Road Trips From Tampa
The city of Tampa, situated on the west coast of Florida, is the economic center of western Florida. Although it has plenty of attractions in the city including Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Florida Aquarium, Adventure Island, and Museum of Science. But, you may want to explore attractions other than the usual. And that’s when road trips come into the picture. Tampa is a great point to start your road trips journey and explore other fascinating spots in the States.
1. Jacksonville, FL
If you enjoy being in a big city with an abundance of exciting things to do, Jacksonville is the place for you. It’s a great option for road trips from Tampa and just takes around 4 hours.
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is home to more than 5,000 pieces of art. The pieces range from 3000 years old to recent works from artists such as Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran.
The gardens include four different gardens, the English and Italian gardens are the most famous ones. Guided tours of the museum and gardens are also available.
The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary is home to lions, tigers, pumas, cougars, leopards, bobcats, foxes, and coatimundis. Guided tours are also available.
For fun activities like boating, fishing, kayaking, geocaching, cycling, birding, canoeing, picnicking, and hiking, Fort George Island Cultural State Park is the spot. It’s also a place of lush natural beauty, interesting wildlife, and a great place to relax at.
Amelia Island is a must-visit. You can take a horse-and-buggy ride and explore the town of Fernandina Beach and afterward stroll through the old streets for some great surprises. The island also offers great hiking, biking, horseback riding, beaches, a couple of interesting museums, and ghost tours.
For kids, Adventure Landing is a must-visit. You’ll find plenty of wacky, wild, watery, wonderful “splash” attractions. Other attractions include miniature golf, laser tag, the Wacky Worm roller-coaster, go-karts, the Frog Hopper, and a ride for the more serious roller-coaster lovers called 3D Max Flight.
2. Panama City
If you’re up for road trips from Tampa with absolutely stunning views, this is the most promising one. The drive takes around 6 hours. During the second half of your road trip, when you pass through Apalachicola National Forest, the view is absolutely stunning.
Panama City offers a modern city vibe as well as numerous historical areas and attractions. A visit to Panama City is not incomplete without visiting the famous Panama Canal. The best way to experience the canal is through an Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour. This is an eight- or nine-hour tour of the canal, which includes a boat trip, a stop at the Gatun Lock Visitor Center, a chance to explore Gatun Lake and Monkey Island and see some wildlife, and a stop at Fort San Lorenzo. If you’re short on time head to the Miraflores Visitor Center, it has multiple viewing platforms and a museum.
The Old Town
Casco Viejo, the Old Town is the best part of this city. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. It’s major attractions are majestic Iglesia y Convento de la Compania de Jesus, the Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo with its unique arch, and the Paseo de las Bovedas.
Biomuseo (Museum of Bio-Diversity at Panama) with its eight galleries showcases the natural and cultural history of Panama. Free guides are available here.
Rainforest Discovery Center
For a fun family day in the lap of nature, the Rainforest Discovery Center is a great destination. One of the best things to do here is climb up the 100-foot observation tower and experience the various levels of the jungle canopy. Sloths, monkeys, coatis, toucans, and a variety of beautiful birds can be easily spotted here.
For some serious hiking and spotting more wildlife, Parque Nacional Soberania is the place to go. One hike even leads to a waterfall. Parque Municipal Summit is another great place to experience the love of nature. For kids, the park has a good playground. The botanical garden here features a variety of plants along with trees for much-needed shade. Lastly, it is home to the national bird of Panama, the harpy eagle.
In the city, if you want to wake up to the view of ships coming and going from the canal, the Radisson Hotel Panama Canal is a lovely hotel at the mouth of the canal. Also, it is a perfect place to relax because it has a beautiful pool and is set in a quiet neighborhood.
3. New Orleans, LA
If you’re up for long, relaxing road trips from Tampa, this is the one for you. The drive takes around 9 hours and is definitely worth the effort.
New Orleans is one of America’s most unique cities. Its vibe is just different. The French Quarter, set along a bend on the Mississippi River is a major tourist spot. While it is a great area for dining and entertainment, the architecture here is what attracts the tourists most. The most famous street in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street. If you want to explore it, prefer doing with sunlight because at night it isn’t quite safe. Jackson Square and St Louis Cathedral, located just off the waterfront are a must-visit.
The National WWII Museum is an outstanding museum to learn about the history of WWII.
New Orleans City Park is a hub of activities and is home to the New Orleans Botanical Garden, the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden. Kids will love the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and Storyland here.
To experience the Mississippi River and learn more about the city, a cruise on the paddle steamer Steamboat Natchez is perfect. The tour takes about two hours and provides narration on the sites, with an optional lunch of creole cuisine. Make sure to book in advance.
Check here, for a detailed article on the major attractions of New Orleans.
4. Fort Lauderdale
A four-hour road trip from Tampa will land you in the “Venice of America.” If you love sun, sand, and surf, this one is for you. Located on the Atlantic coast, 23 miles north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale has seven miles of beachfront and a Venice-like series of canals and waterways.
Las Olas Boulevard stretching from downtown Fort Lauderdale along New River to Las Olas Beach is a popular spot for dining. A lot of museums and art galleries are also located here. You can take a walk or explore through a boat. Also, parking tends to be easier to find in this area.
At The Museum of Discovery and Science, you can meet dinosaurs and look at real fossils in the Prehistoric Florida exhibit or explore present-day Florida’s ecosystems.
To meet some alligators, head to Everglades Holiday Park. The park also runs airboat tours of the surrounding wetlands, where you will learn about the flora and fauna of the area.
The list of attractions in Fort Lauderdale is long, so, for further details, check this article out.
5. Atlanta, GA
Almost 6.5 hours of a road trip through the north of Tampa takes you to Georgia’s capital – Atlanta. The road trip to this city may be a long one, but Atlanta will reward you with historical sites and landmarks like Martin Luther King Jr. National Park, the World of Coca-Cola, the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden, and a lot more. Check here for a detailed article on the same.
One of the top things here is the world’s largest aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium. It features a wide variety of marine life, the largest in the ocean – whale sharks and some very interesting and interactive activities for visitors. The most famous one is the opportunity to dive or snorkel in the tank with the sharks. To be a part of this, you must carry your SCUBA diving certificate. The aquarium also has an acrylic tunnel to walk through and view fish swimming on all sides.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden offers a lovely space to spend some peaceful time at. Two of its major specialties are the Rose Garden and the special garden area for children.
The Atlanta History Center is a large complex that comprises the Atlanta History Museum, Centennial Olympic Games Museum, Swan House, Smith Family Farm, and the Kenan Research Center, along with a number of historic gardens.
The High Museum of Art is noteworthy both for its architecture and its extraordinary collections of art from the Renaissance to the present day. It is particularly known for its extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art.
6. Myrtle Beach, SC
This Beach is about 555 mi (893 km) north of Tampa, and the drive takes approximately 8.5 hours. This one is a bit on the longer side of road trips from Tampa. The white-sand beach stretch for a total of 60 miles. You can enjoy a variety of sports here, such as boating, fishing, surfing, para-sailing, windsurfing, or scuba diving. A nighttime walk on the beach is a great way to relax. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is home to a bulk of hotels, family tourist attractions, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
To get in close proximity of thousands of fish, including sea turtles, stingrays, and giant sharks, Ripley’s Aquarium is the spot. From the acrylic tunnel that winds through the Dangerous Reef aquarium, visitors can get up close to these cuties. Those who are extra-braved can try diving with the sharks. The tunnel also allows to camp overnight. Regular shows include shark, sea dragon, and jellyfish feedings; dive shows; and a mermaid show.
WonderWorks Myrtle Beach is a must-visit. It takes the concept of a science museum to a new level. The exhibits focus on topics like natural disasters, physical challenges, lights and sound, space exploration, and art. Fun activities include the Extreme 360 bikes experience, an indoor glow-in-the-dark ropes course, and a laser tag arena.
The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel offers an expansive view and plenty of photo-worthy views. It takes guests way up high in its 42, six-person gondolas, which are climate-controlled for comfort. For a longer ride with a glass floor and views from every angle, book a VIP tour in advance.
The Family Kingdom Amusement Park offers a lot of fun with its festive seaside carnival atmosphere. Some of the most famous rides are the steel roller coaster called Twist ‘n Shout, the super fun Magic Bikes, and the slightly crazy Jump Around Dune Buggies. To cool off head to South Carolina’s largest water park – Myrtle Waves. The most fun rides here are Myrtle Beach is home to South Carolina’s largest water park – Myrtle Waves.
For golf enthusiasts, dozens of mini-golf courses are located throughout the Grand Strand. Some of the best ones are Mt. Atlanticus, Jungle Lagoon, Treasure Island, and Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf.
The place is worth spending a weekend at. so for accommodations, check here.
7. Delray Beach
If you’re bored on a weekend, get behind the wheel and set on a three-hour drive to Delray Beach. This is among the most famous road trips from Tampa. A lively East Coast hot spot, this fun resort town seeps creativity and oozes charm. From eclectic art galleries to open-air concerts, Delray is a hub of entertainment.
A serene wonderland where mangroves thrive, the Wakodahatchee Wetlands serve as home to more than 178 species of birds. Alligators, frogs, turtles, and marsh rabbits also abound in this expansive wonderland.
For a shopping spree, head to Delray’s hippest main street: Atlantic Avenue. A lively retail area, this long and lovely street is filled with high-end boutiques and many popular restaurants.
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a quiet land ruled by beauty and scented by the sweet blossoms that bloom throughout. Here, you’ll find traditional bonsai trees, a koi pond, a turtle island, and a sparkling lake. It is also home to Yamato-Kan, a museum housed on its own island.
The “beating heart” of Delray Beach, Old School Square serves as the main venue for Delray’s music and arts scene. The historic Cornell Art Museum, Crest Theatre, Fieldhouse, The Pavilion (an outdoor concert venue), and a Creative Arts School are some of its major attractions.
Atlantic Dunes Park is perfect to spend a laid-back, tranquil day. If you want to Swim, sunbathe, play volleyball, run on the sand, or SUP, entertainment is guaranteed at this beautiful oceanfront park. Chair and umbrella rentals are available on the beach, and a lifeguard is on duty.
Lake Ida West Park, featuring almost 10,000 feet of lake frontage offers a lot of activities that’ll burn some calories. It is home to two miles of biking paths, two miles of walking trails, two boat launch ramps, access for canoeing and kayaking, and multiple playgrounds for kids.
One of the most luxe properties in Delray Beach, The Seagate Hotel and Spa is a perfect home for a relaxing vacation. It is pet-friendly, has a swimming pool and a great spa.
8. Fort Myers
If you’re looking for road trips options towards southern Florida this two-hour drive from Tampa to the south will land you in Fort Myers, a budget-friendly destination with sun-kissed beaches and historic landmarks.
Fort Myers Beach is a seven-mile-long golden strip of sand with shallow, warm water perfect for swimming. There is a high chance that you might spot dolphins here. Sometimes it can be as close as just a few feet offshore. At the pier, also known as Times Square, you can rent beach chairs, and get some food service, making a trendy day. North of the pier is where the beach backed by a city park with picnic tables and washroom facilities.
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge offers a wonderful look into the flora and fauna of the area. Its major highlight is the 90-minute, open-air tram tour. This tour offers you the opportunity to spot alligators, wading birds, and if you are really lucky, a bobcat or otter. Hiking, fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, and bird-watching are some other fun activities you can try here.
Visiting Lakes Regional Park is also one of the best free things you can do in Fort Myers. The miniature train here attracts a lot of kids. It is also home to a train museum with interactive exhibits. A number of trails run through the park, so, you can hike or rent a bike. Several volleyball courts and fitness stations are also situated here.
Lastly, for some water adventure, you can head to enjoy the man-made lake. Here, you can rent a boat or launch your own watercraft (no motors), fish, or just enjoy watching the fountains.
If you want a quick vacation in midst of your busy life, Naples in Florida is the place. This is another best one among the road trips from Tampa because the three hours drive offers idyllic Florida landscapes and nature viewing opportunities. Museums for adults and kids, a zoo, and boat excursions, Naples has got something for everyone.
White sand lapped by usually calm waters is backed by beautiful homes and lush vegetation, the beach at Naples is one of the finest along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Naples Pier is a popular place for a sunset stroll, or to do a bit of fishing. It’s a great area for walking or playing some volleyball.
A visit to Naples is incomplete without visiting the Gulf of Mexico and its azure blue waters. A boat tour is the best way to explore the area and enjoy all that the ocean has to offer. Naples Sightseeing Boat Tour is a popular tour. This 1.5-hour trip includes some parts of Naples’ finest mansions and Keewaydin Island and dolphin sightings.
5th Avenue South, the main downtown strip is lined with cafés and restaurants with patio seating, high-end boutiques, a famous ice-cream shop, and posh hotels. These are the best places to visit in Naples for nightlife.
If you’re a car buff, be sure to visit the Revs Institute, where you’ll see an amazing collection of automobiles. You’ll find a devoted exclusively to Porsche, another devoted to racing cars and the daredevils who drive them, and much more.
For a fun family afternoon, head to the Naples Zoo. The zoo has a variety of animals in three major categories; birds, mammals, and reptiles. The animals range from tigers to alligators and the Primate Cruise. A 15-20 minute catamaran cruise past the animals is the main highlight.
Lastly, for a relaxing walk among more than 1,000 tropical plants, visit the Naples Botanical Gardens. The Kapnick Brazilian Garden, the Buehler Enabling Garden, Lee Asian Water Garden, Kapnick Caribbean Garden, and the Smith River of Grass are some of the major highlights here.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples is a family and pet-friendly property with a kids’ club and babysitting available. For some relaxation, it has a swanky spa. The Mediterranean-style property has a swimming pool, hot tub, and restaurant.
10. Sarasota, FL
One of Florida’s most underrated vacation destinations, but definitely one of the best road trips from Tampa. Take a weekend off and an hour short drive to Sarasota to find an array of family-friendly activities on offer.
Since it is located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, it has everything from beautiful beaches, a city of white buildings fronted by azure waters filled with sailboats, as well as, world-class cultural amenities. Beginning with the greatest circus museum on Earth, The Ringling. The must-visit Circus Museum houses the greatest collection of circus memorabilia. The Museum of Art is equally impressive because of its collection of art, ranging from European and decorative art to Modern works, and a new Center For Asian Art. Tours are available.
Next, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is also a beautiful spot for a relaxing stroll, also you can linger and soak up all the scenery. For kids, the koi pond, butterfly garden, and the elevated children’s rainforest garden are the major attractions. Other highlights include a waterfall, an Amazon village, and an adventure trail with treetop views of the tropical plants.
Myakka River State Park features the scenic Myakka River and a diverse array of wildlife. It is also a great spot for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. For some adventure, you can hike on a rare Florida dry prairie. You can also explore the area via the two largest airboats in the world or the Safari Tram Tour.
The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is home to residents ranging from goats, sheep, and donkeys in the petting zoo, to magnificent lions. Last but not the least, the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a 10-acre tropical setting that includes an opportunity to hand-feed flamingos.
Check here for some of the best accommodations in the area.