Florida's Wildest Beaches
|Frolicking waters along Florida's seashore|
The entrance to Lovers Key State Recreation Area, one of the nicest and newest of Florida's state parks, sits on Black Island, the barrier island just south of Fort Myers Beach's Estero Island. With the triad of Lovers Key, Inner Key, and Carl E. Johnson County Park now under state ownership, the park has swelled to 712 acres. Lovers Key provides a unique glimpse at an entire ecosystem - beaches, estuaries, wetlands - that is on the comeback trail.
The beaches are some of the wildest and visually most interesting on this part of the coast. We aren't the first to notice; a national survey ranked them sixth among the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. The modest entrance fee includes easy access via tram shuttle to the isolated beach at the park's south portion, on the far side of Oyster Bay. It's a nice, meditative 10-minute ride that ends at a wide beach, with nature trails that wind back through the surrounding wetlands. Large, family reunion-sized picnic pavilions are provided, offering a semblance of privacy. Alternatively, you can walk out to the beach at the park's midsection. Two long wooden walkways take you from the parking area over the mangrove-choked estuaries onto Inner Key and then Lovers Key, a pearly white beach covered with shells and driftwood. No lifeguard is on duty, and signs warn,"Swim at your own risk," though the water doesn't look particularly dangerous.
There are a few picnic tables on the beach (no grills), but the real appeal of Lovers Key is its seclusion. With its gray skeletal driftwood formations and open horizon, the beaches here are somewhat reminiscent of isolated spots in the Pacific Northwest. Bring your camera and prepare to spend at least half a day tramping along the wild and secluded shoreline.
Brand-new visitors facilities were completed in 1997, and the incorporation of the formerly county-run Carl E. Johnson Park into Lovers Key State Recreation Area was celebrated with a dedication ceremony in June 1998.
Lovers Key State Recreation Area
8700 Estero Boulevard
Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931
Location: Entrance is on Black Island, between Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach on CR 865 (Estero Boulevard). There are nominal per vehicle parking fees, as well as a small entrance fee for bicyclists and hikers.
Hours: 8 A.M. to sunset.
Facilities: Rest rooms, picnic tables, and showers.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication