Back to the sponge docks

Now, as much as I have been talking about finding new experiences in the Tampa area, there are a few favorite spots that we are virtually obliged to visit.  One of them is the Sponge Dock section of Tarpon Springs, a Greek neighborhood just a mile or so off US Rt 19.

The main drag of this tourist district, Dodecanese Blvd, runs along a waterway, so that the boats are docked right along the sidewalk just like the cars parallel-parked on the street.  You can catch a dolphin-watching cruise almost anytime, as well as buy a LOT of sponges, strappy gold-lame sandals, and excellent Greek bakery goods.  We go for the food.  Brett and Lisa joined us (Brett took the pictures).

We haven’t been here since 2006, but nothing seems to have changed.  The big shot in town is still Hellas Restaurant.  The Sponge Museum is still showing the same free movie.  The signs in town are still misspelled (“WATER VEIW”).  Even the boats anchored along the water seem to be in the same places — I wonder if some of them ever move?

tarpon-springs-spitball-lessons.jpgOur first stop is always the National Bakery, down a side street.  Eleanor likes to buy a gallon of olive oil there, plus whatever’s fresh in the bakery case.  That gallon of oil will last her for months.  Then we browse the street for a couple of hours, and eventually end up having dinner around sunset at one of the Greek restaurants in town.

This time we hit Plaka, which is downscale from Hellas but has great food.  The casual aspect is probably was why I felt able to teach Emma how to shoot a spitball there.  The restaurant used to advertise themselves as “The Greek Answer To McDonald’s” but that sign is gone now.  Just as well, I think.  That wasn’t really the best advertisement for them.

Hellas still got our dollar, however, since we went there after dinner to raid their long glass dessert case.  As always, it was a tough choice so we all got something different and shared, plus we brought home a few coconut macaroons, almond cookies, and other goodies.


You can’t say there’s a lot of excitement at the Sponge Docks, but there is something relaxing about the apparent timelessness of the place.  How many other interesting places can you find unchanged after four years? If you live there and pine for something new, it’s boring, but if you only visit once every few years, being frozen in time is a novelty.


  1. says

    The tiny family-owned aquarium there is always fun for us when we head up there. A lot of shops have closed there, but I guess this economy can only support so many shell and sponge trinket shops in one block.

  2. Dwight says

    We have gone to Tarpon for 35 years. Papas, which was the biggest restaurant at the east end of the Dodecanese Blvd went out of business a couple years ago. It was great when my parents took us there. The second generation did not do as good a job running it and it went broke. We will go to Tarpon again when we get there next month. We may use one of the Wilder parks in Port Richey this time for camping.