You’ve arrived in Tarpon Springs, now what?
First, a bit of history. In 1887, Tarpon Springs was incorporated. It had a population of 52 residents. John Cheney, a promoter associated with Disston, discovered money could be made by harvesting the sponges growing in the waters of the Gulf. Although Tarpon Springs was successful as a resort, it wasn’t long before the sponge industry became the community’s most important industry.
By 1890, the sponge industry was firmly established in Tarpon Springs. The Cheney Sponge Company sold almost a million dollars worth of sponges that year.
In the next few years, experienced divers from Greece were brought to Tarpon Springs. By using rubberized diving suits and helmets, they increased harvests. By 1905, over 500 Greek sponge divers were at work using 50 boats.
The early sponge divers created a need at the docks for eating places for the boat crews. Then as news of the industry grew, people began coming to the docks to see the sponges. Shops opened so people could buy sponges and other souvenirs.
Sponge buyers created the Sponge Exchange in 1907. A building with a courtyard was erected in which each sponger could store his catch while awaiting the auctions that took place twice a week.
With the perfection of deep-sea diving equipment, the dollar amount of sponge harvests continued to increase. Divers were able to go deeper into the sea for longer lengths of time. For 30 years, the sponge industry was the largest industry in Florida—larger than citrus or tourism. Tarpon Springs was known as the “Sponge Capital of the World.”
Success in the sponge industry drove growth in Tarpon Springs and became a Greek food and cultural center that lasts to this day. Every year, thousands of visitors come to eat amazing foods, shop at artisan stores, and take in cultural activities from all over the world.
Visit the Sponge Docks
At The Historic Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, you can see how the sponge industry operates. From the sponge boats to the sale of the sponges. There are lots of Greek Restaurants (you MUST get some incredible, authentic Greek food) and shops up and down the main drag, which is Dodecanese Blvd. You’ll also find fresh seafood at many of the restaurants which come from fishing boats at the sponge docks.
Do some Shopping
Many shops sell natural sponges of course, but you’ll also find other Greek specialties like olive oil and goats milk soaps, lotions, and other beauty-related products. You may be surprised to find Pandora Jewelry, Wine Shops, Candy Stores, and much more.
Take a Dolphin Sightseeing Cruise with Spongeorama Cruise Lines
Cruise down the Anclote River out to the Gulf of Mexico. You will be looking for dolphins, manatees, birds, the historic Anclote lighthouse, and other historical sites. You get off at the Anclote Island to stroll the beach and look for shells. BRING YOUR CAMERA!
Go Deep Sea Fishing
Gulfstar Fishing offers, half-day, 12 hour, and multi-day deep sea fishing adventures. You can expect to catch, Grouper, Snapper, Amberjack, and many other species that live in the Gulf of Mexico. When Fishing aboard the Gulfstar, you can expect to catch, Grouper, Snapper, Amberjack, and many other species that live in the Gulf of Mexico.
Visit Historic Downtown Tarpon Springs
The Tarpon Springs Historic District is a U.S. historic district in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It is bounded by Read Street, Hibiscus Street, Orange Street, Levis Avenue, Lemon Street, and Spring Bayou, encompasses approximately 700 acres, and contains 145 historic buildings. The historic significance of the district focuses on Events, Architecture, Engineering, and the periods of significance include 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899. On December 6, 1990, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. http://tarponspringsareahistoricalsociety.org/ While you’re there you’ll find lots of interesting shops, restaurants, and breweries.