Tampa is a busy and exciting destination, but many amazing sights and attractions are just outside the city limits. Energetic theme parks, stunning Gulf Coast beaches, and abundant nature await. There are many possible day trips from Tampa, and it’s worth putting on your exploring boots to check them out.
Table of Contents
- Best Day Trips From Tampa
- 1. Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando
- 2. Honeymoon Island State Park
- 3. Sarasota
- 4. Clearwater
- 5. Fort DeSoto County Park
- 6. Universal Studios, Orlando
- 7. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
- 8. Boggy Creek, Kissimmee
- 9. Rainbow Springs State Park
- 10. Sanibel Island
- 11. Weeki Wachee Spring State Park
- 12. Devil’s Den, Williston
- 13. Punta Gorda
- 14. Hillsborough River State Park
- 15. Legoland Florida
- Tampa Day Trips: Transportation Options
- Day Trips Around Tampa: FAQs
- In Conclusion
Driving in and around Tampa isn’t difficult and having your own wheels gives you the freedom to head out and explore on your own steam. Click here to search for the best price on rental cars in Tampa. However, if that’s not for you, there are many Tampa day trips you can take with a tour operator too.
I adore Tampa but have also fallen in love with many sights just outside of it. I’ll happily spend a day lounging on a fantastic beach before heading back to the city for a meal in the evening. Of course, the home of Mickey Mouse isn’t too far away either.
Best Day Trips From Tampa
If you stick to the city limits alone, you’ll miss out. That’s exactly what I found after heading to Tampa several times, and never really going anywhere other than the main neighborhoods and areas in Tampa – the first time I decided to jump in my car and explore, I was introduced to a whole new world.
Tampa is home to some of the best natural sights and hiking trails, and they’re all easy to reach within an hour or so. Whether you’re visiting as a family, a group, a couple, or traveling solo, there are some amazing day trip destinations waiting for you. Let’s explore them now.
1. Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando
Visiting the heart of Disney magic is a must-do, and it’s somewhere that never gets old for me. The resort is made up of four main parks — Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. Magic Kingdom is by far my favorite, but this is one one-day trip from Tampa that has something for everyone.
If you’re looking for fun day trips from Tampa, this ticks every box, and you don’t need to be traveling with children to enjoy it. The food here is a novelty but really delicious, and if you love rides, I recommend you consider purchasing a Fast Pass for your favorite attractions. As well as the rollercoasters, there are also shows that will leave you with goosebumps.
This is one of the most popular things to do in Orlando, so booking tickets ahead of time is advised as you can waste hours in the ticket queue otherwise. You can choose a set number of days for one base price, and you simply scan your ticket and head straight inside. I dare you not to skip your way down Main Street USA! Click here for more details on ticket options.
Distance from Tampa: 1.5 hours, 75 miles/120km
Location: 1375 E Buena Vista Dr Orlando Florida 32830. Click here for directions.
Getting There: The easiest way is to drive, following the I-4 E. However, you can also take a train from Tampa to Kissimmee and a bus to Disney. Click here for train information.
Must-Do Activities: Check out a parade, ride the Tower of Terror, and dare to explore Expedition Everest. For non-ride lovers, there are many restaurants and shops to check out, and you can eat your way around the world at Epcot.
Where to Eat: There are restaurants and street food options in abundance, but the Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom is a firm favorite of mine.
2. Honeymoon Island State Park
One of the most popular day trips from Tampa is to Honeymoon Island State Park, and even the name itself makes you want to go. Located in Dunedin, around 45 minutes from Tampa, this stunningly beautiful park is the ideal place to relax. And no, you don’t need to be on your honeymoon to visit.
Collecting shells is one of the most popular activities, but simply soaking up the sun and swimming are activities that fit the bill. The beaches here feature white sand and blinding blue sea, typical of the Gulf Coast, and they’re also dog-friendly, so if you do have a furry friend with you, they’re very welcome.
Distance from Tampa: 45 minutes, 29 miles/46.5km
Location: 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, Florida 34698. Click here for directions.
Getting There: You can drive via the E State Road 60 W, or take the bus. Lines 30 and 812 will take you to your destination. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: Taking a private boat tour around the park and Dunedin is a fantastic way to spend your time. Shell collecting on the beach and simply admiring the view are my favorite activities here.
Where to Eat: I had the best meal at Bon Appetit in Dunedin. It sits on a jetty on the waterfront, and the seafood here is delicious.
Sarasota is one of my favorite places to visit outside Tampa, and it’s so chilled out, you’ll feel like you’re floating. The pace of life here is very different from bustling Downtown Tampa, but it’s a welcome change if you’re keen to relax. Sarasota is also a very charming town; home to small coffee shops and craft stores.
You can find the original Columbia Restaurant here, famous for the Cuban sandwich. The branch in Ybor City is one of the oldest, but this is where the craze all started in 1905. And if you want to laze on the beach after all that eating, one of my top coastal spots is Siesta Key Beach — the sunsets are breathtaking.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 10 mins, 60 miles/96.5km
Location: Click here for directions
Getting There: You can drive via the I-75 S road, or take the bus or train. The bus takes just under 2 hours, and more information can be found here. The train takes 2 hours — more information can be found here.
Must-Do Activities: Shopping is fantastic in Sarasota and a lot calmer than in Tampa. I highly recommend the Downtown Walking Food Tour and a few hours on Siesta Key Beach.
Where to Eat: There are some amazing seafood restaurants in Sarasota, but I love Selva Downtown Sarasota for its freshly caught fish and perfectly cooked steak.
Clearwater is an easy day trip from Tampa and probably one of the most popular overall. You won’t be disappointed when you see this beach, in fact, you’ll probably be slack-jawed in shock. It’s simply beautiful, and words just don’t do it justice.
This beach does get very busy, especially at weekends, but it’s so large that it never feels crowded. You can hire sun beds and parasols for a small fee, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants along the beach, including a favorite of mine — Clear Sky Cafe.
A walk down the promenade with an ice cream is always a good idea, and the town itself has plenty of boutique stores to browse.
Distance from Tampa: 40 minutes, 22 miles/35km
Location: Click here for directions
Getting There: Take the E State Rd 60 W, or you can take a bus in around 2 hours. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: I really enjoyed the kayaking trip and it’s a great way to see the natural beauty of the area. The sunset here is not to be missed, but you should also check out Little Toot Dolphin Adventure, where you can spot these creatures in the wild. Adrenaline junkies can’t miss taking a spin on the sea screamer ride.
Where to Eat: Vantage Rooftop Bar is a fantastic place to sip cocktails, watch the sunset, and enjoy a delicious meal.
5. Fort DeSoto County Park
One of the most beautiful and natural places to visit near Tampa is Fort DeSoto County Park. It’s also a place for history lovers, with an original fort built back in 1898. However, my favorite thing to do is to kick back and soak up the sun; the beaches here are so pristine, it’s hard to believe.
Fort DeSoto has a dog-friendly beach, and it’s a good spot to take a picnic and simply enjoy being right in the heart of nature. There are some hiking trails around, but it’s mostly about unwinding and relaxing in pure pleasure.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour, 38 miles/61km
Location: 3500 Pinellas Bayway S. Tierra Verde, Florida, 33715. Click here for directions.
Getting There: Take the I-275 S out of Tampa and then switch to Highway 679. Alternatively, you can take the ferry to St. Petersburg and then a taxi to the park; the journey takes 1 hour 40 minutes. Click here for ferry information.
Must-Do Activities: I took the Guided E-Bike Nature Tour and loved every second – it was a fantastic way to really see the area. If you want to take your adventure further, book the Egmont Key Ferry which will take you to a remote island to spot manatees, dolphins, and turtles in the wild.
Where to Eat: There are a few great restaurants in and around the park, but my go-to is The Island Grille. Their calypso pork chops are truly delicious.
6. Universal Studios, Orlando
One of the most popular day trips from Tampa is to head to Universal Studios. Whether you’re keen to scream on huge rollercoasters, learn about movies, or snack your way around the park, you can do it all. While I adore Disney World, I really have a soft spot for Universal Studios too.
Universal has two parks in one: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I recommend purchasing a ticket that allows you unlimited access to both. You can also visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and try some authentic butter beer — I was pleasantly surprised.
CityWalk is a vibrant part of the park which is packed with bars, restaurants, and shops. You can grab some souvenirs here or just soak up the atmosphere. A visit to Planet Hollywood is also a must.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 50 minutes, 77 miles/124km
Location: 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, Florida 32819. Click here for directions.
Getting There: If you’re driving, take the I-4 E direct, or you can take the train in just over 2 hours. Click here for information.
Must-Do Activities: Grab a milkshake at Planet Hollywood and ride on the Incredible Hulk Coaster. Check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and learn how to do movie makeup at Universal’s Horror Makeup Show. Click here for park ticket details.
Where to Eat: There’s something to eat for everyone in Universal Studios thanks to its huge range of restaurants. However, Three Broomsticks, part of the Harry Potter section in Islands of Adventure is a great choice for something a little different.
7. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
One of the most unique day trips near Tampa is to spend the day enjoying nature at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re seeking some quiet, this is the place for you. I always find it a wonderful spot to kick back, relax, and appreciate the wonder of Mother Nature.
If you’re a manatee fan, you’re in luck here too as it’s possible to swim alongside these beauties in their natural habitat. There are so many manatees here that you’re almost guaranteed to see one, and simply enjoying the view from dry land is enough to open your eyes as to how stunning this area is.
There are plentiful boat tours, or you can walk around and soak up the sun. I really enjoyed how chilled out the whole area felt and being so close to wildlife was instantly relaxing.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 20 minutes, 80 miles/129km
Location: 1502 SE Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, Florida 34429. Click here for directions.
Getting There: Follow the FL-589 N directly. Taking public transport is extremely difficult as you’ll need to stop several times and reconnect to other bus services.
Must-Do Activities: The Manatee Snorkel Tour is a wonderful way to get up close and personal with these magical animals, and it almost brought me to tears. If you prefer to stay above the waterline, check out the Crystal River Kayak Tour instead.
Where to Eat: For the freshest seafood around, it has to be The Crab Plant. The fresh snapper was perfect.
8. Boggy Creek, Kissimmee
I always wanted to go on an airboat ride on the Everglades, but the main park is extremely far away. So, imagine my joy when I discovered Boggy Creek. While it’s not the heart of the Everglades, it is the headwaters, so you’re basically on the outskirts and can enjoy the same experience.
It’s one of the best day trips from Tampa by car, and you’ll really get to appreciate the natural habitat of birds and even alligators. While you might not see one, you can rest assured they’re there! The airboat ride itself is really fun, but I’d recommend wearing a hat as it can get really cold, even on a warm day.
Once the ride is over, you can learn about conservation efforts in the area and even grab some refreshments in the cafe.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 15 minutes, 82 miles/132 km
Location: 2001 E Southport Road, Kissimmee, Florida 34746. Click here for directions.
Getting There: You can drive by following the I-4 E, or you can take the train, which will take 1 hour 20 minutes, with a quick taxi ride of 15 minutes to take you directly there. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: An airboat ride is a rite of passage here. If you really want to have your mind blown, try the Sunset Airboat Tour and have your camera ready. The park also has a Native American Experience which will teach you about the heritage, culture, and cooking of the Native Americans who used to live in the area.
Where to Eat: 3 Sisters Speakeasy is a fantastic restaurant close to Boggy Creek. It has a unique menu combining sushi with regular fare such as huge burgers and sandwiches.
9. Rainbow Springs State Park
The area around Tampa is teeming with wildlife, and Rainbow Springs State Park is one of my favorite places to go. This is a protected area for manatees and other species, such as turtles and many species of birds. Just walking around makes you feel totally blissed out, but tubing is the best activity here.
You can rent a tube and head off at your own pace, but children under five cannot take part in this activity. There are also many walking paths if you prefer to stay on dry land. I didn’t try tubing, but I took a glass bottom boat tour instead and saw so many manatees and species of fish.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 45 minutes, 95 miles/152km
Location: 19158 SW 81st Pl Road, Dunnellon, Florida 34432. Click here for directions.
Getting There: Follow the FL-589 N by car or take the bus to Ocala (1 hour 50 mins) and then a short taxi ride lasting 30 minutes. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: Tubing down the lazy river is a top activity, but the Glass Bottom Kayak Eco Tour is also a great choice. This tour is guided so you’ll get to learn more about what you’re seeing. There are also walking opportunities.
Where to Eat: There aren’t many restaurants within the park, but you can dine very easily on the outskirts. I enjoyed a meal at Black Prong Bar & Grill, which also has a fun tiki bar.
10. Sanibel Island
I always take a trip to Sanibel Island simply because it reconnects me with nature and helps me switch off. It’s one of those places that you can’t possibly be stressed in, and it’s an easy day trip from Tampa by car or bus.
Sanibel Island is close to Fort Myers so you could also call in there on the way back if you have time. However, simply sitting on this stunning beach and soaking up the sun is my favorite activity. The sea is calm and ideal for swimming, and while it’s popular here, it never feels overly crowded.
The town is small, but there are some fantastic restaurants and quaint souvenir shops to explore. For me, this is a total day of R&R and a world away from the busy streets of Downtown Tampa. Be sure to stay for the sunset — you won’t be disappointed.
Distance from Tampa: 2 hours 30 minutes, 157 miles/252km
Location: Click here for directions
Getting There: You can drive by following the I-75 S road, or you can take the bus. The journey will take 3.5 hours and you’ll need to take a taxi from Fort Myers. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: Chilling out is the order of the day here, but if you do want some action, the Sanibel Causeway Jet Ski Tour is a fun experience – keep your eyes peeled for dolphins. Alternatively, beach time and exploring the town are my favorite things to do.
Where to Eat: For me, the best restaurant on Sanibel Island is Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille. This is a fantastic spot for Caribbean food and serves wonderful cocktails.
11. Weeki Wachee Spring State Park
Families should definitely head over to Weeki Wachee Spring State Park, especially if there are any Little Mermaid fans amongst you. Here, you can enjoy the home of Mother Nature, but there are also periodic shows featuring dancing “mermaids”.
This is a unique place to visit from Tampa but one that’s extremely popular. You can spot manatees, dolphins, and turtles in their natural habitat, and kayaking down the river is great fun. The mermaid show itself is set underwater, so you head down into a viewing area to watch the captivating performance.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour, 56 miles/90km
Location: Click here for directions
Getting There: The easiest option is to drive, following the FL-589 N, but you can also take a bus and taxi combination. The journey will take 2 hours and 15 minutes, and you’ll need to take a taxi from Wiregrass. Click here for information.
Must-Do Activities: A guided kayak tour is a great choice, and as the kayaks are glass-bottomed, you can see all manner of marine life below. The mermaid show is a must-do here, whether you’re traveling with children or not. You can also take a sunset kayak tour with light-up kayaks.
Where to Eat: If you’re a fan of Asian food like me, you should definitely try Masa Asian Bistro & Bar. There’s a huge selection of sushi on the menu, as well as other Asian dishes, such as teriyaki and tempura.
12. Devil’s Den, Williston
One particular day, I was feeling quite brave, and I heard about a place called Devil’s Den in Gettysburg. The name alone piqued my interest, so I decided to drive over there and check it out for myself – I’m so glad I did.
This place is like stepping back into prehistoric times, and fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age have been found here. As you descend down into the cave, a strange blue light encompasses you, giving you shivers of excitement. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before.
This is one of the best day trips from Tampa for those who enjoy diving or snorkeling as you can dive down and explore the underwater world. Alternatively, there are walking paths to follow, which show you the beauty of the local area.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 50 minutes, 120 miles/193km
Location: 5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, Florida 32696. Click here for directions.
Getting There: The most sensible way is to drive, following the I-75 N. There are night buses available, but the journey is in excess of five hours.
Must-Do Activities: Snorkeling or diving in the cave is the top activity here, but you can also take the Self-Guided Walking Tour, which will take you around sites famous from the Battle of Gettysburg. The nature in this region is beautiful, so be sure to take your time and explore.
Where to Eat: The Ivy House Restaurant in Williston is a great place for outdoor dining, and I really enjoyed the desserts here – save room for the chocolate cake.
13. Punta Gorda
If you’re looking for romantic day trips from Tampa, a visit to Punta Gorda is a great idea. This small town is packed with historical architecture, small souvenir shops, and beautiful waterfront restaurants. The beaches here are typically stunning, lapped by delightfully warm waters.
You’ll also find small art galleries and museums, which give you a welcome break from the sun. The vibe in Punta Gorda is slow and leisurely, making it the perfect place to walk hand in hand. At the end of the day, admire the sunset and fill up your camera reel.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 30 minutes, 104 miles/167km
Location: Click here for directions
Getting There: You can drive by following the I-75 S. You can also take the Amtrak Thruway from Tampa to Port Charlotte and then a short taxi drive to Punta Gorda. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: Walk around the historic district and admire the architecture before doing a little retail therapy. If you can stay through the evening, the Stargazing Tour is one of my favorite things to do.
Where to Eat: If you’re traveling as part of a group, the Captain’s Table Restaurant is a fantastic choice, with huge sharing plates to fill everyone up. The seafood here is as fresh as can be.
14. Hillsborough River State Park
One of the easiest day trips from Tampa is to Hillsborough River State Park, just half an hour away from Downtown Tampa. It’s a beautiful spot where you can walk, hike, kayak, wildlife spot, and simply chill out in the endless green of the trees. The river itself leads right into Tampa, and you can spot different species of fish.
There’s a very small entrance fee of $6 per car, but from there, you’re free to explore. It’s a great idea to have a picnic as there aren’t any cafes or restaurants inside the park. Here, it’s about chilling out in Mother Nature’s arms and not about tourism.
Distance from Tampa: 30 minutes, 21 miles/34km
Location: 15402US-301, Thonotosassa, Florida 33592. Click here for directions.
Getting There: You can drive by following the I-4 E and US-301 N, or take the bus to Pebble Creek and then a short taxi onward. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: Hillsborough River State Park is really about wearing comfortable shoes and exploring at leisure. Follow one of the walking trails and see how many species of wildlife you can spot.
Where to Eat: Most people take picnics to this destination, however, it’s entirely possible to drive back to Channelside and eat a delicious meal. I recommend The C House for its amazing cheese boards and sharing platters.
15. Legoland Florida
Families can’t miss out on heading to Legoland Florida for the day. This is a great park for smaller children who may be overwhelmed by the huge rollercoasters and noise of Disney or Universal. Despite that, it’s a fun-filled day.
Little ones will love Lost Kingdom Adventure and Coastersaurus. There are other attractions and shows around the park too, as well as exhibitions throughout the year. Children (and adults) will certainly be exhausted by the end of the day!
A day tour from Tampa will take you just under two hours and setting off early is advised. It’s also best to book your tickets before you go, so you don’t waste time in the admission queue. Click here for ticket information.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour, 52 miles/86km
Location: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, Florida 33884. Click here for directions.
Getting There: Self-drive is the fastest and easiest way, but you can also take the train to Winter Haven, which will take just under an hour. From there you take a quick taxi to Legoland. Click here for more information.
Must-Do Activities: Visit Lego Movie World to learn more about how movies are created, check out Miniland USA, and walk around the Cypress Gardens to calm down at the end of the day.
Where to Eat: Dragon’s Den is a fun eatery in the heart of Legoland. Their smoked turkey leg will definitely keep you full for a while.
Tampa Day Trips: Transportation Options
There are many day trips around Tampa, and while public transport is very reliable, it’s much easier to simply hire a car and set off on your own. You can hire a car from various outlets in the city and from the airport when you arrive.
You’ll require a passport and a valid driving license, and your license will need to be clean. You’ll also need to leave credit or debit card details with the hire company.
There are several bus services and trains that run around the Tampa area, but they do tend to add length to your trip. The best day trips from Tampa require you to cram as much into your time as possible, so if you can drive, it’s a much better option. Click here to search for the best deals on rental cars in Tampa.
Day Trips Around Tampa: FAQs
Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about day trips around Tampa:
A visit to Orlando’s fun-packed Walt Disney World is probably the most popular day trip from Tampa.
Three days would be sufficient to scratch the surface, but to really delve into the city, you need around one week.
If you’re driving, you have the freedom to go anywhere, but Clearwater and Sarasota are great choices and offer a total change of pace to life in Tampa.
The train network around Tampa is really high quality, so most destinations are accessible. Both Universal Studios and Walt Disney World can be reached by train.
There are so many amazing places just outside of Tampa, but Clearwater Beach has to be one of the most beautiful.
Yes, very easily. You can drive or take the train directly to Orlando and enjoy all the sights.
Walt Disney World Florida is undoubtedly one of the most famous spots in the whole state, and it’s easy to reach from Tampa.
St Petersburg is just half an hour’s drive away and one of the best day trips from Tampa
Tampa Bay is home to some stunning beaches, and Ben T. Davis Beach is one of the closest. This is a really quiet and chilled-out space, ideal for kicking back and relaxing.
A small island called Fantasy Bay is very close to Tampa, and it’s a relaxing spot for soaking up the sun and swimming.
Fort Myers is just 2 hours away from Tampa by car and is a fantastic beach destination.
Walt Disney World is one of the most popular day trips from Tampa by car, and it only takes just over an hour to get there.
I was surprised at the sheer number of day trips from Tampa on offer, but it really opened my eyes to wonder of the area. I recommend heading out on at least two tours if you have the time; while the city is amazing, there’s so much nature to check out, and fun to have just an hour or two away.
While Universal Studios and Walt Disney World will always be two of my absolute favorites, I really loved my time at Clearwater and Sarasota. There’s something so refreshing about heading out for a day, experiencing something new, and then heading back to Tampa at the end of the day.