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Florida Guide > Places to Visit

We discovered Tarpon Springs last year after some friends recommended it, We wanted to discover new places in Florida so we gave it a go and have to say we were not disappointed at all.

The main town you would think you were in Greece with all the Greek restaurants and shops was a lovely surprise.

The main area's to visit are the harbour where you can book a boat trip to Shell Island which I would highly recommend.

The main things to look out for are the fishermen selling the natural Sponges retrieved from Gulf of Mexico depths by intrepid divers in full suits which outstripped citrus products as Florida' s main export. Now, Tarpon Springs history combined with classic Florida beauty make for an offbeat, cultural getaway.

TARPON SPRINGS – is about a 1 hour and 45 minutes drive from Kissimmee and is tucked in a quieter corner of the bustling Tampa Bay metro region.

It blends the moods of Victorian-era Florida, small-town America and – most of all – the vibrant character of its Greek heritage.

Greek immigrants built Tarpon Springs' signature sponge industry, turning a remote village into what was called ' the sponge capital of the world. For a time sponge, retrieved from Gulf of Mexico depths by intrepid divers in full suits, outstripped citrus products as Florida' s main export.

They say according to census figures, more than one in 10 residents claim Greek descent, giving Tarpon Springs a higher percentage of Greek-Americans than any other American city. More than seven percent report that they speak Greek in their homes. The high school sports teams are nicknamed ' Spongers. '

We had a fab time venturing from the Anclote River' s original sponge docks up side streets, peering into small cafes or storefront meeting rooms, and perhaps enjoying a bottle of tangy retsina wine. The aromas of garlic lamb and horiatiko – baked chicken – mingle with the honeydew scents of confections such as baklava and loukoumades.

Tarpon Springs began in 1875 as a simple pioneer settlement amid thick oak and pine stands, alive with deer and wild turkey. The city' s name is said to have been coined in 1880 when Mary Ormond Boyer, standing on the banks of Spring Bayou, spied fish jumping: ' Look at the tarpon spring! '

No matter that the fish probably were mullet; residents liked the ring of the name.

The village soon attracted wealthy out-of-state visitors, including former Arizona Gov. Anson P. K. Safford, who built a mansion near the bayou in 1883. The Safford house remains as a Tarpon Springs history museum open two days a week.

The 1880s also saw the first Greek immigrants arrive, and in 1905, John Cocoris introduced diving techniques. He recruited spongers from Greece' s Dodecanese Islands, whose name resonates today: Dodecanese Boulevard in the heart of the sponge district. Working boats, sprouting a forest of masts, are lashed together at the docks. Recorded music from the bazouki, a stringed instrument, tinkles along the avenue, redolent with the gumbo-like aroma of a saltwater fishing village and the ever-present Greek cooking.

It' s one of the last remaining small-boat points of consequence in Florida, Billiris said.

Shops along Dodecanese are decorated in light blue and white, the same hues of the Greek flag, which floats alongside the Stars and Stripes in the old Sponge Exchange, now a courtyard with shops.

It seems a perfect blend of the old and the new.

When You Go. . .

Tarpon Springs: Access from U. S. 19 in Pinellas County. Turn west on County Road 582, also called Tarpon Avenue, and travel about a mile to downtown. To reach the sponge docks, turn right off CR 582 on Pinellas Avenue and after less than a mile, turn left on Dodecanese Boulevard.

Sponge Docks and Boat Tours

All along Dodecanese Boulevard so I would highly recommend one, what a great day we had.

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Page added on: 3 February 2018
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