One of the best ways to get a in-depth view into a destination is by renting a car and seeing what the place has to offer. It allows you to have adventures you wouldn’t be able to via public transport, and most importantly, to where the people live, work, and play. A trip without a sincere conversation with a local is a pure tragedy to me. You just fill up on gas, ask the attendant where to get something to eat and a good place to hang out, preferably with drinks, and get to know the town. For those who don’t want to ask around, it’s your lucky day because I so happened to have lived in St. Pete for 13 years and I’ve compiled a list of the best day and weekend trips from St. Petersburg, Florida.
Hate road trips? I’ve compiled my best tips from over 30,000 miles of road trips right here.
0.5-2 hours drive from St. Petersburg
Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, FL 33767
For some reason, Clearwater beach has always managed to maintain a sort of drunken, party vibe. For as long as I can remember, college aged partiers roamed Clearwater beach. I still don’t know where all these people come from, since the metro really isn’t that large, but they are there, shotgunning brews and doing body shots. At night, hit up a local beach club. Or watch the movie “Spring Breakers”. It’s basically the same thing. But really, it’s one of the most soothing, pearly white beaches in the world. Enjoy.
Fort De Soto Park
3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg, FL 33715
Technically located in St. Pete, but on the edge of the county, sits over 1,000 acres of beach-y state park. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this used to be free! Families would enjoy the seclusion, dogs were allowed, life was good. Apparently some people cant handle their shit and these rights were revoked. No glass bottles, dogs must be leashed and remain in dog park areas, and camping must be prearranged. Can’t complain too much though, we must take care of our planet, right?
701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602
$24.95 + tax
Yuuesss. My pride and joy. Growing up in Florida is legitimately experiencing another world. So many animals and bugs and plants and fruit and most importantly, the beach. The Florida aquarium does a wonderful job at gathering all the important local nautical creatures, and well as a plethora of creatures from around the world. The coolest part? You can dive with sharks! Tickets are a little under 25 USD for a full day’s worth of adventure.
5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243
$25.00 + tax
The Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus has been around since 1918, showing elephants and acrobats. The Ringling side of the company ended up settling down in southwest Florida. One of their lifetime hobbies? Collecting art. The property has enormous Greek sculptures and a variety of paintings. My favorite part is by far the house on the water. You can visit their stunning estate and frolic in Mabel’s rose garden. Don’t forget to stop by the famous Munchies 420 cafe in Sarasota for a fried Twinkie, but only if you have worked up an appetite.
10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612
$109.00 + tax
Roller Coasters. Wild lions. Dragon Land. Busch Gardens is one of the happiest places on earth (deal with it Disney!). If the fact that it’s ran by the Anheuesr-Busch family (yes the brewery empire) isn’t enough to get you there, I’m not sure we’d be friends … Kidding, the rides are the best part. Roller coasters to please even the most brave adventurer. My favorite is the Montu, a gift from heaven that flips you upside down 7 times. Not for the faint of heart!
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606
Mermaids! That’s all I have to say… But since it is one of my favorite places in the world, I’ll say more. Florida is blessed with fresh water springs, and Weeki Wachee Springs State Park has some of the best. The water is crystal clear, with reflections of emerald and cyan from the natural vegetation. The ticket also gives you the opportunity to see Florida mermaids! Mermaids were discovered living here around 1947 and have been performing plays like the classic, “The Little Mermaid” ever since… Spoiler alert! They use small air tubes to stay underwater. My grandma was a mermaid here. And in real life 😉
2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33901
$20.00 + tax
One of the best parts of growing up in Florida was the school field trips. We would go on boats, visit dolphin rescue centers, and the NASA center. But my favorite of all time? The Thomas Edison and Ford Plantation! The Estate is located in sultry Ft. Meyers, 2 hours directly South of St. Pete. Not only is it famous for having housed Edison and Ford while they invented and tinkered, it has a world famous tree. Have you ever seen a banyan tree? You know, where vines grow from the branch, anchor the the ground, and turn into roots? They can get to be hundreds of feet and cover over two city blocks. Yeah, fkn amazing right? The one at the plantation is the 3rd largest in the world, around 120 meters.
3-7 hours from St. Petersburg, FL
112 Periwinkle Way,Sanibel, FL 33957
Hopefully I don’t receive abuses for giving away a little local secret, but Sanibel & Captiva Island has been the favorite getaway for St. Pete families for decades. Both destinations are extremely peaceful, as mostly elderly people live in the area. There are no big cities, no lights to distract from the stars. I would highly recommend for families or anyone looking for a really old-Florida feel. Even though I really encourage you to only take photographs, Sanibel is known to have some of the best shells in the state. Rent a bike and roam the 15 miles of beaches then get in the warm water! The temperature remains quite neutral for the majority of the year, perfect for snorkeling.
Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139
When the lazy old-time Florida vibez start to relax you beyond repair, head over to Miami for a weekend of sun and luxury. Not only are the beaches nearly Caribbean status, the city doesn’t seem to sleep and liquor sales go all night long. If you’ve never been a club, I highly suggest stopping by Set just for a little taste. If you haven’t though about it, you need to add visiting a Miami spa to your bucket-list! I’m pretty into massages, and my life was forever changed at the Lapis Spa in the Fontainebleau Hotel. , The final must-do is a non-negotiable after a night of clubbing- coffee. The real gems are the Cuban coffee stands around Miami Beach- perfect kick of caffeine + sinfully sweet. Love it!
Whitehead St & South St, Key West, FL 33040
People are always shocked when I have to inform them that the drive from my parent’s house to Key West isn’t that short at all. It’s the most Southern point in the continental U.S., about 7 hours with no traffic, but beyond worth it! The coral, turquoise, and canary houses are the perfect compliment to the clear skies and water. Duval Street is best described as Bourbon Street’s little cousin- pretty badass, but still tame comparatively. Kids are more than welcome at all hours, but expect a little near-nudity… Now I was a pretty open-minded child, but I do vividly recall being shocked at the amount of booties showing around Key West. Probably appreciate it more with age. Don’t forget your Key Lime Pie! Swear it’s the best in Florida. And no, the key lime is not named after the Florida Keys- its just a type of small lime.