The best part about Florida? There are infinite road trips you can take all over the state that will bring you to all sorts of diverse landscapes!
Tampa is an excellent place to start a road trip from. Centrally located on the Gulf Coast, you are not too far from the Panhandle, SW Florida, Central Florida, SE Florida, the Atlantic Coast, and North Florida!
Close to crystal clear beaches, freshwater springs, gorgeous remote islands, and historical places, Tampa is the ideal place to visit and take a road trip. There are so many diverse options to choose from, each one more fun than the next, it’s going to be hard to choose!
First, you need to decide what kind of adventure you’re looking for. Want to escape to a remote island with historical ruins? Is diving into an ancient, artesian spring more your style? Or what about a cute beach town?
Before you hit the open road, I’m going to let you in on some hidden gems that will make your road trip mega-special and absolutely unforgettable. In this article, as a Florida local, I’m going to dish it all out about the best day trips from Tampa!
If you are in a hurry
These tours sell out pretty quickly, so I highly recommend booking in advance!
Here are the main things to book in advance:
- Dolphin-Watching Tour in Clearwater
- Fort De Soto Wildlife Electric Bike Tour
- Manatee Snorkel Tour in Crystal River
1. Day trips from Tampa within one hour
1.1 Check out the Sunken Gardens in St. Pete
The Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg is one of the most incredible places to visit in Florida. If you’re looking for fun day trips from Tampa, Sunken Gardens should be high on your list!
The St. Petersburg Sunken Gardens is a 100-year-old botanical garden home to over 500 different plant species that have called this place their home for a century!
Part of what makes this experience so special is that it is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. You can see rare tropical plants at different stages of their life that have aged like fine wine!
Another reason the Saint Petersburg Sunken Gardens are so unique is that since the gardens are over 100 years old, they have literally sunken into the Earth to almost below sea level!
Not only is the flora an incredible sight to see, but they also have some incredible fauna. One of the most popular aspects of this gorgeous botanical garden is the resident Chilean flamingos onsite that just add to the overall magic of the experience!
Time and distance from Tampa: 30 minutes, 22 miles (35 km)
1.2 Visit Hillsborough River State Park
This is an excellent chance to see some of Florida’s diversity when it comes to natural landscapes. A nice change of pace from the beach, Hillsborough River State Park has seven miles of trails, a gorgeous river, and lots of lush greenery.
This is the perfect place to kayak, hike, bird watch, and unwind in some of Florida’s pristine, untouched nature.
If you’re looking to see some local dinosaurs (alligators), Hillsborough River State Park is the perfect place to do so. This is the perfect little day trip from Tampa Bay if you are looking for a nice change of pace and some calming time in nature.
Remember to respect wild spaces, don’t litter, and give wildlife their space! You are a guest in their home.
Time and distance from Tampa: 27 minutes, 22 miles (35 km)
1.3 Check out the Salvador Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg
This Tampa day trip is really not far at all from Tampa, but you could totally go to the Salvador Dali Museum and do a few other things in one day!
The Dali Museum honors and showcases the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Known as one of the most influential artists ever to exist, his paintings are some of the most famous paintings in the world.
There is no doubt that Dali left his imprint on the world, and this museum does an excellent job of documenting and showcasing his work in a super cool and unique way!
The Salvador Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg is home to the most extensive collection of his work in the entire world! For those passionate about unique, surrealist art and who love Dali’s work, this is a must-see if you’re in the Tampa Bay area.
Peruse hundreds of mind-bending, colorful, creative pieces, and see some of his most influential works on display at the Dali Museum!
Time and distance from Tampa: 25 minutes, 24 miles (38 km)
1.4 Dunedin (Caladesi Island)
Caladesi Island (or Dunedin, as the locals call it) is an incredible remote island only accessible by boat that will make you feel transported to a remote tropical island oasis.
I put this at the top of the list because it is close to Tampa and easily one of the best day trips from Tampa!
Once you make it to this island paradise, enjoy the pristine turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and unique coastal ecology and flora and fauna. Florida has so much to offer and these small islands off the coasts are truly something else!
Pack a yummy picnic to eat at one of the picnic tables beachside with loved ones, finally read that book you never have time to read, go on a gorgeous hike, go for a swim, go scuba diving, or go kayaking! The options are endless!
While you’re there, I highly recommend going kayaking! If you’re looking for fun outdoor activities, this is a really fun thing to do at Caladesi Island, and you get to paddle all the way to the State Park – plus, you might see some dolphins on the way!
I personally LOVE kayaking. And this is the best area to do it! There’s no better way to get to grips with the Florida seas than to jump on your kayak 🙂
Time and distance from Tampa: 40 minutes, 26 miles (41 km)
1.5 Take a dip in Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach is a Gulf Coast gem that you don’t want to miss. Sugar white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, and breathtaking sunsets, this is one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Florida.
Dolphins and other marine life sightings are common here as the water is so clear. Spend the day lounging about on the beach, visit a local park, enjoy some beachside dining, and so much more!
Famously rated the best beach in all of the United States, Clearwater is a really spectacular Florida destination that should most definitely be on your bucket list!
If you’re on the hunt for dolphins, you should definitely do a dolphin-watching cruise while you’re in Clearwater! This is SUCH a fun activity – and dolphin sightings are guaranteed!
Time and distance from Tampa: 41 minutes, 25 miles (40 km)
1.6 Spend the day at Honeymoon Island State Park
When it comes to day trips from Tampa, Honeymoon Island State Park should be high on your list!
Since it is not too far from the Tampa Bay area, this is an excellent one-tank day trip that is 100% worth checking out.
Right next to Caladesi Island, Honeymoon Island State Park is a true Florida gem. You do not want to miss this day trip destination with incredible stretches of sandy beaches, gorgeous crystalline waters, and incredible natural beauty.
Eagles, Owls, Osprey, Armadillos, Raccoons, Tortoises, Dolphins, and Sting Rays are all some of the incredible wildlife you can expect to see on your trip to this stunning Florida Island!
Famous for its diverse wildlife and amazing birds of prey easily spotted from the beach, this is the perfect place to go for nature lovers or people looking for a romantic escape from city life.
Honeymoon Island State Park is a stunning place to visit, just a short drive from Tampa.
Time and distance from Tampa: 40 minutes, 25 miles (40 km)
1.7 Check out historic Fort De Soto Park
Fort De Soto Park has a history that dates back thousands of years, and you can feel it when you visit. The energy feels ancient and prehistoric.
One of the best places to visit for beach lovers, this should be high on your bucket list of places to visit in Florida.
The beaches at Fort De Soto Park are absolutely breathtaking. With aquamarine and turquoise waters, this is truly one of the most beautiful places to visit in the US, and once upon a time, this beach was selected as the best beach in the USA!
Not only is this destination stunning, but it also boasts some interesting history, providing both a stunning beach and a culturally enriching experience for those who appreciate history.
Originally belonging to the Tocobaga Indigenous peoples, Fort De Soto was conquered by two Spanish conquistadors, Panfilo Narvaez, and Hernando De Soto.
Once the US took the stolen land from the Spanish, it was repurposed for military use, and unfortunately, used as a bombing range.
Following World War II, Fort De Soto Park was finally opened up to the public. It is made up of five connected islands, a historic fort, incredible beaches, miles of nature trails, and wild coastal landscapes.
If you’re interested in learning more about the local history and getting a more in-depth experience of Fort De Soto Park, check out this awesome electric bike wildlife and history tour!
Time and distance from Tampa: 40 minutes, 34 miles
1.8 See some live mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
One of the coolest things to do in Florida, as well as one of the most unique, is to see a live mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park!
For anyone who’s visited one of Florida’s freshwater springs before, they just look like they were meant to have mermaids swimming around. Weeki Wachee River is a super fun experience for the entire family and people of all ages to awaken their inner child and imagination!
Not only is there a mermaid show in the mornings, but then you have the rest of the day to experience the incredible beauty of the springheads, explore the caves, and splash around in mineral-rich, clear, gorgeous water bubbling up from the depths of the Earth.
While you’re there, I highly recommend going kayaking on the river! You’ll see all the local wildlife up close and personal and learn more about the local ecosystem that makes this place so special.
Time and distance from Tampa: 58 minutes, 56 miles (90 km)
2. Day trips from Tampa under two hours
2.1 Road trip to Walt Disney World
One of the most popular day trips from Tampa is to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, without a doubt. Between the four major theme parks, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Universal, and Animal Kingdom, there are endless things to do at Walt Disney World.
If you’re a foodie, I recommend checking out Disney Springs for some delicious eats. Oh, and if you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on Gideons Cookies!
If you’re going on a Disney World trip, you should check out our post, your ultimate guide to Disney World, and our tips and tricks will make planning your trip so much easier! You can buy flexible tickets to the theme park below, including Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
Time and distance from Tampa: 1 hr 5 mins, 65 miles (104 km)
2.2 Visit Rainbow Springs State Park
Easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Florida, Rainbow Springs State Park reigns supreme when it comes to the hundreds of freshwater springs in Florida. Small tip – if you’re looking for a more detailed guide to Rainbow Springs, you should check out our post, the ultimate guide to the park!
Named Rainbow Springs because the water is so clear you can often spot rainbows on the spring floor, this is definitely one of the best places to take a day trip from Tampa.
Rainbow Springs also has a huge natural pool which is super fun for people of all ages to enjoy!
Here you can rent a kayak or canoe or go tubing down the gorgeous Rainbow River! The best part about this tubing experience is that there are shuttles that bring you back to the starting point so you don’t have to worry about traveling upstream!
You should also check out this incredible snorkeling tour at Rainbow Springs State Park! It’s such a fun way to get close to all the beautiful marine life in the springs.
Time and distance from Tampa: 1 hr 42 mins, 94 miles (151 km)
2.3 Day trip to Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is an enchanting old-school Florida gem. This low-rise paradise oasis will leave a lasting impression in your heart and mind. Travel back in time to a magical place before high-rises and bustling cities, and discover the quaint magic of Anna Maria Island!
I love Anna Maria Island so much. It is definitely one of my favorite places to visit on the West Coast, so I bet you’ll love it too!
With white sand beaches, clean, crystal clear turquoise waters, incredible wildlife viewing, and breathtaking sunsets, this island makes for the perfect day trip for a relaxing day by the beach paired with some delicious fresh local catch!
The Gulf-front beaches are by far some of the most beautiful beaches you will find in Florida. Florida’s Gulf Coast is famous for its incredible seashells, crystalline sand beaches, and regular dolphin sightings! You should also check out Coquina Beach while you’re there!
Time and distance from Tampa: 1 hr 10 mins, 56 miles (90 km)
Looking for fun things to do on Anna Maria Island once you arrive? Check out this amazing parasailing adventure!
2.4 Check out the Ringling Museum in Sarasota
A short distance from the Tampa Bay area, downtown Sarasota is a beautiful, fun place to visit that makes the perfect destination for a great Tampa day trip!
The John and Mable Ringling Museum is a really cool place to visit and a unique experience to learn about the history of the circus in Florida.
Home to over 10,000 pieces of artwork using all sorts of different mediums, this is a super memorable and out-of-the-ordinary experience.
Boasting big names of different artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Marcel Duchamp, Rosa Bonheur, and Gianlorenzo Bernini, the Ringling Museum has some pretty incredible art pieces you can’t find anywhere else!
Oh, and don’t miss out on Siesta Key Beach while you’re in Sarasota!
Time and distance from Tampa: 1 hr, 60 miles (96 km)
2.5 Swim with manatees at Crystal River!
While Florida is well known for its manatees, there are few places that manatees love more than Crystal River.
Specifically, Three Sisters Spring is well known across the Sunshine State as manatee central! Furthermore, this is one of the only springs in Florida where the odds of being able to swim with wild manatees are consistently high!
There is so much to do in the area as well, between delicious places to eat from fine dining to more casual eats, going scalloping, or indulging in some super exciting water sports!
Check out this super awesome manatee snorkel tour with a professional diver and photographer! Skip the guessing, and rest assured that you will get your moment to swim with manatees by booking this tour!
Time and distance from Tampa: 1 hr 15 mins, 80 miles (128 km)
2.6 Check out Bok Tower Gardens
Located in Lake Wales, Bok Tower Gardens boasts 200 acres of incredible flora and fauna, as well as a beautiful Japanese-inspired watch tower.
The famous tower at Bok Tower Gardens is called the Singing Tower, and it stands 150 feet tall over the gardens. Towering over the garden, the Singing Tower often emits beautiful music with sixty bells played by a musician who conducts the beautiful melody.
This is one of the best day trips from Tampa for people looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. With gorgeous flowering plants, this incredible Japanese-style garden is a beautiful change of pace.
Time and distance from Tampa: 1 hr 15 mins, 66 miles (106 km)
2.7 Check out Fort Myers
A southern Florida gem, Fort Myers is a really spectacular place for a day trip from Tampa. Between the swaying palm trees, the beautiful beaches, the delicious restaurants, excellent shopping, and golf courses, Fort Myers is a lovely place to visit!
Don’t forget to check out Charlotte Harbor while you’re there!
If I were you, I’d go on this sunset sail at the end of your day trip to Fort Myers. It’s SO beautiful and is the best way to end your trip!
Time and distance from Tampa: 1 hr 55 mins, 132 miles (212 km)
2.8 Spend the day on Sanibel Island
Off the coast of Fort Myers, Sanibel Island is one of the most beautiful islands in Florida. It’s just over 2 hours away from Tampa, but it’s well worth the trip!
Sanibel Island is a gorgeous barrier island located between Fort Myers Beach (Estero Island) and Captiva Island. It’s only a short drive from Fort Myers and the Tampa Bay area.
Each year, millions of people flock from all over the globe to visit the Sunshine State, and Sanibel Island, as well as Captiva Island, are some of Florida’s claims to fame when it comes to gorgeous Gulf of Mexico destinations.
Sanibel Island also happens to have some of the best shelling on Florida’s Gulf Coast! This is a great day trip from Tampa for spending some time on a beautiful island oasis, going to the beach, shelling, and eating some good fresh seafood!
Time and distance from Tampa: 2 hr 30 mins, 157 miles (252 km)
|👪 Family-friendly score:||High|
|🏛️ Best museum:||Salvador Dali Museum|
|🎢 Top paid attraction:||Manatee Snorkel Tour in Crystal River|
|🏖️ Best beach:||Clearwater Beach|
|👧 Best attraction for kids:||Busch Gardens|
FAQs about day trips from Tampa
💖 What are the most romantic day trips from Tampa?
👪 What are the most family-friendly day trips from Tampa?
🌴 What are the most unique day trips in Florida?
Whether you decide to take a quick day trip from Tampa or go on a weekend getaway, I’m sure you will have an incredible time!
Tampa is a really incredible location to leave for a fun day trip. Within a few minutes to a couple of hours, you can be in a lush freshwater spring, on an island oasis, at a super cool and unique museum, in an incredible botanical garden, on a snorkeling or dolphin tour, and so much more!
There are endless things to do and fun day trips from Tampa. I hope this list helps you in creating beautiful memories and go on the perfect day trip or weekend getaway!
With Love and Gratitude,
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