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Tarpon Springs-6 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

If someone were to say to you that there is a Greek city on the coast of Florida –would you believe it? No –well I didn’t believe it either but it is true. Just about 2 hours from Orlando there is a little greek community based around the sea sponge fishing industry called Tarpon Springs. It gets it’s name from the tarpon –a fish found swimming in the warm waters of the gulf of mexico.

Tarpon Springs has been established over 100 years when greek immigrants from the Dodecanese Islands settled here and after 1905 began to set up the sponge harvesting industry. Gradually the community has grown to over 20, 000 inhabitants and Tarpon Springs is now known as the sponge capital of the world. Between the years of 1940 and 1980 the industry was very badly hit as a bacteria contaminated the sponge beds but after 1980 healthy sponges began to re-appear and the industry began to thrive once more.

As the industry grew then other industries related to coastal living began to be introduced. Restaurants and bars were first set up to feed the sponge crews and then visitors and tourists arrived to see this fascinating industry and shops selling sponges and other sea related souvenirs then began to flourish. Now you can take mini excursions up the Anclote River and into the Gulf of Mexico –not quite as far as the sponge beds they are further out-but on the day we took a boat trip it was very pleasant and we got to see several dolphins-all for the ridiculous price of about $8.

As well as browsing around the many shops on the waterfront , visitors can also go deep sea fishing, visit the aquarium and there is also a movie to watch on the sea sponge harvesting. There are also art galleries and tours and the Greek Orthodox church of St Nicholas is a replica of St Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople.

Throughout the year there is plenty of festivals to attract tourists to the area but if you want something with a particular Greek flavour then I would suggest the Greek Independence Day Parade held on march 25th 2007 but if you miss it this year then there are plenty of other events throughout the year.

We had a fabulous day there and wished we could have spent longer. We only had time to have a very quick look around before eating in one of the excellent waterfront restaurants before climbing aboard the Island Breeze for our little cruise. (This was quite wheelchair accessible and the crew were very helpful. Drinks were served on board at a very realistic rate. )

It’s about 2 years since we last had a visit-so I think it’s time we put it on our ‘to do’ list again as I would love to go back again and see a bit.

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