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Latest update: December 2019

Lovers Key State Park...

Sheltered Paddling by the Gulf on the Great Calusa Blueway

Lovers Key State Park is a collection of barrier islands between Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The Park's beach is routinely listed among "America's Best Beaches." While paddling on Gulf or Bay involves open water, there is a 5-mile (round-trip) trail along canals within the State Park that offers more sheltered, recreational paddling suitable for everyone. On-site rentals: canoes, kayaks, paddleboards. Many waterbirds, plus manatee and maybe an alligator. State Park entrance fee applies. When bringing your own craft, there are other areas of the Park and adjacent Big Hickory Island Preserve that are also worth exploring. (Detailed map, photos below.)

paddle Great Calusa Blueway, kayak, canoe

Distance: 5 mile paddling trail (round-trip), more available off-trail
Location: Lee County
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: Lovers Key State Park (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Edison and Ford Winter Homes, Mound Key Archaeological State Park

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Lovers Key Adventures  (State Park concessionaire; rentals, tours)

Eco Paddlesportz of Southwest Florida  (rentals)

Adventures Kayaking  (rentals, tours)

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key... Comments and Photos

Lovers Key offers 2 paddling experiences: (1) easy, sheltered paddling along the canals and small bay within the State Park, and (2) extended paddling via an outlet leading to Estero Bay - open water subject to wind, tide, and motorboats. We stayed mostly along the canal trail, but also took a short excursion onto Estero Bay, where we gained a renewed appreciation for the shelter of the canals. This is a popular State Park, especially on weekends. The beach is ranked among to the best in Florida. The Park maintains a wide choice of on-site rentals by the water with easy launches


Paddling at Lovers Key State Park

Drive straight through the parking lot, around a bend (rounding one of the canals), past the overflow parking to the launch area at the very end. There are three sandy launch points, easy on and off. Rentals (see concessionaire) are located here. The canal trail is easy, the launch area is nice sand, and an island directly across from the launch is a popular hang-out for manatees, so there can be a lot of paddlers hanging out here as well. The entire canal trail is mangrove-lined, about 5 miles round trip, if so inclined.

Launch Area

On the Paddling Trail


Paddling onto Estero Bay

Along the paddling trail at about the 0.75 mile marker, look for an open pass where you can see the Estero Blvd. Bridge to the east. Paddle out through Little Carlos Pass to Estero Bay. There's a boat ramp on the bayside as well (see map), rentals available here too - popular with fishermen.



Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key State Park is a 700-acre park comprised of islands, canals and lagoons. A prime wildlife and bird watching location, the park has a 2.5 mile beach, picnic facilities, a 5-mile trail along the canals, bicycle and watercraft rentals, and fishing.


Birdwatching at Lovers Key State Park

Great for birdwatching!


About Estero Bay and River Designated Paddling Trail:

Lovers Key State Park is within the Estero Region on the Great Calusa Blueway. The Park is also the western end of the Estero Bay and River Designated Paddling Trail, which runs 9 miles from the launch at Koreshan State Park, down the Estero River and across Estero Bay to Lovers Key. On the lower Estero River and open water of the Bay, wind and tide can be a challenge. This type of trip is best suited for experienced kayakers, or as part of a guided group tour.

Nearby Paddling:

Great Calusa Blueway offers more paddling options.

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