15 Best Day Trips from Sarasota

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Located on Florida’s coast on the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota is a popular seaside resort for both domestic and international tourists.

The town has a much quieter and more laid back feel than other Florida beach towns and is therefore often preferred by families and tourists looking for something a little bit more peaceful.

Like other towns on the Gulf Coast, Sarasota has a great arts community.

There are great views from the keys off the coast of town, and a great multicultural vibe thanks to influences from elsewhere in Florida.

It is a great hub for day trips, and most of the peninsula is easily accessible within a day.

The state has a great variety to offer; from secluded beach towns to multicultural cities and, of course, the major theme parks that are famous across the world.

Here are the 15 best day trips you can take from Sarasota.

1. Ybor City

Ybor City, TampaSource: Pixachi / shutterstock
Ybor City

A district of northern Tampa, Ybor City is packed with attractions for day trippers.

It has deep connections to the Cuban American community and was once known as the US capital of cigars, as well as the place where the Cubano sandwich was introduced to the states.

It is accessible by streetcar from central Tampa, which is in itself an interesting attraction.

There is a museum dedicated to the district, as well as a cigar museum and art walk, where you can check out local arts and crafts.

The district remains very multicultural to this day and is a vibrant trip for any tourist to the region.

2. Clearwater Beach

Clearwater BeachSource: liseykina / shutterstock
Clearwater Beach

Florida is famed nationwide for its beaches, and Clearwater Beach is one of the most famous in the state.

From here, you can take a boat trip out into the Gulf of Mexico to search for native bottlenose dolphins.

The town is also popular with national celebrities and there are many tours that will help you spot famous houses.

The beach itself is well known for white sands and clear waters; it has been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world for more than 20 years in a row.

You can stick around for sunset to see one of the most famous views in the US from Pier 60.

3. Saint Petersburg

St Petersburg, FloridaSource: ESB Professional / shutterstock
St Petersburg, Florida

Saint Petersburg is a quieter city just south of Tampa.

The recently reopened pier has your typical seaside attractions and great views over the Gulf of Mexico.

The town is a creative hub and has a monthly art walk, where you can discover local arts and crafts.

There is also the Salvador Dali museum, which contains the largest collection of Dali works in the country.

You can also catch a typical American baseball game with the Tampa Bay Rays who play in the city.

If you are interested in the multicultural heart of the city, the city center itself is packed with a variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants from all across the world.

4. Walt Disney World

Walt Disney WorldSource: Andrew Barker / shutterstock
Walt Disney World

The most famous attraction in the state is within reasonable traveling distance from Sarasota.

If you are going for a day trip, we recommend you choose one park – Magic Kingdom for traditional Disney fun, EPCOT if you are interested in science and culture, Animal Kingdom for a combination between rides and a safari, or Hollywood Studios to experience movie-themed attractions.

If you give yourself enough time, both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios can be covered in a single day as they are connected by a short ferry ride.

The parks themselves are full of restaurants, shops and shows alongside the rides, so you can easily spend the entire day in the park.

5. Clermont

Citrus Tower, Clermont, FloridaSource: jared422_80 / Flickr
Citrus Tower, Clermont, Florida

Though not as popular now, Clermont was once one of the most popular towns for tourists in Florida.

Before the construction of Walt Disney World, the Citrus Tower was the most popular attraction in the central Florida region.

If you take a ride to the top, you can get great views over Orlando, Walt Disney World, and the many lakes in the area.

If you are interested in wine, you can also visit the Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards whilst you are in town.

Here, you can experience a wine tasting and get a tour of the vineyard.

6. Daytona Beach

Daytona BeachSource: Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach is the most well-known beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

The 23-mile beach is lined with white sand and remains very popular with both domestic and international tourists.

It is also regarded as the capital of racing, with NASCAR based here if you are interested in catching a race.

The town has seen a lot of development over the past few years and is now packed with attractions such as museums, a boardwalk, and golf courses.

You can even go horseback riding along the beach.

This is a fantastic option if you are visiting Florida as a family.

7. Miami

MiamiSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

The largest city in Florida – and one of the most well-known across the country – is packed with attractions and could easily fill up an entire day.

The Miami Beach Boardwalk stretches along the entirety of Miami beach and is possibly the most well-known spot in the city.

The beach itself is situated next to a coral reef, so is a great spot for snorkeling.

If you are looking for shopping opportunities, Aventura Mall has a wide variety of American chains and smaller local shops.

You can also find cool boutiques across the city and a wide array of restaurants influenced heavily by Cuban culture.

8. Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National ParkSource: liquid studios / shutterstock
Biscayne National Park

Natural history lovers will get a lot out of a visit to Biscayne National Park.

It features four different ecosystems in one large national park.

Your first stop should be the Dante Fascell Visitor Centre, where you can learn more about the park, the animals that live in the area, and the artists who were inspired by the natural beauty of the area.

The most famous island is Boca Chita Key, which is full of tourist-friendly amenities and great hiking trails.

You can also take the maritime heritage trail to learn more about the shipwrecks along the coast of the park.

9. Boca Raton

Boca RatonSource: FloridaStock / shutterstock
Boca Raton

Boca Raton is a popular town in the south-east of the state.

There are some great concert venues in the town – including two amphitheaters – so it is worth checking out local guides before planning your trip.

If you have kids with you, there are two free child-centric museums in the city to keep them entertained.

You can also visit some of the nature centers to learn more about native Floridian wildlife.

The town contains three acclaimed independent cinemas.

The art museum is free for kids and free to adults on the first Sunday of every month.

10. Cabbage Key

Cabbage KeySource: Howard Layne / shutterstock
Cabbage Key

A short trip south to Fort Myers will allow you to take the ferry to Cabbage Key.

This is far less touristy than other beach areas in the state, so is a wonderful option if you want to experience something a little more secluded.

The island is entirely privately owned, however, day trips are allowed.

You can visit the Cabbage Key to sample some Floridian cuisine – including seafood and key lime pie.

The inn is also decorated in dollar bills signed by previous visitors – including a bill signed by John F. Kennedy.

All of the buildings on the island are in the Old Florida style, so this is a great place to check out that kind of architecture.

11. Cape Canaveral

Cape CanaveralSource: Zhukova Valentyna / shutterstock
Cape Canaveral

Cape Canaveral is well known for the Kennedy Space Center.

Here, you can see the history of space exploration in the United States, and learn more about the modern work of NASA. Entry tickets include bus rides around former launch sites, entrance to the museums in the site and movies about space exploration.

The center does close on launch dates, but this gives you the opportunity to find a good spot nearby to watch a rocket take off.

The town itself also has some interesting museums and casino cruises.

The beach is a popular spot for fishermen, so bring your rod with you if you are interested in catching some dinner.

12. Everglades National Park

Everglades National ParkSource: Andy Lidstone / shutterstock
Everglades National Park

This unique ecosystem can be found at the southern end of Florida.

The main gateway to the national park is Everglades City.

Here you can check out the Gulf Coast Visitor Center and gain access to the system of over 10,000 islands.

The area is mostly only accessible by boat.

Kayakers will enjoy the 99-mile-long trail through the island system.

The southern tip of the park in Flamingo is also a great entry point for boat rides and spotting some American alligators.

For peace of mind, you can take a ranger-led tour, but, despite the alligators, it is quite safe if you are visiting by boat.

13. Universal Studios

Universal StudiosSource: Kamira / shutterstock
Universal Studios

The second most popular of Florida’s theme park complexes, Universal Studios is entirely themed around American movies and there are plenty of rides based on some of the most well-known films released from the studio.

The two parks are Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

You can also check out Universal CityWalk, which does not require an entry fee and has some great shopping and dining opportunities.

Islands of Adventure is more geared towards children than the main park, so is the best option if you are visiting as a family.

You can also try out mini golf or watch The Blue Man Group in CityWalk.

14. Orlando

Downtown OrlandoSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Downtown Orlando

Most visitors to central Florida are there for the theme parks, but the city of Orlando itself has some interesting spots for tourists.

The city has a very strong multicultural feel, particularly from the Vietnamese, Brazilian and Indian communities.

International Drive is the main entertainment strip in the city, with various restaurants, shows, and combinations of the two.

The area is also popular with shoppers, with budget shoppers heading to Premium Outlets for cheap designer goods, and more upmarket shopping available at the Mall at Millenia.

The city is also full of botanical gardens and arboretums.

15. Busch Gardens

Busch GardensSource: Peter Etchells / shutterstock
Busch Gardens

Rarely the main theme park on people’s minds when they visit Florida, Busch Gardens is still well worth a visit and is the closest park to Sarasota – being located within the Tampa Bay area.

It is an African-themed park that combines rides with zoo attractions and is great for animal lovers and families who wish to remain in the Gulf Coast area.

There are various shows throughout the theme park, from birds to ice dancing, and a good variety of restaurants across the complex.

It also contains Montu, which, at the time of its construction, was the tallest roller coaster in the world, though this record has now been overtaken by their sister park in Virginia.

15 Best Day Trips from Sarasota:

  • Ybor City
  • Clearwater Beach
  • Saint Petersburg
  • Walt Disney World
  • Clermont
  • Daytona Beach
  • Miami
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Boca Raton
  • Cabbage Key
  • Cape Canaveral
  • Everglades National Park
  • Universal Studios
  • Orlando
  • Busch Gardens