There is a lot to do in St Pete, Florida, which makes it a perfect place to live and vacation in Florida. Downtown St. Petersburg has tons of restaurants, shops, and more. Plus you’re within driving distance to several of Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches.
But even though St Pete a destination in itself, I never get sick of exploring the sunshine state.
St Pete is a perfect location because there are so many fun day trips you can take. We have been taking day trips from St Petersburg since we moved here over 7 years ago. I feel like I’ve found some great places to check out. From theme parks to botanical gardens, here are some of the best day trips from St Petersburg, Florida.
Anna Maria Island
Even though there are amazing beaches in St Pete (well, in the area anyways), Anna Maria Island is well worth a visit. Once you drive to the island, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation. Here is what to do on a day trip to Anna Maria Island:
Explore the beaches – Anna Maria Island is known for stunning beaches. Have a beach day here for total relaxation or you can get on the water by renting a jetski, kayak, or paddleboard. There are also great boat and fishing tours. Sunset cruises are also a fun activity in Anna Maria.
Rent a bike or golf cart – biking or golf carting around the island is a really fun way to get around. Anna Maria Island is relatively small and this allows you to really explore the quaint streets and neighborhoods (and, of course, beaches).
Anna Maria City Pier used to drop off passengers arriving via steam boat from St. Petersburg. Today, you can visit for free to get gorgeous water views, see wildlife, and a unique view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Go shopping on Pine Avenue: Pine Avenue is in the heart of Anna Maria Island and offers shopping and dining. There are several restaurants, art galleries, small shops, boutiques, and art galleries.
Anna Maria Island Historical Museum: Learn about the island’s history by visiting the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum. It features exhibits and artifacts that provide insights into the island’s past. It’s also free to visit. Right next door (technically a part of the museum) you’ll also find the old jail. This really used to be the jail – no air conditioner, just open windows in a one room building.
We are spoiled to have so many close places that make good day trips from St Pete. I honestly almost forgot to put Gulfport on the list because it is almost too obvious. Downtown St. Petersburg to Gulfport is around a 10 minute drive. It’s so close that I hardly even considered it to be a day trip.
Gulfport is a funky artsy town on the bay with restaurants, bars, and cute shops. They regularly have events such as markets and art walks as well.
Sarasota, Florida, is a vibrant city on the Gulf Coast known for its cultural attractions, beautiful beaches, and natural beauty. It’s a great day trip from St Pete!
Siesta Key Beach – St Pete beaches are some of the best around. You certainly don’t need to leave the St Pete area to find good beaches, but one thing that makes Siesta Key unique is that the sand are 99% quartz. This makes the sand softer and cooler, even on the hottest days.
The Ringling is one of the most unique things to do in Sarasota. Basically, it’s a huge area with several attractions within it. It is named after John and Mable Ringling, of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame. Here is an idea of what you can expect at the Ringling:
- John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: The Ringling Museum of Art is the centerpiece of the complex. It houses an impressive collection of European and American art, including paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and more. The museum’s collection includes works by renowned artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velázquez, and Thomas Gainsborough. Visitors can explore various galleries with art spanning different time periods and styles.
- Ca’ d’Zan Mansion: The Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, also known as the Ringling Mansion, was the former winter residence of John and Mable Ringling. This Venetian Gothic-style mansion is a stunning architectural masterpiece overlooking Sarasota Bay. Visitors can take guided tours of the mansion to learn about the Ringlings’ life and the history of the building.
- Circus Museum: Given the Ringlings’ connection to the circus, the complex includes a Circus Museum that celebrates the history of the circus in America. You can see memorabilia, costumes, wagons, and interactive exhibits that provide insight into the world of the circus.
- Gardens: The Ringling’s grounds feature beautifully landscaped gardens with lush vegetation, sculptures, and tranquil reflecting pools. The gardens are an excellent place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
- Tibbals Learning Center: This building houses a stunning miniature circus model created by master model builder Howard Tibbals. The model is incredibly detailed and depicts a complete circus with miniature performers, animals, and circus tents.
- Historic Asolo Theater: The Historic Asolo Theater is a replica of an 18th-century Italian theater. It hosts a variety of performances, including theatrical productions, lectures, and films.
- Special Exhibitions: The Ringling frequently hosts special exhibitions, featuring a wide range of art and cultural topics. Be sure to check the schedule to see if there are any temporary exhibitions during your visit.
Downtown Sarasota is a great place to stop for a meal and shopping. Main Street and Pineapple Avenue has plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops.
St. Armands Circle is a shopping and dining district on Lido Key. There are unique shops and restaurants.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a stunning botanical garden. There are 15 acres of themed gardens, including several tropical plants.
Enjoy the Arts – Sarasota has a thriving arts scene if you enjoy art galleries. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall also has entertainment and live shows.
Tampa is an easy day trip from St Petersburg because it’s “just across the bridge.” Some people who live here even work in one city and commute to the other (though most don’t recommend it because of traffic).
The distance between Tampa and St Petersburg depends on where you start and end in each respective city, but downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa is around 23 miles. With no traffic, you can get to one city from the other in approximately 30 minutes (but keep in mind that there typically is traffic). Regardless, Tampa is an easy day trip under one hour from St Pete!
What to do on your day trip from St Petersburg to Tampa:
Tampa Riverwalk: The Tampa Riverwalk runs along the Hillsborough River for beautiful views. Along the way, there are plenty of parks and art installations. You can also end (or begin) your walk at Armature Works. Armature Works has an upscale food court if you want a coffee, drink, or meal!
Busch Gardens is a good experience if you want a thrill. I am not quite the thrill seeker I used to be, so I don’t enjoy the rollercoasters and was surprised to find that there was still plenty for me to do there. They have a zoo, performances, and more. It’s also good for the little ones with character sightings.
Tampa is also home to The Florida Aquarium. It’s a very large, nice aquarium and even has a splash pad for the kids. You could also visit the Lowry Park Zoo.
Ybor City is a historic neighborhood known for its Cuban influence. You’ll find good restaurants, shops, and historic buildings.
If you are into sports, you could check out a game. Tampa is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Lightening.
Shopping: For good shopping in Tampa, you can check out Hyde Park Village or International Plaza.
Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens is a 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary around 90 minutes from St Pete. It’s a great day trip to get into nature. In addition to the garden, Bok Tower Gardens is famous for the Singing Tower. It’s 205 tall and has carillon bells that are played, adding to the tranquility of the gardens. They even have scheduled carillon concerts.
If you have kids, there is a Children’s Garden so that kids can explore and play in a safe space. There is also a nature trail where you can explore Florida’s ecosystems.
Finally, the Pinewood Estate is on the Bok Tower Gardens property. It’s a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion from the 1930s. You can take a guided tour of the property.
If you’re looking for a bit more of a thrill, there are a few different theme parks that make good options for a day trip from St Pete.
Busch Gardens is in Tampa and is the closest theme park within driving distance of St Pete. They have plenty of rides but they also have animal exhibits and rotating live shows. Busch Gardens is one of my favorite things to do in Tampa Bay for the holidays because they go all out.
Adventure Island is owned by Busch Gardens and is like an amusement park on the water. There are water slides of varying thrill levels, lazy rivers, and wave pools.
Legoland is in Winter Haven, a little over an hour away, and is great for kids aged 2 to 12. Everything is LEGO themed and they have rides, shows, attractions, and more.
And of course, St Pete is around 90 minutes from Orlando so you can also go to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World or Universal Studios. Orlando is also home to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Discovery Cove, Epcot, and more. Depending on how much you’d want to do at these theme parks, they could definitely be a day trip option.
While Apollo Beach is worth visiting year round, my favorite time to go is during the winter. This is when the manatees gather at TECO Manatee Viewing Center to keep warm. While visiting, you can also learn more about manatees through interactive exhibits. There is also a boardwalk that winds through the mangroves, providing visitors with an excellent vantage point for observing the manatees. The Manatee Viewing Center is free to visit.
Things to do on your day trip from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Apollo Beach:
Apollo Beach Nature Preserve is a 90-acre park that features a half-mile beach and a boardwalk that winds through mangrove forests and salt marshes. The beach is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing, and there are plenty of picnic areas and grills for visitors to use.
Eat at Circles Waterfront, a seafood restaurant with views of Tampa Bay.
Weeki Wachee is a popular tourist destination located just a short drive away from St. Petersburg, Florida. This small town is my favorite place to get out in nature. Weeki Wachee is located in Florida’s nature coast, also referred to as “real Florida.”
Weeki Wachee is best known for its natural springs, crystal-clear water, and of course, the famous mermaid shows at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. If you’re looking to connect with nature, then Weeki Wachee is great choice for a day trip from St. Petersburg.
Things to do on your day trip from St Pete, Florida, to Weeki Wachee:
The Mermaid Shows: One of the main attractions of Weeki Wachee is the mermaid shows at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. These shows have been delighting visitors for over 70 years, and they continue to be a must-see attraction. During the show, you can watch mermaids perform underwater ballets and other aquatic feats. You’ll be amazed at how graceful and agile these performers are, and it’s a truly unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
Nature – Weeki Wachee is located along the Weeki Wachee River, which is one of the most beautiful natural areas in Florida. The river is crystal-clear and teeming with wildlife, including manatees, otters, and a variety of fish. There are also several parks and nature preserves in the area, including the Weeki Wachee Preserve and the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area. These areas offer opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and wildlife watching, making Weeki Wachee the perfect destination for nature lovers.
Adventure: If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Weeki Wachee has plenty of activities to offer. You can go kayaking or canoeing down the Weeki Wachee River, which is a fun and exciting way to explore the area. There are also several zipline parks in the area, including TreeUmph! Adventure Course and Zip Line and The Adventure Coast Fun Park. These parks offer a variety of zip lines and obstacle courses, making them perfect for families and adventure seekers alike.
History: Weeki Wachee has a rich history that is worth exploring. The town was founded in the 1940s as a roadside attraction, and it quickly became famous for its mermaid shows. Today, you can learn more about the history of Weeki Wachee at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, which features a museum and several exhibits about the town’s past.
Crystal River, located just a short drive from St. Pete, Florida, is a hidden gem that offers visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty and wonder of Florida. This charming town is known for its clear, spring-fed waters, diverse wildlife, and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Things to do on your day trip from Saint Petersburg, Florida, to Crystal River:
Swim with manatees – one of the most popular things to do in Crystal River is to go swimming with the manatees.
Explore the nature preserves – Crystal River is home to several nature preserves that offer opportunities for hiking, biking, bird watching, and more. The Crystal River Preserve State Park is a particularly popular destination, with over 30,000 acres of wetlands, forests, and estuaries to explore. Visitors can take guided hikes, kayak or paddleboard through the mangrove tunnels, or take a scenic bike ride along the park’s many trails.
Go Fishing Fishing is a popular pastime in Crystal River, and for good reason. The area is home to an abundance of fish species, including redfish, trout, and snook. Visitors can book guided fishing charters or rent equipment and head out on their own. Many of the local fishing guides are experts in the area’s ecology and can provide insights on the best places to fish and the best techniques to use.
Visit the Historic Downtown Crystal River’s downtown area is full of historic charm, with quaint shops, galleries, and cafes lining the streets. Visitors can take a stroll along the waterfront, explore the local history at the Old City Hall Museum, or take a boat tour of the area’s many waterways.
Dunedin, Florida, is one of my favorite Florida small towns and we visit for day trips frequently. They have a lot of fun things to do, especially if you love breweries! The town is also very charming and full of character.
Best things to do on a day trip from St Pete, Florida, to Dunedin:
Breweries: If you like breweries, you’ll want to indulge in a Dunedin brewery or two (or more). Dunedin has a lot of breweries for being such a small town. We love all of them, but here are our favorites:
- Dunedin Brewery for the oldest microbrewery in Florida. We like getting an appetizer with our beers here and they often have live music.
- HOB for widest selection of beer, though I always go for the peanut butter blond because it is so good I can’t bring myself to try anything else. Also, for their outdoor atmosphere.
- Beach Island Brewing is my favorite customer service. They love their customers and area always so happy to serve you. Also, their beer is amazing and constantly changing!
Pinellas Trail: Take your bike for a spin on the Pinellas Trail, which runs right through the heart of downtown Dunedin. You can also rent bikes.
Local Events: Check out one of their events. It seems like there is always an event going on in Dundedin, including weekly farmers markets.
Enjoy Dunedin’s Main Street. It’s a quintessential small town Main Street with shops, restaurants, and some bars.
Tarpon Springs is known as the Sponge Capital of the World. You’ll find a strong Greek heritage here, complete with Greek restaurants, bakeries, and shops. Sea sponges are still harvested in Tarpon Springs as well and you can see the boats lined up at the Sponge Docks.
What to do on your day trip to Tarpon Springs:
Explore historic downtown – Tarpon Springs has a charming historic downtown area with unique shops, art galleries, and historic buildings. You can take a leisurely stroll and explore the town’s history.
Check out the Sponge Docks – the Sponge Docks are in the heart of historic downtown Tarpon Springs. They are active Sponge Docks which means you might see the divers working or the sponges being hung to dry on the boats. Sponges are for sale all over Tarpon Springs and are easy to find. They make a great, authentic souvineer.
Eat some Greek cuisine – There are plenty of Greek restaurants in Tarpon Springs. Enjoy some authentic Greek dishes such as gyros, moussaka, baklava, and Greek salads. It’s a culinary delight for food enthusiasts.
Take a boat tour to Anclote Key – Anclote Key is a natural preserve made up of four islands, Anclote Key, North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar and Three Rooker Island. It is three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs and is accessible only by boat. While you’re there, you can enjoy nature, go hiking, enjoy the secluded beach, and there is even a lighthouse on the southern end of Anclote Key. It’s easy to get to the island with a local boat company. Odyssey Charters and Spongeorama Cruises are both located right on the Sponge Docks.
Explore historic downtown Lakeland: Start your day trip in Lakeland by exploring the historic downtown area. Lakeland has charming streets with boutique shops, art galleries, and a variety of restaurants and cafes.
Lake Mirror Promenade and Hollis Garden: The Lake Mirror Promenade is located right in downtown Lakeland. It’s a beautiful walking path around the lake where you can take in sculptures, views of Lakeland, enjoy gardens, and see some wildlife.
Go shopping for antiques: Lakeland is known for antique shops. Some of the best shops to go antiquing in Lakeland are Lakeland Antique Mall and Dixieland Relics.
Safari Wilderness: For a unique experience, you can take a guided safari tour. This is not the cheapest activity, but you can see exotic animals like lemurs, zebras, and water buffalo on over 260 acres.
For lunch or dinner, checkout The Joinery. It’s a food hall with fun options such as sushi burritos, street tacos, ice cream, BBQ, and more. There are also fresh flowers and a bar on site.
There is a lot to do in St Petersburg and yet it also serves as a fantastic launchpad for some incredible day trips. You’ll find a range of experiences for every interest. Whether you’re exploring the natural wonders of nearby state parks, immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage of nearby towns, or simply basking in the sun on pristine beaches, there’s something for everyone within a short drive from this vibrant city.