Tarpon Springs, FL

Florida's Best Small "Historic, Beachy" Town (According to a Travel Website) May Be a Surprise to Some.

L. Cane

When you think of small, historic, beachy towns in Florida, you might think of Fernandina Beach, Key West, or St. Augustine.

However, the travel website The Travel.com has recently named a small town along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico as what "might be the best (historic and beachy) small town in Florida." And its identity may be a surprise.

What the Travel.com Liked About Tarpon Springs: The Travel.com raved about the rich, diverse Greek history of the town, its delicious restaurants, and its unspoiled, (and sometimes non-crowded) beaches. I'll go over each attribute below.

The Interesting History of Tarpon Springs: The sponge and Greek history of Tarpon Springs begins in the 1900s when John Cheyney and John Cocoris began a sponge diving business in the Gulf waters off Tarpon Springs. As business took off, the men brought in divers from Cocoris' homeland in the Greek Islands. Soon, the sponge business was thriving, and sponges would be the driving force behind Florida's economy for over 30 years. The town grew to support the industry, and Greek restaurants, bakeries, schools, and churches opened in response.

Today, you can still see sponges and diving around town, as the industry still exists.

The Choices of Beautiful, Unspoiled Beaches: Many people think of culture, sponges, and food when they think of Tarpon Springs, but it is also home to some gorgeous, unspoiled beaches.

If you really want to unplug, consider Anclote Key Preserve State Park which is made up of four islands and is only accessible by boat, although there are plenty of companies that will ferry you in. You'll need to bring your own supplies as there are no restaurants or concessions. The park is 1200 acres and you can tour an old lighthouse built in the 1800s. Admission to the park is free.

Other options for those who want to see the beaches are Fred Howard Park and Sunset Beach. Fred Howard Park has a $5 parking fee, and Sunset Beach offers boat slips, picnic tables, a volleyball court, and playgrounds.

Delicious Foods and Restaurants: It would be a shame to visit Tarpon Springs and not try as many different types of Greek fares as you can. Moussaka, gyros, stuffed grape leaves, and baklava are just some examples. And there are many restaurants that can help you try these foods. Hellas and Dimitri's on the Water are both popular choices.

Places to Visit in Tarpon Springs: There are things worth doing in Tarpon Springs that aren't beaches or restaurants - even though both of these things are arguably fantastic. Consider visiting the historic and ornate St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. For an attraction that might appeal to families, try the Tarpon Springs Aquarium. To get a taste of the sponge industry, check out Spongeorama.

Tarpon Springs may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a historic, beachy small town and Florida, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have plenty to offer. It's flying under the radar is not a reflection of its charm.

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