Oscar Scherer State Park is a Florida hidden gem and nature oasis wedged among residential developments and major roads. The park features and preserves a rare Florida scrub habitat which supports the Florida Scrub-Jay. The Florida Scrub-Jay is endangered and is the only bird exclusive to Florida (can be found only in Florida and nowhere else).
Visitors can enjoy the only freshwater lake for swimming in Sarasota County and see nesting bald eagles in Oscar Scherer State Park in the winter. Join a kayak or canoe liquid road trip on South Creek to experience pristine classic Old Florida wilderness.
But there is so much more to do in Oscar Scherer State Park so read on!
Where is Oscar Scherer State Park?
Oscar Scherer State Park is located at 1843 South Tamiami Trail, Osprey, Florida in southern Sarasota County. The Oscar Scherer State Park entrance station is only 5 miles from I-75, 12 miles from downtown Sarasota, and a wonderful day trip from Tampa.
Where to Stay Near Oscar Scherer State Park
Casey Keys Resort-Mainland (formerly Bentley’s Boutique) is our favorite hotel near Oscar Scherer State Park. It is located less than one mile from the Oscar Scherer State Park entrance.
The property has some suite rooms balconies or patios along with fun tiki bar and pool areas. We found this to be a super convenient place to stay in order to easily get to Oscar Scherer State Park as it opens at 8am.
8 Great Things to Do in Oscar Scherer State Park
While we list eight fun things to do in Oscar Scherer State Park below, there are many more. Highlights include hiking and bicycling, picnicking and camping, wildlife spotting, canoe is kayaking, fishing, and ranger led activities.
1. Trails at Oscar Scherer State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park provides 15 miles of hiking trails to explore its 1,400 acres. Seven marked trails include the Florida Scrub Nature Walk and the Lester Finley Barrier Free Nature Trail. Many of the trails are in the Florida scrub habitat, which means soft sand and pine needles. Hiking boots are actually convenient for some of the remote portions.
The Lester Finley Barrier Free Nature Trail is ADA-compliant and provides access to those with sight, hearing or mobility impairment. There is also a wheelchair accessible fishing dock.
Other wildlife present in Oscar Scherer State Park include indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, gopher frogs, bobcats, white-tailed deer, Eastern cotton-tail rabbits, raccoons, and American alligators.
For more hiking opportunities, jump on the Legacy Trail. More details below under the Bicycling section.
Find a great Oscar Scherer State Park trail map here.
2. Picnic Areas
Bring your own food and supplies and enjoy a pleasant Florida picnic experience at either of the two main picnic areas in Oscar Scherer Park. Both picnic areas have grills, tables, a playground, and pavilions (rent in advance). The South Creek picnic area has a restroom, one pavilion, and a boat launch into South Creek. The Lake Osprey picnic area has a bathhouse, three pavilions, and a nature center.
3. Paddling South Creek
Enjoy a fabulous unspoiled Florida natural environment by paddling along South Creek in Oscar Scherer Park. See gators and otters in South Creek or on the banks. Great blue herons, egrets, and other birds love this area to catch fish. There are countless settings for great US Gulf Coast Photo Locations here among the hammocks and gorgeous live oaks.
Canoe/kayak rental is $15 per hour or $60 for the entire day. But you can bring your own kayak or canoe and launch for free.
4. Swimming in Lake Osprey
Lake Osprey is the only freshwater lake in Sarasota county for swimming and is a refreshing alternative to swimming in the ocean and pools. Snorkeling is also permitted in Lake Osprey. A full one-third of the lakefront is a beach.
Fishing is also allowed in Lake Osprey but only in designated areas. Getting hooked while swimming would not be fun. See the Fishing section below for more details.
5. Camping at Oscar Scherer State Park
The Oscar Scherer State Park campground is very popular, especially in the winter months. Reserve your spot far in advance. Of the 104 total RV sites, seven are ADA accessible, and RVs must be under 37 feet long.
Make your Oscar Scherer State Park campground reservations here.
The campground sites are near Lake Osprey and run along South Creek. McCool Travel note: Two campsites are tent only and they are on Loop F.
Find a great Oscar Scherer State Park campground map here.
There are 10 miles of bicycle trails in Oscar Scherer State Park. They share space with hikers so please be mindful! Oscar Scherer State Park is also the mid-point of the Legacy Trail, which totals 12 miles from Sarasota to Venice Beach.
If you do not have your own bicycles, rent them from Venice Bikes and Trikes. They delivered ours to the Oscar Scherer State Park trailhead. After our kayaking liquid road trip, we biked the Legacy Trail and then locked up the bikes when we were done. Then they picked up the bikes later. It was so convenient and fun.
7. Ranger Talks and Events
Oscar Scherer State Park features a varied itinerary of guided walks, ranger talks, and events. One popular winter Sunday morning Florida scrub-jay ranger-led hike we did had many sightings of the endangered bird but also of a few nesting bald eagles and other migrating birds.
We also really enjoyed a ranger-led kayak tour on South Creek where the ranger would point out various features we would not notice alone. Guided night paddle events are popular and should be reserved well in advance.
Freshwater fishing in Lake Osprey is permitted only in designated areas, because there are also dedicated swimming areas. Lake Osprey is replenished with catfish by Florida Fish and Wildlife but largemouth bass, bluegill, and bream are also present. Fishing along South Creek is another option and a Florida saltwater fishing license may be required.
Where to Eat Near Oscar Scherer State Park
If you decide not to picnic in Oscar Scherer State Park, note that there is no onsite cafe or restaurant.
Mad Moe’s Sports Pub & Grill is 2.5 miles north on Tamiami Trail (highway 41) and serves excellent fresh local seafood and a killer Cuban sandwich.
Oscar Scherer State Park Fees
Entrance fee to enter Oscar Scherer State Park is $5 per vehicle (up to eight persons). $4 one hour prior to sunset. Camping is $26 pr night for RV spots with utilities and $19 for tent sites. You can pre-pay for a day pass here.
For more information about Oscar Scherer State Park, see the official park page.
McCool Travel tip: Visit nearby Caspersen Beach to search for giant shark teeth and Spanish Point for history of pre-1900 Florida (the original floor in the house is phenomenal). See more Cool Things to Do in Sarasota.