Discovering Coastal Park Treasures in Southwest Florida

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By Holly B. Morris

At the southern end of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Lee County’s coastlines and  barrier islands have beckoned to visitors for years. Visit these coastal parks and discover Lee County’s true treasures.

Explore miles of bike trails at Lovers Key State Park

Explore miles of bike trails at Lovers Key State Park

LOVERS KEY STATE PARK

Beach-goers visiting Lovers Key State Park begin their adventure riding in a tram over a wooden boardwalk banked by mangrove forests. It’s not long before the view opens to a brilliant beach and sparkling emerald waters. The pristine beach at Lovers Key is a must-do, but there are other reasons to visit. Walk beside tranquil waterways on Black Island Trail as kayakers and paddleboarders silently slide by. Stop to watch lazy manatees and playful dolphins. Listen for osprey and eagles. Explore miles of bicycle trails. Go saltwater fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, shelling, bird watching, swimming, or just have a picnic. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are available for rent. Get your trail on here.

Tranquil waters at "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge

Tranquil waters at “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge

J.N. “DING” DARLING WILDLIFE REFUGE

There’s plenty to see and do at the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island—a world-renowned mecca for bird watchers. Wildlife Drive is the main thoroughfare, where visitors can hike, bike, drive or take a tram tour. Be on the lookout for manatees, alligators and over 245 bird species. Stop at Mangrove Overlook, a boardwalk leading to an expansive inland waterway where the only sound is jumping mullet. It’s easy to see why birds like it here: the fishing is good and the living is easy, with over 6,400 acres of protected land. Return to the Education Center to learn about the work of Jay “Ding” Darling, the migratory flyways and more. The interactive exhibits and hands-on stations teach visitors about the wildlife that call this slice of paradise home. Plan your Ding Darling trip here.

The shifting sands of Cayo Costa State Park

The shifting sands of Cayo Costa State Park

CAYO COSTA STATE PARK

Cayo Costa State Park is the place to go for outdoor adventure. This barrier island is only accessible by boat, but Captiva Cruises offers ferry service to the park from various locations in Fort Myers and Punta Gorda. Go for the day or camp overnight. There are miles of secluded beach, and forests of oak, pine, palm and mangrove. Rent bikes, or hike to explore six miles of trails. Fishing is big in the waters off Cayo Costa—especially Boca Grande Pass, where tarpon fishing draws anglers from around the world. Check out Cayo Costa here.

Ready to explore Lee County’s outdoor wonderlands? Book your trip to Fort Myers / Punta Gorda at www.allegiant.com today!

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