Lovers Key State Park offers sun, beaches, and a lot of shell collecting

The sun sets on Lovers Key on Wednesday 3/7/2019.Sunset On Lovers Key
The sun sets on Lovers Key on Wednesday 3/7/2019.Sunset On Lovers Key /

Lovers Key State Park is a beach treasure most vacationers don’t find out about until they leave.

On the coast of southern Florida is Fort Meyers, one of the more popular gulf coast destinations, lies Lovers Key State Park, and it is so much better.

Fort Meyers sits along the Gulf of Mexico. It is a popular tourist destination because of its white beaches and tourist shops. It is also very congested and what should take only 45 minutes to get to, can sometimes take almost two.

South Florida is a great destination for travel and while many focus on the Atlantic side, savvy travelers know there is just as much to do on the gulf side. I travel to the Fort Meyers area annually and love it but when I go, I detour around Fort Meyers Beach and come up the southside of Estero Blvd. The road that Fort Meyers Beach is on as well as Lovers Key.

Taking 41 south, you will get off on Bonita Beach Rd SW and travel towards the coast, west. It will dead-end into Hickory Blvd. You will stay on this road for about 30 minutes. The name will change again so don’t worry. Then, you will see the signs once you get over Big Hickory Island, for Lovers Key State Park.

There is an admission price and you will pay at the gate shortly after entering the park. There are creeks to the right that you may catch glimpses of manatees as they make their way through the waterways. Don’t rule out the occasional dolphin either.

There is ample parking at the main buildings and once you are here you are given the choice to walk or ride. A tram is available most of the day running every 15 minutes. The tram takes you to the beach further south. You will need to walk to the northern beach. At the south beach, there is a small food shack that you can get lunch at if you forget.

Lovers key
Different types of seashells collected on the Florida’s gulf coast. /

O.k. enough of the formalities. Why should this be a destination? For starters, it is typically a lot less crowded. The price is $8.00 per carload so it is reasonable. The trams can be busy because they are not big and the last one leaves the beach at 5:00 so be on alert as the park stays open past that.

The beaches are clean and there are two miles that you can patrol on your own. Like most beaches on the gulf coast, there are no waves to concern yourself with and the water along the beach is not only warm in temperature but shallow enough for the little ones to play without much concern for getting into deep water unexpectedly.

Lovers Key State Park also allows you to have your wedding on the beach!

While I have made the north trek along the beach, my favorite location lies to the South. I love to snorkel and I love to look for shells and while there are no guarantees to water clarity, catch it on the right day and you can pretty much do both.

I snorkel just off the beach where it is very easy to see the shell line at high tide. I pull myself along through the sand, sifting as I go. From olives, to whelks, and even King Conch shells, you can find a treasure trove of them to take home but make sure there is nothing living in them. This is also a great span to find sand dollars, Murex, and my favorites the tulips and alphabet cones. Check out this guide to local shelling! 

Next. Lovers Key is the perfect alternative to Fort Meyers Beach. dark

Take a walk down to the New Pass water inlet on the far south end. Here you can wade into the water, swim, and snorkel but keep an eye on the water’s surface for a dolphins dorsal fin. If you see one, swim out of the water as it is illegal to approach them. They are seen often in the waters of the pass.

While the pass does have some stronger tidal pulls, mostly towards the inland waterway, it is best to avoid the area’s shore lines in the water unless you are a good swimmer.

A full day in the sunshine of south Florida is always great and there are local hotels to the north that you can book your stay at. There is even one on the other side of the north beach of Lovers Key.

Kayaaking is available so you can paddle through the mangroves as well and you can self-tour the areas twisting and turning waterways but be aware of the tidal shifts because you could end up in much shallower water when the tide goes out. With luck, you will find yourself among manatees, seeing Dolphins, and maybe catch a glimpse of an alligator.

Overall, this is one the best beaches on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and a lot less populated than most of the others. Next time you plan a trip to Fort Meyers Beach, skip and head a few more miles south. You won’t regret it.