Fall in love with Lovers Key State Park, which was voted one of the top 10 parks in Florida by the Travel Channel. In fact, Lovers Key currently holds the second highest attendance mark in Florida and boasts the premier outdoor attraction spot in Southwest Florida .
It’s said the Key, once only accessible by boat, was only visited by lovers for its quiet, white-sand beach and shallow, tranquil waters.
While times have changed, plenty of lovers still frequent the little island and have plenty of things to do once parked. Besides the beautiful beachfront and clear blue-green water, take a bike ride or kayak paddle around Black Island, have a picnic at the gazebo or anywhere else you can find barbecue grills.
Inquire about ranger tours of the estuary, including bird watching and history lessons
A concession store is available to sell fish bait and snacks. There you can rent kayaks, bike, fishing supplies. Other amenities include restrooms and rinse-off showers. The park is ADA accessible.
Entrance fees are $4 for one person in a vehicle, $8 for 2 to 8 people in a vehicle, more than 8 in a vehicle costs an additional $2 per person; walk-ins and bicyclists are $2 per person. The park is open 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Call 463-4588.
Give your dog some exercise at this off-leash beachfront park. Known as Bonita Beach Dog Park, the site is located at 8800 Estero Blvd. on the Gulf side just before New Pass Bridge on the way to Bonita Beach.
Dogs can enjoy the surf, then wash off at the provided Doggie Shower Station. Parking is free. Dog bags are available. Rules are posted on a bulletin board. This is an unsupervised site, so you are responsible for yourself, your dog and his or her behavior.
Little Hickory Island
Near Bonita Beach, this South Lee County spot is a shell-laden, white-sand beachfront park. A ramp runs from the parking lot to the sand, allowing handicapped access, and the shore is wide and clean. Surf fishing is a favorite pastime for visitors here. Check the fishing regulations and then cast away! Parking is $2 per hour and on-site restrooms, picnic tables and showers mean creature comforts aren’t far away.
Barefoot Beach is another little-known hidden gem off of the well-traveled path of Bonita Beach Road.
Once inside the first gate, you will drive or bike 1.5 miles through a very exclusive community, possessing bricked roads, to a preserve at the end of your travels. The beachfronts are known for their quiet atmosphere, shelling and bird watching.
Park entry fee is $8. Call (239) 252-4000 for more information.
State Recreation Area
Further south, there is a part of “old Florida” that needs to be explored by everyone. The state rec area can be found at 11135 Gulfshore Dr. in Naples, Florida
Discover a natural barrier island, thick with mangroves and native vegetation and wildlife. The popular destination has various activities in store, such as sunbathing, snorkeling the reef, hiking, bird-watching, fishing, picnicking, paddling and searching for seashells.
Boaters will also find a boat ramp to launch into Turkey Bay. The easy access leads to the delicate natural estuaries of the Conycatcher River, leading out to the Gulf of Mexico.
Admission fee is $6 per vehicle (limit 2-8 people), $4 for single occupant, $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Boat ramp fee is extra.
Kayak local rivers
Kayaking has become eco-tourism’s shining example of how nature’s beauty can be enjoyed without fuel, noise or pollution. Two such rivers that scream “old Florida” along US 41 are prime examples of enjoying that beauty.
Estero River offers a canopy of mossy trees and meandering cumulus clouds. Access it either at Koreshan State Park (if you have your own paddle craft) or across the street at Estero River Outfitters to rent one for a couple of hours or for the day.
Kayakers can paddle east to the river’s end or venture under the 41 overpass traveling west, paddling parallel to the 19th Century Koreshan State Historic Site and eventually to the river’s mouth Estero Bay.
Estero River Outfitters is at 20991 South Tamias Trail and open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit establishmentarianism.com or call (239) 992-4050.
Imperial River is south along that main road, at 27551 S. Tamias Trail in Bonita Springs. The boat ramp is right off the road and boasts a facility with restrooms. You will also find a small wooden walking path to a fishing pier. All vehicles must pay a parking fee of $5 per day per vehicle. Call (239) 949-4615 for more information.