Although the town of Tarpon Springs is located along the bayous of Florida’s Gulf Coast, it is easy to see how someone could easily confuse this quaint seaside city with one on the Mediterranean. Boasting the largest concentration of Greek-American residents in the county, Tarpon Springs was established in the late 1880’s after an influx of Greek immigrants were hired to dive for natural sponges along the coast.
The name Tarpon Springs comes from the early residents of the area who witnessed tarpon, a type of large fish, jumping in and out of the waters along the coast. The most famous attraction in Tarpon Springs, the Sponge Docks, were named for the historic use of the district for the sponge harvesting industry. Although the sponges that made this region so prosperous in the past are all but gone now, the heritage as a city that lives off the ocean has continued. Instead of harvesting sponges, residents now engage in fishing or shrimping or, more recently, work in the tourism industry providing services to the many visitors who swarm to this destination.
The strong Greek influence at Tarpon Springs manifests itself in a vibrant community with street seafood markets, authentic Greek restaurants, clothiers and garment makers who work in the traditional Mediterranean style, and live folk music featuring Greek instruments such as the klarino, bouzouki, lyra, lavouto and santouri. Many of the abandoned warehouses along the Sponge Docks have been converted into shops to showcase the many handmade wares that make this community so popular.
Another popular reason to visit the Sponge Docks are the daily ferries (Sun Line Cruises) that depart from the docks and travel to Anclote Island in the Gulf of Mexico where white sand beaches are popular for swimming and sunbathing.
Directions to the Sponge Docks from our hotel:
· Out of parking lot, turn left on US 19 South to ALT 19
· Take ALT 19 South two traffic lights (Dodecanese Blvd)
· Right turn at the famous Pappas Greek Restaurant
· The Sponge Exchange is a short distance on the left
· Estimated driving time: 10 minutes