In the late 19th century, Greek immigrants began coming to the city of Tarpon Springs to work as sponge divers. Today, Tarpon Springs has more Greek-American residents per capita than any other city in the United States. The sponging industry may not employ as many people as it did a century ago, but the folks in Tarpon Springs are more than happy to pretend like it is. Most of the sponging that occurs nowadays is for the benefit of tourists.
The beauty of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral (17 E. Tarpon Ave., 727/937-3540) is often overlooked by visitors anxious to scarf down spanakopita, but the towering spires are definitely worth a lingering gaze.
Afterward, park at the Sponge Exchange (735 Dodecanese Blvd., 727/934-8758, www.thespongeexchange.com) to browse through the shops selling everything from tourist trinkets and candy by the pound to Greek fashion and Peruvian ceramics. From there you can make your way to the sponge docks, where you’ll be invited by numerous touts to take a sponging excursion.
You could do that, or you could just check out the unintentionally campy museum at Spongeorama (510 Dodecanese Blvd., 727/943-2164, www.spongeorama.com, hours vary but if there are tourists on the strip, it will be open; free), where you can watch a documentary on sponge-fishing and then wander through the dusty and slightly dilapidated exhibits on the Greek community’s history in the area. There is, of course, a rather large gift shop.
Of the many Greek restaurants on the main drag, Santorini Seafood & Grill (698 Dodecanese Blvd., 727/945-9400, http://santorinimediterraneangrill.com, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., main courses $7–12) is the best, with a menu that includes authentic Greek dishes as well as numerous fresh seafood entrées.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition