Tarpon Springs - Orlando / Florida Guide
Florida Guide > Other Florida
If you want a day away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando head for Tarpon Springs which is located in west-central Florida just north of Clearwater on the Gulf Of Mexico. You can either go for a day or have a more leisurely trip with an overnight stay.
This is a unique city in a beautiful setting. The community first settled here in 1882 and it became a city in 1887. The name Tarpon comes from a fish that is plentiful around the coast.
Many Greek immigrants came here in the early 1900s to continue their traditional trade of sponge diving and you will see that they brought their Mediterranean heritage with them. The feast of Epiphany on January 6th, the largest such celebration in the U.S., attracts visitors from all over the country.
Tarpon Springs is known as "the sponge capital of the world". The sponge industry of Tarpon Springs used to be very prosperous, bringing in millions of dollars of sponges yearly. Unfortunately in the 1940s, the sea sponge beds were contaminated and destroyed by bacteria and this caused a serious decline in the industry, which was not revived until the 1980s when healthy sea sponges were found. Now once more Tarpon Springs is a leader in the world's natural sponge market. Sponges are harvested here and go through all the processes finishing with weekly auctions on the Docks for the wholesalers.
The Sponge Docks offers something for all your party. For those who want to browse through the shops there are over 100 of these. When the sponge industry first started people began to come to the Docks to see the sponges. Shops soon opened so that the tourists could buy sponges and other souvenirs and some of these shops still remain owned by the same families that started them.
There are several water cruises including the Sightseeing cruise down the river. You will also find Lunch or Dinner cruises or, if you are staying overnight, you could go on a 5 hour Casino cruise. Friends of ours did the Casino Cruise and had a great time, I suspect however that they won!
Whilst we were there my Father opted to go deep-sea fishing whilst we visited the aquarium and then toured the Sponge Museum where we saw a movie about the sponge industry.
If you decide to eat at the docks there are also many restaurants to choose from.
We took a picnic with us and ate it in the picnic area at Sunset Beach, which is situated at the end of the Gulf Road. Here you will find picnic tables, bbq as well as rest rooms.
A mile south of the Sponge Docks is downtown Tarpon Springs which has a mixture of antique shops, art galleries, specialty shops, and restaurants. There was a good variety of choice of food here and the authentic Greek food looked great. Our friends who opted for seafood said it was amongst the best they had eaten. For smaller appetites there were deli sandwiches as well as afternoon tea.
Although we did not have time to visit them there were several churches as well as the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. As our time ran out we have decided to return another day, probably without the younger children, to see these and other more cultural buildings that we had missed out.
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