Soak Up Tarpon Springs, Florida — the Sponge Capital of the World
Where do you find gooey Baklava, authentic Mediterranean cuisine, and the world's best location for natural sea sponges? Tarpon Springs, Florida! Believe it or not, tourism and citrus weren’t always the Sunshine State’s largest industries. Back in the 1890s, it was sponging and Tarpon Springs was its center. After John Cocoris arrived from Greece and started a prosperous sponge diving business in 1905, word of his success reached Greece and the town became a mecca for hundreds of Greek divers looking for work. The Sponge Exchange was created in 1907 to facilitate auctions, and is still used by buyers and sellers today. If you’re heading south this winter to soak up the sun, historic downtown Tarpon Springs still feels a bit like a Grecian fishing village. It’s a fun place to learn about the sponge industry and treat yourself to delicious food.
Did you know that sponges are actually the skeletons of aquatic animals? To learn all about sponging, watch a free movie at either Spongeorama or The Sponge Factory (both located on Dodecanese Boulevard). The old film footage shows how early divers harvested the sponges with long hooks, then eventually used rubberized diving suits and helmets to increase their yield. You’ll also learn the differences between the most sought-after varieties—wool sponges, yellow sponges, finger sponges, and more. The films provide a lot of good historical information that will make your stroll along the town’s sponge docks more interesting. Allow time to peek into unique shops, have a meal, or embark on a sight-seeing boat cruise.
Tarpon Springs is the perfect day trip from Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, and Orlando. But if you don’t like crowds, avoid the Sponge Capital of the World on January 6 when their famous annual Greek Epiphany celebration takes place. It is the largest Epiphany celebration in the United States. As part of the festivities, a Greek Orthodox priest throws a crucifix into water. Young men jump in, hoping to be the one who brings up the cross.
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Get more information here on things to do and see and cultural events in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
510 Dodecanese Blvd • Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689
The Sponge Factory
15 Dodecanese Blvd. • Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689