Early Thanksgiving week visitors headed to the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida this afternoon to enjoy the mild, sunny weather and the Greek and seafood restaurants, Greek bakeries, shops and boat tours. If you’re visiting Tarpon Springs and Pinellas County, the National Weather Service forecasts beautiful weather, sunny clear skies through this week with daytime temperatures in the mid-70’s and evening temperatures in the mid-50’s.
Tarpon Springs is located by the Anclote River off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Tarpon Springs is known for its fine natural sponges and is the oldest community in Pinellas County.
A.W. Ormond and his daughter, Mary were the first settlers. Mary Ormond named the area Tarpon Springs in 1879 for the many fish in the bayou waters.
After the railroad and Anclote Key Lighthouse were built, Tarpon Springs continued to grow. The town became a winter retreat for many wealthy Northerners.
A promoter realized the sponges growing in the Gulf waters were very profitable. Experienced divers from Greece came. By 1905, there were over 500 Greek sponge divers harvesting the sponges in 50 boats in Tarpon Springs.
After deep sea diving equipment improved, divers were able to harvest sponges in deeper water and make more money.
For 30 years, the sponge industry was the largest industry in Florida. According to spongedocks.net., Tarpon Springs became the “Sponge Capital of the World.” The sponge industry nearly died, but rebounded in the 1980’s.
Parking in the Sponge Docks area is $3, but there’s also 10-15 minute free parking in this this area of Tarpon Springs.
Just a short distance away from the Sponge Docks, you’ll also find good, authentic Greek food at The Original Mama Maria’s restaurant at 503 N. Pinellas Avenue in Tarpon Springs. Parking is free. The lunch special is $10.95, which includes a meaty Gyro sandwich, Greek salad or fries and a soft drink or tea.