Tampa is located about halfway down Florida’s west coast and positioned on Tampa Bay. A vibrant city with a subtropical climate, and easy access to nearby beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, make Tampa an ever-increasing popular destination spot.
Tampa offers many top attractions, Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, and the Museum of Art. The city is known for its burgeoning and creative culinary scene, and Heights Public Market is a great place to start exploring Tampa’s exploding eclectic eateries.
Historic neighborhoods are a testament to its colorful and lively history; Ybor City and Hyde Park Village are intriguing enclaves. With so much to explore in Tampa, you may need to extend your stay to take in all the excitement right at your fingertips.
And when you are ready to see what’s beyond Tampa city limits, Florida parks, voted numerous times as “the best in the nation,” are well worth your time in the Sunshine State. Many are located on the water and offer a variety of excellent outdoor Florida experiences.
Map of State Parks Near Tampa FL
Here is a map of the Florida state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Tampa
Here are each of those state parks with their distance from Tampa and features that make them worth a visit.
1. Egmont Key State Park
Location: St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Egmont Key, a remote and sequestered island near the mouth of Tampa Bay, houses a lighthouse built in 1895 and is an active shorebird and turtle refuge. The island is excellent for walks, picnicking, shelling, fishing, snorkeling, and wildlife observation. Getting here is a 48-minute drive south from Tampa is 48, and the only way onto the island is by boat. The Egmont Key Ferry is located in nearby Fort De Soto Park.
The island was once the home to Fort Dade, dating back to the Spanish-American war. You can explore the remnants of the fort and walk along original brick sidewalks. Half of Egmont Key is closed off as a bird and turtle sanctuary; it’s common to see Gopher tortoises and Florida box turtles on land and manatee and dolphins in the crystal-clear blue-green waters.
Helpful tips: You can visit Egmont Key on your own boat; however, there is no public dock, so be prepared to anchor. The park has no visitor facilities, so bring water, food, and any other items you’ll need for the day. No pets are allowed on the island because it’s a protected wildlife refuge.
2. Honeymoon Island State Park
Location: 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698
Honeymoon Island State Park is a barrier island park just under an hour west of Tampa. With four miles of soft white sandy beaches and ample parking, a visit to Honeymoon is a wonderful way to feel the warm breezes off the Gulf of Mexico, swim in the tepid waters, get a good dose of vitamin D, and watch a glorious sunset.
There is hiking, biking, kayak rental, and picnicking. You can surf here, the best spot is on the island’s north end near bathhouse #3, and there’s a pet beach on the south end. Osprey Trail provides a hike (2.5 miles) through an original “South Florida virgin slash pine stand.”
Interesting fact: In the 1930s, the owner of the island was dining with a Life magazine editor, and he noted that “the island would make a great place for a honeymoon.” The editor used the reference in a story (and a contest for honeymooners) that ran in the magazine, and the rest is history.
3. Ybor City Museum State Park
Location: 1818 E 9th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605
Don Vicente Martinez Ybor built Ybor City as the “Cigar Capital of the World” in the late 1800s. Hand-rolled cigars made with tobacco from Cuba were why Ybor flourished until the 1930s. The Great Depression and the automatization of the cigar rolling process brought about the end of the hand-made cigar industry. Ybor City is located just northeast of downtown Tampa.
The Ybor City Museum City State Park celebrates the history of this distinct neighborhood within Tampa. The museum is located in the former Ferlita Bakery. It offers a self-guided tour of the business and production of cigar-making and the development of this unique and vibrant neighborhood.
There is an attached, accompanying “Mediterranean-style garden.” This beautifully appointed outdoor space is a lovely place to relax before continuing your exploration of Ybor.
Interesting facts: During the short and intense time frame that cigars were hand-rolled in Ybor city, thousands of immigrants arrived here to work in the industry, primarily from Cuba, Spain, Italy. Here’s more history on the growth of Ybor city during its early days.
4. Caladesi Island State Park
Location: 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698
Caladesi Island was initially attached to neighboring Honeymoon Island State Park until 1921, when a hurricane passed through the area and separated it from Honeymoon. You can kayak over here or take a ferry from Honeymoon; there’s Cafe Caladesi and facilities once you are here.
The island has three miles of pristine white sand beaches, a kayak trail under the shade of mangroves, and a nature trail to the Scharrer Homestead, established in the late 1800s by Henry Scharr. Henry loved his island life and served as its unofficial ambassador for many years.
Interesting fact: Myrtle Scharrer, daughter of homesteaders Henry and Kate, was born in February 1895; she rowed herself (two miles each way) from the island to attend school on the mainland and hid her oars so they wouldn’t be missing when she was ready to row home. Myrtle wrote a book about her unique experiences entitled “Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise: The Story of Caladesi Island.”
5. Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
Location: I-275, St. Petersburg, FL 33711
If you are looking for a unique fishing spot close to Tampa, the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, a half-hour away, is open 24/7. The pier spans Tampa Bay and those that fish here enjoy being able to pull up, park, and start to fish day or night.
The Skyway Pier is the old bridge that was damaged in 1980. There is ample lighting for night fishing, which helps anglers set up their gear, and the light attracts plankton, which attracts baitfish and the rest of the food chain.
Some of the fish you can catch here are grouper, tarpon, and pompano.
There are entrances at the north and south ends of the bridge and a bait shop with fishing supplies, snacks, beverages, and Florida fishing rules and regulations.
Interesting facts: Curious about what happened to the original Skyway Bridge? It was hit and sustained unrepairable damage in 1980 by the MV Summit Venture during an intense and sudden squall. It was replaced with a cable-stayed bridge of the same name in 1987.