The weather turned AMAZING this weekend so we decided it was time to break free. We had lows in the upper-60s and highs in the low 80’s — and for South Florida, that’s downright chilly! Plus we can feel the Season coming on, when all the snowbirds come back, the streets fill up, the restaurants are back to overflowing and sometimes even the tempers are flaring.
There’s a line in Curious George, on one particular occasion when The Man planned a trip to his country house with George: “The Man always knew when it was time to get his monkey out of the city.”
The two of them could both feel “the overwhelm” and “the crazy” of being around people ALL the time was catching up to them. It’s a feeling we can relate to well, even in the tiny metropolis that Naples is. And especially because we live in close quarters in our particular neighborhood.
Since we didn’t have anything planned, we ceased the opportunity to jump in the car and drive a few hours north, to the first place we could find with an open camping spot which also accepted dogs, had swimming and playground options, and seemed nice. Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, FL was the winner!
Oscar Scherer State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park is located six miles south of Sarasota, in Osprey, FL. The park span 1,381 acres and is a bird watcher’s haven. But there’s way more to see and do here than just spot eagles or the endangered Florida Scrub Jay. You can go canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, bicycling, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, camping…or all of the above!
Visitors looking for wildlife will find that early and late in the day are the best times. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along South Creek, a tidal blackwater stream, which flows to a nearby bay. Canoes and kayaks can be rented or you can bring your own.
Fishermen can fish from both freshwater and saltwater sections on the creek banks, or even wet your hook in Lake Osprey, which also doubles as the park’s swimming beach.
There are lots of picnic areas scattered around near the lake, along with grills, picnic tables and also covered pavilions. The Saturday we were there, we found a few celebrations going on during the day, with many of the people being campers there. But due to it being very dark at night, there are few people away from their campgrounds when the sun goes down.
If you like to walk, hike or run, you’ll find fifteen miles of trails in Oscar Scherer Park which meander through the natural landscapes. As the park website describes them, they “provide solitude, beauty, challenge and a healthy adventure for everyone.” And photographers will enjoy them too!
The Lester Finley Barrier Free Nature Trail, located in South Creek Picnic Area, is accessible to those with sight, hearing or mobility impairments. It has a wheelchair accessible fishing dock, butterfly observation area and drinking fountain.
Part of the Legacy Trail also runs through the park. The Legacy Trail is a 10 mile stretch of paved trails which were once rail road tracks which runs from Venice, Florida to Sarasota, Florida. They are perfect for walking, biking, jogging, or rollerblading.
State Park Website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Oscar-Scherer
Oscar Scherer State Park Campgrounds Lowdown
- Overall — We are already talking about our next visit. The particular site we picked (17) was near a main walkway leading to Lake Osprey. While it was very pretty, it was also rather loud just as it was getting dark and we frequently found ourselves having conversations with strangers as the walked by at all hours. Once a bit more of the new vegetation grows in at the back, the openness of it will lessen.
- Best sites — We like sites that are a bit more off the beaten path but still centrally located. So for us, sites 18-20 would be ideal. They have little car or foot traffic going by, and back a lovely little river. 22 and 23 also seemed rather nice and back a strip of forest. We didn’t look at too many of the other areas further down the campgrounds but there are quite a few long-term campers as well as over-nighters. Lots of families as well.
- Bathrooms — Basic but mostly clean facilities. A bit dated but no smells. Quite a few showers available and never any problem getting access to the restrooms when we went in.
- Grounds — Quite clean and well groomed. We noticed several people picking up trash during the 24 hours we were there. Several trash can around the grounds to utilize and one large one on your way out of the park for big stuff. Lots of community spaces with tables, grills and open fields nearby if you wanted to have a big gathering of people or camp with a group. The campground area also has multiple playgrounds with equipment for kids of varying ages.
- Price — We booked online and paid $36 for the tentsite which had a picnic table, fire pit, drying rack (aka “lantern stand” at our camp) and large cleared space to park, set up the tent, lounge, etc. It also had water and electricity hookups at the rear, all included in the price.
- Wifi — There is said to be wifi in a screened pavilion with tables, which was close to where we were staying. We didn’t try it out ourselves but there were several people in there at various times who seemed to be online.
- Pets — We had no trouble at all having Ayla there and saw quite a few dogs, including a LARGE Mastiff. All dogs behaved really nicely but we did notice a few people seemed to disregard the doggie poop pickup rules as soon as you walked a little ways outside the treed campground area. Because the ground is dirt, you may want to bring a mat for your furry friends or a dog bed.
- Weather — We visited in early October 2015. It was a bit cooler than usual, with highs in the 80’s and lows in the upper 60’s. It was an absolutely beautiful time of year to visit and we wished we could have taken advantage of more of the hiking trails.
- Bugs — There were surprisingly few bugs. We noticed flies and some mosquitoes, but surprisingly, none of us got any bites. Very unusual.
- Critters — There is a warning sign about alligators at the swimming lake but we didn’t actually see any gators there (which in no way means they weren’t there!) We had a raccoon raid our dirty plates overnight, but that was our own fault. I also saw a rather long snake (5ft?) in the grass near one of the playgrounds and the wifi pavilion.
- Location — Not too far from the real world at all. The nearest Publix grocery store & Walgreen’s is within 4 minutes drive (3 miles). And it’s less than 2 miles to the nearest 4-star steakhouse, Rosebud’s. You might feel like you’re out in nature in the middle of those 1381 acres, but it’s a very short drive back to civilization.
Our Packing List
- Bug spray
- Fitted sheet
- Full size air mattress
- Beach towels
- Camping chairs
- Camp Mate loaded with kitchen supplies
- Sleeping bags
- LL Bean King Dome Tent for 4
- Iced tea cooler
- Change of clothes & comfy stuff
- Dog gear
- Extension cord
- Power strip
- Mini broom & dustpan
- Toys and drawing stuff for Mackenzie
- Card games
- Video & Photo Equipment
Things We Should Have Brought
We’re still finding our camping mojo here in Florida. Camping in Germany is surprisingly different than in the US, and it’s not entirely just the weather that changes things. Plus we’ve had a few of our camping things scattered around since we didn’t go much during out last few years in Germany…
- Travel Pillows — We forgot about them completely this time and used rolled up towels. It wasn’t even close to being the same. Nothing beats a real pillow or a nice little travel pillow.
- King Size Air Mattress — Sleeping with an almost 7 year old in a full-sized bed is a wee bit close; especially when the evenings aren’t quite cool yet. Another option may be getting a twin mattress just for Mack so that she has her own bed next to ours.
- Firewood — It turns out we could have purchased firewood at the front gate, but we were fine without it. Just had a little less fire time than we would have with wood.
- Table cloth — A luxury, but a table cloth would be a nice touch on the big picnic tables that each campsite includes. Bench seat covers would also be handy in the mornings when things are damp from dew.
- Towel to wipe table — Going along with the morning dew, it would have been handy to have a small towel to wipe down the moisture.
- Sand mat — There are some really good sand mats that keep sand out of your camp area so we’re looking at options to set out in front of our tent entrance. And hopefully we can convince the dog to lay on it too!
We have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes to keeping things cold and packing for camping. With just one cooler and a large Igloo cooler of iced tea, we stayed hydrated and well fed during our trip.
- Arrival Snack — Baguette with an array of Cheeses, Salami and Grapes
- Dinner — Campfire Steaks (pre-marinated in foil pack) with Fire Roasted Potatoes and Corn on the Cob
- Dessert — Strawberries, bananas and raspberries with Cool Whip and Homemade Chocolate Sauce
- Next Day Breakfast — “Cowboy breakfast” – Foil packet with shredded potatoes, one egg, and spices inside. Toss on the fire to cook, then top with cheese and ketchup or hot sauce. Serve with coffee from the French Press for the adults!
- Drinks — Iced tea in a large water cooler, fresh lemonade and other various drinks
We really enjoyed our trip up to Oscar Scherer State Park, and it was a nice, quick little getaway that I think we’ll have to replicate again some time soon.
Do you like to camp? Is there an essential we have missing on our list? What do you cook when you camp?