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Tarpon Springs, Florida has the highest population of Greek-Americans than any other US city. See what I found at this adorable seaside jewel.

sponge market boat tarpon springs

While visiting friends in Dunedin, Florida, I was looking to explore a new town. When I inquired what people thought about Tarpon Springs, I was given pretty much the same response, “nothing much, but they have some Greek stuff”, case closed. From what I was told, Tarpon Springs did not sound one bit interesting and the internet didn’t do it any justice either. Boy, are they all missing out!

tarpon-springs-sponge-capitol-of-the-world

Exploring the Greek Food Options

A friend, my daughter, and I drove to the Sponge Docks District of Tarpon Springs, Florida. We began our afternoon by having a delicious lunch at Hellas Greek Restaurant & Bakery. While there are many choices for where to get the best traditional Greek cuisine, all online reviews pointed out Hellas as the #1 spot. After dining there, I cannot agree more.

Not only was the food fantastic, but the service was impeccable. Hellas has a huge bakery next door to satisfy your sweet tooth and then some. Greek delicacies such as Baklava, and Flogeres (pronounced Flo-ye-res) really caught my eye. This is one place you’ll definitely want to eat your way through.

hellas greek restaurant appetizer platter

Enjoying A Charming Downtown

The brick waterfront streets in Tarpon Springs are reminiscent of the seaside villages in Greece. They are filled with gift and souvenir shops as well as coffee shops, a wine shop, museum exhibits, and an aquarium. You might get lucky enough to see the fisherman working the Sponge Docks. Watching the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico is a popular activity here and there are boating options as well. Live music was heard coming out of some of the shopping enclaves.

tarpon springs sponge capital of the world

The Greek immigrants arrived in the city of Tarpon Springs around 1890 to work the sponge industry. It is known as the “sponge capital of the world”. It’s amazing to me that a whole community can be built around the natural sponge market, but trust me, it can.

Leaving the Sponge Docks district, the Spring Bayou is a lovely place to walk, jog, or have a picnic. The homes surrounding the lake are unique and pretty, plus make for a nice drive-by visit. Another point of interest is the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral; a stately, historical offering.

souvenirs-sponge-market

Tarpon Springs Exudes Happiness

My immediate thoughts about Tarpon Springs are that the people who live here are very lucky. The town has a mystical feel, one that pulls you in and makes you feel right at home. Both patrons and workers at the restaurants wished us Happy New Years, tourists stopped us on the streets to strike up a conversation, and a few storekeepers offered us pleasantries. I simply adored everything I saw in this charming town. I am sure you would, too.

Melody Pittman visiting tarpon springs

Trivia: In 2007 and 2008, Tarpon Springs established Sister City relationships with Greek islands Symi, Cyprus, Halki, and Kalymnos.

Bonus: Located right outside Tarpon Springs is the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, Inc., where for a $15 (adults) or $10 (kids) admission fee you can see great apes, small primates, birds, and reptiles that have found a home here due to different circumstances. Many of them are available for adoption.

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intro to tarpon springs florida

Read more from Melody Pittman of Wherever I May Roam at: 

Guide to the Tasting Rooms of Grapevine, TX

6 Unique Florida Attractions (You Won’t Want to Miss)

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