Whenever I have guests come to town, I take them to see the diverse array of attractions that the Tampa Bay area has to offer. The Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs is one attraction that always tops my list to highlight.
Tarpon Springs attracted many Greek settlers in the late 1800's because of its then booming sponging industry. These new settlers brought their sponging techniques and technologies to make Tarpon Springs the new "sponge capital of the world".
The sponging industry is not as strong as it once in Tarpon Springs, but this tourist attraction now stands as a tribute to the culture that endured. The sponge docks are a wonderful landscape filled with beautiful waterways, historic hook boats, fun tourist shops and authentic Greek restaurants. I always enjoy taking a stroll down Dodecanese Blvd to take in the very European atmosphere and to snap photos of the picturesque backdrop.
On January 6th you can come to the Sponge Docks to celebrate Epiphany, when the Greek Orthadox Church blesses the boats and the waters of the area for another successful year of sponging. This celebration includes a ceremony in which local boys (aged 16-18) dive into the bayou to retrieve a wooden cross. The boy that recovers the cross is said to possess good luck in the coming year. You can also find other celebrations that include Greek food and music on the docks.
If you come to the Sponge Docks for nothing else, I highly recommend eating at Hellas Restaurant. The food combined with the friendly staff and great atmosphere make for a memorable dining experience. This is my favorite Greek Restaurant in the Tampa Bay area, only 2nd to Athenian Garden, and I go as often as possible.
For more info check out the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks Website.