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Bored of seeing the same things every weekend? You're not alone! We all need a change of scenery sometimes, and thankfully living in Florida, specifically in a central region like Tampa, makes that pretty easy --every weekend can be a daycation if you plan it right! If you are looking for day trip ideas near Tampa you'll be pleased to know there are plenty of options.
I'm going to group a lot of the day trip ideas into the closest town/cities that they're near, since there's actually a lot of different things you can choose to do in all of the locations. With that being said, I'll suggest my personal favorites but ultimately, it will be up to you to decide what your daily itinerary has on it.
1. St. Augustine
Located all the way on Florida's east coast is the state's oldest and most historic town, St. Augustine. Can you believe it's only 3 hours from Tampa? At a spot like this you will surely feel like you're walking back in time, so much so that I compared it to being a colonial version of a renaissance festival!
Complete with history and ghost tours, wooden buildings that look like they've been plucked straight from an 1800s western film, and an old fort and lighthouse to explore, there's so much charm in this small town that can't be replicated anywhere else in the state. The town itself is full of shops, eateries, and the cutest cafes that will keep you amply caffeinated while you explore. There's a Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum right in town, and a medieval torture museum too --if you're into that sort of thing!
Florida's famed Fountain of Youth park is only a short drive away. Additionally, most of St. Augustine's beaches are dog friendly and absolutely gorgeous! Parking around St. Augustine (both the town and beaches) is easy and much of it is free -- though the parking garage in town is $15 for all day. A small price to pay for the ease of finding a good spot (in the shade!)
You can use my link here to get a deal on the Ripley's Believe It or Not! St. Augustine location.
2. Fort Myers
If you love white sand, big waves and blue ocean water, why not take a trip south? No, no --we're not talking about to The Keys! Fort Myers is a big city surrounded by some of the most stunning coastlines along the Gulf Coast.
My personal favorite beach around the area without going too far south is Boca Grande for its massive shells, beachy restaurants and lighthouse. Once you've had enough of the beach, Fort Myers is only a short drive south and offers an array of activities to keep you busy day or night including museums, aquariums, parks, and plenty of eateries and bars. It's worth it to plan a full day of activities here!
Alternatively, if you don't want to go all the way to Ft. Myers for an interesting beach day, you can stop about an hour north around the Venice Beach coastline and look for shark teeth! This is a fun day-long activity that is completely free. More information about it here!
Video above shot with my drone.
Gainesville is probably not the first location that comes to mind when a day trip is mentioned, but hear me out, some of Florida's clearest and most beautiful springs are located here. Devil's Den Prehistoric Spring, Ginnie Spring and Ichetucknee Springs State Park are all located in close proximity of the city! If you leave early enough, you could arrive at one of these springs with plenty of time to spend swimming and adventuring at some of Florida's most gorgeous natural oases. I highly recommend getting a GoPro if you want to take photos and videos like mine while you're at the springs!
You're probably not surprised in the slightest to see Orlando on the list, and you shouldn't be! The only thing stopping you from enjoying what Orlando has to offer like the many theme parks is a two-hour drive from Tampa. If you want to visit a park without dropping tons of cash, maybe ICON Park, featuring the iconic Orlando Eye, will be your go-to (you can save up to 45% on admission through my link here) or you can use my code to save up to $53 on tickets to Universal and Disney!
Theme parks aren't your thing? Well that's okay, because Orlando has a lot more to offer than just those. Have you ever been to the post-apocalyptic themed bar there? Or maybe the Dragon Ball Z eatery? There are so many hidden gems to find here that no matter what your personal preferences are, you'll have no trouble discovering something.
And if you're itching to get away from the Gulf, you'll be pleased to know that there are plenty of Atlantic beaches only a short drive away. Personal suggestion, I love Coco Beach for the boardwalk, Daytona for the entertainment aesthetics, and Cape Canaveral for, well, SPACE!
5. Crystal River
This is undoubtedly the closest stop on the list at only around one hour away, and I included it because it's perhaps the most adorable small town I've discovered throughout my Florida travels thus far. The town of Crystal River is, of course, manatee-themed in nearly every aspect from the photo-op-worthy decor to being the only place offering manatee swimming tours.
There's a delicious cafe in town called Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters that I highly recommend --their loose-leaf chai latte is delicious-- and many other little locally-owned shops to keep you busy after you've been manatee spotting at Three Sisters Spring. You will also be in close proximity of some other cool (and perhaps random) roadside attractions to stop at along the way like Homosassa's Monkey Island.
The best part of Crystal River? After a day discovering this hidden river hotspot, you'll surely appreciate knowing home isn't far at all.
Ocala isn't know as "horse country" for nothin'. With a beautiful forest (also full of clear blue springs) and many farms, Ocala is a great area to just head out to with no specific ideas in mind except exploring what Florida's finest countryside has to offer.
Maybe you'll choose to spend the day picking oranges from alocal orchard, or go trail riding at a farm, or paddling your way through the Ocala National Forest. Whatever you do, Ocala won't disappoint and better yet, it's a very scenic two-hour drive with lots of pretty wildflowers dotting the way. Who knows, you might even find something to stop at along the way!
Day trips are great, but if you want to make a weekend (or week) out of it check out the sweet stays you can book like houseboats, yachts, and tiny homes, to name a few, on VRBO!
What are your favorite road trip destinations close to Tampa? Do you want me to do a road trip list for any other big cities in the state? Write me a comment below!
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