While it’s not well known among tourists, Tarpon Springs has the most populous city with Greek heritage of any city in the United States, and the city hosts many cultural events each year to celebrate this heritage.
Tarpon Springs is located in Pinellas County and had approximately 24,000 residents at the last census. In recent years, it has undergone many urban improvement projects.
Also known as the Natural Sponge Capital of the World, it has dozens of miles of scenic waterfront.
Here are 15 things to do in Tarpon Springs.
1. Sunset Beach
For many visitors to Tarpon Springs, it’s all about the beach.
The town is estimated to have more than 50 miles of waterfront land; a quick glance at the map might reveal this to be true.
Sunset Beach is especially suitable for those traveling with small children, as there is an abundance of clear, shallow, calm waters and long stretches of white sand. As its name suggests, it’s also home to some stunning sunsets.
For those who don’t want to pack up and head out while eating, there’s a covered seating area with built-in grills, and ample parking nearby.
2. Tarpon Springs Sponge Pier
Tarpon Springs isn’t dubbed the sponge capital of the world out of thin air. For visitors interested in getting up close and personal with the city’s unique history, there’s no better place than the Tarpon Springs Sponge Pier.
The marina is one of Tarpon Springs’ most popular attractions and, in many ways, the cultural, economic, and historical center of the city.
They have played a vital role in the development of the city over the years. While the natural sponge business is gone, the marina is a free and fascinating place to visit and well worth your hour.
3. Tarpon Springs Wildlife Tours
The clear, temperate waters of Florida’s Gulf Coast are home to a variety of marine species and another major attraction in the area.
From manatees and turtles to predatory birds and the giant silver tarpon for which the city is named, Tarpon Springs and the surrounding area are a nature lover’s paradise. Many guests choose to experience the magnificence and wildlife as part of a guided tour.
There are several tour providers and packages to choose from, ranging from half an hour to several hours; dolphin and turtle tours are the most popular.
4. Leepa-Rattner Museum
Located on the St. Petersburg College campus on Klosterman Road in Tarpon Springs, the Leepa-Rattner Museum has one of the most impressive collections of contemporary art in the region.
Most of the works in the museum’s collection come from the 20th and 21st centuries and are created in a variety of mediums, such as oil painting, ceramics and photography.
While it’s not huge by museum standards, most guests found that their experience exceeded their expectations, and they learned a lot about the history of the area during their visit.
Plan to spend an hour or two seeing all the sights.
5. Take a cruise
For those with stocky sea legs, there’s no better way to experience Tarpon Springs than via one of the many cruise ships available.
While marine animal sightseeing tours are the most popular, they are far from the only game in town.
For beach lovers and shell lovers, popular tours to Key Preserve State Park are reasonably priced, a year-round hotspot for sand dollars, conch, and beautiful driftwood.
For those who don’t want to toil in the hot Florida sun, the myriad sunset cruises would be great. Many of these include dinner and drinks.
6. Tarpon Springs Historic District
Historic downtown Tarpon Springs is a quaint haven often referred to as the Antiques District.
It’s a well-connected area, perfect for cultural and historical travelers who don’t mind getting up, and it’s a particularly popular destination for those interested in shopping.
There are many antique shops selling everything from antique jewelry and clothing to furniture, homewares and expensive collectibles, making it the perfect place to spend a few hours in the morning or afternoon. There are restaurants and coffee shops nearby when you need to relax and refill your fuel tank.
7. Eat Greek food
With such a rich Greek history, it’s no surprise that Tarpon Springs is home to numerous Greek restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops. For those who have never tried authentic Greek food, your visit to Tarpon Springs would be the perfect time to do so.
Hellas, Mama’s Greek Cuisine and Mr. Souvlaki are some of the most popular, offering some of Greece’s most traditional and delicious dishes, such as baklava, stuffed grape leaves and classic Greek salads.
Most of the food you will eat is homemade on site by people with close ties to the old world. While the restaurant can be busy during peak hours, there is ample parking nearby.
8. Anclote Key State Park Lighthouse
The Anclote Key State Park Lighthouse is located a few miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs and is accessible from the mainland by private boat and public ferry.
The main attraction is the historic lighthouse, originally built in the late 19th century and an important lighthouse for sailors in the area. But the park has many recreational options, making it one of the places many visitors choose to spend their entire day.
The park’s beaches are generally not as crowded as other more accessible beaches. Bird watching, shell hunting, swimming and sunbathing are also popular.
9. Try some microbrews
Although it’s a small city, Tarpon Springs has a great reputation in Florida’s microbrewery community. For beer lovers looking for a break from the scorching sun, there are a few options.
Two Frogs Brewing Company is located in an old drugstore that looks like a Prohibition-era speakeasy. They are known for their Belgian-style beers – some of which have chocolate in them.
Saint Somewhere Brewing Company is housed in a residence, and previous guests have noticed that they are finally enjoying its strange setting.
They have a good selection of beers but no food so you need to eat elsewhere.
10. Shrine of St. Michael’s Tasiakis
Florida is so full of sand, sun and seafood that many guests overlook the less commercial but more exclusive attractions. For those looking for less of the former and more of the latter, a short trip to the Shrine of St. Michael’s Tax would be the perfect way to spend an hour.
The shrine is located near the Sponge Pier for easy viewing along with the Sponge Pier; many locals and tourists claim it holds great power.
Legend has it that the shrine was built for a boy who died of a tumor, but he recovered soon after it was built. Since then, it has held a place in local legends.
11. Tarpon Springs Aquarium
With its rich coastline, rivers, and bays, Tarpon Springs is home to a variety of animals that live in both fresh and salt water. There’s no better place to see them than at the Tarpon Springs Aquarium.
The aquarium recently relocated to a newer and larger facility on the Dixie Freeway, and its inhabitants include everything from sharks and alligators to rays and many colorful reef fish.
Admission is relatively cheap, and while it’s not the largest aquarium in the world, most guests feel that their trips are well worth the money.
12. Fred Howard Park
For those on a budget, parks can be accessible, free or inexpensive recreational spots. They offer multiple entertainment options in one area.
Located on the Gulf Coast, Fred Howard Park covers more than 150 acres and attracts more than 1 million visitors each year.
It’s a beach lover’s paradise, known for its clean white sand and crystal clear blue waters, and popular with sun worshippers, snorkelers, kayakers and paddleboarders.
Fishing along the long causeway to the park is popular and is usually most productive in the morning and evening.
13. Tarpon Springs Splash Park
There’s a magical way the holidays can make your hard-earned money disappear with surprising efficiency. For those in need of free and kid-friendly entertainment, there’s no better place than Tarpon Springs Splash Park.
Unsurprisingly, Splash Park is a popular spot and can get very crowded during the peak summer months, so it’s not a good idea for those looking for a bit of peace. But it has many facilities like slides, fountains and swimming pools, as well as some cool replicas of animals like manatees and tarpon.
Parents who would rather watch the game from a safe distance will appreciate the covered seating area.
Although you may have missed Opa this year! The Palooza Greek Festival in Tarpon Springs will also take place next June, so you’ll have plenty of time to make travel plans between then and now.
Held at the historic Sponge Pier, the festival includes band battles, arts and crafts, plenty of delicious food, as well as many children’s games and other fun activities.
The festival lasts for three days at the beginning of the month. As cool as the weather may be, this is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture that shapes the area.
15. Sponge Pier Seafood Festival
The Sponge Docks Seafood Festival takes place in mid-November when the weather in Florida is fantastic and has been attracting seafood lovers over the years.
Live entertainment, arts and crafts, games and competitions abound. This will be a great opportunity for those who have never experienced the Florida-style holiday season.
Many vendors and customers will have their Christmas costumes and decorations ready. Additionally, some ships and businesses will be adorned with lights for some breathtaking photos – especially after the sun goes down.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Tarpon Springs, FL
Lowest price guaranteed.