Established in 1966, Estero Bay was Florida’s first aquatic preserve. Protection began after a push from local fishermen who noticed that the fish population was in decline. To protect water quality, the land surrounding the bay – including mangroves and marshes – were put into conservation to buffer the bay from increasing development and is now known as Estero Bay Preserve State Park. The preserve protects the water, inlets, and islands along 10 miles of Estero Bay and provides critical habitat for many species that depend on it for migratory patterns, feeding and nesting grounds. Visitors can enjoy the preserve from land or by water. Much of the undeveloped property in the Estero Bay are in conservation and provide great fishing and recreational boating opportunities. Launch facilities are available at Koreshan State Historic Site and Lovers Key/Carl E. Johnson State Park. Miles of trails offer visitors the opportunity to hike, bicycle or study the variety of wildlife and native vegetation protected here along two diverse trail systems.
Estero Bay Preserve provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy numerous different coastal activities, including the following:
Off road cycling is available at the Estero River Scrub Trails. Riders are asked to please not ride on the salt flats which is not healthy for this habitat nor your bicycle due to the high salt content of the water and/or soil. Bicycles are not permitted at the Winkler Point Trails.
Boating, Canoeing and Kayaking
With over 7,000 acres of mangroves, the water is the best way to experience this part of the Preserve. The majority of the undeveloped inland shore, islands and waterways of the Estero Bay are all part of the Preserve. Paddling is a great way to explore the shallow waters of the Bay and all of the intimate details it has to offer. Public boat launches are available at Lovers Key State Park and Koreshan State Historic Site.
Fishing in the Estero River can be done by hiking 0.75 miles to the end of the blue trail at the Estero River Scrub.
The Estero River Scrub has four marked trails with a combined length of about 10 miles. These trails meander through pine flatwoods, tidal salt flats and lead to the Estero River. The trails here are seasonally wet. Best times to visit are typically October through May when the trails are at their driest. The Winkler Point trails have three loops totaling six miles. Here the trails take you through wet flatwoods, salt marshes and mangroves. There are two observation decks overlooking tidal ponds and are a good place to view waterfowl and wading birds. This area is very seasonally wet and the trails are difficult to maintain due to the hydrology of the site with trails completely submerged most of the year. Best times to visit are typically January through May when the trails are at their driest.
The Preserve has a diverse array of wildlife that can be seen. From the uplands to the wetlands and submerged areas a variety of opportunities await. This is also a great place to observe migratory bird species that stop over or winter in south Florida.
Entry fee of $2.00 per vehicle at the Estero River Scrub Trails at Estero Bay Preserve State Park.