I went kayaking for a couple of hours during Memorial Day Weekend. What better way to get the most out of the long weekend than to get out on the water? A friend and I had decided to spend a day kayaking through one of Florida's most scenic state parks, Lover's Key, and invited my 16-year-old stepdaughter to join me.
You can paddle across 2.5 miles of estuaries on Lover's Key, located in Bonita Springs, Florida, just north of Naples. In addition to that, you will also be able to access a pristine white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico, which makes it the perfect setting for a destination wedding (Lover's Key, hello!).
It is a short walk from the parking to the beach, but Lover's Key provides a complimentary shuttle service that picks guests up from the parking lot and drops them off at the beach next to the snack shack, where they can purchase snacks and rent beach equipment. The beach is even equipped with free Wi-Fi so that you can stay connected while there.
Our car had been parked when we arrived, so when we found the primary concessionaire, Lover's Key Adventures and Events, we inquired about the availability of tandem kayak rentals there. We have a wide array of equipment available for your use at Lover's Key Adventures, including single and tandem kayaks, canoes, and even stand-up paddle boards.
Additionally, they have plenty of each in stock, so you do not need to make reservations unless you are coming with a large group. There is even an option to have them refund you the entry fee into the park ($8) when renting one of their equipment (hint: you have to ask for the refund and show the receipt).
Our excursion began with a trip on the Ocean Malibu Tandem Kayak. Taking advantage of the paddles, life jackets, and adjustable seats we were provided with, we walked a short distance away to the launch area, where our kayak awaited us.
It is not uncommon for kayakers and other paddlers to bump into manatees in the estuaries since they tend to cruise just below the surface. Despite their playful nature, they are curious creatures not afraid to interact with humans.
As we launched our kayak in the hope of getting up close and personal with a manatee soon after setting off, we learned that there were loads of manatee sightings that day, particularly in the first mile of the trip.
After an accidental but enjoyable detour through a dead-end inlet, it wasn't long before we were back on the main waterway, where several other parties of kayakers and canoeists were also enjoying the water. On our way to keep an eye out for the manatee, the team spotted multiple birds and hawks that roosted in the trees keeping a watchful eye on the water for any signs of food.
About 1.5 miles in, we spotted a trio of fishermen in a small boat that had just caught a double hook up on some fish. The man's lady friend was still trying hard to bring in her prize (a redfish, I think), and the other guy had already landed his award (a redfish).
You might want to bring your fishing kayak down, where you're bound to catch any number of fish hiding in and amongst the vast network of mangroves if you're into kayak fishing. We must have seen as many as a dozen fish jumping out of the water right in front of the kayaks throughout our excursion!
The 2-mile marker was reached, and as we passed through it, black clouds rolled in, and rumbles of thunder were heard in the distance. As you can see, we were already starting to tire in our arms, and we still had a 2-mile return trip, so we decided to stop a little short of the overall 2.5-mile mark and turn around.
We paddled calmly and serenely through the estuaries while most of the other paddlers we'd previously encountered continued their journey despite the weather or had already packed up.
We were also disappointed that we did not encounter any manatees on our way back. It was not as though seeing manatees would make or break our trip, but who wouldn't want to get a glimpse of those gentle giants gliding down the waterways? In any case, it just gives us an excuse to come back someday!
Lover's Key is a great place to go paddleboarding if you enjoy that sport. Kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding through the park is a great adventure for beginners and experts alike, whether you have your own or you rent one from the park.
Lovers Key State Park offers a lot to enjoy.
Lovers Key State Park comprises four islands just south of Fort Myers Beach. It has a new, natural feel and is ideal for any season.
In the summer, people will flock to it because of its fantastic 2.5-mile-long clean beach with fluffy white sand and a natural shoreline. There are bleached-out tree trunks on the north and south ends, which give drama to the landscape and excite photographers. Many people will still swim in the winter, while others may prefer to walk the beach, collect seashells, kayak the canals, and observe many birds.
Chasing Dolphins & Kayaking LOVERS KEY State Park
Kayakers will find this park to be an excellent destination.
The concession firm that services the park offers rentals of single and double kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks. A five-mile round-trip track for paddlers goes through the park's rivers. The path leads you past canals that are lined with mangroves, where there is a strong chance that you may observe a variety of birds and possibly manatees. (An alligator may also be sighted every once in a while.)
Paddling the Mound Key Archaeology Site is an adventure that is more challenging but also very rewarding for kayakers. Mound Key, an island that was the center of the Calusa Indian nation beginning 2,000 years ago, is a stop along the Calusa Blueway paddling path. Lovers Key State Park is another stop along the Calusa Blueway paddling trail.
The journey to Mound Key in Estero Bay takes over the open water. It is a lovely paddle, and there is a decent chance of spotting manatees and dolphins along the way, but the water can turn windy and rough. The following is our account of the kayak route to Mound Key, one of our most beloved kayaking sites in Florida.
The expansive park features a tram that takes guests and their belongings from the parking lot on Black Island to the beach on Lovers Key. The parking lot is located on Lovers Key.
There is a lovely elevated pavilion located on the beach, and it is a location that is frequently chosen for weddings. It is a beautiful spot to rest in the shade and take in the vista when it is not being used for another purpose.
Food and bait are available for purchase from the park concessionaire, Lovers Key Adventures, and Events (hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and beverages.)
A considerable distance separates the beach area from the Lovers Key kayak and boat launch, located on the west side of Estero Boulevard.
The cost to enter Lovers Key State Park is $8 per vehicle, but if you are just interested in seeing manatees during the winter, here is some helpful information. The manatees love to gather in front of a viewing platform located right inside the park entrance before paying admission and before entering the park. Therefore, you are free to pull in here and see if there are any manatees there. During one of our wintertime excursions, we only saw two manatees. Still, a talkative British couple who were looking into the water shared with us that they had come here every day of their holiday and, on some days, had seen eight manatees in this location.