A sponge diver in a boat with lots of sponges in Tarpon Springs.

Learn about traditional sponge diving and celebrate vibrant Greek heritage and foods in Tarpon Springs.

gloriously greek

Tarpon Springs

In Tarpon Springs, you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to a coastal Greek village where the sound of bouzouki music spills out into the sidewalk along with the scent of enticing food. Just 30 minutes north of Clearwater, this city best-known for its vibrant Greek heritage was founded in the early 1900s by Greek sponge divers looking to harvest the natural sea sponges that thrive in the waters of the Anclote River.


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Beaches

Accessible only by boat (including ferries you can catch from the Sponge Docks), Anclote Key Preserve State Park is an unspoiled paradise made up of several smaller islands. Spot dolphins and over 40 species of birds here, and stay for a phenomenal sunset if you can. This beach is one of the few in the area that allows overnight camping. 

Close to downtown is Fred Howard Park, where a narrow causeway leads you out to a gentle, sabal palm-lined shore with lifeguards, bathrooms and plenty of parking (and a butterfly garden!). To the south of here is Sunset Beach Park. Not to be confused with the beach of the same name in Treasure Island, this small stretch of shoreline is loved by kiteboarders as well as beachgoers who come to appreciate the sunset vistas. A bandshell here hosts live music monthly, usually around the full moon.

Where to Eat & Drink

As you stroll down Dodecanese Boulevard, the smell of hearty Greek food will waft through the air. The big challenge here will be deciding which authentic spot to try.

A family friendly place with “old country” charm to spare, Mykonos serves up all the local favorites – from flaming saganaki cheese (a memorable dining experience!) to gyros to seafood, all right along the Sponge Docks. Celebrate flavors beloved for generations at Hellas, where Chef Emmanuel’s authentic dolmades and moussaka will have you saying “opa!” before you even get to dessert (speaking of which, there’s a bakery here that serves up amazing sweets such as baklava, melomakarona and diples). Or, get your spanakopita fix at Mama’s Greek Cuisine.

Watch the sponge boats pass at Rusty Bellies on the waterfront, a bar and eatery that serves up local catches such as stone crab and scallops alongside legendary tiki drinks. If you time your visit for the weekend, you can order fresh rolls from the sushi truck here.

Looking for an adult beverage? Try locally made gin, moonshine or ouzo (a traditional Greek aperitif) at Tarpon Springs Distillery If craft beer is more your thing, sample what’s brewing at Silverking Brewing Company. Or, grab a nightcap at Neptune Lounge.

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Places to Stay

You won’t find a long list of places to stay in Tarpon Springs, but there are some great options for both brand-name and boutique experiences. With its Queen Anne architecture and ornate Victorian aesthetic, The 1910 Inn offers a B&B experience that’s within walking distance of the Sponge Docks. Ashley’s Victorian Haven, housed in a lovingly restored 1894 home, is also steps from all the fun and offers full breakfast, too. Traveling with the family in tow? Familiar brands like Quality Inn & Suites can be found nearby on U.S. 19.

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