20 low-key springs and beaches within driving distance of Tampa Bay

For Florida natives, it's easy to become disenchanted when you go to your favorite beach or spring and have no luck finding a park spot, let alone any peace and quiet. However, off the not-so-beaten path, you'll find a lot of places within driving distance of Tampa Bay are just as beautiful—especially without the crowds. 
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Lithia Springs State Park
Estimated drive time from Tampa: 45 minutes 
With cool and clean water that flows year-round from the Alafia River, Lithia Springs (named for  its natural lithium-enriched water) is a great low-key swimming spot to escape the Florida heat. Stay for the afternoon starting at $2 per vehicle and $2 to swim or make it a trip with a campground that offers 44 sites for tents and RVs, complete with picnic shelters, grills, restrooms, showers, electrical services and other recreational amenities.
Photos via Lithia Springs State Park FL/Facebook

Lithia Springs State Park

Estimated drive time from Tampa: 45 minutes
With cool and clean water that flows year-round from the Alafia River, Lithia Springs (named for its natural lithium-enriched water) is a great low-key swimming spot to escape the Florida heat. Stay for the afternoon starting at $2 per vehicle and $2 to swim or make it a trip with a campground that offers 44 sites for tents and RVs, complete with picnic shelters, grills, restrooms, showers, electrical services and other recreational amenities.
Photos via Lithia Springs State Park FL/Facebook
 Nokomis Beach 
Estimated drive time from Tampa: 1 hours and 30 minutes 
Enjoy a day of swimming, sunbathing or fishing in southern Sarasota at Sarasota’s oldest public beach: Nokomis Beach. Often described as a hidden gem for its relatively low traffic, the beach offers public parking, a boat and canoe ramp, restrooms, picnic facilities and a renovated plaza that was built in the ‘50s.
Photos via scgov.net

Nokomis Beach

Estimated drive time from Tampa: 1 hours and 30 minutes
Enjoy a day of swimming, sunbathing or fishing in southern Sarasota at Sarasota’s oldest public beach: Nokomis Beach. Often described as a hidden gem for its relatively low traffic, the beach offers public parking, a boat and canoe ramp, restrooms, picnic facilities and a renovated plaza that was built in the ‘50s.
Photos via scgov.net
Apollo Baech Nature Preserve
Estimated drive time from Tampa: 35 minutes 
See some of the best views of Tampa Bay’s sunset at no cost at Apollo Beach Nature Preserve. The 63-acre preserve offers seven acres for nature-based recreation, two acres of beach for sunbathing and picnicking, a 37-foot wheelchair accessible observation tower and spots for shoreline fishing.
Photos via hillsboroughcounty.org

Apollo Baech Nature Preserve

Estimated drive time from Tampa: 35 minutes
See some of the best views of Tampa Bay’s sunset at no cost at Apollo Beach Nature Preserve. The 63-acre preserve offers seven acres for nature-based recreation, two acres of beach for sunbathing and picnicking, a 37-foot wheelchair accessible observation tower and spots for shoreline fishing.
Photos via hillsboroughcounty.org
 Upham Beach Park 
Estimated drive time from Tampa: 40 minutes 
Upham Beach is a considerably less crowded, more family-friendly alternative to its other nearby spots on St. Pete Beach. With plenty of public parking, restaurants, bars, lodging and live music around, Upham Beach is a great spot for your next beach trip. 
Photos via City of St. Pete Beach/Facebook

Upham Beach Park

Estimated drive time from Tampa: 40 minutes
Upham Beach is a considerably less crowded, more family-friendly alternative to its other nearby spots on St. Pete Beach. With plenty of public parking, restaurants, bars, lodging and live music around, Upham Beach is a great spot for your next beach trip.
Photos via City of St. Pete Beach/Facebook
  Don Pedro Island State Park 
Estimated drive time from Tampa: 1 hour and 30 minutes 
Described as a “simple paradise” Don Pedro Island State Park sits along a chain of barrier islands north of Boca Grande. As the park is only accessible by private boat or ferry, crowds are not as plentiful on its mile-long beach. The park also hosts a thriving habitat of mangroves which can be seen on hiking and kayak trails. Parking is $3 per vehicle and the park is open Wednesday-Sunday.  
Photos via floridastateparks.org

Don Pedro Island State Park

Estimated drive time from Tampa: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Described as a “simple paradise” Don Pedro Island State Park sits along a chain of barrier islands north of Boca Grande. As the park is only accessible by private boat or ferry, crowds are not as plentiful on its mile-long beach. The park also hosts a thriving habitat of mangroves which can be seen on hiking and kayak trails. Parking is $3 per vehicle and the park is open Wednesday-Sunday.
Photos via floridastateparks.org

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