Tarpon Springs, Florida – Waypoints

Sponge Boats in Tarpon Springs

On Monday I took a day round trip to the Tarpon Springs area to oversee a survey and sea trial. I had the chance to do some sightseeing and got to thinking about all the places I travel not just in terms of yacht deliveries but also sales. From that perspective, I am introducing a new section I am labeling waypoints. The first waypoint featured is the town of Tarpon Springs which has two distinct attractions (1) a rich Greek heritage and (2) a historic sponge industry.

1. The waterside area of downtown Tarpon Springs is full of shoppes and restaurants. Hellas Bakery is a prominent pastry shop with everything from Panakopita and Tiropita to Kourambiethes and, of course, Baklava. There is also a Hellas restaurant along with Mama’s and a few Greek themed seafood joints. The decor is like you are in Greece with tile floors, blue and white colors, and all the style you associate with that culture.

2. The sponge industry is the historical economy of Tarpon Springs. Sponge museum factories line the streets and tours take you down the river. A local explained to me how they send one boat that drops sponges in a designated spot while a second boat loaded with tourists comes by a little later. On board the tourist boat is a diver in an ancient, heavy dive suit and helmet who splashes overboard. Moments later the diver resurfaces with his or her arms full of sponges to the surpise of all aboard. People love the ride despite the deception. Sponges are prevalent further out but not that close to town anymore.

I would recommend Tarpon Springs as a spot with a surprising culture of Greeks and sponges. Most of the parking was charged at a few dollars though you can get a complimentary space behind Hellas or in the Village Center lot. More broadly, the west coast of Florida is an area surprisingly varied in culture. Saint Pete for instance has one of the largest Salvador Dali museums in the world, a post for another day. Clearwater is the headquarters of the Scientologist Church. Read a past article of mine linked ahead for a more yachting focused breakdown of the differences between areas in South Florida.

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