Opa! An Introduction To Tarpon Springs, Florida
Updated: Feb 26, 2022
Tarpon Springs, Florida has one of the highest percentages of Greek Americans of any city in the U.S. It is located at the northern end of Pinellas County on the Gulf of Mexico, Just 28 miles from Tampa and 13.4 miles from Clearwater.
Also known as the sponge capital of the world, Tarpon Springs hosts many cultural events celebrating the Greek heritage, including Epiphany and food festivals. This small but mighty town is magical. It boasts two beaches, several museums, a historic district, the Sponge Docks, A juried, fine Arts festival sponsored by the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce, that artists from all over the country flock to, One of the oldest family-owned boat builders in America, the largest Epiphany celebration in America and lots of Greek food and culture.
Lets dive into all the goodness that Tarpon Springs has to offer. ( Pun intended )
Proud of my Greek heritage, I've included a lesson in Greek pleasantries to use when you go! #Opa
The Image above is a mural on the side of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce painted by local artist Christopher Still
The Sponge Docks
Take a left onto Dodecanese Blvd. from Pinellas Avenue and you immediately see and feel the rich history and Greek culture that is the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.
The waters surrounding this area were once teeming with sponges. Divers from Greece came to Tarpon Springs and soon developed the thriving sponge industry which led to the flourishing tourism industry we see today.
Traditional Greek eateries, bakeries and many shops brimming with various sizes and shapes of natural sea sponges used as loofahs, cleaning, aquariums and vases. You'll find boat rides, fishing excursions and sponge diving demonstrations and even a brewery called Five Branches Brewing who takes it's name from the 5 branches of military. . There's no better place to experience the Greek culture.
Be Greek for a day! Basic Greek words and pleasantries
The Tarpon Springs Historic District
Less than one mile from the Sponge Docks district is downtown Tarpon Springs. The Tarpon Springs Historic District was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on December 6, 1990.
Tarpon Avenue and the surrounding area features many shops, restaurants, breweries, a large variety of antique shops, and Spring Bayou where Epiphany is held. One of the many shops you'll experience is One Amazing Find!
The Tarpon Springs Historic Train Depot has been around for over 100 years. While it is no longer a train station, it now serves as a museum operated by the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society and is donation based.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral - Image by Lekkas Photography & Video
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral - Image by Lekkas Photography & Video
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral 36 N Pinellas Ave. 727-937-3540
For the 114th year, 20,000 locals and visitors turned out at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral and the Spring Bayou for the traditional throwing of the cross during Epiphany celebrations on January 6th.
Epiphany is a day-long celebration that takes 10 months to prepare for. It includes a morning service at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, blessing of the waters, release of a white dove symbolizing the holy spirit and the dive for the cross, followed by a festival or glendi.
Diving for the cross in Spring Bayou - Image by Lekkas Photography & Video
Thousands gather on the banks of the Bayou to watch dozens of teen boys dive into the water to retrieve it. Those selected to dive for the cross are young Orthodox Christian men between the ages of 16 and 18 and the young man that retrieves the cross will receive a year of blessings.
Epiphany in Tarpon Springs is steeped in tradition.
One Greek family has had the honor of crafting the cross for half a century.
Before he passed of cancer, Bill Paskalakis made the cross for 40 years. He made sure to teach his grandson how to make the cross to carry on the tradition. Nicholas Souder is now beginning to train his young nephew, Hayden, so that one day, he will take over.
The prominent fiberglass dinghies that sit in wait in a semi-circle in the Spring Bayou are made by one of the oldest boat builders in America, Stamas Yacht.
Tarpon Springs resident, Walt Postma has been volunteering one of his flock for the releasing of the dove for two decades and the Bilirakis family has passed down the tradition of releasing the dove from grandmother to granddaughter. The Bilirakis family happens to also be one of many families where generations have been honored with being dove-bearers.
Epiphany events are free and open to the public!
On lookers at the Sponge Docks during the blessing of the fleet.
Father Athanasios Haros blessing the shops at the Sponge Docks.
Image by St. Michael's Shrine
St. Michael's Shrine 113 Hope Street, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689
Saint Michael’s Shrine, Is a small chapel that overlooks an actual shrine. It is a place where faithful have reported miracles taking place for decades now. It was built 78 years ago to fulfil the promise an ill 11-year-old boy made to the Archangel Michael after the Saint saved his life, according to his sister, the late Goldie Parr.
Image by SpongeDocks.net
Safford House Museum 23 Parkin Court, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689 727-937-1130
The Safford House Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned and operated by the City of Tarpon Springs as a museum. This beautifully restored hidden gem was built in 1883 and belonged to one of Tarpon Springs original developers.
Heritage Museum 100 Beekman Lane in Craig Park on Spring Bayou 727-937-0686
is located at Craig Park and overlooks the beautiful Spring Bayou. The museum allows you to explore Greek culture and tradition of Tarpon Springs and includes a 16 minute documentary about the local sponge industry. and an exhibit that includes the history of Tarpon Springs’ Women’s Club.
The mission of Tarpon Arts is to connect the community with art in all its diverse forms by providing entertaining, stimulating, and engaging experiences. The 47th annual Tarpon Springs Fine Arts Festival on the Bayou will take place on March 13-14, 2021 at Craig Park on Spring Bayou. 100 Beekman Lane, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689
Learn more here
Cultural Center 101 South Pinellas Avenue 727-942-5605
The Tarpon Springs Cultural Center
Is currently closed for renovations. but the 90 seat theater that hosts the Tarpon Arts Play series is still scheduling performances. The Cultural Center promotes the city's heritage, culture and natural resources by offering programs, performances and exhibits of statewide, national and international interest. where you can learn Greek dancing and cooking. Call the box office for more information.
Image by leeparattner.org
Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art 600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689 (727) 712-5762
Located on the campus of St. Petersburg College in Tarpon Springs, the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art is a modern and contemporary art museum.
The museum boasts over 50,000 square feet with more than 6,000 works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It also serves as a membership based cultural and academic institution that provides educational programs.
Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 62 an older and free to members, students with ID, children 17 and under and active military.
Fred Howard Park
1700 Sunset Drive, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689
This site offers a beach with bike and boat rentals, a 155 acre park with picnic areas, playgrounds, public restrooms and trails, fishing and a causeway.
Sunset Beach Park
1800 Gulf Rd. Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689
This 11 acre beach park offers covered picnic tables, grills and a public restroom
Off the beaten Tarpon Springs path you'll also find such treasures as:
Southern Inspired breakfast, lunch and brunch restaurant with gluten free options.
857 East Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs, Fl. 34689
Gourmet cupcakes baked from scratch
865 E. Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689
101 West Court Street, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689
I would be remiss if I didn't share with you local Tarpon Springs author, speaker, choir singing, cancer surviving, film producer, Demetra Lecourezos and her incredible story and children's series . You'll find more information on her inspiring story on her Young World Travelers Series Facebook page.
Tarpon Springs resident, Kim Adams, Real Estate Agent can guide you in the right direction if you're considering moving to the area.
For more information on things to do contact the
Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce
1 N. Pinellas Avenue, Tarpon Springs, FL. 34689
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