18 Fun Day Trips from Tampa Florida

My favorite fun day trips from Tampa offer cool, happy, and memorable experiences, whether you have a few hours or several days to explore. Tampa is a great city and I particularly love to check out the best Tampa Restaurants.

But there is so much to see, explore, and experience just outside the city of Tampa.

From swimming with manatees to savoring USA’s best seafood to seeing magical sunsets from Florida Gulf Coast beaches to enjoying stellar art museums and architecture, these Tampa Florida day trips will make every person in your family or group happy.

Especially you.

Fun Day Trips from Tampa Florida

The following Tampa FL getaways are listed according to distance from downtown Tampa, according to Google Maps. See also my favorite Places to Stay in Tampa, places to eat in Tampa, and Fun Ways to See Tampa.

Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach

nature boardwalk at Manatee Viewing Center Apollo Beach
Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 16 miles, 26 minutes

Manatees bask in the warm water output from the TECO (Tampa Electric) facility in Apollo Beach. The waterways are protected, making this a safe haven with abundant vegetation for the manatees.

At the Manatee Viewing Center, besides manatees, look for rays and several fish species in the water, and birds above the water. The tidal walk boardwalk is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. A 50-foot observation tower provides a fun panorama scene of Tampa Bay. Parking is FREE!

McCool Travel note: a nice day trip from Naples (or other southwest Florida Gulf Coast areas) is Manatee Park in Fort Myers. In a similar fashion, the FPL (Florida Power & Light) facility produces warm water that the manatees love to congregate in, especially on colder days. See more of my favorite Things to Do in Fort Myers Beach.

Amazing Art Museums and Public Art in St. Pete

Chihuly glass artwork at Morean Arts Center in St Pete FL
Chihuly artwork at Morean Arts Center St Pete FL

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 24 miles, 30 minutes

Art lovers will really enjoy St. Pete. Enjoy breakfast at your Tampa hotel (we love Epicurean Hotel) and then head to neighboring St. Pete for an art day.

Visit the extraordinary Dali Museum, the magnificent Chihuly Collection, and the fantastic Museum of Fine Arts. But also make sure you see the public art while visiting St Pete. Join the walking street art tour every Saturday morning or explore on your own.

For more information see St Petersburg FL Art Museums

McCool Travel tip: When walking in downtown St. Pete, make sure to also visit the alleys off the main streets to see the amazing wall murals. For more St. Pete funness, combine your art day with a visit to quirky Gulfport (see below).

Delightful Dunedin

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 25 miles, 38 minutes

Quaint, charming, and delightful Dunedin is the oldest settlement in Florida south of Cedar Key and is a gateway to the phenomenal Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island (state parks).

Have a drink on the rooftop of Fenway Hotel, stroll and then stroll through Edgewater Park (with magnificent oak trees) on the way to downtown Dunedin.

Plenty of dining, drinking, and unique shops will tempt you but make sure to try amazing ice cream at Strachan’s.

McCool Travel tip: Clearwater Jolley Trolley stops in Dunedin and can take you to Clearwater Beach and Tarpon Springs (both are listed below).

For a Good Time, Visit Clearwater Beach

sunset at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach
US Gulf Coast sunset at Clearwater Beach

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 25 miles, 41 minutes

Clearwater Beach is a popular destination for remarkable Gulf Coast sunsets, some of the cleanest sugar sand in the world, and much more. For a favorite Gulf Coast beachfront dining experience, visit Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill—one of my favorite Tampa Restaurants.

Quirky and Funky Gulfport Florida

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 26 miles, 32 minutes

Combine a visit to Gulfport with your St. Pete art day trip (see above) or visit Gulfport as a separate day trip. Gulfport Florida is quirky and fun, funky and progressive, and one of my favorite fun day trips from Tampa.

The small Gulfport downtown is dominated by beautiful oaks with Spanish moss and independent shops. I love that there are no chain stores in Gulfport!

McCool Travel tip: To get to Gulfport from downtown St. Pete, drive through the Pinellas Point area and see the Pink Streets neighborhood. Yes, the streets are pink!

Zen Out in Indian Rocks Beach

colorful beach boardwalk entrance in Indian Rocks Beach
colorful beach boardwalk entrance in Indian Rocks Beach

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 27 miles, 44 minutes

Indian Rocks Beach is a few miles south of Clearwater Beach and decades away. IRB feels like Clearwater Beach would have been like before the massive hotels and condo buildings appeared.

Here in IRB, enjoy a much more relaxed beach experience and eat lunch at Crabby Bills, one of my choices for Best Grouper Sandwiches in Florida.

For more information see my favorite Things to Do in Indian Rocks Beach.

Perfectly Peaceful Pass-a-Grille Beach

beach wedding setting at Pass-a-Grille FL
beach wedding setting in Pass-a-Grille with Don CeSar in background

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 31 miles, 37 minutes

Probably 98.115% of the traffic heading over the Pinellas Bayway or south on Gulf Blvd do not go south of the pink palace, The Don CeSar luxury resort.

But those intrepid explorers who do (and you should) are rewarded with a spectacular beach and a small beach town called Pass-a-Grille that reminds us of what Key West probably was like 50 years ago. Except with better beaches!

For more information see my favorite Things to Do in Pass-a-Grille.

Get Yer Greek On in Tarpon Springs

orange sky sunset from US Gulf Coast
brilliant orange sunset Sunset Beach Park Tarpon Springs FL

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 31 miles, 45 minutes

Tarpon Springs is known for having the highest concentration of Greek residents in the US and for being the sponge capital of the world.

Visiting the Sponge Docks area is the most popular thing to do in Tarpon Springs (and you should!) but also try to eat at Mykonos for the most authentic Greek food outside of Athens. Dimitri’s across the street is owned by the son of the Mykonos’ owner.

While checking out the sponge docks, make sure you take a fun selfie with the smiling sponge wall art.

McCool Travel tip: A few miles from the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks is one of my favorite spots to see Gulf Coast Sunsets. Pack a picnic dinner (or get carryout from Mykonos), drive west on Gulf Drive to Sunset Park, and enjoy a sunset like pictured above.

Fort De Soto Park

Fort De Soto Park is a great day trip from Tampa
Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Tampa Bay from Fort De Soto Park

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 34 miles, 39 minutes

Fort De Soto Park is a series of five connected islands directly west of the middle of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Known for its gorgeous beaches (once selected as USA’s best beach), Fort De Soto has seven miles of gorgeous waterfront. So you can definitely find a place to get away from it all.

Fort De Soto is wonderful for nature lovers, bird fans, campers, day trippers, and more.

McCool Travel note: Near the historic Fort De Soto are some beautiful old trees and very funky picnic and bathroom structures.

Surprising Southern Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College
Frank Lloyd Wright architecture Florida Southern College

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 36 miles, 50 minutes

Florida Southern College is one of USA’s most beautiful campuses and a big reason is the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings. You can do a self-guided tour of the campus but the student-led tours are outstanding and really informative.

Nearby places that I highly recommend are Safari Wilderness Ranch (see below), Circle B Bar Reserve (a magnificent nature preserve), and Bok Tower (called Florida’s Taj Mahal).

McCool Travel tip: Eat at Mr. Fish before or after touring Florida Southern College.

For more information see Things to Do in Central Florida.

Safari Wilderness Ranch

feeding lemurs at Safari Wilderness Ranch
feeding lemurs at Safari Wilderness Ranch

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 45 miles, 54 minutes

Safari Wilderness Ranch is a phenomenal off-the-beaten-path Florida nature area located less than an hour from Tampa and also an easy Orlando day trip.

The property is over 250 acres of pristine wilderness and surrounded by the 870 square mile Green Swamp. Safari Wilderness Ranch houses hundreds of exotic animals from around the world and they limit the number of daily visitors. When you visit, sign up for the lemur feeding experience.

McCool Travel tip: Splurge on an overnight tent experience at Safari Wilderness Ranch.

Amazing Anna Maria Island

soft, clean, white sugar sand of Anna Maria Island beach
white beach sand of Anna Maria Island

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 56 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes

Anna Maria Island is my personal favorite US Gulf Coast beach—featuring some of the cleanest, softest, and whitest sand I have seen anywhere in the world. Add a few of my favorite Florida’s Best Grouper Sandwich spots and AMI is great for a day trip but even better for a week!

For more information see Things to Do in Anna Maria Island.

Oscar Scherer State Park

kayaking Oscar Scherer State Park
kayaking South Creek Oscar Scherer State Park

See also my Things to Do in Oscar Scherer State Park

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 78 miles, 1 hour 20 minutes

Oscar Scherer State Park in south Sarasota County features a rare Florida scrub habitat which supports the Florida Scrub Jay. The Florida Scrub Jay is endangered and is the only bird found exclusively in Florida.

Join a kayak trip on South Creek for a look at a pristine Old Florida wilderness.

McCool Travel tip: Visit nearby Caspersen Beach and search for giant shark teeth.

For more information see my favorite Things to Do in Sarasota.

Swim With Manatees in Crystal River

swimming with manatees is one of the best day trips from Tampa
Manatee closeup Crystal River FL, photo by Explorida

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 81 miles, 1 hour 31 minutes

Take a day trip from Tampa to Crystal River Florida, the only place in the US where you can swim with manatees in their protected waters. Many of the swim with manatee tours depart very early in the morning so plan accordingly.

Winter is the preferred time of the year to swim with manatees. In the summer, check out the scallop tours in Crystal River.

McCool Travel tip: Visit the photogenic oak tree tunnel in nearby Flora City.

For more information see Things to Do in Crystal River

Everglades Airboat Ride

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 82 miles, 1 hour 35 minutes

Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures is a fun nature adventure located at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. They have hundreds of gators onsite that are on loan from Gatorland.

But the Boggy Creek airboat rides are an E-ticket ride, especially when you opt for the drive it yourself option. It is so fun!

For more information see Fun things to do in Kissimmee.

Kayak in Incredible Color Waters

Glass Bottom Rentals Kayaking in Boca Grande FL
Glass Bottom Rentals Kayaking in Gasparilla Sound

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 109 miles, 2 hours 3 minutes

There are countless places to kayak in and near Tampa but the Gasparilla Sound has perhaps the most colorful water in Florida. Here is one of my favorite Gulf Coast photo spots.

Head to Boca Grande and rent a clear kayak for an unforgettable liquid road trip experience.

Lake Placid Murals

Lake Placid FL mural of a cattle drive
Lake Placid wall murals

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 109 miles, 2 hours 6 minutes

Seeing the incredible Lake Placid Murals is a worthwhile Tampa day trip. Over four dozen vibrant murals, many depicting historic and natural South Florida scenes, adorn the walls of businesses and town buildings.

Lake Placid also hosts the Caladium Festival each July.

Florida’s Best Seafood

seafood platter at Peace River Seafood in Punta Gorda FL
seafood platter Peace River Seafood Punta Gorda FL

Distance and Time (from Tampa): 111 miles, 1 hour 46 minutes

Visit one of my favorite Gulf Coast Seafood Trail restaurants, Peace River Seafood, to highlight your day trip to Punta Gorda.

Other wonderful things to do in Punta Gorda include a swamp buggy tour at Babcock Ranch, seeing tropical birds and animals at Peace River Wildlife Center, savor a sunset cruise, and enjoy shopping, dining, and entertainment at Fishermen’s Village.

Wow, so many incredible places to visit in Florida on day trips from Tampa.

Do you have a favorite? Let me know.

Sharing is caring!