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Tarpon Springs (Florida) – The Sponge City

Tarpon Springs Sponge District

3.25

Rating

3.3/5

Flyctory.com Pros

  • Lovely scenery
  • Quite some information on sponge diving
  • Greek heritage and culture / food

Flyctory.com Cons

  • Spongeorama is a huge disappointment
  • Quite remote location with limited other sights around

While the key reason of my trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida, was the amazing Replay Amusement Museum, the village is in fact known for another product: sponge. The roots of the local sponge industry is already dated back to the 1880s, even before a group of Greek immigrants arrived at that place in the Florida West Coast, which nowadays gives the sponge district the very special atmosphere. Apart from that, the Tarpon Springs Historic District, which is not part of this posting, is another popular attraction of the city.

 

Tarpon Springs – Location & Traffic

Tarpon Springs is about a 30 miles drive to the Northwest away from Tampa city center. Due to traffic, you likely need some one hour for the trip. The city is growing quite rapidly and almost doubled its population since 1980, with a current estimate, according to Wikipedia, of some 26,000.

The Sponge Docks, which are also a center of the Greek heritage of the city, where there are several waterways. The area is very touristic, so that the easiest option is to leave your car at one of the parking grounds (typically flat fee parking) and explore the area. There is also a tourist information at Dodecanese Blvd, which is very helpful.

 

Tarpon Springs – Shopping & Atmosphere

The Greek influence on Tarpon spring and the Florida climate gives the area a very Mediterranean flair.Apart from multiple sponge shops, you will also run into the Sponge Diver Memorial near the Historic Docks, but also some reference to the bottleneck dolphin, which can be observed in the region.

But of course, the key product is sponge. The most popular and very well-known store is the Spongeorama, which is also hosting a free sponge museum. However, the museum is run down and now really worth visiting (most of the stuff seems to be closed anyway). The popularity still leads to a bit increased prices compared to other stores.

As said, there are multiple alternatives to the Spongeorama. Some like The Sponge Factory run own (free entry) facilities in their stores which explain the visitor the history and techniques of sponge diving in historic days and today.

Across the Historic Sponge Docs, there is a small mall-alike area, which offers various products for shopping. I really enjoyed to stroll through it on a sunny day in August 2019.

 

Tarpon Springs – Food

In line with the touristic character of the village, there are of course plenty of restaurants around as well. Most of them are Greek, obviously. I just had a Greek salad in a snack bar right at the harbor, but there are of course a lot more – and more posh – options than that.

 

Tarpon Springs – My View

Tarpon Springs was a welcome detour from Tampa and Orlando. On a sunny day, it is definitely a nice idea to spent some time there. It is a very characterful place and just enjoyable, even though it is that touristic. You may combine it with one of the beach parks and natural preserves in the region – the drive (especially if it is a return one) takes some time of your day.

 

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