While visiting Dunedin, Florida, I decided to see go somewhere new. I asked what people thought about Tarpon Springs and was given pretty much the same response, “nothing much, but they have some Greek stuff”, case closed. From the people I asked, Tarpon Springs did not sound one bit interesting and the internet did not do it any justice, nor has anyone I know personally ever been to there. Boy, are they all missing out! As it turns out, Tarpon Springs has the highest population of Greek-Americans than any other US city. I had a blast visiting this awesome seaside jewel.
A friend, my daughter, and I drove to the Sponge Docks District of Tarpon Springs and started our afternoon by having a fabulous lunch at Hellas Greek Restaurant & Bakery. While there are many choices for traditional Greek cuisine, all online reviews pointed to Hellas as the #1 choice and after dining there, I completely agree. Not only was the food delicious, but the service impeccable, and a huge bakery located next door await you to send you off with plenty of Greek delicacies such as Baklava and Flogeres (pronounced Flo-ye-res). This is one destination you will definitely want to eat your way through.
The brick waterfront streets in Tarpon Springs are reminiscent of the seaside villages in Greece and are filled with gift and souvenir shops as well as coffee shops, a wine shop, museum exhibits, and an aquarium. You might get lucky enough to see the fisherman working the Sponge Docks. Watching the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico is popular here and there are boating opportunities as well. Live music was heard coming out of some of the shopping enclaves.
The Greek immigrants arrived in the city around 1890 to work the sponge industry. Tarpon Springs is famous for sponges, known as the “sponge capital of the world”. It is incomprehensible that a whole community can be built around the natural sponge market, but trust me, it can.
Leaving the Sponge Docks district, the Spring Bayou is another lovely place to walk, jog, or have a picnic. The homes surrounding the lake are unique plus make for a nice drive-by visit. Another point of interest is the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral; a stately, historical offering.
My thoughts about Tarpon Springs are that the people who live here are very lucky. The town has a mystical feel, one that pulls you in and makes you feel right at home; patrons and workers at the restaurant wished us Happy New Years, tourists stopped us on the streets to strike up conversation, and a few storekeepers offered us pleasantries. I simply adored everything I saw in this charming town. I am sure you would, too.
Trivia: In 2007 and 2008, Tarpon Springs established Sister City relationships with Greek islands Symi, Cyprus, Halki, and Kalymnos.
Bonus: Located right outside Tarpon Springs is the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, Inc., where for a $10 admission fee you can see great apes, small primates, birds, and reptiles that have found a home here due to different circumstances. Many of them are available for adoption.
Tarpon Springs Photo Gallery:
Check out our other posts in the surrounding areas:
Salvador Dali Museum