As the story goes, Lovers Key State Park (now merged with adjacent Carl E. Johnson State Park) was able to be accessed only by boat and lovers would travel to the island for privacy on the remote beaches. Nowadays, this beach and park is a perennial favorite on the Travel Channel’s list of best beaches.
As popular as this park is for boating on the bay side and for beach activities on the Gulf of Mexico side, it is never crowded because the park spreads out over four barrier islands and more than 1,600 acres. There are over 8 miles of trails for hiking and biking including the Black Island Trail that follows the inner waterways of the island.
The park is located between Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach along Estero Boulevard in Lee County. Just drive west on Bonita Beach Road and keep heading north after you pass Doc’s Beach House. You can’t miss it – there are entrances on both sides of the road, one primarily for boat launching on the east side and the beach entrance directly across on the west side.
On the bay side of Estero Blvd., there are boat launching facilities along with restrooms, concessions, bait shop, picnic tables, grills and a playground area.
On the Gulf of Mexico side, the beach stretches from Big Carlos Pass at the north end of the park to New Pass at the south end where you’ll find Dog Beach. Aside from food and drinks, the concession on this side of the park offers rentals for bicycles, canoes and kayaks, supplies for fishing and a schedule of ranger programs such as guided walks and bird watching.
Some of the fish caught in these waters include snook, redfish, trout, tarpon and mullet. Wildlife spotted regularly in their natural habitat here are manatees, bottle nosed dophins, bald eagles, osprey, roseate spoonbills, wood storks, herons and many other birds.
Organized programs and tours have included:
- Guided Kayak Tours
- Sunset Kayak Tour
- Lovers Key Beach Walk
- Manatees and Dophins of Lovers Key (Park Ranger Talk)
- Lovers Key Wading Trip
- Beginning Birding
- Treasures of the Shoreline (Park Ranger Talk)
- EstuaryTour with Focus on Photography
- Black Island Kayak Tour
- Lovers Key Fishing Clinic
Here are a few notes and some local knowledge:
- There is a tram to take people from the parking and concession area out to the beach. Free of charge and a scenic trip along the paths and boardwalk. It is a walkable quarter of a mile to the beach but, if you’re carrying beach equipment and a cooler for a day at the beach you will want to ride the tram.
- On the south beach, there is a large gazebo that can be reserved year round for events, family gatherings and weddings.
- This an excellent beach for shelling. Check the tide chart to optimize your collection of various shells.
- The four barrier islands that make up the park are Black Island, Inner Key, Long Key and Lovers Key. Legend has it that Black Island got its name from Black Augustus, the pirate. The story goes that after his escape from authorities he made this island his home for the remainder of his life.
- The shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico is about 2 miles long and it’s a wonderful walking beach.
- The park hours are from 8 am to sunset, 365 days per year.
- It is a State Park so an $8 admission is charged for your vehicle at the gate, if you have between 2 and 8 people in the car. If you’re driving alone, then the admission is $4. Walkers and cyclists are charged $2 for entrance into a state park.
- Here’s a local tip – at the very north end of the park, just before the drawbridge at Big Carlos Pass is a gravel parking lot in which there is no parking fee. You can easily walk to the beach along the pass. It’s actually a great spot because you can watch boats going by, people fishing, and there’s some action for entertainment. You won’t be alone here so, don’t expect privacy as you would in other parts of the park. Also, you’re a long way from any of the concessions, if that matters to you.
Lovers Key Beach State Park (Carl E. Johnson State Park)
8700 Estero Blvd.
Fort Myers Beach, Florida 33931