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Tarpon Springs (6) - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

Tarpon Springs is a small town on the Gulf Coast about half an hour's drive north of Clearwater.

If you fancy a different day out - to get away from the razzmatazz of the Disney Parks - what better than a ride out to the Gulf Coast and Tarpon Springs.

Tarpon Springs is famous for its sponges, harvested from the Gulf of Mexico coastline and brought ashore in small boats!

It was in the early 1900s that a few Greek divers arrived in the area, having heard of the sponges in the sea around Tarpon. They were amazed when they began diving and found the huge wealth of sponges in the water there. The news spread quickly back to their homeland and literally hundreds of men from the Greek Islands arrived to use their expertise in harvesting the sponges.

Today you can still see the boats, laden with their cargo of sponges, returning to the harbour.

The area is still predominately Greek, descendents of those origianl sponge divers, and there is a main shopping area along by the harbour with many Greek restaurants and shops. It still has very much a Mediterranean feel about the place.

Of course you just have to treat yourself to a nice sponge! We were advised to buy a 'wool sponge' which apparently will last for many years!

There are also a number of other shops selling a variety of goods and souvenirs. We spent ages just browsing around.

We decided to make our trip to Tarpon Springs a whole day out. Although the most direct route from the Orlando area is via the Interstate 4, we decided to take the scenic route - up to Clermont and then head west on the Highway 50. What an interesting drive! We passed through several small towns - real unspoilt American country living - and not a tourist in sight! We also passed several ranches. The journey to Tarpon was about 2 hours - but a lot less than that if you take the direct route.

Having spent a few hours in Tarpon Springs we drove south along the coast road to Clearwater - another favourite of ours! By now it was late in the afternoon - but plenty of time to walk along the beautiful soft white sand and enjoy an ice-cream. We decided to wait for the stalls and street entertainers that set up every day on and around the pier at sunset. How lovely to watch the various artists at work and browse the many pieces of hand made jewellery for sale.

Altogether a perfect and interesting day out!

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