If you live on the Gulf Coast of Florida and don’t want to travel too far, or are just traveling through the area, this campground is a nice stopover. It’s quiet and offers some nice hiking and biking trails. But after spending 3 nights camping at Oscar Scherer State Park, we come away with a mixed opinion. Here is our Oscar Scherer State Park camping review.
Choosing a Campsite at Oscar Scherer State Park
These campsites are small. In fact, they are the smallest we’ve encountered in a Florida state park so far. We had just enough room for our popup camper which is approximately 20 x 10 feet plus another 10 x 8 feet with the awning extended. Some are wider but the only sites that seem longer are the pull-in sites in Section 5 which is closed.
The campground is divided into 5 sections running along South Creek. As of August 30, 2020, only sections 1 through 3 are open. Sections 4 and 5 are closed for construction. We inquired and were told that the bathrooms are being redone and controlled burns were taking place to reduce the vegetation. We road our bikes throughout the entire campground and saw no signs of construction or maintenance in sections 4 and 5. These 2 sections will be open for Labor Day weekend but then will close gain until October.
Pet Safety Alert- in sections 4 and 5, campsites 70 through 90 are NO PET sites. These sites back right up to South Creek which is home to alligators. Other sites in the park appear on the map to border South Creek as well but are separated by a lot of vegetation.
Keys to Choosing to your Campsite at Oscar Scherer
Given that only sections, 1 through 3 are available currently, you may see that the Reserve America reservations page will show a water icon on some campsites that appear to be along the creek. But you will not see the creek from your campsite. The vegetation in the park is quite dense and certainly so in the campsites in sections 1 – 3.
The shade is always important when camping in Florida, especially in the summer. The description on the Reserve America website regarding shade isn’t accurate. Our site, #2, was described as ‘full shade’. Not so, I’m afraid. From about 10 am to 4 pm we baked in the Florida sun. However, our friends had site #3 next door and had shade throughout the day. Even though that site enters from the east, as do all sites along the creek, they had trees that canopied over the entrance and eastern side of the site.
However, sites 22 – 28 do have a lot of shade and are located on the opposite side of the campground from South Creek. If we were to go back, we would stay on that side of the Oscar Scherer Park.
Be Prepared for Bugs
Oscar Scherer State Park camping requires being prepared for bugs. Perhaps due to the amount of lush vegetation all over this park, and the proximity to the South Creek, there were more bugs than we experienced at other Florida state parks. Even though we take precautions including a very effective bug spray we came home with a lot of bug bites. So, bring your best bug spray and citronella candles. They are especially a problem in the morning until the sun comes up over the trees.
Raccoons Will Come for a Visit
Raccoons seem to be very comfortable here to come into your site at all hours and even while you're sitting around your campsite. We had a frequent visitor that we named Rocky. We left the site for about 15 minutes to take pictures of South Creek from the bridge that enters the campsite and we were greeted by Rocky when we came back. The next night we had guests and Rocky was bold enough to come into the site when the 4 of us were sitting together outside our camper. Our friends in the neighboring site experienced a raccoon that climbed up on their bikes to reach the trash bag they had hanging above them. And, we were woken up one of the nights by another camper yelling at the raccoons.
Things to Do at Oscar Scherer State Park
There are 6 hiking trails covering over 15 miles throughout the park. There are rest stops throughout. Be prepared when hiking in this dense vegetation. Wear hiking shoes or boots. Bring water and insect repellant.
For fresh-water fishing, there is Lake Osprey on the north side of the park. It is stocked with catfish. You can also catch largemouth bass, bream, and bluegill. South Creek is saltwater. There is a fishing dock on the Lester Finley trail for fishing South Creek.
South Creek is a blackwater stream that flows through the park out to the Gulf of Mexico. Blue heron and little blue heron frequent the creek for feeding. You may have the opportunity to see an otter and an alligator. If you want to rent a canoe or kayak at the park check before going. Rentals may be suspended at this time.
There are dozens of types of birds that either live in or frequent the park year-round. The Florida Scrub-Jay seems to be the adopted bird of the park. When you arrive you can pick up a brochure with a list of 170 birds that you might see here. The brochure will give you the time of year a particular bird will be present, and whether it's abundant, common, uncommon, or rare. Osprey is listed as common.
Swimming and Snorkeling in Lake Osprey
Along one side of Lake Osprey is a beach area with public restrooms. The lake looks inviting on a hot day, but the alligator warning signs right on the beach would keep me out of the lake. And, pets are not allowed.
Walking, Running, Roller Blading and Biking the Legacy Trail
The Legacy Trail is 12.5 miles long and runs from Sarasota on the north to Venice on the south runs right along Oscar Scherer State Park. The Legacy Trail is a wide, paved, and well-maintained trail with resting areas along the way. Oscar Scherer is about halfway. So, when you leave the park you can go left or north to Sarasota. Or take a right and head to historic downtown Venice as we did.
Things to Do Outside the Park
Because Oscar Scherer State Park is located in a populated area there is a lot to do if you want to venture outside the park. Take a drive to Cedar Key or south to Venice. Visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Historic Spanish Point campus. Play a round of golf at the Mission Valley Golf and Country Club. Or venture just a bit further north to Siesta Key and Sarasota.
Each site has 30 amp and 120-volt electricity hookups, and water. There are no sewer hookups. Note- the water hookups might be 30 feet or more from your trailer or RV so bring an ample length of hose.
Bathrooms and Showers
There are ample bathrooms and showers throughout the park, but they are in need of an upgrade. They are certainly clean but be prepared for mosquitoes inside the bathroom and shower stalls. As mentioned above, the vegetation is so lush and perhaps even overgrown at Oscar Scherer that bugs are everywhere.
We keep talking about our Blackstone griddle. If you like to cook when camping, it's a must!!
Oscar Scherer State Park Camping Review
Because of the small size of the campsites, the number of bugs, and the fact that we had a very sunny campsite, this was not our favorite Florida State Park camping experience thus far. The antiquated bathrooms and showers were not a plus either. We did enjoy the quiet of the park and the proximity to the Legacy Trail. Given the number of state and county park campgrounds to be experienced in Florida, we won’t be going back to Oscar Scherer anytime soon.