Looking for a great day trip to take from Clearwater Beach, Florida? Head to the beautiful Greek village of Tarpon Springs! Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the United States. Enjoy a short trip to Tarpon Springs and experience delicious Greek food, quaint local shops and walks down the sponge docks.
The History of Tarpon Springs, Florida
Tarpon Springs, Florida is a small area surrounding bayous flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. The small area was settled in 1876, and by the 1880s the first sponge business was already founded and the industry quickly began growing. Greek Immigrants began arriving in Tarpon Springs in the 1890s to work in the growing sponge industry.
In 1905 sponge diving was introduced and many of the Greek immigrants became sponge divers. The sponge industry soon became one of the leading maritime industries of Florida, and the most important industry for Tarpon Springs, generating millions of dollars a year.
In 1947 a large bloom of Red Tide algae nearly wiped out the sponge fields of the Gulf of Mexico. The sponge diving industry took a massive hit, and many of the locals forced to switch industries – often switching to the shrimping industry. The Gulf of Mexico sponge fields slowly recovered from the damage caused by the red tide algae and the sponge fishing industry began growing again. In the 1980’s, the Mediterranean sponges were almost completely killed off by a sponge disease, leading to a boom in the Tarpon Springs Sponge Industry.
Things to do in Tarpon Springs, Florida
I absolutely love visiting Tarpon Springs. It’s very difficult for me to not to take a quick drive up to Tarpon Springs when on vacation in Clearwater Beach, Florida. The atmosphere of the small Greek city is fantastic, especially when walking down the Historic Sponge Docks.
The entire area has delicious Greek restaurants on every block. My personal favorite is Hellas Restaurant and Bakery. Hellas sits right in the historic sponge dock area. Sitting right near the sponge docks and filled with local history and Greek influence, the atmosphere of the restaurant is incredible. And more importantly, the food is incredibly delicious! My favorite things on the menu are Hella’s Original Greek Salad, Saganaki (Opa!), Hellas Gyro and their Mediterranean Stuffed Shrimp. For dessert, I usually grab some baklava to go because I’ve already eaten way too much!
After an amazing (and very large) meal, I love walking for a walk along the historic sponge docks. There are so many really fun and unique shops in that area selling. If you have time, be sure to check out: GETAGURU homemade soap, The Sponge Exchange, Tarpon Sponge Company, and Lori’s Soaps & Sponges!
Tarpon Springs isn’t just local shops and delicious Greek food, it also has great activities for the whole family! You can go for a Sponge Diving Tour! Learn the history of Tarpon Springs and even watch a sponge diver put on traditional inflatable sponge diving suit and provide a hands-on display of the different types of sponges. There’s also a fantastic Aquarium in Tarpon Springs!
Visit Tarpon Springs, Florida
The great location and fun activities make Tarpon Springs a fantastic place for a short day trip or even just a quick trip for a delicious lunch or dinner. On the way to and from Tarpon Springs, you’ll drive past the entrance of Honeymoon Island State Park – a beautiful sunset location. You’ll also be able to catch a ferry from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island if you’re not up for the walk to Caladesi Island State Park from Clearwater Beach.
You can also connect a day of Kayaking at Crystal River, Florida with a delicious Greek dinner in Tarpon Springs for an incredible day trip from Clearwater Beach that’s totally worth the drive!