If you happen to be in Naples Florida, don't forget to watch the game of the season. It will be fun and exciting because I for one did have the grandest time watching it. It was totally amazing! You can check out their website to see the schedule but I know there will be a game on April 28 at the Germain Arena.
The lush tropical picnic grounds of this part are developed so that large groups can reserve their own space. But, this part of the park is also popular for joggers and cyclists pushing through to the causeway and beach areas of the park.
The Tarpon Springs Cultural Center has a variety of actives, but for starters there's the building that houses them. This neoclassical style brick building was once the Tarpon Springs City Hall, designed by Ernest Ivey Cook and dedicated in 1915. The city government has since moved into the old high school and restored this structure. This building is on the national list of historic places. See the link for more information about visiting this place.
Dedicated in 1942, after the sponge boom had largely ended, the Orthodox Church has presented a lasting edifice of Greek influence in this town for past 70 years. The copper domed structure, which was intended to resemble the Byzantine Haga Sophia in Constantinople, was designed by the Eugene Brothers of Chicago, and so mixes some modern and traditional elements in a fairly well unified design. Although I didn't have time to visit the interior, apparently the provenance of the stained glass windows and Greek marble alter are of considerable interest.
Many of the older shops and restaurants were buildings used in the sponge industry at one time. Others were originally restaurants and fish markets that catered to the sponge divers. The buildings are painted pleasant pastel colors, and wandering in and out of these along the sponge docks is cheap nostalgic entertainment.
Probably the best thing to do is simply to wander along the docks, enjoying the fresh sea air and breezes that frequent Tarpon Springs along the waterfront. Before or after lunch, the embarcadero is pleasant enough, and hopefully, one of the two sponge divers will return and be willing to chat. We were lucky enough to engage a veteran in a conversation about his trade. There are plenty of old restored vessels to admire here too.
For those willing to shell out considerable dough, there's a two hour tourist cruise into the Gulf of Mexico and a chance to watch a sponge diver harvest a sponge. Tour vendors are plentiful enough, so there's no need to reserve a spot aboard the vessel. Prices are posted. This is a good outing for families and seniors.
As the stock in shallower waters diminished, sponge divers were forced to adapt and dive deeper. But, there are risks with diving, and frankly the heavy bronze diving helmet and fragile air hose frighten me. There is a bronze statue on the sponge dock at Tarpon Springs which is a tribute to those who lost there lives in an industry now all but gone.
In 1985, when I was about 10 years old, we did a nine-day family vacation from our home in Pennsylvania to Florida. We drove down to Florida, and stayed at a hotel in Kissimmee near Orlando. During our trip, we visited Disney and Gatorland Zoo in Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center on the Atlantic Coast, and then drove over to the Tampa are to see Busch Gardens and Weeki Wachee. Without a doubt, Weeki Wachee was the biggest disappointment of the trip. In fact, my most vivid memory from this part of our journey was stopping by the rocky beach near Weeki Wachee. From Weeki Wachee itself, all I can recall is the mermaid ladies swimming underwater with hoses they occasionally sucked on for fresh air.
Judging from our photos, they also had a birds of prey area, and I hear they have manatees.
Along the sponge docks you will find a statue of a diver and a plaque for the sponge divers. The statue is dedicated to those Tarpon Springs residents who died harvesting sponges, with a plqque "In memory of the spongers of Tarpon Springs." Below the statue are plaques containing the names of those who died in the sponge industry.
The historic maker nearby reads,
The Gulf waters off the west coast of Florida
north of Tampa Bay comprise one of the few
areas of the world where the species of
natural sponges suitable for commercial use
are found. The natural sponge industry in
Tarpon Springs dates from about 1890 when
John K. Cheyney launched his first sponge-
fishing boat. Sponges were retrieved by hooking
until the technique of diving for sponge was
introduced in 1904 by John Cocoris, a recent
immigrant from Greece, where the practice of
sponge diving was common. Within a few years,
many Greeks had arrived in the area to work
in the sponging industry.
The Tarpon Springs Sponge Exchange was
incorporated in 1908 as a shareholding
organization to provide for the storage and
sale of sponges. The peak of prosperity for
the Tarpon Springs sponge industry came
in the 1930s. In 1939 the sponge beds in
the area suffered from a disease which sub-
stantially reduced the crop of healthy sponges
for several years. In spite of the decline in
the sponge industry, the Tarpon Springs Sponge
Exchange has continued to serve as a focal
point for the Greek community.
Downtown Tarpon Springs is nearby, but distinctly different than the Sponge Docks area. The downtown area has a traditional Main Street feel, with lots of restaurants and antique shops. The old railroad route is now a busy walking and biking trail, with the railroad station the visitors center. There is a large Greek Orthodox church in town serving the area's Greek population.
From around 1900 until the end of WWII the Tarpons Springs sponge industry was huge. It is said this was, for several decades, the largest industry in Florida. Around 1946 a blight nearly eliminated the sponges, but today the industry is again thriving, with some 1,000 people employed in the industry, and $15 million in revenue yearly.
Many of the original sponge divers were Greeks, and the area known as the Sponge Docks still boasts a strong Greek influence. Here you will find a number of Greek restaurants and bars. There are also numerous shops, most selling sponges or diving equipment.
Dunedin is home to Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Park. The town's best feature, one really lacking from a lot of this area's cities, is the traditional Main Street with local shops and restaurants. Dunedin is also home to the Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training facility. This is such a comfortable small town, it's amazing to discover 35,000 people live here.
Dunedin was founded by Scottish immigrants in 1899, and its name comes from the Scottish word Dùn Èideann, which means Edinburgh. The towns maintains its Scottish roots with the annual Dunedin Highland Games
tarpon ave. is a shopping street in downtown tarpon springs. tarpon ave. is lined with shops and restaurants and is not as touristy as dodecanese blvd and the sponge docks. a nice less crowded part of tarpon springs to visit.
the tarpon springs aquarium is located on dodecanese blvd. near the sponge docks. this interesting aquarium has a living reef with a collection of sharks, stingrays, tarpon, snook, grouper, and various tropical fish. they also have daily fish feedings. a very nice small aquarium to visit when in tarpon springs.