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.

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

 

 

Hand made cigars at Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

The master cigar maker at work

The master cigar maker at work

IMG_1628_resizedIn a neat little stand alone shop on Dodecanese Blvd. Sponge Docks is a sign for hand made cigars. That prompted a look for me. Sure enough, inside the booth sat Don Esteban making fine cigars by hand. I had never seen cigars made. Don was a delight to chat with, and with a big grin stated that he was the mayor of Little Cuba in Tarpon Springs.

He had quite the selection of cigars for sale, both in packages or for sale individually. It was fun watching this craftsman at work.

 

 

Cigars for sale

Cigars for sale

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