My brother lives in a Tampa suburb, so it has given me a chance to plan some excellent day trips from Tampa. The traffic around here is pretty extreme, so we try to stay within about 40 miles, which can still take a long time to get to. Here are some of our favorite Tampa day trips.
Honeymoon Island is a barrier island off the coast of Dunedin, Florida. Although it was initially planned as a developed property, it was designated a state park in 1981. You can reach the park by a causeway from Dunedin. The island’s northern part is still undeveloped, accessible only by boat or hiking the 4.8-mile North Beach Walk.
When we visited, we chartered a boat with A Boat Day. We had a fabulous five hours walking the white sand beaches and sandbars, looking for shells, swimming, and watching dolphins feasting on fish just a few feet away from where we were wading. We saw a lot of wildlife, including birds, starfish, and hermit crabs.
Over 100 years ago, George Turner Sr. started a garden in a sunken plot of land, selling vegetables and offering tours of it for a nickel. Over the years, many interesting species of tropical plants have been brought in, as well as Chilean flamingoes. The city of St. Petersburg now owns it, and is one of the oldest roadside attractions in the US.
The current four acres are divided into gardens such as a cactus garden, Japanese garden, and butterfly garden which are connected by meandering concrete paths creating a peaceful oasis in this hectic state.
I started my day at the Sunken Gardens with a yoga class in the pavilion. After enjoying three hours in the gardens, my girlfriend and I headed over to Bayshore Drive for lunch with a view.
This waterfront town was founded around sponge fishing, bringing Greek immigrants to the area in large numbers. It still has some of the best Greek restaurants, especially Hellas. The main street, Dodecanese Boulevard, has shops and sponge docks.
Courtney Campbell Causeway Pedestrian and Bike Bridge
As a lover of bridges worldwide, crossing Tampa Bay by bridge is a great way to spend a day. This 10.5-mile bridge starts at Ben T. Davis Beach in Tampa and ends in Clearwater. You can also park at Cypress Point Park and Skyway Park, which are on the wide, paved trail.
Visit Some Barrier Islands
Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island, and Lido Island have enough to do to keep you busy for days. There are long white sand beaches and many shops. We especially enjoyed the rich, homemade ice cream on Anna Maria Island at Anna Maria Island Creamery. We also enjoyed shopping along St. Armands Circle in Lido Key.
Ybor City can be pretty rowdy, and it can be hard to know where to go, but we enjoyed our evening in this immigrant section of Tampa. Although the area had Italians, it is now most known as a Cuban area. The Ybor City Historic District is on East 7th Street. The street is lined with restaurants, cigar shops, and booming clubs. At night there is a significant police presence.
We ate at both upscale Columbia, a Cuban restaurant, and Casa Santo Stefano, a Sicilian restaurant. We loved Casa Santa Stefano the most, but Columbia is more famous and requires reservations.
Cigar shops line the streets, and the staff will be pleased to teach or show you how cigars are made. We learned a lot about the Cuban experience speaking to people that worked in La Foroana Cigar Shop. We also enjoyed a very potent Cuban coffee.
A trip to this series of small islands, or keys, at the foot of Florida, is more than a day trip but is one of my favorite places to visit in Florida. Read on for my Key West Road Trip Guide.
Where in Tampa should we visit when we come back? Please let us know in the comments.