Tampa, Florida is a popular destination in Florida with plentiful attractions and an active cruise port. But it’s also a great launching point to explore the rest of the state.
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Distance from Tampa: 1 hour 20 minutes
The area around the Crystal River is known for its manatee habitat that brings the gentle creatures throughout the year, but especially during the winter months.
Dozens of snorkeling tours operate here, including one at the Plantation on Crystal River. In nearby Homosassa Springs, visitors can tour Alpaca Magic USA, a working alpaca farm that turns the wool into fabric.
There are plenty of seafood restaurants along the river, including Charlie’s Fish House. The eatery has fresh-caught seafood daily and waterfront seating. Copp Winery & Brewery is also a nice place to have a drink and a bite.
- Full-Day Kayak Rental For Two
- Guided Paddleboard Eco-Tour of Crystal River
- Crystal River Fishing Charter
- Try SCUBA Diving in Crystal River
- Crystal River Manatee Snorkeling Tour
- Alpaca Magic USA Discounted Admission
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour
Weeki Wachee State Park is one of Florida’s most well-known natural springs, named for the Seminole word for “winding river.” It’s associated with the mermaid show that has taken place here since 1947 in a submerged theater.
In addition to the springs and the mermaid show, visitors can go on a boat tour or visit the seasonal water park. Nearby Spring Hill also has hot air balloon rides.
Distance from Tampa: 1 hour
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens have plentiful species of plants, including an orchid house, as well as an art museum. MOTE Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is a research-based aquarium with over 100 species of marine life, including sea turtles, sharks, and manatees.
Enjoy Sarasota’s best burgers at SOB Burgers along with a local craft beer. New Pass Grill is in a 1929 tackle store with views of the water. Michael’s on East is the city’s only AAA Four-Diamond winner for its extensive wine menu and classic American fare.
- The Best Sarasota Bay & Lido Key Mangrove Kayak Tour
- Public Art Tour
- Taste of Downtown Sarasota
- Sarasota Sports History Tour
- Sarasota Downtown Bike Rental
- Circus History Tour
- City Sightseeing Tour
Bradenton and Anna Maria Island
Distance from Tampa: 50 minutes
While there are plenty of beaches near Tampa, those of Bradenton and Anna Maria Island are some of Florida’s best. Anna Maria City Pier has fishing and restaurants while the Manatee Public Beach has a lifeguard stand and kiosk with food and drink.
- TreeUmph Adventure Course
- Anna Maria Island Dolphin Sunset Tour
- Anna Maria Island Beach Life Food Tour
- One-Hour Paddleboard Rental for One or Two from Native Rentals
Distance from Tampa: 2 hours
Fort Myers and neighboring Cape Coral, Sanibel Island, and Captiva Island are popular with vacationers as well as baseball teams spending their spring training in warmer climates.
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is a fascinating museum in the summer homes of two great American men. The Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium is a wildlife sanctuary and natural history living museum. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and Mound House educate on the area’s ecology.
Fine Folk Pizza has wood-fired pies, including vegan and gluten-free options. Twisted Lobster is known for its fish tacos, crawfish, and soft shell crabs. Fish Tale Grill by Merrick Seafood is a restaurant and seafood market with lobster rolls, fresh Gulf oysters and Ahi tuna. There’s also Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery and local breweries.
- Guided Kayak Eco Tour
- Skip the Line: IMAG History and Science Center Admission Ticket
- Historic Walking Tour of Fort Myers
- Fort Myers Coastal Sealife Dolphin and Shelling Cruise
- Dolphin and Wildlife Cruise in Fort Myers Beach
- Marco Island: 10,000 Islands Shelling Tour by Boat
- Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium Discounted Admission
Distance from Tampa: 40 minutes
The city of Lakeland is named for its many surrounding bodies of water. Here visitors can see the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world, constructed between 1938 and 1958. Guided and self-guided tours are available.
The Florida Air Museum covers the history of flight from the moon landing to Howard Hughes. The Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre dates back to 1948 and features first-run films. Hollis Garden is a scenic botanical garden.