It was Memorial Day Weekend and what better way to take advantage of the long weekend than by going on a couple of kayaking excursions? I recruited my 16 year old stepdaughter and we decided to spend a day kayaking our way through one of Florida’s scenic state parks, Lover’s Key.
Located in Bonita Springs, FL just north of Naples, Lover’s Key has 2.5 miles of estuaries through which to paddle. In addition to that, there is also access to a pristine, white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico, the perfect setting for destination weddings (Lover’s Key, hello!).
Even though the beach is just a short walk away, Lover’s Key provides a shuttle service that will pick you up from the parking lot and drop right on the beach near the shack where you can buy some snacks or rent beach equipment. There is even complimentary Wi-Fi right there on the beach!
After we parked our car, we found our way to the main concessionaire, Lover’s Key Adventures and Events, where we inquired about a tandem kayak rental. Lover’s Key Adventures has equipment of all types, from single and tandem kayaks to canoes and even stand up paddle boards.
Not only that, but they have plenty of each in stock so unless you come with a large group, reservations aren’t necessary. They will even refund you the entry fee into the park ($8) with any one of their equipment rentals (hint: you have to ask for the refund, however, and show the receipt).
We opted for the Ocean Malibu Tandem Kayak for our excursion. We were outfitted with paddles, life jackets, and adjustable seats which we took a short distance away to the launch area where our kayak awaited us.
The estuaries are populated with a sizable group of manatees that are known to bump into kayakers and other paddlers due to their tendency to cruise just below the surface. They’re playful, curious creatures who don’t shy away from human interaction.
We were told by the guides that there were lots of manatee sightings that day, particularly in the first mile stretch, so we launched our kayak hoping to get up close and personal with one soon after setting off.
After an inadvertent but pleasant detour down a dead end inlet, we finally found our way back to the main waterway where there were several other parties of kayakers and canoers sharing the water.
While we were keeping an eye out for the manatee, we did spot numerous species of birds and hawks roosting in the trees keeping a watchful eye on the water for any sign of food.
About 1.5 miles in, we kayaked past a trio of fisherman in a small skiff who had just gotten a double hook up on some fish. One guy had already landed his prize (a redfish, I think) while his lady friend was still fighting hard to bring hers in.
If you’re into ‘yak fishing, you’d probably do well loading up your fishing kayak and taking it for a spin down this way where you’re bound to catch any number of fishing hiding in and amongst the vast network of mangroves. We must have seen a dozen fish just jump out of the water right in front of the kayak throughout our excursion!
Alas, we finally reached the 2 mile marker and black clouds were rolling in with rumbles of thunder threatening in the distance. Not to mention that our arms were already starting to tire and we still had a 2 mile return journey, so we decided to stop short of the full 2.5 mile mark and turn around.
We enjoyed a tranquil and serene paddle back through the estuaries, with most of the other paddlers we’d previously encountered either continuing the journey despite the weather or already having packed it in.
We were disappointed to not encounter any manatee on the way back either. Not that seeing manatee was going to make or break our trip, but who doesn’t want to get a glimpse of those gentle giants gliding along the waterways? It just gives us an excuse to go back, anyway!
Lover’s Key is a great spot for people who love paddle sports. Whether you have your own or rent one of theirs, taking a kayak, canoe, or SUP trip through the park is a fun adventure for beginner and advanced paddlers alike.