I just love the historic riverfront town of Tarpon Springs! It’s only 20 minutes north of Clearwater and provides a local look into Greek culture. After the discovery of natural sponge beds in the early 1900s, Greek sponge divers arrived in Tarpon Springs to grow the now-famous sponge industry.
A great place to start your visit is at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum where you’ll get a primer on the city’s history and ecology. You’ll learn about the area’s Greek heritage, from wedding traditions to sponge-diving. It also has an Ecology Wing with exhibits about Tarpon Springs’ waterways, wildlife and arbors. The museum sits inside Craig Park, overlooking Spring Bayou.
The main attraction of Tarpon Springs is the Sponge Docks, which are set along the Anclote River. Dodecanese Boulevard, which follows the riverfront, is lined with gift shops that carry all manner of souvenirs from natural sponges to olive oil soap. We took the Spongeorama Dolphin and Beach Cruise from the river to Anclote Key Preserve State Park, a 403-acre park accessible only by private boat or ferry. We saw dolphins on our way to the pristine beach for some shelling. The island is anchored by a picturesque 1887 lighthouse that stands as a sentinel on its southern end.
Of course my favorite part of travel is the food, and Tarpon Springs does not disappoint! There are several authentic Greek restaurants, including Mama’s Greek Cuisine, Hellas and Mykonos. I love the Greek salads and always save room for a piece of baklava (a honey-infused pastry).
After enjoying our meal, we headed south of Dodecanese to stroll through the Tarpon Springs Historic District with dozens of beautiful old-Florida buildings and shop in the local arts & antiques shops. By the time we finished this, we were too tired for a visit to the Tarpon Springs Aquarium, but I’ve heard it’s a great place for a family activity. You can pet the baby sharks and stingrays and learn about the sea life of the nearby Gulf of Mexico.