A small town with a population of under 25,000, Tarpon Springs is famous for it’s sponge industry and subsequent relationship with Greece, which stems from the recruitment of Greek divers and crew men in the early 20th century. Named after the fish that abound its waters, Tarpon Springs boasts a historic downtown district with well-preserved buildings dating back to the 1800’s. Known for its community of artisans, in addition to beautifully crafted sponges, the town is famous for its soaps, which together make a great exfoliating combo!
A Happy Worker at Sponge Docks Flickr: visitstpeteclearwater
Painting at Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs Flickr: walterpro
The town was founded in the early 1880s and quickly became a hub for one of the largest sponge industries in the world. As previously mentioned, divers and crew were recruited from Greece when the sponge trade began to boom in the early 20th century and at the height of the industry there were up to 200 vessels trawling the waters. An unfortunate instance of red tide algae wiped out many of the sponge beds and this lead to a massive reduction in the industry, however this picked up again in the 80s and the sponge industry is alive and well today, albeit somewhat smaller than it once was. Thanks to its early Greek immigrants, Tarpon Springs is home to the highest percentage of Greek-Americans anywhere in the United States. Interestingly one of its main roads, Dodecanese Avenue is named after the Dodecanese Islands in Greece where many of the divers were from. Head down to the Sponge docks to learn more about their history and dine on delicious Greek cuisine at on of the many Greek restaurants there.
The gulf of Mexico provides a fantastic arena for water sports and Tarpons Springs is home to many beautiful beaches where you can relax and take in the warm Florida sun. Of note are Sunset Beach and Fred Howard Park, which are voted the fifth and second best attractions in Tarpon Springs on Trip Advisor. Once you have explored the historical sights and taken in the sun, head to one of the many bayous that border the city where you will have the chance to see alligators, birds and if you’re lucky a manatee or two!