8 per day for vehicles with up to 8 people and the North side is free of charge.
There are ample parking here, so you never have to worry about it reaching capacity.
2 - Free Trolley or walking
Usually the pedestrian bridge is open but and the walking distance to the beach is short. But when that bridge is closed, the walk to the beach is about a 1/2 mile walk.
There is, however, a trolley that takes people from and to the beach every 15 minutes. If you're lucky enough, you may get Tim as your trolley driver, he is such a joyful person and you can tell that he loves what he does.
The trolley is free of charge and tips are welcome. You can typically access the trolly from sunrise to sunset but confirm with the driver to be on the safe side.
3 - Rentals
Paddle boarding, kayaks and even bicycles are available for rental at Lover's Key State Park.
Kayak Rental charges
SINGLE$41.00 / 4 Hours
DOUBLE$63.00 / 4 Hours
Canoe Rental charges
1-2 People$52 / 4 Hours
3-4 People$62 / 4 Hours
Stand up paddle board Rental charges
Bicycle Rental charges
$24 for half day
Beach Gear rentals
Lounge Chair $9
Combo (Two chairs & one umbrella) $30
4 - Pets
Pets are permitted in designated areas only and must be kept on a leash at all times.
Now, if you are traveling with your pooch and you want to let them run free, there is a dog park just down the road where your dog can roam around and enjoy the warm waters of Southwest Florida.
5 - Alcohol
Alcohol nor glasses are permitted at the park except at designated areas. You can, however, bring your own cooler with food, non alcoholic beverages and the like.
6 - Facilties
Expect bathrooms, showers and even a beautiful gazebo that can be rented in advance for events.
7 - Hours of Operation
The park opens at 8:00 am and it closes at sunset, 365 days of the year. The fun never stops!
Fun activities to do at Lover's Key State Park
Be prepared to spend a full day and maybe even two with all the activities there is to do at Lover's Key.
Don't forget to bring your gears, cooler with water to ensure everyone remains hydrated and of course snacks, because water sports gets anyone feeling super hungry.
Need help with making sure you got everything you need for your beach vacation? Check out this list so you don't forget to take anything.
1 - Shelling
Besides swimming and tanning, shelling has to be the third activity most people come to Lover's key state park for. The shells are absolutely beautiful, and if you arrive early enough when the tide is still relatively low you may find one of those big and beautiful conch shells.
2 - Snorkeling
Snorkeling is so much fun and the kids love it. In our opinion is the best way to find the best shells, sand dollars and star fishes. Not to mention you also get to see beautiful fishes and swim right along with them.
3 - Bird watching
Bird watching may seem like a tedious way to pass the time but you will find that at Lover's key the bird population is so large that you basically have no other option but to watch them.
Egrets for example, I have found them to be a show off and not really afraid of people. I've had this one Egret that posed for me for what it felt like 20 minutes.
4 - Dolphin Watching
Dolphin watching has to be one of my favorite things to do in Lover's Key and also at Bowditch beach at the other end of Fort Myers Beach.
My theory is that both beaches are the entrance and exit from and to the Caloosahatchee and also where the Gulf water and River water meet.
In the case of Lover's key State Park that area is going to be located south of the south beach entrance, where the boats and jet skis enter the gulf from the river. Beware of the current, I would not recommend paddle boarding or kayaking in that section of the beach, the current is so strong the paddling back would be almost impossible.
But you can walk there, just be prepared to get a bit wet but spotting a dolphin is totally worth it. Watch my Lover's Key State Park video on Youtube and see how lucky I was to be at the right place, at the right time and get a glimpse of a Florida dolphin.
5 - Fishing
A fishing license is required for anyone above the age of 18 years old to fish in Florida.
You can obtain a license at the following places:
Florida Tax Collector Office
Bait & Tackle Shops
Sporting Goods Stores
Online or by calling 888.486.8356 or 888.347.4356
Fee will depend on whether you are a Florida resident and the type of license.
The common fishes at Lover's Key are trout, redfish, snook, and tarpon. There are bait shops near the park for your convenience.
6 - Paddle boarding
Lover's key is the perfect place to paddle board. You have the river and the gulf to choose from and you can decide if you want to see dolphins or alligators. I am not joking at all !
Paddle board at your own risk but I must warn you that chances of spotting wildlife during paddle board at Lover's key are very high. Although I have never seen a gator at the park, I know they are there.
Out in the gulf water, you can run into a dolphin or a shark. However, shark attacks are not very common in this area and chances are you will be just fine.
To avoid attracting any creature's attention, it is best to avoid going in the water if you are bleeding, do not wear any shiny objects and avoid the water at night which is when sharks and gators hunt!
7 - Kayak
Lover's Key is known to be one of the favorite places to kayak in Southwest Florida. The park's estuary provides a beautiful and green scenery with mangroves and the chance to kayak along side wild life as mentioned above.
You can bring your own kayak or you can rent one from Lover's Key Adventures located inside the park.
The park offers 920 miles of waterways to explore.
8 - Boating
The state park provides a free boat launch with easy access to the river and the gulf. On any given Sunday, this place gets super busy, with boaters coming from everywhere to enjoy the waters of one of Southwest Florida's favorite spots to fish.
9 - Jet Skiing
Because of the free boat and kayak launch, jet skiing is another activity that is perfect for Lover's key.
You will also see many people on jet skis coming from Bonita Beach and the other side of Fort Myers beach as well
10 - Nature hike
Between the paved and beach area, Lover's key has about 7 miles of nature trail, comprised mainly of grassland, mud and sand.
Download the map here and choose the trail that best fits your mood
11 - Wild life scavenger hunt
Lover's key is filled with local wild life. You can create a fun scavenger hunt and see who can spot the most animals on the list.
Here are a few animals you can include in your list that are common at the park:
Southern Black Racer
Zebra Longwing Butterfly
Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly
12 - Picnic
Lover's key is the Oprah of picnic tables, it has one for you, one for you, one for everybody! No, seriously, the park has several picnic tables that are available on a first come, first served basis.
13 - Photography
With over 1,500 acres of land, Lover's key has so many picturesque places that picking one is not an easy task.
I have assisted with photoshoots here, and even have had my own photoshoot as well and the pictures turned out phenomenal.
Getting the most beautiful and undisturbed views is going to require a bit of walking which it may be a bit inconvenient to do with tons of equipment so I would recommend a beach wagon because the view is totally worth it !
14 - Watch the sunset/sunrise
Although the park opens at 8 am, if you have your own kayak, boat or paddle board you can still enjoy the sunrise at the park.
The sunset is another must ! We had a sunset beach picnic at the North side of Lover's key and the view was absolutely beautiful
15 - Biking
Lover's key offers over five miles of biking trail with picnic tables so you can stop, rest and enjoy the view.
The park has two trails: the Black Island Trail and the Eagle Trail.
You can being your own bike or rent one from Lover's key adventures.
16 - Eat
Want to on the beach without having to bring your own food? Hurricane Charlie's is located directly at the beach on the South side of the park where the trolley drops everyone off.
For a full menu of what they offer, check out this page.
17 - Host an wedding/event
If you always dreamt of getting married on the beach, you definitely need to consider Lover's Key as it has one the most beautiful gazebo with amazing views of the beach and the preserve.
The gazebo is also available for family and corporate event but must be reserved in advanced.
To book an event, contact the Lover's Key Wedding Coordinating team.
18 - Observation Deck
Bring the binoculars, keep quiet and you may just spot a gator or a manatee from the observation deck.
To get to the deck, walk towards Hurricane Charlie's and there's a small trail right next to it that will lead you to the observation deck that sit in the middle of the Estero bay.
19 - Geo catching
Who's ready for a treasure hunt? Geo catching is a super fun activity where you can find hidden items that can be found by using GPS coordinates.
To participate, simply signup at Geocaching.com and enter your zip code to search for geo catches available around you.
You can also hide geo catches, just keep in mind that the item must be system that it isn't harmful to the local habitat.
20 - Guided Kayak Tour
Adult (Ages 12+)$65.00
Child (11 and younger)$39.00
Available 7 days a week with a Minimum of 3 people and Must reserve 24 hrs in advance. Tour lasts about 2 hours & 30 minutes.
21 - Visit the Discovery Center
A 2,100 building nestled amidst the mangroves of the park, the Discovery center provides visitors with a the history of the barrier islands as well as interactive and educational material about the native plants and wildlife.
It's a great way for both adults and children to learn more about the 1,616 acre preserve and how important it is to the local fauna.