In reality, there are two Tarpon Springs. Both are intimately interrelated and well worth a visit. The city has a 140-year history as the epicenter of the natural sponge harvesting on the Gulf Coast and has a rich Greek cultural and religious heritage. This thriving fishing and tourist destination offers many activities oriented towards the waters of the Gulf as well as many diversions on land–from museums to restaurants, from shopping to live music and with endless festivals.
Tarpon Springs consists of several different areas. The historic Sponge Docks waterfront on Dodecanese Blvd. is where sponge boats of all vintages dock to unload their catch to the sponge exchange. The dock is surrounded by restaurants, Greek and otherwise and assorted, all with a definite Greek flair. The Tarpons Springs Historic District is where city life was centered in the first half of the 20th century and includes the. The modern town of Tarpon Springs offers shopping and groceries and the thriving local marine industry supplies marine services, parts, and repairs necessary for the boater.
One of the special features of the town is the “Jolley Trolley” that provides hourly transportation from Tarpon Springs, through Palm Harbor and Dunedin, and terminates in downtown Clearwater, 20 miles to the south. For $5.00 ($2.50 for seniors) you can get a day pass and ride as many times as you want. This provides easy access to Winn Dixie and Publix grocery stores, hardware store, Wal-Mart and many other retailers.
If relaxation is what you crave, there are miles of beaches that can be reached by car and many more that are only accessible by boat. The multi-use Pinellas Trail is accessible in the downtown Historic District for walking, jogging and biking. From November to early spring, you will find manatees make their home in the shallow Spring Bayou close to downtown. Craig Park offers a great vantage point for observing these gentle giants. It only takes a short dinghy ride to get to the Bayou, but it becomes a non-motorized area so you will need to row in and around the bayou to view the manatees.
There are too many restaurant and entertainment choices in Tarpon Springs to cover here. While wandering around town you will be assaulted by delicious and tempting aromas emanating from everywhere. Special attention, however, should be paid to “The Limani” take-out on Dodecanese Blvd., right at the Sponge Docks. There is a reason why the locals queue up at the window. Also noteworthy is the fresh seafood of Rusty Bellies, which is located at the bottom of Dodecanese Blvd. Reservations are not accepted, but you can register online for a spot on their waiting list. The wait time for a table is sometimes more than an hour and an outdoor tent with a small bar is available to those waiting. Nearby, ice cream and coffee can be found at Sweeties Ice Cream Shop.
The Waterway Guide Team has gained extensive boating knowledge over the years, and now we are sharing all of the tips, skills and tools we’ve picked up along the way!