Looking for the Best Day Trips from Tampa?
Tampa is a wonderful city full of interesting and exciting things to do; with that said, people need a change of scenery from time to time and this is where a day trip is the perfect excuse to make your escape.
While you’ll still have the opportunity for a theme park or two, a trip to the outskirts of Tampa provides you with a more “in-touch with nature” experience, and the best part about it is that you can do it within a couple of hour’s drive of Tamp proper.
Whether it’s the Blue Spring State Park (land of the Manatee), the hiking trails of Ocala State Park, or the lush greenery of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, you can expect to find a wonderful afternoon surrounded by nature as it’s meant to be enjoyed. To help with this, we’ve created a list of the 19 Best Day Trips from Tampa!
19 Best Day Trips from Tampa (Recommended from a Local!)
1. Kennedy Space Center
While Florida is famous for many tourist attractions, maybe the most impactful on the history and future of the country is the Kennedy Space Center. A trip here is a walk-through time of great American achievement. You’ll visit the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and Rocket Garden.
You’ll be in awe of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and enthralled by the Hubble Space Telescope Theater. Don’t forget the Air Force Space & Missile Museum, The Mercury 7 Monument and the Launch Complex 34, the memorial site for the crew of Apollo 1. You’ll also have the opportunity to go Behind the Gates where you’ll be taken right up to those legendary launch sites and tour the space facilities that you’ve seen depicted on television for decades!
There is also the Saturn V moon rocket which was at the forefront of the space race with the Russian Federation! And not only learn about past NASA missions, but you’ll also be able to take a peek into what they have planned for the future.
2. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
People can proclaim all they want that mermaids are a fiction of one’s imagination, that is until they visit the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park where these mythical creatures swim in abundance. All you have to do is hop on the River Boat Cruise to find out for yourself, or you can get up close and personal with a dip in Buccaneer Bay.
Not interested in mermaids, pick out either a canoe or a kayak for your trip down Weeki Wachee River where you’ll be enshrined in colorful foliage as the tip of your canoe cuts through the moss-covered water.
You’ll also be treated to an education on Florida’s wildlife by one of the many experts from the area. Looking for a scenic backdrop for your private event or wedding, look no further than the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park which has been a staple for visitors for almost 75 years?
3. Cocoa Beach
Two hours east along Interstate 4 will drop you right down in the land of white sandy beaches where you’ll surf the day away in scenic Cocoa Beach. If you want to get a different kind of exercise, rent yourself a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard.
Time for a break, make your way out onto the Cocoa Beach Pier as it juts out over 800 feet into the surf allowing for wonderful views. And while you’re out there, don’t forget your fishing poles so you can stock up your cooler with the catch of the day!
Once you’ve had your fill of the sand, surf and fishing, satisfy your hunger at Coconuts on the Beach, one of the best restaurants in Cocoa Beach, where fish Reuben, fish tacos, and fish’n chips are all on the menu. Looking for something on dry land, Cocoa Beach houses a recreation center with a gym, a tennis complex with 2 clay courts and 10 hard courts, and 12 different parks including the Cocoa Beach Skate Park.
A short half an hour drive across the bridge will get you out to the city of Dunedin where beautiful beaches, the pine forest and Honeymoon Island State Park await. Looking for something to do in the Spring, how about the Toronto Blue Jays Spring training where you’ll get an up-close and personal view of some of the finest ball players on earth!
Want a slower pace head on over to the Dunedin golf Club for 18 holes? Need some practice, hit up the Driving Range at Stirling Park for some driving range action? If your new to the sport, you can grab up an instructor and take some golf lessons on the spot!
If you’ve got some little ones in the house, take them over for summer camps. Have skateboard, will travel? There is even a skate park for you to shred up and down and work on those famous ollies!
See more: Free things to do in Tampa
5. Clearwater Beach
As the name implies, the waters of Clearwater Beach are just that, as clear and clean as can be. There are also the Marine Aquarium with dolphins and other wildlife. If you’d like that Pirate experience, take a cruise around the area in Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Ship.
Need a place to stay, there is a wide variety of resorts including the Sandpearl, the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa, and the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites. Looking for some relaxing entertainment after a long day in the sun, then look no further than the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, a sunset event where you’ll be treated to eclectic artisans and street performers; they even hold week-long sand sculpting events.
Need to pick up some surfing gear, stop by the Ron Job Surf Shop. When it’s time to refuel, hit up Salty’s Island Bar & Grille of the Watercolour Grillhouse at Clearwater Beach Marriott, one of the best restaurants in Clearwater.
6. Myakka River State Park
Looking to really get in touch with nature only an hour away from the bustle of Tampa, then take a trip to Myakka River State Park where you’ll find prairies drenched in wildflowers along with scenic wetlands and pinelands.
Once there, you’ll enjoy any variety of activities including but not limited to fishing (watch out for the alligators), bicycling (with rentals), hiking, bird watching, boat tours and camping with either a complete campsite that includes 50-amp electrical service, water, a fire ring and picnic table, or what they call primitive camping where the amenities are scarce and you bring your own drinking water.
You can even go Geo-Seeking which allows you to take advantage of a global positioning system device that will take you on a treasure hunt. Other activities include horseback riding, paddling and wildlife observation. Getting hungry, take advantage of the Pink Gator Café for a hot dog of hamburger?
7. Blue Spring State Park
Looking to do an overnight trip, then the Blue Spring State Park is the way to go. Just a two-hour drive up interstate 4 will put you in the land of manatees where you’ll get a close up of these giant wonders. (note: because this area is a designated manatee refuge, the winter months are restricted for activities such as boating and diving).
You can also enjoy camping, fishing, hiking, paddling and picnicking. There is a guided, scuba discovery tour where professionals will take you down below for an adventure amongst the many underwater wildlife that call Blue Spring State Park home.
If that wasn’t enough, you can take a boat tour, scuba dive, snorkel, swim, and bump around in an innertube. For your “out of the water” enjoyment there are campsites that include everything from concrete pads and picnic tables to ground grills and restrooms. Looking to stay indoors overnight? Blue Spring State Park also offers cabins for your convenience.
8. Siesta Key
An hour’s drive south from Tampa, Siesta Key is a wonderful area to spend with the family or your significant other. Siesta Key Beach is a different experience because, rather than being covered with traditional sand, it is covered with as much as 99 percent quartz which never gets overheated. In other words, you can be bumping around and the sand will always have a cool feel to it.
Tired of the sand, cruise around the beach on your bicycle or perfect the art of body surf in the waves, it’s solely up to you? Go parasailing high above as you enjoy the pristine water below. Need to get some shopping in? There is a variety of stores to do just that.
Hungry, pull up a table at any of the dining experiences along the 8-mile long stretch of Siesta Key including Siesta Key Summer House Steak & Seafood, Gilligan’s Island Bar and Grill, or the Spearfish Grill just to name a few.
9. Walk Disney World Resort
It must be nice to have the Happiest Place on Earth right in your own back yard; just an hour up Interstate 4 and you’re there! And the best part is that you don’t get just one park, or two parks, or three; you get four amusement parks; the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. If that’s not enough for you, don’t forget the two water parks; Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach!
Of course, there is no way you can take advantage of all this greatness in one day so make sure to set up a reservation at one of the many hotels on the premises and the beauty of it is that everything is connected.
You can catch the shuttle which will take you to which ever attraction you want to visit that day and to top it all off, you can get a smart wristband that acts as your pass for everything! So much fun and opportunity should not be so convenient, but it is!
10. St Petersburg
Looking for a change of scenery for the day, take a short trip over the bridge on Interstate 275 to St Petersburg where you’ll find a town full of rich history and enjoyable activities. Affectionately known to the locals as “St.Pete,” St Petersburg has been around for almost 150 years and is chock full of history.
What is wonderful is you can be your own tour guide; all you have to do is download the Florida Stories Walking Tour app which will guide you through the downtown area offering wonderful anecdotes of the eclectic characters that have graced the city’s streets over the generations.
Feeling like you need to relieve some tension, take advantage of Yoga in the Park. Afterwards, take a stroll over to the Waterfront Museum District where you’ll find an array of independent art galleries and museums surrounded by unlimited dining and shopping opportunities.
See more: Best things to do in St Pete
11. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
If you are a fan of the Florida manatee, then you must visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the official home of this relative to the elephant. The manatee population is shrinking and the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is vital to protecting this endangered species.
As per their mission statement: the refuge establishes and maintains critical winter habitat for the Florida manatee, and protects island habitat necessary for migratory and shore birds. Located just 80 miles north of Tampa, the refuge offers a close-up view of this magnificent underwater creature. In addition, you can maneuver your way around the area in a paddle boat or, if you prefer, an actual boat.
Once out of the water, you’ll enjoy miles of hiking trails where you’ll be treated to incredible views and an opportunity to be one with nature. Have questions about the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, stop by the Visitor Center.
12. Hillsborough River State Park
Looking to find something a bit closer, take U.S.31 northeast for 20 minutes and you’ll arrive at the Hillsborough River State Park. Bring you bicycles along to traverse the beautiful scenery, or pack up your fishing pole to reel in the bid one, Hillsborough has it all.
Don’t have a bike or a fishing pole, then bring those hiking boots to conquer the many trails, or just saddle up for some horseback riding. And of course, you’ve got your choice of camping where you’ll be provided a spot with electricity, water, a fire ring and picknick tables or, if you prefer, “glamping” where you’ll wind down from your long day in the comfort of a room with all the amenities you need to relax and recover.
And if you’re looking for an experience in nature to seal your nuptials, then look no further as you are more than welcome to do so at Hillsborough River State Park.
13. Rainbow Springs State Park
Although it’s a bit further than some of the other things to do around the Tampa area, the Rainbow Springs State Park is well worth the trip. This nationally protected reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife around every turn.
Kayak or tube down the scenic Rainbow River as you spy the many species of bird native to the area. Pull out the fishing gear to snag some dinner if you like? Take in the spectacle of the surrounding trees and brush as you traverse the Walking Trails. Take a dip in the crystal-clear Head Springs Swimming Area. Enjoy the water cascading its way down the Rainbow Falls.
Take advantage of the many campsites equipped with bathrooms and showers that cover the grounds along with the plethora of picnic tables supported with concrete pads and accompanied by a ground grill. There is even an amphitheater on the grounds for your evening entertainment!
14. Fort De Soto Park
Located just 34 miles southwest of Tampa, Fort De Soto Park is a wonderful getaway for the afternoon or overnight if you like. While there, you’ll enjoy seven miles of waterfront with three of those miles covered with white sandy beaches.
There are 238 different campsites for you to pitch your tent along with 15 picnic areas with shelters to protect from those passing showers Florida is so famous for.
Looking to get out on the water, you can launch your boat from any of the boat launching facilities provided by the park, or take a dip in one of the two swimming areas, and if you want to stay on land but get some fishing in, feel free to take advantage of the two fishing piers where you can catch that big one you’ve been dreaming about!
Of course, the park offers a convenient concession bar, a museum and even a dog park where Fido can roam free!
15. Sanibel Island
A visit to Sanibel Island means that you’ll enjoy a wide variety of entertainment options. To begin, visit Playland Park which is chock full of rides and attractions for the whole family. There’s the roller coaster, slides, a merry go round, and boardwalk leading to a beautiful white sandy beach.
Feel like bumping around on two wheels instead of two feet, grab up a bicycle at the bike rental. Want to get out into the water, rent a boat or kayak? And feel free to bring along your fishing poles. Want a bit more excitement, load up your jet skis and fly around the water till your heart’s content!
Working up an appetite, pull up to the Tipsy Turtle Restaurant and Bar, the Thistle Lodge Restaurant, or for a more laid back, American fare experience, stop in at Schnapper’s Hots. Looking to stay overnight? Check out the Sanibel Island Beach Resort, the Casa Ybel Resort, the Gulf Breeze Cottages or the Sanibel Arms Condominiums.
16. Ocala National Forest
Ocala National Forest is a bit further out from Tampa, but you’ll reap the rewards for your effort. Hop onto Interstate 75 North for about two hours and you’ll arrive in the middle of the land of biking, hiking and fishing. Stay for the day or nestle in to one of the many available cabins with full amenities. Ocala National Forest is home to some of the best springs near Tampa.
Interested in roughing it, forget the cabin and bring your own tent and sleeping bags for a more realistic camping experience. Once you’ve settled in to your new surroundings, take advantage of the outdoors with the aid of your very own horse to peruse the trails.
Feeling more adventurous, the park is also a hunting grounds with deer in abundance. If hunting isn’t your thing, then enjoy OHV riding and camping or if you’re looking to cool off a bit, take your boat or jet ski out onto the water.
17. John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk
Located just 30 minutes west of Tampa, John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk is rich with history that includes both a pirate and a hurricane; the pirate being one John Levique and the hurricane which created a new passage way for him to traverse during his travels.
At John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk, you’ll be treated to a plethora of activities for the whole family. Curious about the alligators that make Florida their home, then stop by the Alligator Wildlife Discovery Center for an education on what makes these incredible creatures tick.
Looking for a friendlier sea creature, head on over to the Calypso Breeze for the Dolphin Quest exhibit where you’ll be both entertained and educated. Working up some hunger, stop by the Wild Sea Food Market for the catch of the day and for a treat, don’t forget Yogurt City. Once you’ve satisfied your hunger, burn some calories with a stroll around the area’s many shops and boutiques.
18. Ginnie Springs
Looking for a daring diving adventure, look no further than Ginnie Springs in Gilcrest County. This privately owned springs stretches over six miles of area where you can take your diving gear and explore a plethora of caves drenched in sand and a beautiful limestone bottom.
Glide alongside the turtles and fish in this magnificent wonder below the springs. In addition to diving, you can swim, snorkel, canoe, kayak, and even stand-up paddleboard if you like? Looking for even more fast paced fun, enjoy an hour-long trek down Ginnie Springs for some of the best tubing in the nation?
All of this is made possible by the owner, Bob Wray who opened up the property to the public so that they might enjoy all the wonderful attractions the Springs have to offer. It’s a bit of a journey to get there from Tampa, (roughly two and a half hours), but once you arrive, you’ll quickly see that it was worth the trip.
19. Sea World
Now before you think that Sea World is just a place where you walk around and look at dolphins in tanks, think again.
Once famous for Shamu the Killer Whale, today’s Sea World is known for being an all-around entertainment venue with world renown hyper-coasters that will throw you around in the most unimaginable ways, to white water rapids that will carry you and your whole family through drops and falls, to a 400-foot Sky Tower that will provide you a view for miles to see!
Take a break from the excitement with a stop at that Coaster Coffee Company or the Flamecraft Bar. And for the little ones, there is the Sunny Day Carousel, Slimey’s Slider, and Super Grover’s Box Car Derby.
And after you’ve spent the day working up an appetite, stop by Altitude Burgers, Seafire Grille or the Expedition Café. Want to end the day with some sweets? Make your way over to Edy’s Ice Cream Parlor.