Tarpon Springs Florida home to historic Sponge Docks

During our travels in Florida over the years we have been fortunate to enjoy Tarpon Springs, Florida, a quaint and pretty town north of Clearwater and Tampa on the Gulf. When we were actively engaged in Flea Market business in Central Florida, Tarpon Springs became one of our favorite spots for R&R.

Statue honoring the Greek sponge divers. Note the sponge diving boat tied to the dock.

Tarpon Springs is famous for the Sponge Docks where diving boats still sail to the sponge beds and hard hat divers collect the sponges. This industry began here in Florida in 1905 when John M. Cocoris from Leonidion Greece started the now flourishing sponge business.

Sponge diver in a beautiful tile mosaic

Memorial to the founder of Florida’s Sponge Industry

 

 

 

 

 

Dodecanese Blvd. is the main street that houses multiple shops and businesses. The shops offer everything from fresh tea and spices, hand made cigars, souvenirs, freshly caught fish shops and of course several shops selling sponges collected by the Greek divers.

Locally collected sponges of all sizes for sale

Also of note in Tarpon Springs are the marvelous Greek Restaurants! Talk about authentic Greek cuisine, you’d have to go to Greece to get any cuisine that is more Greek. We have enjoyed several restaurants and bakeries in this wonderful spot on Central Florida’s Gulf Coast.

We have not yet seen any reports of Tarpon Springs suffering damage from Hurricane Ian. We hope that the Sponge Docks and the town were spared.

Delivered lunch makes it easy

Greek Fries and Avgolemono soup

Use their flatware

Sometimes it is easier to take care of lunch with a phone app to order your lunch delivered. We did that yesterday by way of the Kafé Neo Greek Restaurant  in Mill Creek. (Yes, we’re still in Seattle area.)

 

Roasted lamb gyro

Vegetarian gyro

This fine Greek restaurant has a great lunch menu with plenty of variety for any tastes. Ordering for delivery has several benefits. Sounds funny, but you can use the flatware from the restaurant. That’s several pieces of your silverware that you won’t need to wash! Plus you don’t have to get out of the house, and can continue whatever you are doing. Sher and I realize that it seems like we’re becoming a travel and food blog. So be it, you have to eat, and we are enjoying new culinary experiences.

We were very satisfied with our selections from the Kafé Neo. The gyros were quite large, and ingredients delicious. The Greek Fries were topped with Feta and came with a unique dipping sauce. I particularly enjoyed the chicken with rice Avgolemono soup. If you’re looking for either inside dining, carryout or delivery the Kafé Neo will be a good choice. Here is their website.

Hellas Greek Restaurant at Florida’s Tarpon Springs

Hellas Restaurant and Bakery storefronts

Hellas Restaurant and Bakery storefronts

Tarpon Springs, Florida is known for its Greek community founded in both the sponge diving business and restaurants and shops. One of the best restaurants is Hellas Restaurant and the joining Hellas Bakery. The businesses are on the main commercial street in the town, Dodecanese Boulevard.

We really enjoyed our meal at the restaurant. The “flamed” cheese was a real treat, and yes it was served in flames! I had a beef gyro, Sher had a Veggie Pita, and we both shared a huge Greek salad. This restaurant was very comfortable and the staff was delightful. We were there early afternoon when there were few other patrons.

After our meal we went next door to the Hellas Bakery. There were a lot of people in the bakery, but the line moved fairly quickly. Yes, we indulged and picked up some sweet bakery goods for an evening snack back at the RV park.

Delicious Greek Salad

Delicious Greek Salad

Hellas interior

Hellas interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We would highly recommend stopping for a meal at the Hellas Restaurant. Tarpon Springs is about 45 minutes north of St. Petersburg, and is home to the highest percentage population of Greeks in the country. After you eat at Hellas, be sure to check out the Sponge Docks and local Fish Shoppes.

Parthenon Restaurant at Tarpon Springs, Florida

Dining room at the Parthenon

Dining room at the Parthenon

While strolling down Dodecanese Blvd. at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs recently we went by the Parthenon Restaurant. The manager was out front standing by the menu board and began to tell us about the restaurant offerings. He did a  good job, because we decided to go in and have a bite of lunch.

Sher had the Greek salad and I had the butter cooked pasta with grilled chicken strips and both came with peta bread. The meals were very good and the portions were quite substantial, to say the least! This was the first time that I have ever needed a leftover box for a pasta meal.

The Parthenon is located at 751 Dodecanese Blvd. just past Athens Street in the Sponge Dock district of Tarpon Springs. This is a good establishment to get an authentic Greek meal.

Greek Salad at Parthenon Restaurant

Greek Salad at Parthenon Restaurant

 

 

Enjoying a relaxing day at Tarpon Springs, Florida

We decided to take a day and just do some fun tourist things. So off to Tarpon Springs we went this morning. Sher and I had been here before last year but had not really explored the Sponge Dock area very well.

I say just some touristy type things, however we did spot a sign for an estate sale and had to stop. What a great stop it was. The building was packed with some beautiful things ranging from high end antique furniture to some nice glass ware to some old saddles and about everything in between.

Statue honoring the Greek sponge divers. That is a real sponge boat tied to the dock.

Statue honoring the Greek sponge divers. That is a real sponge boat tied to the dock.

Sponges for sale in the market

Sponges for sale in the market

We had a great time just walking along Dodecanese Blvd. and visiting most of the many shops. We met some nice people and I even found a leather vest that fit. We decided to grab a bite to eat at the Parthenon, one of many Greek restaurants in the Sponge Docks area. I’ll have a full review up soon, but I can tell you it was good eating!

Right now we are back in the RV enjoying some rest time, and planning the rest of the evening. There are a couple of beaches and some parks that look interesting. We may have to stay around here overnight and continue sightseeing tomorrow.

 

 

Tile mosaic on the side of one of the market buildings

Tile mosaic on the side of one of the market buildings

Plaque with the sponge diver mosaic