With a name “straight out of tourist fantasies of 1950s Florida,” Lovers Key State Park is a series of slim barrier islands between Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Fort Myers Beach, explains Florida Hikes. The park offers “speedy access to nature,”says Lonely Planet, “with a serene reserve encompassing coastal wetlands” and over five miles of walking trails. “If luck is on your side, you might see roseate spoonbills, bald eagles, marsh rabbits and other creatures,” while off shore, “bottlenose dolphins and manatees are among the many residents.”
Lovers Key was once only accessible by boat, notes the Orlando Sentinel, but now the two-mile long beach can be visited via boardwalk or tram and “features family-friendly activities such as kayak tours, shelling, swimming and bicycling.” Just across Big Carlos Pass Bridge, you’ll find yourself on Black Island, one of the islands of this 1,616-acre state park, which boasts “a 2-mile long remote and solitary beach, 5 miles of multi-use trails, a boat launch, picnic areas and a boardwalk tram to carry you and your beach gear from the parking lot to the beach,” explains the Island Sand Paper. And ranger programs, “such as guided walks, nature talks and birding education,” are offered regularly.
Lovers Key earned its name “by being so secluded that it was said only lovers made the trip,” write Joshua Gillin and Cat Gloria at Florida Beach Insider. And Black Island was “allegedly the home of the pirate Black Augustus, who made the island his home after escaping prison.” Now visitors can “kayak the mangrove-lined estuary, glimpse some of southwest Florida’s famous wildlife, hike kilometers of trails or simply lounge on the four-kilometre beach,” writes Michela Rosano at Canadian Geographic. Lovers Key is “touted as one of the best birding areas in southwest Florida … visitors have spotted more than 40 varieties of birds in the park,” including egrets, ospreys, roseate spoonbills and American kestrels.
It’s also a “fantastic spot for running,” says Great Runs -- “the trails are a combination of surfaces through wooded sections, along the estuary, and over boardwalks with great views and a good chance of spotting manatees, dolphins, osprey, or alligators.” And “for an even longer beach run,” connect to Fort Myers Beach, using the bridge/Estero Blvd. over Big Carlos Pass.