The Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs, FL

The sponge docks, located in Tarpon Springs, makes a great day trip for Hernando County residents looking for something different to do! The sponge industry helped build this Greek community that is about 30 miles from Spring Hill and offers an abundance of restaurants, bakeries, and quaint shops.

sponge docks2When Tarpon Springs was officially incorporated in 1887 it had just 52 residents and by 1890 the sponge industry was firmly established as a result of John Cheney who discovered that the sponges growing in the waters of the Gulf could be harvested and sold. The Cheney Sponge Company sold nearly $1 million that year alone! Over the next few years experience Greek divers immigrated to work and by 1905 there were more than 500 Greek sponge divers in the area. The large number of workers created a need for restaurants and as word spread about the docks curious people arrived wanting to buy sponges and other souvenirs. The result was a bustling little marketplace that now offers you a unique look into the past and an experience that’s hard to find.sponge docks1

With divers still hard at work harvesting sponges, visitors can enjoy a leisurely day exploring the Greek restaurants and shops that are scattered throughout the area and stroll along the winding streets of the first settlement, Spring Bayou, to see houses that reflect the grandeur of the wealthy who came to Tarpon Springs. St. Michael’s Shrine, a small chapel built by a Greek family in the 1940’s in thanks for the miraculous cure of their young son, and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, home to the largest Epiphany celebration in the United States and the “weeping” icon of St. Nicholas, are open daily to visitors.  Tours and sightseeing cruises are available specializing in dolphin watching, exploring the natural estuaries, viewing the historic lighthouse, sponge diving exhibitions, and more. Greek cultural classes/workshops including those teaching popular Greek, traditional Greek cooking, and how to play Greek music instruments are available. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium, a living reef that was once the domain of divers only, may now be experienced by all and Greek festivals are held throughout the year in the area. If you’ve never been to The Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs this is one trip that you need to add to your “to do” list!

Leaving Spring Hill, take US 19 South for approximately 20-25 miles then take a slight right onto US 19 ALT S for 2.5 miles

Tarpon Springs Aquarium, 850 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
Spring Bayou: 5 Beekman Way, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 36 N. Pinellas Avenue, Tarpon Springs FL 34689

Sources:

http://fcit.usf.edu/FLORIDA/lessons/tarpon/tarpon.htm

http://www.spongedocks.net/tarpon-springs-history.htm

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