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The beautiful city of Tampa is a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful beaches with clear waters and exciting cultural attractions like Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium. But, if you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, check out one of these lesser-known spots near Tampa that will still offer plenty of fun in the sun.
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The small town of Fort Pierce is located a little less than three hours from Tampa and is one of the most affordable beach towns in the state. Steeped in original Spanish-style architecture, the picturesque town offers opportunities to enjoy the water with fishing, boating and diving, as well as plenty of cultural activities like a farmers market, live jazz music, a performing arts theater and lots of shops and restaurants. It’s even home to one of the state’s most unique wineries. The National Navy SEAL Museum, located along the oceanfront, also provides a unique glimpse into the elite military operation with exhibits, artifacts, weapons and vehicles on display.
Golf lovers will want to take a break in Palm Harbor. After a long day of perfecting your swing, you can kick back at the Innisbrook Golf Resort, a 900-acre luxurious property with plenty of luxury on-site amenities. It’s also home to the PGA’s Valspar Championship, as their four top-rated courses have been named some of the “Top 100 You Can Play” by Golf Magazine and amongst the “Top 75 Golf Resorts in America” by Golf Digest. But, golf isn’t all there is to do here. You can also play tennis, go swimming, take a fitness class, rent a bicycle and go for a ride, fly down a zipline or relax with a massage at the spa. Plus, the suites and guest rooms will have you feeling like royalty with flat screen TVs, high-speed internet, iHome radios and plush beds.
For the ultimate in Florida’s small-town beach escapes, take a trip to Matlacha, located just under three hours from Tampa. This tiny town is colorful and welcoming, from its art gallery and gardens to its lively boat tours that allow visitors to get an up-close glimpse of dolphins and whales. There’s also an inlet where you can go kayaking or paddle boating, or you can rent a bicycle and ride down the Calusa Heritage Trail. There are lots of great restaurants to check out too, like the Old Fish House Marina Restaurant that serves up authentic local seafood on the waterfront.
Just a little over three hours from Tampa, St. Augustine is another beautiful coastal city loaded with things to see and do. It is claimed to be the oldest city in the country, so there is plenty of history to explore here including the Old Jail, the Fort Matanzas National Monument and the Mission of Nombre de Dios. But, that’s just the beginning because you can also visit the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, visit an alligator farm, sample some spirits at a distillery, take a living history tour and visit the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. Of course, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the water too, like setting out on a fishing charter, taking a biplane ride or even going on an airboat safari.
Looking for an all-in-one package destination? Less than an hour from Tampa is Clearwater Beach. It will lure you in with its white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. The town is also home to an aquarium and several parks with nature trails for hiking and biking. Retreat after a day of sightseeing to Sandpearl Resort. This luxurious resort features spacious guest rooms with flat-screen TVs, mini fridges, high-speed internet and en-suite bathrooms with organic toiletries and plush bathrobes. On-site, you’ll also find several restaurants, a full-service spa, a swimming pool, fitness center and several boutiques for shopping.
Amelia Island is located four hours from Tampa and is popular for its quiet beaches and luxurious resorts. Admire beautiful Spanish architecture, stay at a small beachside inn or a splurge on a stay at a luxurious oceanfront resort. There’s lots to explore on the island during your stay, including a historic downtown district that features eclectic shops, delicious restaurants and the Amelia Island Museum of History. Plus, there are opportunities for golfing, hiking, enjoying live music, relaxing with a spa treatment and horseback riding along the beach. The city is also home to many special events throughout the year like Restaurant Week, the Wellness Festival and the Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, which celebrates the island being the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry.