Got some extra time to explore beyond Circus City? Located in Southwest Florida, the area surrounding Sarasota is renowned for its beautiful beaches, mangroves, and bountiful parks. Enchant your holiday by carving time out in your itinerary for the best day trips from Sarasota, Florida.
During one of your Sarasota side trips, you could visit the world-renowned Everglades National Park, bathe in the crystal waters of Clearwater Beach, or have the perfect fun family outing to Walt Disney World.
Ready to cure your curiosity and enjoy the splendor beyond the Sarasota city limits? Craft the perfect Southwest Florida vacation plan with this guide to the top-rated Sarasota day trips.
Looking for more ideas? Check out all our other day trip guides along with our Florida Travel Guide for more recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do!
Top-rated Sarasota side trips
If you’re a beach-lover, add Fort Myers to your Southwest Florida itinerary. White-sand beaches, tranquil emerald waters, and plenty of activities are available within a two-hour drive south of Sarasota.
Only got a day in Fort Myers? Beeline for Fort Myers Beach. Located on Estero Island, the popular beach town is a fantastic destination for Florida beach bums.
Around Fort Myers Beach, you can rent a kayak or set to the skies with parasailing. Try fishing from the pier or take some time out lazing on a tranquil beach.
Not a beach lover? Focus your attention on Downtown Fort Myers. One of the city’s top attractions is the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, located on the Caloosahatchee River, the estate offers visitors a peek into the lives of two of America’s most influential people. Historical buildings and gardens stretch over 20 acres in this National Register Historic Site.
If the history behind these engineering giants doesn’t intrigue you, the estate’s breathtaking gardens will. The estate’s botanical gardens comprise 400 species of plants from six continents. See something you like? Go to the garden shop and pick the plant you desire.
Everglades National Park
Want to immerse yourself in nature and surround yourself with indigenous fauna and flora? Head over to the majestic Everglades National Park. This world-renowned park in South Florida is the largest subtropical wetland ecosystem in North America. It’s one of the best places in the USA to spot animal and bird species in their natural habitat.
The Everglades National Park is the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators share a habitat. If these fascinating reptiles don’t pique your interest, the 360 different bird species and 300 bird species should. On a day trip to the Everglades, you could spot panthers, manatees, leatherback turtles, pythons, and other reptile species in their natural habitat.
Everglades City is the ideal gateway to the Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands. The town offers a wide variety of activities to adventurous travelers.
From Everglades City, you can kayak to the breathtaking Ten Thousand Islands, try your hand at fishing, or take a private charter flight over the Everglades.
Looking for a fun-filled family day trip outside of Sarasota? Clearwater Beach is the ideal destination for spending the entire day in the sun without handing over a second to boredom. Powder white sandy beaches and transparent turquoise waters make the popular barrier island the perfect backdrop for countless fun activities for the entire family.
Within an hour and a half drive from Sarasota, you’ll find Clearwater Beach, one of the USA’s most spectacular beaches. Families, couples, and singles flock to the beach town throughout the year to enjoy its temperate climate, breathtaking scenery, and a never-ending list of activities.
Cycle or rollerblade along the developed promenade, paddleboard the tranquil Gulf waters, or try your hand at fishing off the famous Pier 60. The kids will have endless stories to tell after a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. If you would rather they experience aquatic animals in their natural habitat, a boat ride would guarantee a close encounter with merry dolphins in the emerald waters.
After an exciting day of exploring Clearwater Beach, enjoy a stunning sunset over the Gulf of Mexico during the sunset celebration at Pier 60. Taking place every night around the sunset, the nightly festival includes street performers, magicians, and musicians, along with food & craft vendors.
Bok Tower Gardens
Looking to mix up history, culture, and nature? Take a two-hour road trip northeast to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the site is rich in history and spectacular biodiversity.
Bird watchers will love wandering around Bok Tower Gardens as it’s a refuge for over 100 bird species. Wander peacefully past the lush ferns and wetland plants while scanning the tall old trees for birds.
The Singing Tower stands 205 feet, towering over the treeline of Lake Wales. The beautiful architecture and masonry carvings deserve admiration. Built as a sanctuary for humans and animals to live in harmony, the tower radiates peaceful energy. If you’re lucky enough you may even get to hear a recital on its 60-bell carillon.
Listen to the relaxing sounds of the river at Hammock Hollow or take the kids for a stroll through the ferry garden. Find a soft spot under a tree and unwind for a while.
Walt Disney World
If you want to treat the kids to something spectacular, Walt Disney World should be on top of your list of Sarasota day trips. Famous worldwide and visited by millions annually, Walt Disney World is an entertainment resort complex in Bay Lake on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida.
Within a two-hour road trip from Sarasota, you’ll find this magical theme park. Don’t think that Walt Disney World is just for children. Opened over 50 years ago, this mammoth entertainment complex offers something for kids and adults alike.
Split between several separate theme parks, Walt Disney World offers endless fun for the whole family. In Magic Kingdom, you’ll get a chance to meet your favorite Disney characters in person while cheerful music plays in the park. At Epcot, you’ll enjoy thrilling rides, rollercoasters, lazy river cruises, shows, and live performances and feast like royalty at its international restaurants.
Not visiting Orlando with kids? Adults can also enjoy plenty more activities around Walt Disney Resort, including golfing or unwinding in a spa.
Want to get off the beaten track and explore nature at its finest? Drive for an hour south on the I-75 and visit Punta Gorda. Renowned for its sprawling parks and abundance of natural scenery, it is the perfect place to get close to nature.
Sprawling 21 acres, Punta Gorda Nature Park teems with wildlife and marshes. Hop onto its beautiful hiking trails to explore the breathtaking park. Take some food along and savor a relaxing picnic in nature at one of the park’s many picnic tables. The nature park also hosts a fishing pier where anglers can hook snook, redfish, mangrove snapper, and other fish.
To learn more about Southwest Florida’s natural beauty, visit the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center. The center offers several hiking trails and includes guided hikes by experts. At the center, you can also embark on kayaking trips. The whole family will also have the opportunity to learn more about nature through educational experiences presented by experts.
Fort De Soto Park
If you can’t get enough of beautiful beaches, head north to Fort De Soto Park. A short one-hour drive from Sarasota will get you to this magnificent island, just southwest of St. Petersburg. Fort De Soto Park is famous for its three miles of gorgeous beaches and was voted as America’s number one beach in 2009.
Enjoy the crystal clear waters splashing onto white powder sand. Active visitors can spend their day trip kayaking, roaming the hiking trails, or enjoying its many shelling opportunities. Bird watchers will be delighted to spot some of the 328 bird species that live or visit the island.
Take the family for a picnic and choose between 15 different picnic spots surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery. Stay for the entire day and see the sky painted gloriously by the setting sun from one of the stunning beaches.
The islands also have a rich history to take in. Visit the four impressive 12-inch coastal defense mortars and learn more about military history in the area. History buffs will be fascinated by the different operations carried out at the islands from the Civil War to World War II.
Silver Springs State Park
Need a break from Sarasota’s beautiful beaches? Head north for just over 150 miles and you’ll find Silver Springs State Park, home to one of the USA’s largest natural springs. Surrounded by lush green forests, the pristine, transparent water attracts hoards of visitors annually.
One of the best day trip ideas for Silver Springs State Park is to experience the crystal clear water from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat. For more active visitors, kayaking is another splendid way to explore the Silver River and its abundance of wildlife. If you prefer to admire nature from dry land, the park also offers plenty of biking and hiking opportunities.
Have a tranquil picnic on the water’s edge and watch the stunning reflection of the lush green trees in the clear water. Listen to the birds serenading while you breathe in the fresh air from the forest. It’s not uncommon to spot deer, turkey, armadillos, fox, and gopher tortoises at Silver Springs State Park. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bobcat or the elusive Florida black bear.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Looking for a Florida theme park experience out of the norm? Pencil in a visit to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Located an hour and a half north of Sarasota in Tampa, the 335-acre African-themed adventure park is one of Florida’s most popular attractions.
On your day trip to Busch Gardens, get up close to some of Africa’s most amazing animals at Edge of Africa. Guests can observe African animals such as crocodiles, meerkats, lions, spotted hyenas, hippos, vultures, and lemurs. The Serengeti Plain is a free-roaming environment for animals where visitors will see zebras, giraffes, white rhinos, eland, impala, and even ostriches.
After giving the young ones a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the majestic African animals, let them loose in the theme park. There are plenty of adrenaline-filled rides and rollercoasters at Busch Gardens to challenge the brave. SheiKra is the first dive-coaster in America and remains one of the scariest rides in Florida.
In the mood for city-hopping? Make sure to include St. Petersburg on your list of day trips from Sarasota. Nicknamed the Sunshine City, St. Petersburg, FL, offers more than just beautiful weather. Take a road trip north on the I-275 for about an hour to get to St. Pete, as it’s locally known.
St. Petersburg’s pleasant weather offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities year-round. For golfers, there are six golf courses within the city and another 42 within a 20-mile radius.
If you strike out on the golf course, exchange your clubs for a rod and try fishing from one of the fishing piers or hop onto a fishing charter. Anglers frequently catch Sheepshead, Black Drum, Flounder, and Tripletail in the area.
If it’s culture you seek, head to the Dali Museum. This architectural marvel hosts an impressive collection of Salvador Dali’s artwork. Over 2,000 of the surrealist’s artworks, spanning his entire career, are displayed at this popular art museum.
Hunger for art still not satiated? Zip over to the Morean Arts Center. The center displays various artwork from local, national, and international artists. Morean Arts Center also offers art education programs for all ages.