Looking for the best day trips from Tampa? We’ve got a great list for you! Tampa, Florida, is a vibrant city offering a wealth of activities and attractions. But sometimes, you might find yourself craving a little adventure outside the city limits. Lucky for you, Tampa is ideally located for a multitude of fabulous day trips, each offering unique experiences and local charm. As a Tampa resident and travel blogger, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many of these places, and I’m eager to share my personal tips and recommendations with you.
From pristine beaches and charming coastal towns to historic sites and world-class attractions, there’s a day trip out of Tampa to suit every travel style. You’ll be amazed at how much our beautiful state has to offer just a short drive away. And the best part? These getaways can all be enjoyed in just one day, allowing you to return to the comfort of your home base in Tampa after a day of exploration and adventure.
As we dive into the details of each day trip destination, keep an eye out for my local tips that will help make your experience all the more enjoyable. Whether it’s finding the perfect beach spot, the must-try restaurants, or hidden gems that only a resident would know, my insights will surely enrich your journey. So, buckle up and let’s explore some of the amazing day trips that await you just beyond Tampa’s city limits.
Day Trips from Tampa: Nature Getaways
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
If you’re a nature lover looking for a perfect day trip from Tampa, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is a must-visit destination. Less than 2 hours away from the city, this beautiful spot boasts clear, blue-green waters with white sands perfect for swimming. As a Tampa resident, I’ve witnessed the park’s magical charm, with its famous underwater mermaid shows and abundant wildlife like manatees, turtles, and fish.
As a Florida insider, I recommend kayaking or paddleboarding down the crystal clear Weeki Wachee River, where you can spot manatees in their natural habitat. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and enjoy the lush surroundings as you relax by the water.
Local tip: Arrive early to secure a spot for your picnic, as the park can get quite crowded on weekends.
Hillsborough River State Park
Another great nature getaway is the Hillsborough River State Park, just 30 minutes from downtown Tampa. This park offers diverse outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and birdwatching. The park’s dense forest and picturesque wetlands create a serene atmosphere for those who want to escape the city’s hustle and bustle.
I’ve walked the park’s numerous hiking trails, and I have to say, the scenic views of the river and surrounding wildlife never disappoint. Some trails even take you past the park’s historic suspension bridge and an impressive Class II rapids section.
Local tip: Don’t miss the park’s guided ranger tours for a more immersive experience on weekends.
Rainbow Springs State Park
A slightly longer drive away (around 2 hours), Rainbow Springs State Park is certainly worth the trip. Apart from its crystal-clear waters, the park’s abundant greenery and wildlife make it a true nature lover’s paradise. Enjoy swimming, tubing, or snorkeling in the refreshing springs, or spend some time hiking through the lush surroundings.
As a Tampa resident, I consider this park my personal happy place. Watching turtles and occasionally alligators basking by the water’s edge as I kayak along the Rainbow River is a fantastic experience.
Local tip: Check out the park’s historic gardens and waterfalls for a serene and picturesque walk.
Ocala National Forest
Last but not least, visit the Ocala National Forest, about 2.5 hours from Tampa. This vast expanse of wilderness is a nature enthusiast’s dream come true offering hiking trails, fishing, swimming, and even the opportunity to spot Florida black bears.
My favorite local tip is to explore the forest’s hiking trails, such as the Florida Trail or the Yearling Trail, where you can enjoy the beauty of ancient live oaks and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the untouched wilderness.
Local tip: For a refreshing swim after a hike, I highly recommend visiting Alexander Springs or Juniper Springs within the national forest.
Day Trips from Tampa: Beachside Excursions
As a Tampa resident and expert travel blogger, I’m excited to share some of my favorite beachside day trip destinations for you to explore. These trips are perfect for soaking up the sun, enjoying a swim, or discovering local dining and activities. Buckle up, and let’s go!
Clearwater Beach is known for its soft, white sand and is only a 40-minute drive from Tampa. Enjoy the popular Pier 60 or rent kayaks to explore nearby sandbars. Don’t miss out on local restaurants serving delicious seafood.
Local tip: If you’re a fan of marine life, check out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is famous for its resident dolphin, Winter.
St. Petersburg Beaches
Head south from Tampa for around 30 minutes, and you’ll arrive in St. Petersburg, home to several beautiful beaches. Pass-A-Grille, Fort DeSoto Park, and St. Pete Beach are popular options.
Local tip: Visit the world-renowned Dali Museum during your trip to St. Petersburg for a fascinating cultural experience.
Sarasota’s stunning beaches are just over an hour’s drive from Tampa. Take a dip in the warm turquoise waters at Lido Key or Longboat Key.
Local tip: Check out Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to learn more about sea creatures and marine conservation.
If you don’t mind a longer drive (around 2 hours), Sanibel Island is worth the trip. Known for its world-class shelling, this island paradise is perfect for spending a sunny day scouting unique seashells.
Local tip: Rent bicycles to explore the island and make a stop at the famous Bubble Room for a delicious meal.
Anna Maria Island
Just over an hour’s drive from Tampa, Anna Maria Island is a charming destination with pristine beaches and a lovely small-town vibe.
Local tip: Be sure to visit the Rod & Reel Pier for some of the best seafood and views on the island.
The quaint city of Dunedin is just a 38-minute drive from Tampa and offers access to beautiful Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island.
Local tip: Downtown Dunedin is known for its Scottish heritage, craft breweries, and delightful shops to explore.
Boasting incredibly soft, white sand and an unbeatable sunset, Siesta Key Beach is just a 75-minute drive from Tampa.
Local tip: Head to Siesta Key Village for shops and dining after spending the day on the beach.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Located off the coast of Dunedin, this state park features beautiful beaches, nature trails, and stunning views.
Local tip: Keep an eye out for playful dolphins and ospreys while exploring the island’s beaches.
Accessible only by boat, Caladesi Island is one of the best-hidden gems for a day trip from Tampa. Enjoy the inviting turquoise water and pristine white sand during your visit to this island paradise.
Local tip: Consider taking a guided kayak tour of the island’s mangrove tunnels for an unforgettable adventure.
Day Trips from Tampa: Garden Escapes
As a Tampa resident, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many beautiful gardens in the surrounding areas. I’ll share some of my favorite garden day trips that add a touch of nature to your Florida experience.
Bok Tower Gardens
Located in Lake Wales, about an hour and a half drive from Tampa, the Bok Tower Gardens offer a unique blend of lush landscapes and architectural wonders. Here are the highlights:
- Gardens: The botanical gardens showcase a wide variety of plants, including azaleas, camellias, and magnolias. Stroll through the picturesque paths, take in the delightful scents, and admire the vibrant colors.
- Singing Tower: This impressive 205 foot-tall tower, adorned with carvings and brass bells, offers daily concerts that enchant visitors with its musical charm.
- Waterfalls: The garden features several tranquil waterfalls, providing peaceful spots to sit and reflect.
Local Tip: Fall and spring are the best times to visit the gardens, as you’ll find abundant blooming flowers. Make sure to stick around for one of the Singing Tower’s concerts!
Sunken Gardens, located in St. Petersburg, is a hidden gem just a 30-minute drive from Tampa. This historic 100-year-old botanical garden is home to more than 500 species of plants and various animals. To make the most of your visit, remember the following:
- Gardens: Explore the winding paths through lush tropical foliage, including water lilies, cacti, and fruit trees.
- Fauna: Sunken Gardens is more than just a botanical paradise; it’s also home to some incredible wildlife. Spot flamingos, turtles, and koi fish as you explore the gardens.
Local Tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes, as the garden paths are made of brick and can be uneven in places. The Sunken Gardens also offer guided tours to help you learn more about the plants and animals.
Day Trips from Tampa: Museums and Art
Let’s face it – sometimes you just want to plan a fun activity that also includes air conditioning in Florida! That’s why as a Tampa resident and an avid traveler, I know the importance of having a variety of day trip options at your disposal.
Whenever you feel like exploring museums and art, two destinations definitely stand out as worthwhile ventures: the Ringling Museum of Art and the Salvador Dali Museum. These attractions offer fascinating insights into the world of art, and they’re just a short drive away.
Ringling Museum of Art
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota is a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces, housed in a picturesque Italian-inspired setting. This day trip from Tampa is ideal for art enthusiasts or anyone seeking a serene and inspiring escape. The museum’s extensive collection includes works by renowned artists, such as Rubens, Titian, and Tintoretto. As a Tampa resident, one of my personal favorites is strolling through the lush gardens and taking in the waterfront views.
Local Tip: Don’t miss the Ca’ d’Zan, a magnificent Venetian-Gothic mansion that was once the home of John and Mable Ringling. The opulence and architectural details are truly captivating.
Salvador Dali Museum
Another fantastic day trip from Tampa is visiting the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Just a 30-minute drive away, this museum offers an immersive experience into the world of the famous surrealist artist. Discover Dali’s most iconic paintings, sculptures, and other works that will challenge your perception and leave you in awe. Apart from the permanent collection, the museum hosts special exhibitions, adding to the overall appeal for a pleasant getaway.
Local Tip: After exploring the museum, take a stroll along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of shops, restaurants, and picturesque green spaces.
Remember, the real charm of day trips lies in their diversity. Both the Ringling Museum of Art and the Salvador Dali Museum offer unique and enriching experiences that cater to a wide range of tastes. So, whenever you’re in Tampa and feel the urge to appreciate art, these destinations are well worth your time.
Day Trips from Tampa: Theme Park Adventures
As a Tampa resident and expert travel blogger, I know firsthand that Florida is full of exciting theme parks for you to explore on your day trips from Tampa. In this section, we’ll dive into some of the top theme park adventures you can enjoy, including the Orlando Attractions, Legoland Florida, and Dinosaur World.
When it comes to theme park day trips from Tampa, Orlando’s attractions are hard to beat. Less than two hours away from Tampa, Orlando offers a plethora of theme park options to suit all tastes. Here are a few notable parks to visit:
- Walt Disney World Resort: Home to four fantastic theme parks – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom – the Walt Disney World Resort is a must-visit destination for every theme park enthusiast. Don’t forget to explore Disney Springs for shopping and dining options as well. Local tip: Arrive early to make the most of your day, and be sure to use the My Disney Experience app for wait times and reservations.
- Universal Orlando Resort: Two action-packed parks – Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure – await you in this thrilling destination. From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to blockbuster attractions like Transformers and Jurassic Park, there’s something for everyone. Local tip: Purchase the Universal Express Pass to skip the regular lines and maximize your time at the parks.
Located in Winter Haven, just over an hour’s drive from Tampa, Legoland Florida is a fun-filled destination for families with young children. The park offers over 50 rides, shows, and attractions, as well as hands-on building experiences with the classic Lego bricks. Be sure to check out Miniland USA, where you can see intricate Lego creations of famous landmarks.
Local tip: Visit during weekdays or off-peak seasons to avoid crowds and enjoy shorter wait times for rides.
For a different kind of adventure, head to Dinosaur World in Plant City, about 30 minutes from Tampa. This unique theme park features over 200 life-size dinosaur replicas, an interactive fossil dig, dinosaur-themed playgrounds, and educational exhibits. It’s perfect for a day trip that combines fun and learning. Local tip: Don’t forget to pack a picnic, as the park has several picnic areas available for visitors.
No matter what kind of theme park adventure you’re in the mood for, these day trips from Tampa offer tons of excitement and entertainment for the whole family. Remember to plan ahead and arrive early to make the most of your day in these fantastic parks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some top-rated day trips near Tampa?
As a Tampa resident, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring many nearby destinations. Some of my top-rated day trips include:
- Walt Disney World: The most magical place on Earth is just a 1.5-hour drive from Tampa, offering a wonderful world of endless entertainment!
- Universal Studios: A haven for movie buffs and thrill-seekers, Universal Studios is only about 1.5 hours from Tampa as well.
- Sanibel Island Beach: This idyllic Gulf Coast beach is perfect for a relaxing day trip, approximately 2.5 hours from Tampa.
- Honeymoon Island Beach: At just 45 minutes from Tampa, Honeymoon Island offers clear waters and white sand beaches for the perfect beach day.
Which wineries can be visited on a day trip from Tampa?
Several wineries can be visited on a day trip from Tampa, including:
- Keel & Curley Winery: About 30 minutes from Tampa, this local favorite offers unique fruit-fusion wines and a relaxing atmosphere.
- Murielle Winery: Located in Clearwater, just an hour from Tampa, Murielle Winery specializes in small-batch wines.
Where can I experience nature on a day trip from Tampa?
As a nature enthusiast, these are some of my favorite places to experience on a day trip from Tampa:
- Myakka River State Park: About 1.5 hours from Tampa, this park boasts incredible hiking trails, bird watching, and opportunities to spot alligators.
- Crystal River: Just 1.5 hours away, Crystal River offers swimming with manatees, kayaking, and stunning natural springs.
What are some unique day trip destinations in Florida near Tampa?
Some unique day trip destinations near Tampa include:
- The Salvador Dali Museum: 30 minutes away in St. Petersburg, this museum houses an impressive collection of the Spanish surrealist’s works.
- Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks: Just 45 minutes from Tampa, this Greek community offers delicious cuisine, unique shopping, and sponge diving demonstrations.
What cities are within a short driving distance from Tampa?
Tampa’s prime location offers quick access to many nearby cities, such as:
- St. Petersburg: Only 30 minutes away, St. Pete is a vibrant city with beautiful beaches, museums, and delicious dining options.
- Clearwater: At just under an hour away, Clearwater offers white sand beaches and the famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
- Sarasota: Approximately 1 hour from Tampa, Sarasota is known for its beautiful beaches, arts scene, and fantastic shopping options.
What are the best day trip destinations for families near Tampa?
Families visiting Tampa have many options for enjoyable day trips, including:
- Legoland: A Lego-themed amusement park located just under 1.5 hours from Tampa, perfect for families with young children.
- Florida Aquarium: Located in downtown Tampa, this impressive aquarium offers educational exhibits suitable for all ages.
- Lowry Park Zoo: With more than 1,300 animals, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo provides a fun and educational day trip for the whole family.
Remember to take sunscreen, hats, and water on these adventures, and most importantly, enjoy all the amazing experiences that await you just a short drive away from Tampa! Happy exploring!