I first heard of Tarpon Springs from my parents, as it was one of the cities in Florida that they were considering moving to. Barely a month after hearing about this lovely area in Central Florida, I read a fabulous blog post by My Wanderlusty Life, talking about the great day she spent there, exploring the Sponge Docks and local eateries. I knew then that Tarpon Springs was an absolute must do for me while spending the spring/summer with my family in Florida.
About 5 weeks after returning to the USA from South Korea, we finally made it to Tarpon Springs. It took us about 1.5hr to drive there from Bradenton, though it probably would have been much longer on the weekend or during rush hour.
Visiting the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks
While Tarpon Springs is an actual town, with a little downtown area (and some great looking restaurants), the main attraction is the Sponge Docks. Tarpon Springs boasts the title of Sponge Capital of the World, and there are many sponge-related shops, museums, and tours to keep visitors entertained. Instead of going into a lot of detail about the history of the Sponge Docks, I encourage you to check out their website!
Other than shopping and eating, visitors can walk around the docks, visit some of the museums, and even take local riverboat cruises. Here’s a visual walk through my afternoon at the Sponge Docks:
Where to Eat – Hellas Restaurant
This is really a no-brainer. Between my parents’ and My Wanderlusty Life‘s recommendations, I didn’t consider eating anywhere else. They did NOT let me down. My dad ordered the Gyro, mom had the Chicken Kebab, and I chose the Spanakopita and Tiropita platter, with a side Greek Salad. Although we got the most annoying waiter in the restaurant, our food was impeccably prepared and absolutely delicious. This place can get super busy during the high season, and on the weekends, so be sure to allow extra time in your schedule!
On our way back to the car, we popped into the Hellas Bakery and picked up some spanakopita and coconut macaroons to take back home with us. I can honestly say, I’ve never had a better macaroon in my life, and I somehow think that the dozen we purchased is not quite enough!
Side Trip – William Dean Chocolates
This AMAZING Chocolatier is about 30min away from Tarpon Springs in Belleair Bluffs. These chocolates are so damned fancy, that they were featured in The Hunger Games movies. Located in a strip mall, William Dean Chocolates doesn’t look overly posh from the outside, and the interior is simple, yet elegant. We immediately looked to see what flavors of gelato they had that day. The friendly store worker permitted us to sample a few of the flavors before we decided to try one serving of Cappuccino and one that was 1/2 Mango, 1/2 Black Raspberry. I’m not much of an ice cream, gelato, sorbet, etc. kind of girl, but this gelato was absolutely divine! The Cappuccino was my favorite and I’d be happy to share a serving of that anytime!
I didn’t spend too much time looking at the gorgeous chocolates, mainly because I was exhausted and knew that we’d be heading back at least a few more times over the next few months. My mom, dad, and I took a small box of chocolates to go, including the Cappuccino, Espresso (notice a trend here?), and passion fruit. It’s really difficult to put into words just how good these chocolates are. If you are in Florida, GO to William Dean Chocolates. If you aren’t, order them online. You’ll thank me later!
If you ever find yourself in the Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg/Clearwater, or Bradenton/Sarasota area, definitely consider planning a day to spend in Tarpon Springs. It is a lovely town, has some fantastic Greek food, and has plenty of activities to keep all kinds of visitors entertained. I can’t wait to go back!
Stay tuned for another post about some of my all-time favorite things to do in Central Florida! In the mean time, check out this awesome post via Inspired by Maps about legally swimming with manatees – definitely one of my Florida bucket list items!
Also, if you’re interested in checking out more cities with a theme, take a look at this great post by Postcards and Passports!
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