Tarpon Springs, Florida
A stop in Tarpon Springs is a must when planning a Florida Road trip. Who can resist a greek town overflowing with natural sponges. A half day is all you will need to enjoy this adorable, albeit kitschy stop along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
The main drag of Tarpon Springs is spread out over a few blocks. Finding parking isn’t difficult, there are many paid lots stretching out down the main drag. We picked one and paid the one time fee for all day parking. Several online threads said there might be non paid parking down the side streets, but with the Littles we were happy to be parked close to everything.
We really wanted to go on St. Nicholas Boat Line’s sponge diving tour. They take a boat out and have a diver go down and dive for the sponges during the tour. Unfortunately, the boat was down for service during our visit.
Our first stop was for a bite to eat. You will find a variety of greek restaurants that all have good reviews lining the main street. We opted to order from The Limani. You order at the window and sit at a covered, dock side, outdoor seating area – perfect for families. The greek food here is simple and spot on. Plus there was plenty for the boys to watch while we waited for our food.
Bellies full we headed out to walk around town. I knew I wanted to pick up a few sponges for myself and as gifts. It is critical that you poke into a bunch of places before you purchase. Sponge prices are all over the place.
Most of the sponge stores are showing a video about sponges. Jeff was so insistent that we watch it. We ended up at Spongeorama Sponge Factory, which clearly gets the tour buses, to watch the video. The video is painful. It is old. It is basically someone walking around the store, which they continue to call a “museum” showing you the types of sponges. They kept saying if we just held on we could see a video of the sponges being harvested but we never made it that long. Even Jeff, who has a penchant for enjoying the most boring of things, walked out. When that video came it was reel to reel quality. (You’re much better off watching this video from Visit Florida.)
Instead of watching the video, head into one of the smaller stores and engage the shop keeper about the types of sponges. They are happy to tell you which sponges fit your needs. (Who knew there were so many options!)
The most impressive are the vase sponges. These can be used for bath sponges, decoration and also put into aquariums.
You can also grow plants right inside of them.
The Silk Sponge and Wool Sponge are the most popular sponges for bathing.
I ended up at Lori’s Soap & Sponges. I couldn’t get over the collection of soaps, sponges and the little greek couple running the register. (They took a liking to my Little Little, who was happily enjoying a ride on my back.) Lori’s also has some of the best prices we found.
Meanwhile, the rest of the boys had abandoned my sponge shopping adventure and headed to Jay’s Treasures, an amazing rock shop tucked into a shopping plaza. (He has a second location on the main drag.) Jay was incredibly patient with the boy as they looked at all the rocks. They each got to purchase something and Jay let them pick something else out as well.
Then the boys headed over to Hella’s Bakery to get some take away treats. Everything here smelled and looked delicious. Of course Jeff would take the boys to a bakery and I’m glad he did!
Hella’s also has a good looking restaurant, although very over the top! If the bakery is any indication the food is delicious.
We finished up the afternoon by visiting the Tarpon Splash Park. They have one of the best splash parks I’ve seen outside of a waterpark. There are changing facilities and a regular playground co-located. The boys played here for over an hour.
It was a great stop after they had done so much “behaving” in stores with us. It was so hot, that my biggest mistake was not changing into my own swimsuit! We didn’t need any more play time but Discovery Playground looked to be an excellent alternative.
If you are passing through this area, or staying in Tampa and looking for a day trip, Tarpon Springs is a perfect pick. Add a boat ride (dolphin boat trips also depart from Tarpon) to extend your day.