Visiting Tarpon Springs’ Sponge Docks is one of our favorite things to do when we go to Florida. We take a day trip to Tarpon Springs to walk down Dodecanese Avenue to check out the Sponge Dock shops, local Greek restaurants, enjoy the Anclote River, and much more.
THE TARPON SPRINGS SPONGE DOCKS
In this travel guide I will be sharing with you our favorite shops, Greek restaurants, coffee shops, and many more fun things to do at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.
This post was last updated on February 2021.
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TARPON SPRINGS’ SPONGE DOCKS HISTORY
Back in 1880, a wealthy saw manufacturer called Hamilton Disston purchased four million acres from the Florida governor. Within this purchase was Tarpon Springs. Soon after, a depot was built and the railroads arrived bringing passengers and freight to the Tarpon Springs area. This shortly led to wealthy Northerners to escape the winter by taking a vacation at Tarpon Springs.
A few years later the sponge industry boomed, becoming a very important part of Tarpon Springs’ community. By 1890, the Cheney Sponge Company had sold almost a million dollars worth of sponges in a single year. This led to the arrival of experienced sponge divers from Greece, specifically the Dodecanese islands. These divers used to dive for sponges in the Aegean Sea.
As these divers arrived and made Tarpon Springs their new home, so did their culture, language, Greek foods, and even traditions and have remained an important part of Tarpon Springs history till this day.
You can learn more about the history of Tarpon Springs here and here.
HOW TO GET TO TARPON SPRINGS SPONGE DOCKS
Once you arrive at Tarpon Springs you are going to want to look for the intersection of Dodecanese Avenue and Pinellas Avenue. The Sponge Dock shops and restaurants are all located on Dodecanese Boulevard heading West. You can’t miss it. You will see a huge mural and a cool shop on the corner called The Sponge Factory. Just keep walking down the boulevard in that direction.
BEST PARKING AT THE SPONGE DOCKS
We always park at the parking lot by The Sponge Factory and pay at the entrance of the parking lot at the kiosk. We like to park here cause it makes it easier for us to start and end at the entrance of the Sponge Dock area. Another great reason to park is here because the bathrooms are right across the street from it so you can always use it once you arrive and right before you leave.
Just make sure to have some cash on you just in case and when you go to pay make sure you have your car tag number. Then place the ticket on your dash, lock your car, and enjoy what Tarpon Springs’ Sponge Docks has to offer.
MAP OF TARPON SPRINGS SPONGE DOCKS
THE SPONGE DOCK SHOPS
There are so many fun things to do at the Sponge Docks but one of the main reasons the people come to visit is to see the various local shops here. The shops carry numerous different items from souvenirs to a large variety of sponges found in Tarpon Springs to even handmade items.
Some of my personal favorite shops on the strip are:
- The Sponge Factory – Located right next to the parking lot mentioned above.
- Spongeorama Sponge Factory
- Antonia’s Boutique and Gifts
- Tarpon Style Apparel and Souvenirs
- Candy Barrel – My daughters loved this candy shop. They we’re in awe of all the treats and different types of candies.
- Vinyl Vibes CD Shop
BEST PLACES TO EAT AT THE SPONGE DOCKS
Tarpon Springs is known for its Greek restaurants and delicious food. Don’t worry, there is a variety of restaurants at the Sponge Docks for you to choose from. However, if you’re visiting, you should definitely try a Greek restaurant to get a full and all around experience of this Florida destination.
BEST GREEK FOOD IN TARPON SPRINGS
We have visited Tarpon Springs twice already and have tried a few restaurants which were all very good. I would have to say that the best Greek restaurants for you to choose from are:
- Dimitri’s On The Water
- Mama’s Greek Cuisine
- Hellas Restaurant and Bakery
- Taste of Greece
BEST NON-GREEK RESTAURANTS IN TARPON SPRINGS
If you’re looking for a restaurant outside of the Greek cuisine then these two are the ones you want to check out.
- Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill
- Hawaiian Poke Place
GRAB SOME ICE CREAM AT SWEETIES
Usually after walking to the end of Dodecanese Boulevard we like to grab some ice cream at Sweeties to cool off. I’m a kid at heart and love anything with chocolate and sprinkles in my ice cream. They also have some frozen drinks for you to try as well like milkshakes, malts, and smoothies. They even have a coffee bar if you need a little boost of energy for the walk back.
Note: They also have dairy free sorbets, vegan oat milk ice cream, and gluten free options as well.
TRY SOME DELICIOUS CUBAN COFFEE AT SERAFIN DE CUBA CIGAR SHOP
Located by The Sponge Factory next to the parking lot is this cool Cuban cigar shop called Serafín de Cuba Cigar Shop. They also have some Cuban coffee. This was our stop for a good coffee. Before heading back out on the road, don’t forget to grab a cup of espresso here to keep you going throughout the day.
GRAB A COLD BREW AT ANCLOTE BREW
If you’re looking for a place to grab a drink at with a good vibe then Anclote Brew is the place for you. They have numerous seating areas perfect to grab a beer and chill for a bit.
TOURS AND ATTRACTIONS
During your visit make sure to add a fun tour to your things to do. The Sponges Docks have a few tours and attractions that are perfect for your family or solo vacation. Here are a few that we recommend you add to your itinerary.
- Island Adventure Dolphin Cruise
- Island Wind Tours
- Dolphin Deep Sea Fishing
- Odyssey Cruises
SPONGE DIVER MEMORIAL STATUE
The bronze statue is located alongside the Anclote River on Dodecanese Boulevard across the Anclote Brew area. The statue stands “to commemorate the Greek immigrants that moved from Greece to become sponge divers as generations before them have done so in America.” You can learn more about the Sponge Diver Memorial Statue here.
OTHER FUN THINGS TO DO AT TARPON SPRINGS SPONGE DOCKS
With the shops, restaurants and tourist attractions to enjoy at Tarpon Springs, a few other things that you can do as you walk down the boulevard is:
- Watching the boats unload the sea sponges from the boats at the docks by the Sponges Diver Memorial Statue.
- Watch the pelicans and enjoy the views of the Anclote River at the shaded picnic area by the Dolphin Gift Shop.
- Enjoy a local event. You can see what events are being hosted and when here.
SUNSET AT FRED HOWARD PARK
Even though Fred Howard Park is located outside of the Sponge Dock area I decided to add it to this guide. After viewing everything that the Sponge Docks have to offer, we like to head to Fred Howard Park for a quick swim and to enjoy the sunset.
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO GO
Spring and fall seasons tend to be the best time of year to go. Everyone is usually at work or in school so vacations are not as popular this time of year. If you can’t make it during this time of year then I would recommend winter months next. Florida tends to stay warm pretty much all year long so you can enjoy anything outdoors all year round. However, going in the summer means more crowds, more tourists, and a higher heat index.
WHERE TO STAY AT TARPON SPRINGS
There’s not a whole lot of options on where to stay at. Some of the hotels near Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks include:
- The 1910 Inn – Bed and Breakfast – This is a historic and local bed and breakfast. It has a very lovely Queen Anne style of architecture and historic charm to it.
- Quality Inn and Suites – Breakfast included.
- Hampton Inn and Suites – Breakfast included.
- Waterfront Oasis – Vacation home rental with pool and boat dock included.
If you are looking for something a little more distant and different, you can check these out.
- Vista Inn Lake – Breakfast included.
- Innisbrook, A Salamander Golf and Spa Resort
WHAT TO WEAR
Florida tends to be a warm place to visit all year around. If you go between the months of February to November I would recommend wearing summer clothing. Even December and January can be warm too but I would pay closer attention to the weather then just to make sure a cold front isn’t coming in. One thing that I would recommend is to wear comfy shoes for walking.
MORE FLORIDA FUN
Looking for more fun things to do in Florida? Check these out! They are all on the west central coast of Florida making them a short little road trip away from Tarpon Springs.
- Guide to Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida
- Visiting Fort De Soto Park in St. Petersburg, Florida
- Kayaking at Weeki Wachee Springs
The Sponge Docks at Tarpon Springs has a lot to offer. It’s a perfect location for a day trip or even a weekend getaway. Don’t forget to wear some comfy shoes, eat at a Greek restaurant, check out the docks when they are unloading the sponges or even take a tour to make the most of your experience here.