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Trip Report

Road Trips from Tampa

My Vacation in Central Florida. St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Clearwater. 5 days of food, beach and outdoor exploration.

by bonvoyagejackieAbout Me:Hi, I'm Jackie, creator of the blog Bon Voyage Jackie. I created my blog in 2018 to share my experience balancing working as a full-time professional with my love of travel. I work remotely, but keep a home-base in Baton Rouge, LA. My f... read more

North AmericaUnited States5 days / May 2021

Highs & Lows

Swimming with manatees in Crystal River!

An afternoon thunderstorm put a damper on my plans to visit Silver Springs.

Itinerary Overview

Central Florida is a favorite destination of mine to visit anytime of year. In winter, it’s a welcome escape from the cold and in summer, there’s nothing better than cooling off at the beach or in the natural springs. 

The Tampa area, which includes nearby Clearwater and St. Petersburg, was the perfect base for my road trip in May 2021. A rental car is a must to visit the natural springs. Central Florida boasts hundreds of springs.  Many are only about an hour and half away from Tampa. The crystal clear, turquoise waters surrounded by a jungle of palms and palmettos transports you to a tropical paradise, no passport needed! 

Being a major foodie, I am in love with the Tampa area’s food scene. Fun fact: Tampa and Miami have a little rivalry going over which city makes a better Cuban sandwich! Tampa’s version includes salami, which I will say adds a nice extra level.

I based myself in downtown St. Pete for this trip. Close enough to both Tampa and St Pete Beach, it’s a great central location. It’s also an incredibly walkable area perfect for hitting up some happy hour deals, grabbing dinner by the water, and enjoying a nice night out. 

  • 5 Nights: St. Petersburg
    Great food and art scene
  • Day trip: Rainbow Springs State Park
    Enjoy the beautiful natural springs of Central Florida
  • Day trip: Crystal River
    Swim with manatees
  • Day trip: FT De Soto Park
    Enjoy the beach

Q & A

  • Anything go wrong during the trip?

    Nothing is worse during a beach trip than stormy weather. Luckily, downtown St. Pete has a multitude of museums to offer. Get artsy and spend the day in the Dali Museum and Chihuly Collection.

  • How was the food?

    There is an amazing array of different cuisines in the Tampa area! For Cuban food, check out the Ybor City area in Tampa. The Columbia Restaurant and La Segunda Bakery are two famous spots for traditional Cuban dishes. Downtown St. Pete has some amazing Italian restaurants. BellaBrava has delicious wood fired pizzas and stunning views of the marina. For traditional family style dishes, Gratzzi Italian Grille is a great spot to visit with a group.

  • What tips would you give a friend?

    If you plan on visiting in winter, you can still enjoy the beach. I’ve visited Tampa in January, and while the beach was a little too cold to swim in for my liking, I did notice several people sunbathing and enjoying the water. Temperatures in the winter months are typically in the low to mid 70s. On that trip, I still enjoyed the beach but took beach walks rather than swimming.

  • Transportation Tips?

    A rental car is a necessity for taking day trips in the area, however, when you’re exploring downtown St. Pete, I’d recommend walking or taking a taxi or rideshare. Finding parking downtown can be a challenge, but the city is very pedestrian friendly. Leave the car at your hotel and enjoy a stroll!

  • Booking details?

    I contacted the Hollander Hotel directly to book with the best possible rate.

Lodging

  • Hollander Hotel: Great location close to many bars and restaurants downtown. The pool area is a welcome retreat on a warm afternoon, and it's got a great bar!