Welcome to Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast! Just under an hour North from the famous St. Pete Beach, and a quick 30 minutes away from the super popular Clearwater lies a Pinellas county beach side town that holds a name all of it’s own. Named after the abundant amounts of fish filled waters, Tarpon Springs is stated to be the sea sponge capitol of the world along with becoming a booming tourism spot for all to adore. Dating back to the early 1900’s, the town was settled in by Greek sponge divers, which has now resulted in the town being the highest populated area of Greek Americans within the entire US. These Gulf of Mexico waterways are now lined with tremendous amounts of beautiful Greek inspired shops, eateries and historic sponge docks.
Where To Stay
When visiting any new place, I always find it fun to try and stay somewhere that’s original to the area and not as “commercialized”. This being said, staying with family, airbnb’s, or quaint little bed and breakfasts can really make your stay something unique and special. In Tarpon Springs, that original gem remains in the hands of The 1910 Inn. This place just hollers “southern charm” and is described as the place where “time stood still”. With this former residential home being nestled directly across from the Spring Bayou and just down the street from the downtown shops, the location truly cannot be beat when staying in Tarpon Springs. Not only is this the best place to settle in for the night, but because of it’s historic beauty, it also is host to some of the most popular events for the local residents of the area throughout the entire year.
What To Do
One of the things that Tarpon Springs is most known for is their supply of natural sea sponges that they still dive for in the area to this day. The Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks are a must see when visiting this town. Here you can see first hand the techniques that are used to harvest these sea sponges while being engulfed in the magnificent heritage of the Grecian culture. While visiting the famous sponge docks, you can also check out the varieties of boat tours they offer that can take you through the bayous of Tarpon Springs, the Anclote River and The Gulf of Mexico. This could give you the chance to see Florida’s most famous sea critter, the manatee, or even dolphins! Ones to check out while in town are St Nicholas Boat Line and Odyssey Cruises.
When visiting Tarpon Springs, you also will want to check out all the adorable shops that are just a quick 3 minute drive down the road from the sponge docks. Here you can have plenty of yummy options for lunch and visit all the different storefronts. Since I love finding old and unique treasures, I recommend visiting Court of Two Sisters. This is home to the fabulous antique shop right in the center of town. They have a wonderful variety of art, collectibles, and home furnishings. Just down the street is One Amazing Find which is fantastic for your home decor finds and Ella’s Boutique which offers cute clothes for young women. While you’re downtown, you also can have a peaceful stroll around Craig Park. If you head just 8 minutes down the road, you can also check out Fred Howard Park and rent some kayaks or waterboards. You can do this through Wheel Fun Rentals or Tarpon Tom’s Outdoor Adventure Gear. Make sure you’re able to stay for the most beautiful sunset you’ll ever see!
If you’re interested in more activity while experiencing the great outdoors, then I would recommend exploring The Pinellas Trail. This 45 mile long pathway starts in Tarpon Springs and can take you all the way into St. Petersburg. This incredible use of preserved outdoor recreational space is perfect for those who want to bike, skate or walk while getting in that fresh air and Florida water views.
Where To Eat
What better place to try some authentic seafood cuisine than the beautiful shores of The Gulf of Mexico! Tarpon Springs is no stranger to supplying some of the greatest seafood around the area. My personal favorite for anything fish related is definitely Rusty Bellies! When my family is in town this is the one place that is always requested, and for good reason. The hot peel and eat shrimp is simply amazing and if your into cocktails, the Key Lime Pie martini is an absolute MUST! When you visit, try and get a table on the outside deck or bar area. They play great music and there you can watch all the boats go by with the fresh catch of the day! If you want to experience the authentic Greek culture within Tarpon Springs, then check out Costas, Andros Greek Grill or Hella’s restaurant & Bakery. If your downtown and your sweet tooth is settling in, then definitely pop into Orange Cycle Creamery for some super yummy ice cream. They have 24 flavors made from scratch including dairy free options that are natural and incredibly tasty for those even with allergies.
For the traveler that wants it all, Florida is definitely the place to visit. Tarpon Springs is one of the most unique towns that the sunshine state has to offer and is beloved by all the locals and visitors alike. Next time you plan on spending time near the Gulf Coast, make this town one of your spots on the agenda. You can make your stay here as adventurous or as relaxing as you want while sprinkling in the unique cultural influences of the Greek culture.