boys on lovers key
In Florida, the word “key” usually brings to mind islands like Key Largo, Key West, or Marathon. For some, it conjures thoughts of escape to an island paradise and leaving the busyness of life behind. For others, a trip to the Keys means adventures filled with water sports and up close encounters with nature. For families looking for all of the adventure without the hassle and cost of long road trip, Southwest Florida boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the state and has an unspoiled island paradise all its own – Lovers Key.
About Lovers Key
Located just 15 minutes from Naples, Lovers Key is the perfect escape. Whether you choose to spend the day or a weekend, Lovers Key offers plentiful opportunities for family enjoyment. The area known as Lovers Key is actually composed of four barrier islands separating Estero Bay from the Gulf of Mexico (Lovers Key, Inner Key, Black Island, and Long Key) and is home to the 712 acre Lovers Key State Park. Wondering why the area is called Lovers Key? Once only accessible by boat, the islands were frequented by couples seeking private beaches and romantic sunsets. Now accessible by car, it’s still a haven for those seeking a secluded beach amongst the three miles of glistening sand and surf.
Discovering Lovers Key
As a Southwest Florida mom with a thirst for fun and educational activities to do with my 10 and 6 year old sons, the initial discovery of Lovers Key was a pleasant surprise. I had never paid much attention to the area until I chaperoned a field trip for my son’s kindergarten class. Not only was I impressed with the unspoiled beauty of the beaches, the hands-on nature discovery activities led by knowledgeable park rangers left us with a desire to come back for more. What to do? Plan a family staycation of course!
Staying and Playing at Lovers Key
Although we live close enough to drive to Lovers Key for the day, we wanted to stay and play on the islands. We chose the Lovers Key Resort, located on the northeast end of the Lovers Key area, on Black Island, just before reaching the bridge to Ft. Myers beach and within walking distance to the state park. An all suite resort, every unit features breathtaking views of Estero Bay with guaranteed dolphin sightings from the moment you arrive. As soon as we opened the door to our suite, my boys spotted the dolphins from our 5th floor window. Needless to say, we were soon on the resort’s private beach on the bay making friends with Flipper! We spent our first afternoon exploring the mangroves of the private beach and frolicking in the waterfall pool overlooking the bay before enjoying a home-cooked meal and dining on our bay view balcony. Our staycation was off to an idyllic start.
A Close Encounter of the Manatee Kind
Having escaped to Lovers Key just after the end of a busy school year, I had hoped to start the day by sleeping in and contemplating the view with a cup of coffee. Isn’t that every parent’s dream? Instead, the boys bounded into our bedroom at the crack of dawn begging to get out on the water to hunt for wildlife. Lovers Key State Park offers activities such as guided walks, fishing, cycling, shelling, hiking, wildlife viewing and kayaking. Because the dolphins had inspired the boys to get up close and personal with nature, we rented kayaks at and off we went. Within minutes of pushing our kayaks out into the back waters of Black Island, a friendly manatee floated on over. She went from vessel to vessel blowing water at us and letting us pet her. Obviously used to being the center of attention, the moment the boys would reach out to pet her, she would flip onto her back for a belly rub! As we tried to continue our kayak cruise, the friendly neighborhood manatee latched on to the kayak with her flipper as if to ask us not to leave. Within less than 24 hours, we had encountered dolphin, manatee, various birds, and even otters! Happily, although the posted signs let us know we were in their territory, we didn’t meet up with any alligators. The boys were disappointed about that, but mom and dad certainly weren’t!
Dining on Lovers Key
Although our resort suite was a home away from home allowing us to cook and enjoy a family dinner, we were happy to find Flippers on the Bay, a unique restaurant at Lovers Key Resort which is open to the public. The restaurant provides an open-air, waterside atmosphere allowing guests to arrive by boat, jet-ski, kayak, or car. Distinctly Floridian casual, the restaurant offers a bay view location from which to enjoy Chef Juan Cruz’s surprisingly gourmet fare such as: Taste of the Bay, Citrus Crème Brûlée, Bohemian Grouper, and Chocolate Lava Cake alongside its more traditional, but equally as delectable sandwich menu. A lovely spot for breakfast on the water, offerings include Ultimate Lobster Egg Benedict, the Fit Flipper, and Seaside Omelet.
If you’re looking for a Southwest Florida family staycation that feels like a true getaway, Lovers Key will make you want to return again and again. We’re already planning another visit to see Madame Manatee!
Lovers Key State Park, Lovers Key Resort, and Flippers on the Bay are located on Estero Blvd. just across the bridge from Ft. Myers Beach. From US 41 North (Naples), turn left onto Bonita Beach Road. From US 41 South (Ft. Myers, Estero, Bonita Springs), turn right onto Bonita Beach Road. From I-75, take exit 116 and fork right onto Bonita Beach Road. Merge onto Estero Blvd. and follow the signs to the park and resort.
Lovers Key State Park
Open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown,
365 days a year. $8.00 per car,
$2.00 per cyclist/pedestrian.
Canoe and kayak rentals from $15.00
Lovers Key Resort
Rates start at $149/night for a one bedroom suite with queen bed, full kitchen, and sleeper sofa.
Flipper’s on the Bay
Menu items from $6.00 to $30.00
Nicole Flesvig Bruland is a mother of two, writer, and educator. Raised near the Canadian border, and having studied in Paris, she is a French/English bilingual with a passion for language. She has been a teacher and education policy consultant at the Florida Department of Education. Nicole is a blogger for the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples and an adjunct professor at Edison State College. She enjoys traveling and having fun with her sons, Jacob and Evan, and her husband Bronze.