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The Greek Sponge Diving Town of Tarpon Springs
One interesting day out we had was to Tarpon Springs which is located on the coast about 20 miles north of Tampa. It is a Greek sponge diving town and really does have a Mediterranean flavour about it.
Head for the Sponge Docks, park in any of the car parks (they all charge the same fee) and walk down this main street, alongside the docks. The docks themselves are interesting to see. There is a small aquarium and a diving museum (Spongeorama) and several boat trips available to take you either along the river or to the Gulf of Mexico to see the sponge diving areas.
The street is lined with fascinating little shops well worth a browse and many restaurants.
The architecture is Greek; very different to anywhere else we visited. After exploring the sponge docks walk downtown to the Historic Centre. The architecture here is old American and again you need to walk around the area and explore the side streets. The wooden buildings are attractive, all a little bit different. We found an English Tea Rooms (called the Oxford Tea Rooms) which had been started by an English lady (so was indeed very English) and where we indulged in a delicious cream tea.
The former railway station has been tastefully converted into a lounge restaurant; the former rail lines have been paved over, with the raised platform still running along in the centre.
You can walk back this way to the Sponge Docks and your car. Tarpon Springs is not a place to rush around – it is a town to amble round and enjoy.
The route we chose took us about 2 hours.
We travelled north to Clermont, then west on Route A50 via Groveland to join the I75 south just west of Ridge Manor. Leave the freeway after 20 miles at Junction 279 and take Route 54 west to Denham. Turn south on Route 597 towards Tampa for approx 3 miles and then take a right turn west on a minor road Lutz-Lake Fern Road to Lake Fern. At Lake Fern continue west on SR 582 which brings you into the centre of Downtown Tarpon Springs.
This may sound a complicated route once you leave the freeway but it is actually fairly direct and avoids large towns and traffic jams. A word of warning: avoid approaching Tarpon Springs from the north on Route 19 – it is one long traffic jam!
If you prefer the highways, then Tarpon Springs can be easily reached from Tampa.
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