On a recent vacation, we decided to take a little Florida roadtrip and drive from Orlando to Tampa and even on to St. Petersburg! It was the perfect commute halfway through our week and the perfect way to have a theme park vacation combined with a little white sand beaches on the Gulf Shore!
A huge thank you to Mazda USA for partnering with us on this trip by allowing us to use a 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD. All opinions are 100% my own.
When we first decided to head down to Universal Studios, I knew I wanted to also get some beach time in. We had just been to Disney World not too long before, and half a week spent at a beach sounded much more appealing to me than a full week of theme parks.
So that left the question of what beaches are near Disney World? The obvious answer is beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side. But I’ve heard over and over again how gorgeous the Gulf Shore white sand beaches are, and I had my heart set on that.
We have friends who have made the roadtrip from Orlando to Clearwater numerous times, so I knew it was doable. Which is actually saying a lot coming from me since I’m not much of a driver! In the end, we decided on St. Pete beach.
And since my vacation planning normally veers off-course, I decided this meant we were also spending our first night in Tampa just so I could say I’ve been there and poke around the city a bit.
Commute from Orlando to Tampa
Once the decisions were made, I started regretting everything. Our flight into Orlando didn’t land until about 9pm, and I was worried it would just be too late to make the commute to Tampa and we’d all end up grumpy.
We grabbed the Mazda CX-5 from parking, and that’s pretty much where our adrenaline kicked in. It looked pretty compact from the outside, but the trunk held all 4 of our suitcases easily. We didn’t even have to play any games of Tetris or anything to get them to fit!
After a long day of traveling, we were thrilled to see so many USB ports to get our phones charging again. We quickly plugged the address of our first hotel in Tampa into the car’s navigation system and we were on our way in minutes.
Since we had never really traveled through Florida much before, we weren’t sure what to expect on this drive. But there was so much to see and keep us entertained during the drive that we never really got bored. It took about 1 hour 45 minutes to get from the Orlando International Airport to our hotel in Tampa, and it went super quickly!
Like so fast that when my husband pulled into the hotel, I wasn’t even prepared!
Tampa to St. Petersburg
The next morning gave us a chance to explore Tampa a bit before heading onto our next stop.
Ummm, we should have planned more time for Tampa! The art scene, the food scene, the water views!
It was all amazing! In fact, as we were leaving to head from Tampa to St. Petersburg, we stopped about 4 more times because we kept seeing things we wanted to check out!
I was so glad we had the Mazda CX-5 with us as opposed to just using Uber or Lyft so that we could make all of these impromptu stops! And, of course, the kids were glad we had it because what’s a Florida road trip without the sunroof down and the awesome stereo blasting??
Once we arrived in St. Pete Beach, we spent most of our time on the beach at our resort. It was why we did this whole Gulf Shore trip, after all!
But I was also getting some amazing suggestions from readers about the food scene in St. Petersburg and St. Pete.
Again, can’t really explain how glad we were to have our own car so we could check some of these places out! I mean… a restaurant called the Taco Bus?? That’s pretty much all I need to hear (try the street corn there! I’m still dreaming about it!).
Tampa to Orlando
After a much too quick 4 days, it was back in the Mazda so we could head back to Orlando and the 2nd half of our week at Universal Studios!
I know, what a shame, right??
But it got us back to Orlando and Universal Studios Resorts safely and in style!
A vacation well-spent and safely traveled is always welcome in my book!