May 28, 2009
Voted one of the top 10 parks in Florida and ranking as the state’s No. 4 park with the Travel Channel, the Lovers Key/Carl Johnson State Park area is a beach that cannot be missed. With groups of mangrove islands and sugar-white sand beaches bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Lover’s Key offers peace and sanctity from the hectic noises of the city life. From Black Island, at Big Carlos Pass in the north, to the county-owned public beach in the south, this narrow strip of islands offers a look at natural Florida at its finest.
For sun-and-sand lovers who occasionally need to take a dip in the Gulf, there are plenty of beach accesses and pristine stretches of sand where your only company may be a flock of sandpipers dodging the surf as they fish for supper. Bald eagles and pelicans, plus herons, egrets and ospreys also call Lover’s Key home. A tram to the beach runs every few minutes.
On the Estero Bay side of the park, Lovers Key also offers picnic tables under gazebos, barbecue grills and a playground that has plenty of opportunity for youngsters to climb, swing and slide along with canoeing, kayaking and eco-tours for the whole family.
For boaters, the Key has a boat launch ramp with a concession that sells delicacies any fish will jump for. Kayak and bike rentals, as well as fishing supplies and snacks, are available at the stand. Other amenities include rest rooms, rinse-off showers, a boat ramp and picnic areas.
Entrance fees are $2 for one person in a vehicle, $4 for 2 to 8 people in a vehicle, more than 8 in a vehicle costs an additional $1 per person; walk-ins and bicycles are $1 per person. The park is open 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Call 463-4588.
Looking for a place for the pooches? Four-legged canine members of the family also have their recreation area to frolic in the surf without a leash, too. Dog Beach is located on the Gulf side of New Pass, right next to Bonita Beach - and the acre of Gulf front is pure puppy heaven. Don’t forget to bring the pup’s favorite toys and plenty of drinking water. Also, bring plenty of towels for when the wet-furred vacationer gets back in the car.
Little Hickory Island/Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park
Heading south through Lovers Key State Park and the island of Bonita Beach, there is another little-known hidden beach gem off of the well-traveled Bonita Beach Road.
Park entry fee is $3.
State Recreation Area
Heading south from Bonita Beach Road on Vanderbilt Road and making a right onto Bluebill Avenue brings visitors to the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Recreation Area, a natural barrier island, thick with mangroves and native vegetation vital to wildlife. This is definitely a place one can see what the ancient Calusa Indians saw as they fished the pass, hunted and gathered wild plants.
Whether lounging on the beach, strolling in the shallows, going for a brisk bicycle ride or surf-casting and sailing in the shallows, Delnor-Wiggins Pass has something for everyone. After the fun in the sun, just cool off in the showers, visit the concession for some refreshment and go home to show off the day in the tropics.