Kayaking & Shelling at Lovers Key State Park

There are certain things you learn as a full-time RVers. Things like the fact that school spring break lasts forever and if you’re anywhere even remotely desirable during this time you better plan ahead. While I have no problem with kids and families enjoying the same campgrounds that we call home, it does necessitate a certain level of planning ahead that I don’t always enjoy. You would think after nearly five years on the road we would have it figured out, but sometimes things slip through the cracks. Which is how we ended up with a one day lapse in reservations between the time we left Koreshan State Park and were due to arrive at Hillsborough SP.

Finding a place to spend a single night is not a big deal. We are hardly averse to overnighting in a parking lot. We prefer not to spend all day hanging out on the blacktop though, which means that we needed to find a way to amuse ourselves with the Airstream in tow.

Lover's Key State Park
This view beats a parking lot any day

Our first choice for a day trip was nearby Sanibel Island. It’s a place I’ve long wanted to visit and after some research, I discovered that two of public beach parking lots have a few RV sized parking spots. But then we talked to some people who had actually been there and it sounded like the RV spots were sized more for small class C campers than a 25′ trailer + truck combo. Also, it was reported to be very busy out there which means our chances of encountering the “national park visitor center phenomenon ” (where regular sized cars park in RV sized spots just to be jerks) was high. So we skipped over Sanibel Island in favor of exploring the more RV friendly Lovers Key State Park.

We surely could have found RV parking there, but since our main goal for the day was to kayak over to the beach, it actually made more sense to find a spot outside the park near the Dog Beach.

Lovers Key State Park
It would have been a very long way around had we launched the boats at Lovers Key.

It wasn’t a large parking area but we got there early enough to find an out of the way spot right near a little sandy spot perfect for launching the boats.

Lovers Key State Park
Launch area only steps from where we parked the Airstream

It was an easy paddle under the bridge and through the pass that led us to the ocean side. Along the way, we passed a row of boats pulled up on the beach on the southern end of Lovers Key. It looked like a nice place to land, but we wanted to get a bit more paddling in.

Lovers Key State Park
Boats on the beach

When we reached the end of the pass there was a shallow sand bar with large waves were rolling over it. We paddled through while the waves crashed up and over the bow of our boats. Thankfully, both the air and water were warm because we got soaked!

Lovers Key State Park
Photos don’t tell the real story of how big these waves were

Things calmed a bit from there and we paddled parallel to the shore for a ways before landing on the beach.

Lovers Key State Park
Beach landing

Lovers Key is one of those beaches where you have to park a distance from the beach and then hop on a tram. Consequently, most people congregate near where the tram lets them off leaving the rest of the beach relatively empty. We landed near the north end of the beach on a quiet stretch of sand.

Lovers Key State Park
Beach boat parking

We were both soaked from the waves so we left the boats behind and went for a little walk to explore and dry off.

Lovers Key State Park
Lovers Key Beach

This whole area is known for having lots of shells, but it looked pretty picked over with mostly small or crushed shells.

Lovers Key State Park
Lots of shells at Lovers Key beach

Since we weren’t in a hurry we strolled back to the Airstream and pulled out our Helinox chairs for a little beach relaxation.

Lovers Key State Park
Ahhh..beach time

It would have been too far to continue paddling around the island so we took the same route back. We stayed away from the shore, but I tried to get a shot of the busy area near the pavilion and restrooms. The white tent you see was set up for a wedding. What a great place to get married.

Lovers Key State Park
The busy section of the beach

When we reached the edge of the beach where the waves rolled in we turned and headed out to sea so we could ride back in on the waves. It was a blast! This is probably the closest thing to white water rafting we’ve ever done with our kayaks. I loved the feeling of being picked up by the wave and riding along the top. I wish I could have taken a video, but with both hands busy paddling so I didn’t tip sideways there was no way I could have gotten a good shot. It was so much fun that Tim decided to paddle out and try it again. I didn’t feel like fighting against the waves so I beached the boat on a tiny island that had formed in the middle of the channel to wait for him.

Lovers Key State Park
At low tide, this small island appeared in the middle of the channel

I had the best intention of taking a video of him coming in on the waves, but then I got distracted by the shells — tons and tons of shells! Not the tiny ones like we found on the beach either. These were large, whole shells scattered all around the tiny island. I really don’t need any more shells but I couldn’t help collecting them.

Lovers Key State Park
So many shells

I managed to peel myself away from the shells in time to snap one shot of Tim riding the waves.

Lovers Key State Park
Tim coming in…

Tim joined me on the island and we looked for shells for a bit longer before paddling back to the Airstream. Lovers Key state park has some cool looking inner waterways that we could have explored, but it was late in the afternoon so we skipped more paddling in favor of doing a few errands before heading to the final destination for the night — our very first overnight at Cracker Barrel. (Because I know someone is going to ask — after looking at the menu online we couldn’t convince ourselves to eat there, but the parking lot was level and quiet).

Lovers Key State Park

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12 Responses to “Kayaking & Shelling at Lovers Key State Park”

Comments

  1. Jacky Bowen

    Thank you for such a great description and interesting pictures. It is rare for anyone to include a map or satellite view, let alone annotate it. That makes it all the more helpful for those of us who may want to go there.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      It was the easiest way for me to describe where we went :) The parking area and kayaking route was such a good find that I wanted to share all the details.

      Reply
  2. Jodee Gravel

    I’ve starting taking pics of the rocks we collect and then returning all but one or two – or we would have to start removing furniture to make weight :-) At least shells are lighter! Love the wide open beach. So much better than the busy boat beach. Wonderful tree skeletons.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      That is a great idea! I’ve had to stop with the rock collecting. The one small bag I have is the limit. As you said, fortunately, shells are lighter. But I still have an amount bordering on rediculous!

      Reply
  3. Metamorphosis Lisa

    I wish southern California beaches had tons of shells like that! Looks like a beautiful place to while away a day in transit.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      It seems that the best shelling beaches we’ve found have mostly been along the Gulf Of Mexico. Must be something about those ocean currents.

      Reply
  4. Jamie

    At some point, you definitely need to visit Sanibel. It’s truly amazing, probably my favorite place in Florida. Comparable to the Keys in many ways. There are a couple parking areas that could accommodate your rig, but you would definitely want to go in low season. This time of year is absolutely INSANE. Traffic and parking are a nightmare. If I remember right, it has a year round population of less than 7,000. The estimate for January-April is over 50,000! And…. VP Pence was vacationing there this past week, making it even crazier. You were smart to skip this time…but make it a priority the next time your in the area! We often go around Thanksgiving, and it is very quiet.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Oh yes, it’s definitely still on the list. Sounds like we made a good choice to skip it this time around. We’ll shoot for a fall visit next time.

      Reply
  5. Laurel

    What a fun little unexpected adventure! We’ll put that kayak trip on our list. I hope it somewhat assuaged your longings for kayaking in the Keys.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      There was a lot more kayaking we could have around the area. If we had started earlier it would have been fun to paddle around the entire island. And yes, it did help cure our longing for that blue-green Keys water!

      Reply
  6. Gerri & Mike

    That was a great shell find. We have to get better at traveling without lots of prior planning. When full-timing before we had a 40ft MH so we felt like we couldn’t just put it anywhere thus we planned. Now this time we chose the 24ft Oliver to full-time in and can just go without lots of reservations. We just have to relax with it because it’s more fun. I do understand the special holidays though.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I can imagine that a bigger RV requires more planning. Especially at public parks where only a handful of sites are suitable for bigger rigs. Honestly, I wish we never had to make reservations, but with RVing and camping more popular than ever there will always be times when it’s necessary.

      Reply

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