Lovers Key is a pristine barrier island and a state park
, which gives it solitary beaches and long nature trails. For years the only way to get there was by boat, which kept it remote and a great place to steal away and spend some time with your significant other. It hasn't been developed, so there are still a lot of secluded romantic places to relax and unwind, for just the two of you.
Located immediately south of Fort Myers Beach
are four small islands that form Lovers Key State Park
- Inner Key, Long Key, Black Island and of course Lovers Key. Lovers Key was formerly known as Carl E. Johnson Park, which has over 1,000 acres of land, including two miles of beach surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, some backwater canals, lagoons and trails. In order to get to the park in current time, you can take two routes. From the north, you need to go through Fort Myers Beach; from the south, you must travel through Bonita Beach. There is a charge to get in, but it is minimal.
Lovers Key State Park came into existence after an acquisition by the State of Florida
, in 1983, and a 1996 merger with Carl E. Johnson County Park on the southern end. There are several artesian wells on Black Island that provide a source of fresh water. From the early 1900’s up until the late 1950’s, fish camps were set up in many areas of Black Island, but were later abandoned when planning for development began. When these islands were slated for development, in the 1960’s and 70’s, the natural plant life was highly disturbed in preparation, such as the Mangrove wetlands, which were altered to uplands by dredging a canal system through Black Island.
Then when Hurricane Charley hit in August of 2004, Lovers Key was a group of wilderness islands with tall Australian Pines, where tangles of Mangroves dominated the landscape so thickly that walking the beach was all but impossible. The mangroves and underbrush extended in some places to the gulf shoreline; damage to them and loss of beach sand was so extensive from the hurricane that cleanup and beach restoration was necessary. The barrier island of Lovers Key, with the removal of most of the trees and bushes, was left as a wide, sandy shell-strewn beach with little of the natural flavor that formerly characterized it. The State of Florida, however, is in the process of restoring the natural plant life by removing the exotic vegetation and allowing native plants to return or be planted.
Lovers Key State Park has always been a haven for wildlife; the islands and their waters are home to Alligators, West Indian manatees, bottlenose dolphins, marsh rabbits, and over 40 species of birds, including roseate spoonbills, osprey, Snowy Egret and bald eagles. The two mile long beach is accessible by boardwalk or tram, and is popular for shelling, swimming, picnicking, and sunbathing. Black Island has over five miles of multiuse trails for hiking and bicycling. Fishermen and boaters can launch their vessels from the park's boat ramp located on the bay side of the park. Canoes and kayaks are available to be rented on the grounds, or you can bring your own and launch it at one of the canoe launch sites at the park. There are miles of intersecting waterways to explore in the back-bay areas, so it is worth the effort to rent or bring one. The park's concession offers boat and fishing tours, as well as bicycle rentals and several places to get snacks and drinks located throughout the park.
Lovers Key has a good complement of facilities including outdoor showers, restrooms, shaded picnic areas and two playgrounds. The park is open from 8:00 am till sundown all year round, so come and enjoy exceptional wildlife viewing and photographing opportunities, fantastic shelling, breathtaking sunsets and quiet, secluded beaches for you and your love.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com