This was our first visit to Oscar Scherer State Park, why I’m not sure as we only live a few miles away. I literally drive by it whenever I go to the grocery store or ride my bike on the Legacy Trail. I’ve boated past on the Intercoastal Waterway, paddled past on South Creek and flown over in an airplane countless times.
I guess being Sarasota residents I felt I already knew everything about it. I WAS WAY WRONG. This is a fantastic Florida State Park. I can understand now why it is so popular. The facilities are very good considering how many people visit. And it’s not too polished that it doesn’t have that camping or state park vibe. No Disney here.
The campground is very large even for State Park Standards, over 100 sites. Many are along South Creek with water views although they are no pet sites as maybe there are gator issues.
We camped in site#69, the last pet site before the restricted sites along the creek#70- 90. The sites are quite large and private as the campground is mature with lots of native Florida foliage. We didn’t see any evidence of Raccoons or other campground mooches.
Lots of hiking in this park, if you cycle the Legacy Trail built on an old railway doesn’t offer much contour as it is pretty much a strait shot but runs from Sarasota to Venice and from Venice you can take the Venetian Waterway even further. Soon the Legacy Trail will go all the way to downtown Sarasota.
Finally the best part for visitors to the Sarasota area. You will probably not find a State Park as close to the US#1 Rated Beach Siesta Key, just a few miles or Sarasota and all her arts and culture(15 minutes) including The Ringling Museum, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, St. Armands Circle, Lido Beach, award-winning restaurants, tiki bars, dinner cruises, and more.
In fact as I write this the US Olympic Rowing Trials are going on at Benderson Park about 15 minutes away, next door to the Apple Store. This is no joke the premier rowing facility in the world. And did I mention if you forgot anything there is a Publix about 1/2 mile front the front gate of the park?
OF NOTE: Of all the state parks we have visited, this had the most unfriendly group of campers we have ever encountered. Surly in fact. It was difficult to extract a return greeting of any type.
Perhaps it’s because this isn’t your normal group of happy wanderers, and those who truly enjoy the outdoors. More like COVID refugees or visitors doing“Florida on the Cheep” who have the time and resources to escape those areas of lockdown.
Our first clue was the amount of “resort wear” being donned in lieu of the normal camping duds and the overall lack of activity inside the park for the amount of campsites during the day. Well the park is smack in the middle of a major resort destination and it is high season. This all left the park less crowded for us.
Whatever the reason I hope the park guests can find some joy after all in the blessings that nature gives us no matter what the situation. Life is short. As the late, great Warren Zevon once said“enjoy every sandwich”.
The only good thing that happened to us during the“Covid Crisis” is some camp grounds needed to reset. Turtle Beach was no exception and provided us an opportunity for a staycation. It was both fun and strange as I lived on Siesta from 2003 to 2017. It is the ONLY camp ground ON the beach I’m aware of in Sarasota County. It is an INSANELY POPULAR destination.
Since Siesta Key has been named“America’s Best Beach” by Trip Advisor, Travel& Leisure and many other ranking authorities for over a decade, it’s easy to see why this camp ground in particular is difficult to reserve. This is a county owned facility under Sarasota County Parks and Recreation who overall do a very good job with all of our public park facilities. I shouldn’t use the term camping, as it’s more like a RV Park with older facilities, small spots better suited to small and mid-sized rigs.
There may be 40 total spots. When it rains, many are”waterfront” until the rain drains into the sand and out to the Gulf. That’s the bad part, the good part is EVERYTHING ELSE. So much to do at Turtle Beach from walks, kayaking, bicycling, swimming and the beach is only a few steps away complete with tiki picnic tables.
A free county run trolley runs from the campgrounds to Siesta Key Village about every 20 minutes or so from 8am til 10pm. It doesn’t have a particular schedule and two trolleys criss cross all day basically taking you wherever you want to go on the key. Downtown Sarasota is only about 15 minutes and there are lots of shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and big box stores all equally accessible by car, bicycle or Uber.— As far as campgrounds go I give it 3 stars as it is adequate.
The park is managed by Sarasota County Parks and Recreation. To my knowledge, this is their only campground and they do not have core experience managing campgrounds this type of facility and it shows. The hosts were the worst I’ve ever encountered and their attitude borders on complete apathy. They seem to have barricaded themselves in their campsite where they can freely smoke and hold court with their friends. Check out the pics.
O’Leno State Park Review| Site 50 Oleno State Park is the camping I always remembered. You know, like quintessential state or national park imagery where you would expect to see“Smoky The Bear” around the next bend. It was one of Florida’s original state parks being built by the Civilian Conservation Corps after WWI as part of the make work project by FDR. This is probably why it has that National Park Vibe… you feel immediately at ease and that you are outside in nature. The campground surely has that feel as well as the facilities down by the river.
There are still a few remaining buildings from the original town of Keno. This park reminds me of Hillsboro State Park with its suspension bridge over the Sante Fe River before it disappears into the ground only to appear another 3 miles downstream. The hiking in this park is OUTSTANDING. In addition, the campsites are really nice.
We camped in Dogwood Campground which is near the entrance of the park. Most of the reviews seem to indicate that people prefer Magnolia Campground which is about 1.5 miles down the road near the river and most of the activities but after riding through that campground we were happy we were in Dogwood with it’s narrow dirt road and very rustic primitive appearance even though the sites have power and water.
We would certainly return to this park when we can stay longer and visit some of the nearby Springs like Gilchrist Blue or Ginnie. We were in site#50. The bathhouse was clean as they are in all Florida State Parks and kind of cool that it is in the middle of the campground with small trails leading to it from a number, if not most of the campsites.
NOTE: Some of the photos were from a trip earlier in the year as we didn’t take many pics this trip. It may appear“greener” than it actually is in North Florida in February. By the end of March it will look like this again.
Hart Springs is a county park in Gilchrist County in Bell, FL. It’s our go to place near some of our favorite Florida Springs when they are not available. This park is clean and well maintained with a swimming pool. The campground has a separate path down to the springs which have been built out to essentially be a“natural swimming pool” with a very distinct“Retro Florida” vibe. Both the park and campground are VERY FAMILY FRIENDLY and the long list of rules including NO ALCOHOL printed in bold is supposed to keep the riffraff out, and I’m pretty sure it does.
We are more into a looser freestyle atmosphere but it’s good to detox every once in a while anyway. The springs are wonderful. The park is not very large and DOES NOT RESEMBLE a Florida State Park, more like an RV Park, only better without the permanent trailers or resident RV’s. The pics of the campground should represent the overall tone- authentic Florida, non-Disney with a retro tone.
Again, we are mostly State Park campers but we really like Hart Springs and plan to visit a few times each year as Florida residents.
We were in site 40, right next to the camp hosts and directly across from the path that goes down to the spring, spring run, boardwalk, tent camping area and river. If you can get a site on the outside of the loop#1-35 you will probably have more privacy for sure, but if you are in a larger rig you’ll probably find the inner loop better for you.
This is kind of our go to Florida State Park as we live very close and really enjoy the hiking, biking and paddling the river and lake. We typically book last minute as“In-Season” campsites are often difficult to find. In addition, the lower campground is sometimes flooded out or closed for repairs putting even more pressure on the two campgrounds closer to the main park entrance which is further from the lake and general store.
I may have reviewed this park before but always find different things to share. Their are three main campgrounds:
(1) Old Prairie where we usually stay. This is an older campground with a more rustic, state park vibe. Maybe 20 sites typically hosting smaller trailers, vans and tents etc.
(2) Palmetto Ridge is more more or less across from Old Prairie with a more open and modern looking vibe and where you will see more of your typical RV crowd of Big Rigs and larger trailers
(3) Big Flats is about 3 miles down the road from the entrance close to Lake Myakka where the tour boat, boat ramp, general store etc is found. We have never stayed here as it has been closed for repairs, maintenance and flooding on numerous occasions. Perhaps something to consider if you are booking way in advance.
The reason Myakka is so popular to Florida visitors is it has outstanding beauty, a real Jurassic Park feel but is very near Sarasota with all the beaches, museums, restaurants and activities literally less than 1/2 hour away. Lots of people vacationing Florida on the cheap like to set up home here“in-season” and jump from site to site and stay as long as they can. Summers are much easier to find a site.
We are lucky to live so close. We are here more in the summer and swing seasons. This park makes an excellent 2 or 3 day adventure or a great Basecamp for your Florida vacation. You won’t be disappointed.
NOTE: Some of the public facilities have been closed due to COVID including the “Canopy Walk” which is very cool so you may want to check if that sort of thing interests you.
It is always interesting to me how all the Florida State Parks are a little different as the park manager seems to have some autonomy. Certain parks have public facilities closed like the Canopy Walk here at Myakka but another Florida State Park might have their observation tower open even though the structures are similar. Go figure.
This park was potentially one of our biggest surprises of any Florida State Park!
I’ve actually driven past the entrance to this park more times than I can count, but had never ventured in nor made the time for a special trip across the state to visit until this trip. What a surprise with unbelievable biking and BIG OPEN SPACES. I was astonished to learn just how large this park is. I understand not why it is known on Florida’s East Coast for biking. The roads, trails and bike paths are great.
We brought everything just in case and enjoyed canoeing, paddle boarding, biking, hiking and exploring.
There are two campgrounds, one near the entrance called Pine Grove and one several miles into the park by the river, named… you guessed it… The River Campground.
Many people recommend the River Campground as it is where most of the activities are including swimming, boat ramp, water activities etc. The River Campground for sure has a more State Park vibe and intimate feel. We were in spot#112. However when we biked through Pine Grove Campground we really liked the modern look, larger spaces and better air circulation on top of the hill. Next visit we will try this one even though most of the campers were BIG RIGS and we have a small trailer.
Views from observatory are great and the park has lots of history. What a Gem for the east coast of Florida which is not often on our radar for camping opportunities.
We will return.
Lake Kissimmee State Park Review This was our first visit to Lake Kissimmee State Park and it was a big surprise. Like all Florida State Parks, they are all a little different and have one attribute in particular that makes them special. For me this was the camp sites that were both spacious and private.
We were on the inside of the loop on #4. Since the pandemic spots at most state park have been few and far between so we have become way less particular and simply take what we can get at most parks.
Like all state parks the bathrooms were spotless and rivaled those of a Marriott. We enjoyed the common areas, the observation deck and the hiking. Staff and hosts were wonderful. Thanks again Florida State Parks for a great weekend! We will for sure return to Lake Kissimmee for sure.
Situated right off of rout 27, a very busy 3 lane state road and not too far from Disney Parks is Lake Louisa State Park. This wasn’t on our initial“A” list of parks to hit as it is a little too close to Orlando for our tastes and driving on I-4 with a trailer is sometimes less than enjoyable, but the Covid has changed some of that. The roads were surprisingly open for a weekend“in-season”. This was definitely an under promise and over deliver weekend in spite of the overcast and rainy weather.
The campground is situated between two lakes, Dixie and Hammond. Lake Louisa is much larger but quite a distance from the campground. With three loops, the campground is quite large but didn’t seem as big as it was. The park also offers really nice cabins overlooking the lake on a hill as well as what they call“care free camp sites” which is a modern form of Glamping. I have a few pics attached.
We are not theme park people but if I was this would be a great way to do it in either a cabin or tent and a day trip to the park. The campground also has Canoe/Kayak rentals and a small store with essentials including ice and firewood.
The park is in Claremont which is a bedroom community to Orlando so the park sees quite a bit of“day trippers” from Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando as it should. The hiking is great, you can also horseback ride and the biking is really great too. The park has quite a bit of topography for a Florida State Park which tend to more or less flat so the cycling looked really good. Next time we’ll bring our road bikes in addition to my OneWheel and Canoe.
All the sites looked pretty good. We were in the third loop in site #43 which was on the inside and next to the bath house but with enough buffer space you didn’t notice anybody at all. We commented that we should have brought laundry as it would have been really convenient.
Lots to do at this Florida State Park with an overall good vibe for sure. Don’t let the proximity to a rather large population fool you, it is great place to visit!
This is one of the first places I ever camped as a kid. The springs here were always magical to me and still are. A lot has changed over the years, especially with the influx of people and the pressure on our environment. I was here the day Florida State Parks took over this property from the private owners. I was relieved that this spring wouldn’t go into private hands so others could enjoy it like I do.
This being one of Florida’s newest parks is very unlike the others in terms of facilities as little has changed since Florida State Parks took over the property. The health of the springs has improved significantly by limiting some of the public access there once was when the springs were private. The boardwalk that once went the length of the spring run down to the Sante Fe River is gone, and so is the diving platform into the spring I remember from my youth.
Understand before you come here, this place is about the water, not the facilities. The park is small by Florida State Park standards, roads are sand, sites small and not private at all. The bath house at the camp grounds is open to day visitors as well in addition to being quite old and“tired”. There are only about 30 camping sites so it is difficult to get in and we mostly rely on last minute trips by cancellation.
The vibe is great however, at least for me. The big rigs found at many state parks are replaced mostly by tent campers, smaller trailers and those embracing the Van Life. People don’t usually hang out here for weeks, rather drop in for a night or two then move on so it is much more transient.
I’ll welcome the day that Florida State Parks will make the improvements to the property they envision like improving the camping area, adding a dump station, paving some of the roads etc. but at the same time I appreciate how it still is what it once was, the facilities were ALWAYS second to the water here and this spring and accompanying spring run is unmatched for beauty.
We made a quick trip up to this park during the lockdown. Let me say first that this is not a camp ground by my definition, rather an RV Park. At the time of our visit all National, State and County campgrounds were closed.
That said, we had an excellent time. The residents including the staff were really nice and welcoming. This park is well run. After check in somebody accompanies you to your site and does not leave until you are all hooked up.
We were a little out of place in our small camper (Airstream Basecamp) among the seasonal and permanent residents in large rigs and permanent modular homes sites, but that added to the fun. The park has a small store and is convenient to many local activities.
Our original goal was to cycle on the Withlacoochee Trail, an area favorite of ours. We discovered that it had been closed due to the pandemic like many other parks. Why this trail was closed is beyond me but there you go. We explored the local area on bikes and discovered Lake Panasoffkee and the Lake Pano Lodge (pics attached).
As an added bonus, they put is right next to the pool which was open. It was like an Oasis because most public pools had been closed and remain so. Everybody was so "normal" at this park going about their lives without drama is was really great.
This park also has river access, boat ramp and launch so we had a great paddle on the Withlacoochee. Oh, forgot to mention that Thousand Palms has by far THE NICEST BATHROOM we have ever found on our travels adjacent to the community pool.
We will return when we want to play in this area even if we can find state or federal camping because it's such a unique experience for us to stay in an RV park and be welcomed like family.
Love this place.
Quite possible the best county park in the USA. This park is incredibly well run and has so much to do. This is our go to place for a close to home weekend when we are lucky enough to get a reservation. If you are a visiting from Miami or out of state you won’t be disappointed if you can get in.
What makes this park special for us is that many of the camping sites are coveted waterfront sites. The campground portion of the park is divided into three parts, one camping area that is pet friendly, one no pets and one predominantly for tents and pop ups with smaller sites.
Another bonus of Fort DeSoto in addition to the old fort is the fishing peer, great beach, cycling path and absolutely enormous parking lots so unlike many Florida locations, especially in season, parking is never really an issue.
Fort De Soto County Park is a very special place. We are lucky to have it so close to us.
First I want to say that Ginny Springs is an absolute shit show! Like South Beach or Daytona during spring break. Especially in the summer. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t really great, it is.
Camping at Ginny is a right of passage for any Florida boy. Like my father who went to UF, I camped at Ginny springs as a kid and so did my son. It hasn’t changed much at all over the years except to become a little more crowded. It’s a true Florida experience.
You can only make reservations in one area of the park with the water and electric hook ups. All others are first come, first serve. You simply drive around til you find an available site and claim your own piece of paradise. The sites along the river are the best. It’s private so if you envision a state park, its not quite like that but in many ways camping is camping. This is similar only more crowded.
The campground with all the amenities is tight. There will be every form of camping from big rigs to people in tents and everything in between including refrigerator boxes(not really but not far from the truth). It is not quiet in any way and the partying never seems to stop. The kids will start riding their bikes, playing ball and flying drones in the AM so get your sleep while you can.
The spring gets packed with tubers, floaters, coolers, kayaks, canoes, scuba divers and every other human powered vessel as well but that just gives Ginny it’s vibe. What most people don’t realize is that if you get to the spring EARLY in the morning you can have it mostly to yourself and that includes the spring run and river too!
The biggest dichotomy of Ginny Springs is how can something with constant pressure and crowding over decades remain so incredibly beautiful?
If you have an open mind and can adjust your schedule to work around some of the crowded and go with the flow when you can’t it’s hard not to have a great time and appreciate the beauty of this magical place! It is and will always be one of my favorite places.
I had relatively low expectations of Silver Springs mostly from childhood memories of hot, humid, crowded and touristy. Well, it was a real retro experience and I'm happy to say that not much has changed and that's a good thing!
The camp ground was exceptional with lots and lots of room. The river, as pristine as ever. The tour boats were the very same vessels of my childhood memories and provided a great backdrop to the overall setting.
I think we were in spot 51 which was a pull through and probably the very largest campsite we have ever had and it dwarfed our little travel trailer but we loved it.
It pretty much rained most of the weekend but we still enjoyed our long paddle with all kinds of wildlife INCLUDING THE MONKEYS!!!
The only reason I give this park a 4 and not a 5 star is you have to drive to the kayak launch which is in the same parking lot as the access for the day guests (and there are many).
I applaud Florida State Parks for managing such a great facility in spite of all the pressure over the years. WE WILL RETURN.
Sometimes I have mixed feelings about sharing secret spots as they become more and more crowded. I love this park within the State Forest. Nice sites, small and quiet with a great hiking trail and river to paddle. Staff is excellent and park is very clean. In the winter firewood is available with an honor system for payment. Nice amenity.
The only reason for not giving it 5 stars is the very reason we love it and that's because the hookups are water only and no electricity. This keeps the big rigs out and campers who want to bring their entire house with them.
What no electricity really means to us is we can't camp at Hog Island in the Summer because what we do like on weekends is sleep we don't get during the work week. Just too hot without AC for us.
Other than that, this is a really secluded park with a great hiking trail and paddling on the Withlacoochee. Other than that, bring your own fun as it's kind of a hike to the nearest town (Brooksville or Inverness)
Lake Griffin State Park is a classic case of under promising and over delivering. On the surface we didn't expect much of this park from size or the fact it was just off a major roadway but we were very pleasantly surprised.
We arrived the first day after camping resumed after the Covid-19 closure. Everything was very normal and the staff, while probably more separated than normal, very welcoming.
The campground is very compact and not too large, but the sites are mostly all very shaded and afford privacy. The real gem however is the adjacent park, boat/kayak launch and paddling run to Lake Griffin. Very beautiful. Amazing actually.
In addition, there is a beautiful trail loop that is approximately 1.5 miles out and back and several spurs throughout the park. I give the trails an A+ for beauty.
In addition, guidance suggested the bathrooms be cleaned regularly due to the pandemic and they were. I would have driven up to the park from our home in Sarasota, FL just for a shower in the bath house. We actually felt more welcomed, better service and cleaner accommodations in Lake Griffin State Park than we received at the Marriott on Hutchinson Island the week prior and that is not an exaggeration.
Thank you for a wonderful weekend. This park makes me proud to be a Floridian.
Let me say first that St. George Island State Park is perhaps the main reason we purchased our small travel trailer in the first place and found groups like The Dyrt for insight for other places to explore. We visited St. George Island in May on Florida’s“Forgotten Coast” but the State Park on the island really stole the show.
The first thing you’ll notice about both the island and in particular the State Park is how remote it is. The beaches are seemingly empty even during busy seasons. It has one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire state of Florida and as Floridian’s we are pretty particular. The beach is lined with beautiful sand dunes from one end to the other. The island is narrow with a single road maybe 5 miles long. The road was closed after the camp ground as they are still repairing the park from the last hurricane that hammered The Panhandle area of Florida. Not sure what's taking so long as State Park HQ is in Tallahassee only an hour or so away.
The park has one camp ground and sites are very hard to come by. One visit and you’ll see why. Facilities are very well maintained with a friendly staff which is true for most Florida State Parks. There was a good mix of people camping in tents, small trailers and big rigs which is nice as many places in Florida are dominated by people who camp with everything they own and have rigs bigger than our house.
You bring your own fun here so just chill on the beach. If you have kayaks or paddle boards bring em. If you have bikes, those would be good too. Fishing(check). You could probably catch dinner as there is little pressure on these waters. There is some hiking but just walking on the beach is great. Nice flat beach at low tide with hard packed sand from the outgoing tide will make it a great walk.
Be sure to visit Apalachicola across the bay. A really good place to eat is the Owl Cafe and if you can get there for a Sunday Brunch, all the better. Very local, very southern, very authentic.
We will be back for sure whenever we can secure a camping spot that fits our schedule. Hope it won't be too long!
Myakka River State Park is a not to miss Florida State Park. Don't let the proximity to Sarasota Fool You! It is very close to Sarasota which makes it a good stop if you are visiting the area or an outstanding stop if you are from out of town as you can enjoy a little bit of Surf and Turf.
As a Sarasota local who loves the outdoors, I've visited most of Florida's State Parks and this is one of my favorites for sure. We tend to neglect what we can do and see everyday and this is no exception. I'm always amazed.
This time we camped out for the weekend even though we live about 10 miles away and we have never felt so far from home while being so close. Probably my first"staycation".
You can paddle, hike, ride or just chill in this really large state park. Super clean and well run. All the staff are really nice and you can tell they enjoy being there.
This park is the real deal and you will feel you are in another world. Get out and explore!
Sidebar: A lot of people ask me why I share my favorite"secret" places with total strangers and the answer is that the very best places everywhere are under tremendous pressure from growth, development and environmental pressure. Once you see a place like this you will forever be changed and hopefully become an advocate for preserving them wherever you may be.
Fort De Soto Park is amazing. It offers something for everyone whether you are there camping or simply for the day. The beaches are amazing with TONS and TONS of parking. Great cycling, paddling, walking, exploring, fishing, kiting, or anything you want to do. It can get busy in season but the area is designed to accommodate the crowds except for the one lane road to and from so plan your visit according to your threshold for traffic and crowds.
I'm a Florida local from Sarasota and have visited many times but never to camp. We came with a small travel trailer and were lucky enough to get a site right on the water as many are which by itself is rare. Great weekend and honestly one of the nicest parks I have ever been to.
Its great that possibly the most valuable real estate in all of Florida's Gulf Coast was reserved for a county park in lieu of private condos and resorts. The park has a no alcohol policy which honestly is fine. Being such an urban destination I could imagine things getting way out of hand there to the detriment of more chill folks without the ban. Even though I like a cocktail as much as the next guy, i'll take the pleasant environment over the beer any day.
Thanks Pinellas Parks for such a great place for locals and guests to visit.