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Tarpon Springs - Sponge Docks and Restaurants

Updated on July 27, 2013
Tarpon Springs
Tarpon Springs | Source

Tarpon Springs

On our recent visit to Port Richey, Florida, we set aside a day to visit Tarpon Springs. It was quick drive from our vacation house, and I had always wanted to visit the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. Unfortunately, I think we chose the hottest day of the year for our adventure, so we didn’t see everything we wanted to see, but it was still a great side trip. Tarpon Springs ,FL is only about 30 miles north of Tampa, but it has a completely different personality. It’s a quaint, friendly village, where no one ever seems to get in a hurry. The Greek influence is readily noticeable, and you can even hear Greek being spoken on the streets. Tarpon Springs was established in 1887, mostly by Greek immigrants. High quality natural sponges grew off the coast of the city, and Greek sponge divers were hired to harvest them. Most of the sponge divers came from the Greek islands of Symi, Halki, and Kalymnos. Today, about 12% of the population of Tarpon Springs is Greek.

Tarpon Springs, FL

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Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks:

Tarpon Springs Restaurants:

Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

The Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks have had their ups and downs over the years. When a red tide killed most of the sponges off the coast of Tarpon Springs in the late 1940s, the sponge divers turned to other lines of work. Most became shrimpers and fishermen. When the city fathers decided to turn most of the sponge warehouses into tourist attractions, some of the Greeks opened shops and restaurants in the area, and many of those same businesses are still in operation today.

Fortunately for the sponge fishermen, the sponge industry enjoyed a rebound in the last few years. Sponges are still harvested near the city, and the Tarpon Springs sponge docks area is a popular tourist attraction. The narrow streets are lined with museums, galleries, gift shops, boutiques, bakeries, coffee shops, taverns, and specialty stores. Some of the items offered for sale include candles, gourmet foods and spices, seashells, flags, nautical décor, jewelry, cosmetics, apparel, goats’ milk soaps, and lots of sponges.

Dodecanese Avenue, the main thoroughfare in the Tarpon Springs sponge docks area, runs beside the Anclote River. Next to the river are boardwalks where visitors can view the sponge boats. There are benches all along the way for sitting and enjoying the atmosphere, and if you’re lucky, you might see a manatee or two.

You can book passage on a sponge boat or on a sightseeing cruise to learn more about the area. And if you’re into saltwater fishing, several guides will take you out deep-sea fishing. Maybe you’ll land a giant fish like the goliath grouper housed at the Tarpon Springs Aquarium! This is a great place for kids and adults to take a break from shopping and sightseeing, and it’s conveniently located near the end of the sponge docks.

The Tarpon Springs waterfront.
The Tarpon Springs waterfront. | Source
You might just see a friendly manatee!
You might just see a friendly manatee! | Source
One of the Tarpon Springs sponge boats.
One of the Tarpon Springs sponge boats. | Source
The main street through the sponge docks includes numerous Tarpon Springs restaurants. .
The main street through the sponge docks includes numerous Tarpon Springs restaurants. . | Source

Tarpon Springs Restaurants

Tarpon Springs is a “walking town.” In other words, you can park your car in a central location and see most of the attractions on foot. In the sweltering heat of summer, however, you’ll want to duck into an air-conditioned shop or store to cool off a bit. Of course, you’ll also want to enjoy a meal at one of the Tarpon Springs Restaurants.

There’s no shortage of Greek restaurants in Tarpon Springs. You’ll find many eateries scattered throughout the area that serve authentic Greek cuisine. We had lunch at one of these restaurants, Mykonos, and we really enjoyed talking with the Greek owners. I felt like I was having lunch at my grandmother’s table instead of in a stranger’s restaurant. Mykonos is located right on Dodecanese Boulevard, the “main drag,” so it’s easy to find.

Other Tarpon Springs restaurants located on Dodecanese include Plaka Restaurant, Hellas Restaurant, Dimitri’s on the Water, Parthenonas, Yianni’s Café and Grill, Taste of Greece, Café Greko, and Mama’s Greek Cuisine. Other restaurants in Tarpon springs that serve Greek food include Toula’s Trailside Café, Mr. Souvlaki, Costas Restaurant, Zorbas Mezedes and Bistro, and Manolo’s Mediterranean Bistro.

If you’re not a fan of Greek food, don’t worry – there are plenty of restaurants in Tarpon Springs that serve other types of food, including fresh seafood, deli sandwiches, fresh bakery items, ice creams, burgers, hot dogs, coffee drinks, steaks, Thai food, Jamaican, Cuban, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, and American cuisine. A few you might want to check out are Cody’s Roadhouse, Captain Jack’s Waterfront Grill, Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill, Tarpon Tavern, Ballyhoo Grill, Tarpon Springs Yacht Club, and Currents. For a fun, unusual, weird, and wonderful dining experience, check out Zante Café Neo on Safford Avenue!

Helpful tip: Get a free brochure from one of the Tarpon Springs merchants. It includes a handy map of the sponge docks area, along with great coupons for free stuff and for discounts to use in stores and restaurants. It’s a handy tool when you’re visiting Tarpon Springs!


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    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      We really enjoyed Tarpon Springs, Nancy!

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 7 years ago from Georgia

      It looks and sounds like a very interesting place to visit.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Eth, Tarpon Springs has an interesting history!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Sounds an interesting place especially with the Greek links

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Howdy! We saw manatees in Port Richey, but not in Tarpon Springs.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      hubby and I swung through there once on way to see his sister in palm harbor but we went for the manatees (cause of my begging lol) wonderful read I was walking those hot streets with you habee!!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Garnet, FL is certainly a beautiful state - almost as nice as GA! lol

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Laurel, I'm glad you've had a chance to see Tarpon Springs. Thanks for reading!

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Florida has many wonderful places; I lived a year in Orlando and remember Cocoa Beach and the nearby Croc farms, etc./nice hub!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, Vocal!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Well, Buckie, we don't have some of the stuff you guys have, either! But Tarpon Springs really is a neat place.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You definitely should visit Tarpon Springs, Coolmon!

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      MEMORIES! Ah, Holle-I used to go to Tarpon Springs when I lived in Birmingham. It is a marvelous place and this is a marvelous hub!!!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I want to take a trip to sponge dock. Your hub is so full of great information and the beautiful photos are so inviting. Thanks, so much. Voted up, of course. :-)

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      I had no idea there was so much stuff that we do not have on the Pacific side - well, I did know but I just don't know beans about it all! Thanks for sharing this and how interesting!

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      I have family in that area. Looks like a fun place to visit with them next time I am in the area. Good article

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Glad you liked it, HH!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, chris!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Silver. I wish we'd taken more pics, but it was soooo blasted hot outside!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Wendy, Tarpon Springs was a fun trip! Thanks!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Bpop, me thinks thou needest a break!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Bekah, I wish I'd known that before we went - sounds great!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hope you liked it, De Greek!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your comprehensive hub and wonderful pictures.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      wow.. you got some cool pics, and this is a great hub!

    • profile image

      SilverGenes 7 years ago

      Well now, I learned a lot reading this! I had no idea what you meant by sponge dock when I first clicked on your article. That's very interesting! And when you add the narrow streets, little shops and all the Greek restaurants - I agree with breakfastpop. I'm ready to go! The photos really add to it :)

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 7 years ago from Maryland

      It looks like a fun place to visit.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      You have a way of writing that makes me want to pack my bags and head out.

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      oh my, habee, you are writing real close to home for me! it was very hot here last week, when you were here, hotter than usual. we're usually near water or inside until late afternoon.

      a nice article about the sponge docks. right in front of that boat in your last pic is the best place for gyros. The owner has a small take-out place where you eat outside. We know him by name because we go there so often. He calls my son Yanni! They are the best, the food is so fresh and authentic Greek. ymmm. DeGreek is too funny!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      That's better :-)))


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