Spanning 279 acres and full of wildlife and wild fun, Lakes Regional Park is one of the most popular parks in Fort Myers, not only for its variety of activities and beautiful scenery, but also for its central location.
Trails wrap for miles, around 158 acres of water and a forest of Florida vegetation, with benches for relaxing and bridges for peering into the depths of the waters. The boardwalks are constructed from recycled plastic, while some of the trails from local rocks and shells; there is even a small path for BMX enthusiasts.
Observation equipment is perfect for birding and spotting other wildlife in the park — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Ideal for running and biking, the main, paved loop features fitness stations that target all parts of the body for a total workout, with Mother Nature offering an inspirational backdrop.
While in the park, keep your eyes open for wildlife. You’ll see fish jumping, turtles sunning and an occasional alligator floating in the water or crawling on the shore. If you’re quiet on the trails, you may also run into reptiles and bobcats.
Birders find Lakes Park fascinating, especially in the winter months when you can hardly see the green on some of the trees, thanks to hundreds of feathered friends who’ve flown south. You’ll be able to get reasonably close to ibis, egrets, herons cormorants and anhingas. And skyward, you’ll often see hawks and bald eagles.
Besides walking around the water, you can also get on it. Paddle boats and kayaks can be rented in two locations, as well as bicycles and surreys that easily fit a family of four (maybe more, if there are little ones onboard.)
Bike and boat rentals are fun for exploring the park — Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch
Even though you can play "on" the water, you can’t swim in it. Remember the alligators? Thankfully, there's a free water park feature for both big kids and little kids to cool off and splash around in.
Kids are also enthralled by the locomotive engine in the northern part of the park, and they love riding the Miniature Railroad next to it. There is just enough room for adults to fold up their knees and ride, too, through a tunnel, by the lake and past a number of displays, which include a small-scale village and nature areas.
After checking out the trains, be sure to wander through the nearby Fragrance and Succulent Gardens, while seeing what seasonal plants and vegetables are growing in the Community Garden. Locals who live in condos with no yard space enjoy renting plots and working their green thumbs here.
Fitness stations add a full-body challenge for walkers, runners and cyclists — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Pack your car with a cooler, and cook out at any of the numerous grills. Or reserve an entire pavilion for the day for extra space and lots of shade. The park even rents screened-in lodges that have refrigerators, stove tops and private bathrooms.
Besides daily activities, this park is known for hosting quite a variety of special events and concerts, thanks to its wide-open spaces.
Enjoy a farmer’s market on Fridays from October through April; a fall festival around Halloween, with spooky train rides and scarecrow contests; a giant medieval fair in January; and a series of Lakeside Country Bash concerts, featuring well-known recording artists.
Open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to dusk, Lakes Park charges no admission, but you will have to pay for parking. It's only 1$ per hour or $5 all day.