Located halfway between Tampa and Ft. Myers, the city of Sarasota is known for high-end dining, lush golf courses and beautiful beaches. The perfect getaway for families or couples, it’s also an ideal landing spot to explore surrounding locations during the day. Here are some day trips from Sarasota to explore.
Put on your walking shoes and plan on spending most of the day at The Ringling Museum. The former home of John and Mable Ringling (of Ringling Bros. circus fame), The Ringling now houses three museums on one 66-acre site. Start with a visit to the Circus Museum, which includes artifacts and the history of circuses worldwide. Next, head to Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling’s former home. Sitting on Sarasota Bay, Ca’ d’Zan is a look into the lives of the ultra-rich of the last century. There’s also the Museum of Art, home to more than 20 galleries of art and sculptures, some of which were created by the masters. When you need a break, explore the various gardens and grab a bite to eat at one of the food and drink locations there.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
A part of the city for over 80 years, Sarasota Jungle Gardens is a fun place to take the kids for a little break. Voted as one of Sarasota’s favorite family activities, there are opportunities to get up close to the animals. Feed a flamingo, watch a parrot show, get a photo with an alligator and explore the gardens.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Downtown
On Sarasota Bay sits Selby Gardens’ downtown location, where visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The 15 acres of the gardens showcase a variety of tropical plants, including bromeliads, orchids and ferns. Areas focus on rainforests, mangroves, native Florida, display gardens, palm trees, and the great lawn. Don’t forget to sign up for a docent-led tour to learn even more.
20-45 Minute Day Trips From Sarasota
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Historic Spanish Point
The second campus of Selby Gardens is located in Osprey and is a don’t miss hidden gem. On 30 acres on Little Sarasota Bay, the Historic Spanish Point (HSP) campus preserves native Florida plants. There’s also a butterfly garden and an archaeological area that looks at 5,000 years of history, including a shell mound left by the original ingenious inhabitants of the area.
Distance from Sarasota: 10 miles (approx. 20 minutes)
Known for its relaxing beaches, Bradenton is also a place to find plenty of fun things to do on a day trip from Sarasota. From the Manatee Village Historical Park, attending Major League Baseball spring training games, and the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, where you can see manatees being rehabbed, there’s plenty to keep busy.
Distance from Sarasota: 13 miles (approx. 25 minutes)
Downtown St. Petersburg
Known as Sunshine City, St. Petersburg has become a place for artists to create and share their works. A large city with plenty to do, the downtown area is where most of the action happens. And a great place to head for a day trip from Sarasota. Home to the largest collection of Salvador Dali works, a variety of museums, and breweries, downtown St. Petersburg is very walkable and accessible. Be sure to make time to visit the St. Pete Pier. With plenty of activities for kids, restaurants, and relaxing spots just to sit and people-watch, it’s a must-do in the city.
Distance from Sarasota: 38 miles (approx. 45-50 minutes)
Day Trips From Sarasota Up To 2.5 Hours Away
Closer to Sarasota than many think, Tampa is full of culture, parks and zoos, and outdoor activities. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the perfect combination of rollercoasters and animals. Walk the 2.5 miles of Riverwalk along the Hillsborough River and find food and attractions. Visit the Florida Aquarium and then walk over to Sparkman Wharf for various food and drink choices to enjoy on the water. Or rent a kayak at one of the Florida State Parks in the area and explore natural Florida. With so many options, it’ll be hard to choose!
Distance from Sarasota: 65 miles (approx. 1 hour)
With the largest Greek population in the United States, Tarpon Spring is a fun place to explore and see a bit of old Florida. Named for the fish that were abundant in the waters, Tarpon Springs is called the sponge capital of the world due to its Greek influence and the former trade that sustained the city. Visitors can head to the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Spring Cultural Center, Tarpon Heritage Museum and Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral to get a feel of the city’s history. Afterward, make your way to the Sponge Docks for a little more history, boat tours and lots of Greek food options.
Distance from Sarasota: 70 miles (approx. 1.5 hours)
Located northeast of Sanibel Island is Fort Myers. One the winter home to both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, visitors can now explore their estates and gardens. There are also plenty of parks and preserves for nature lovers to go hiking, kayaking and see Florida flora and fauna.
Distance from Sarasota: 75 miles (approx. 1 hour & 20 minutes)
Known as the shell capital of the world, Sanibel Island is a great day trip from Sarasota. Heading out early while the tide is low is the key to finding the fantastic shells that end up broken on many other beaches. Why are so many whole, unique shells found on Sanibel? The way the underwater shelf right offshore is situated lets shells gently ride onto shore instead of being broken like at other beaches. What types of shells can you expect to find on Sanibel? Keep an eye out for coquina, lightning whelk, scallops and conch, among other species. After you’re done looking for shells, head to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge to get an up-close look at the mangrove ecosystem that helps Sanibel Island exist.
Distance from Sarasota: 100 miles (approx. 2 hours)
Well known for its well-to-do residents and visitors, Naples is the farthest south large city on the west coast of Florida. Nature explorers can head to the Naples Botanical Gardens or take a stroll on the famous sugar sand beaches. Stroll the Naples Pier at sunset for a fabulous free show. History buffs can visit one of Naples’ museums. And since Naples is also a gateway to the Florida Everglades, visitors can also take airboat excursions in the area.
Distance from Sarasota: 115 miles (approx. 1 hour & 45 minutes)
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