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Nestled in Central Florida, Tampa’s prime location means that there are several weekend trip-worthy getaways within easy driving distance. These quick trips allow you to dig your toes in the sand at postcard-perfect beaches, enjoy family-friendly attractions and explore some of the Sunshine State’s most alluring hidden gems. While popular cities like Orlando, Clearwater and St. Augustine typically get all the love, these destinations offer fewer crowds and a chance to recharge. When planning your next Florida adventure, consider these top weekend getaways from Tampa.
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Amelia Island and nearby Fernandina Beach are two of Florida’s most beloved destinations, a perfect weekend spot for travelers looking for a quiet landscape of picturesque shoreline. A four-hour drive from Tampa, you’ll feel recharged after spending your days collecting seashells on the white sand beaches, taking peaceful strolls in the Historic District and hiking the scenic trails at Fort Clinch Park. Exercise some retail therapy in the array of charming boutique shops that line the historic downtown area, or if you’re looking for a romantic excursion, take a guided horseback ride at sunset along the golden-hued sands.
Sanibel & Captiva
Perfect for a laid-back weekend away, Sanibel and nearby Captiva Island are Florida’s most idyllic Gulf Coast gems that are just a little over two hours drive from Tampa. Seashells and wildlife are the star attractions, where you can spend your days collecting colorful treasures along the shore and take a bike ride through the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. A paradise for eco-adventurers, you can also soak in the idyllic landscapes at nearby Lovers Key State Park, fish right in the Gulf waters or rent a kayak and get out on the water.
A little over three hour’s from Tampa, Delray Beach is a small beach town that packs a punch. Take the weekend off and enjoy the city’s easy-going atmosphere and collection of picturesque beaches that led to USA Today naming it the “Most Fun Small Town in America”. Surfing, kayaking, sailing and kayaking are all popular outdoor activities that should be on the top of any itinerary, while those in need of a dose of cultural can explore the colorful Japanese-inspired landscapes at nearby Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens.
Palm Coast is perched between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, around a 2.5-hour drive from Tampa. While we wouldn’t blame you for spending your entire weekend lounging or surfing on the 19 miles of cinnamon-colored beaches, you can also play a round of golf at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course or try your hand at fishing along the Intracoastal Waterway. Luxury spas line the area if you’re looking for head-to-toe pampering, while the colorful gardens at Washington Oaks State Park offers a tranquil oasis full of blooming beauties.
A two-hour drive south, Fort Myers is a budget-friendly destination with sun-kissed beaches and historic landmarks. You can easily fill your weekend itinerary by exploring the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter estates, while the kids will love the interactive exhibits at the Imaginarium Science Center. Visitors of all ages can dig their toes in the pristine sands of Lovers Key State Park, and if you visit during manatee season, make sure to stop by the Lee County Manatee Park to observe Florida’s famous gentle giants. Don’t miss Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium with its bald eagles, alligators, hawks and owls.
Less than a three-hour drive away from Tampa, Marco Island is a sun-drenched jewel on the Gulf of Mexico. Boasting over six miles of white sandy beaches, it is the perfect place to get away from it all for a weekend. Enjoy the views from under an umbrella or collect colorful seashells on the shoreline, then sign up for fishing, boating, dolphin watching, kayaking and canoeing adventures. Eco-tours offer you the chance to spot bottlenose dolphins splashing about in the waters. Dine on seasonal stone crab claws at Old Marco Lodge Crab House or enjoy a frozen treat at Sweet Annie’s Ice Cream Parlour.
One of Florida’s most underrated vacation destinations, take the weekend off and drive one hour to Sarasota to find an array of family-friendly activities on offer. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast then you’ll want to head to Siesta Beach to scout for sand dollars, take a kayak tour of South Lido Nature Park or marvel at the aquatic life at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The kids will delight at the famous circus memorabilia at John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and colorful displays at Marie Selby Botanical Garden.
Only an hour away, Venice has a lot to offer in the way of water sports, fishing and boating, but this small town is famous for something entirely different. Take a walk along its shores and discover unique souvenirs, a collection of fossilized shark’s teeth that have washed up on its pearly white beaches. Afterward, explore the historic downtown area and admire its beautiful architecture, browse through the charming boutique shops and dine in local seafood restaurants. If you’re traveling with your furry four-legged friends, take them to Brohard Paw Park for a day of fun in the sun.
Naples is nestled along Florida’s Gulf Coast a three-hour drive from Tampa, offering idyllic Florida landscapes and nature viewing opportunities. Build sandcastles at the family-friendly Lowdermilk Beach, watch dolphin pods along the Naples Pier or take a dip in the waters around Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park for some underwater marine life viewing. Marvel at the vibrant displays of flora and fauna at the Naples Botanical Garden or test your bravery on the thrilling water slides at Sun-N-Fun Lagoon, while the Baker Museum showcases modern and contemporary art collections in its galleries.
Matlacha is known for its vibrant arts community just a two-hour drive south down the coast. Embrace the small town’s Old Florida vibes and delightful burst of colors, while nature lovers will want to hop on the Calusa Heritage Trail for a day of kayaking or paddling the inlet. Browse the candy-colored shops or admire the striking artwork at Lovegrove Gallery and Gardens, then indulge in fresh seafood from a local restaurant or visit the small MOTI – the Museum of the Islands to learn more about the history of the area.