Tired of all the same Florida hotspots? See and experience something different with all the best things to do in Tarpon Springs. Located on the Gulf Coast, Tarpon Springs has all the classic Florida nature and pristine beaches, but the town remains unique, thanks to its plethora of natural sea sponges.
At its peak, the local sponge industry in Tarpon Springs was the biggest in the world, using unique Greek diving techniques. Tarpon Springs now boasts a rich Greek culture with a fascinating history, an authentic international food scene, and plenty of nature to explore; you’ll wonder why it took so long to make it here!
Still not sure what to do in Tarpon Springs? Get a head start with our guide to the best places to visit in Tarpon Springs, FL.
Must-see places to visit in Tarpon Springs, FL
Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks
Known as the Sponge Capital of the World, it’s no surprise that one of the top points of interest in Tarpon Springs is the famous Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. The docks are the heart of the town and where its heritage began.
In the late 1800s, the sponge industry boomed, with residents harvesting sponges from as far south as Key West. Divers used techniques hailing from Greece, which proliferated the level of harvests. This saw an equally rapid number of immigrants from Greece. Today, Tarpon Springs is the largest Greek community in the United States.
Aside from strolling the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks and watching the sponge boats come home, check out one of the many top-notch restaurants in town serving Greek cuisine.
Fred Howard Park
Spread over 150 prime acres on the Gulf of Mexico, Fred Howard Park is one of the coolest places to see in Tarpon Springs. Along with the Sponge Docks, the park is a major local drawcard, with over two million visitors paying a visit to Fred Howard Park every year.
After crossing the causeway, you’ll be greeted by a shady forest with nature trails waiting to guide you through. You’ll discover several picnic shelters along the way, creating a wonderful spot to set up lunch in the beautiful environment. Continue along the path until you reach a boardwalk that’ll guide you to the beach.
With the white sand spread out before you relax under the sun, go sea kayaking or find fishing spots along the shoreline.
Konger Tarpon Springs Aquarium
One of the top Tarpon Springs attractions for families can be found at Konger Tarpon Springs Aquarium. A family business, the small aquarium may be small but is packed with exciting and hands-on activities. Kids will love the opportunity to have stingrays nibble right out of their hands and the chance to feed sharks. (Albeit from the end of a stick.)
Around the Konger Tarpon Springs Aquarium is a splendid variety of marine life, from lionfish to groupers. Other interactive adventures include getting to hold a snake and touching the adorable turtles. The aquarium is budget-friendly and makes for a memorable day out with the entire family.
A.L. Anderson Park
Speaking of wildlife, if you’re an avid bird watcher or want to discover more local wildlife, then add room for A.L. Anderson Park on your Tarpon Springs itinerary. The well-maintained park is known for the series of beautiful views of Salmon Bay and Lake Tarpon, split by the lush, hilly forest.
Among the park’s highlights are the nature trails that snake through the forests and along the water, passing oaks, palms, and cypress trees home to a variety of birdlife.
If you have the time, return at sunset for a dazzling nature display. Other reasons to get excited about A.L. Anderson Park include the boat ramp to get out on the calm water along with the sectional dog park for your four-legged friend.
As the name suggests, one of the best places to go in Tarpon Springs for beautiful sunsets is—drum roll please!—Sunset Beach. It’s small but eventful—and there are also plenty of reasons to start your day right here. Tarpon Springs has over 50 miles of gorgeous waterfront but the soft white sands of Sunset Beach have long attracted the local community.
Lapping the golden sand is the shallow and blue water of the Gulf of Mexico. Not only does it make Sunset Beach beautiful, but also great for little ones dipping their toes in the ocean for the first time.
As the day progresses, stick around and make use of the covered picnic areas with on-site BBQs so you’re well-fed when taking in the nightly light show.
Tarpon Springs Historic District
The quaint Greek town of Tarpon Springs is home to what is often called the Antique District. In Downtown Tarpon Springs, mostly along Tarpon Avenue, you’ll find an array of museums, art galleries, and cozy cafes among old-time architecture. But the genuine star of the show is the amazing selection of antique stores you could spend all afternoon jumping between.
Some of the best antique stores in Tarpon Springs include Finders Keepers, Carter’s Antique Asylum, and One Amazing Find. However, the best of the lot is the Court of Two Sisters. Among the extensive layout is a collection of historic memorabilia, old-school jewelry, and gifts, along with period furniture that will be worth the extra baggage fee.
Anclote Key State Park Lighthouse
Three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs is a small island named Anclote Key. Encapsulated by the Anclote Key Preserve State Park, the isle is a haven for nature lovers and equally a place of romance.
After taking a private boat ride or the regular ferry to Anclote Key and embark on a shelling adventure along many isolated beaches, or try to spot one of the 40 species of birds hanging in the canopy.
Along the way, you’ll have a close-up look at the historic Anclote Key State Park Lighthouse, one of the best things to see in Tarpon Springs. Built towards the end of the 19th century, it has long been an important guide for offshore vessels.
Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail
Beginning in St. Petersburg and running all the way to Tarpon Springs via Clearwater and Dunedin is the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail. The multi-use trail makes use of an abandoned railway corridor, bringing new life to what is now a protected green space. The trail runs for 47 miles, and cycling from end-to-end is a popular outdoor activity.
However, as a multi-use trail, walkers, joggers, and even skaters can come along for the journey. Along with enjoying greater access to nature, those embarking on the trail can explore neighboring towns such as Dunedin and Palm Harbor.
If that wasn’t enough, stop in several local parks for a rest or journey down connecting trails into Honeymoon Island State Park.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral
On your explorations of Downtown Tarpon Springs, you’ll likely cross paths with the ornate St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Standing tall over the cityscape, it’s the most prominent part of the Tarpon Springs skyline.
The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral is another example of the coastal town’s strong Greek heritage. It’s easy on the eyes, both inside and out.
After admiring the facade, head inside for a close-up view of the gorgeous painted ceilings, stained windows, pure marble, and soaring white archways. Adding in the welcome silence, the cathedral is a breathtaking experience.
Annually, on January 6th, an ancient Greek festival, the Day of Epiphany, is celebrated. The sponge boats and surrounding waters are blessed before the priest throws the Holy Cross into the bay as many jump in to retrieve it.
Tarpon Springs Splash Park
Wondering where to go in Tarpon Springs to cool off on a hot Florida day? Head to the Tarpon Springs Splash Park for a fun-filled and refreshing afternoon. Oh, and it’s free! Within the large play area is a collection of themed Tarpon Springs statues, from tarpon to sponge divers and manatees.
But the young ones will be rushing down the water slides again and again or running through the fountains and getting sprayed along the way.
As it’s free and fun, the Tarpon Springs Splash Park can get crowded on those sunny days. To escape some of the noise, chill out under the shady, covered areas.
Historic Train Depot Museum
Another historic part of Downtown Tarpon Springs is the Historic Train Depot Museum. Like Tarpon Springs Splash Park, the museum is another great free activity, especially if you’re traveling on a budget.
If you love your locomotives or fancy yourself a history buff, then you’ll enjoy exploring the depot century-old depot and the replica of the old railway station that was built in the town during the 19th century.
At the ticket office, you can grab yourself a pass to explore some of the historic trains or jump between the exhibits which elaborate on life during the height of the Sponge Era along with both World Wars.
From the famous Sponge Docks, you can walk along Dodecanese Boulevard, a hub of activity every day of the week. A favorite spot for locals and a magnet for tourists, the street showcases an abundance of interesting gift shops along with Spongeorama. Arrive at the latter to watch a fascinating short film on the natural sponges before exploring the on-site museum.
Dodecanese Boulevard is also where you’ll find some of the best Greek restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops in town. Mama’s Greek Cuisine is a local institution and a must-see on your strolls down the boulevard. Sample authentic and delicious Greek delicacies from baklava to Greek salad.
Brooker Creek Preserve
As the largest park in Pinellas County, Brooker Creek Preserve belongs on our list. With both walking and horseback riding trails, there are a few ways to get to see the lovely preserve with your own eyes. Like at a lot of parks in the region, you’ll see an abundance of birds, especially in the winter months.
The well-marked trails will guide you through the dense pine woods and forest wetlands, with several places to stop, sit, and bask in the surrounding beauty.
The Brooker Creek Preserve also features a visitor center and on-site museum. Young and old will enjoy perusing the various exhibits that dive into the local geography and wildlife.
Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
For some more art and culture, spend an afternoon at the Leepa-Rattner Museum on the local St. Petersburg College campus. Housing the most impressive collection of contemporary art in Tarpon Springs, the museum also covers a variety of genres and styles.
The Leepa-Rattner Museum is small in stature, but the aforementioned variety makes it an interesting visit. Take the time to appreciate some fantastic local and national work in oil painting, photography, and even ceramics. The museum often holds workshops along with family-friendly and fun activities such as the Treasure Hunt.
Safford House Museum
Reflecting much of its original Victorian-era elegance, The Safford House Museum is another wonderful way to get to know the alluring town of Tarpon Springs. The former home of one of the town’s original developers now provides a way to take a journey back in time before the sponge boom put the town on the proverbial map.
The Safford House Museum is open every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11 am to 3 pm and has been magically restored to reflect an era long past. Get to know the original inhabitants of the home and early life here in Tarpon Springs.
Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum
One of the best ways to bring together all the little tidbits of the town’s rich history while it’s fresh in your mind is to visit the Tarpon Springs History Museum. Going further than the Safford House Museum, visitors can learn about Native American life in the region plus see a collection of historic artifacts and tools.
From there, you’ll be able to watch an interesting documentary about the booming sponge industry and the turn of the 20th century and the ensuing development of the local Greek community.
Afterward, relax in Craig Park, just feet from where the town’s first settlers arrived, adding another wrinkle to the history experience.
Along the waterfront, Craig Park is one of the original parts of Tarpon Springs. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the park is the Heritage Museum. But the park is also a glorious spot to pack a picnic and enjoy local life.
If you aren’t playing yard games or diving into the charcuterie board, walk along the water’s edge for the chance to spot manatees that gather in the shallows. Overhanging palm trees back the path.
Perfect for some much-needed shade, Craig Park is also a lovely spot to tuck into a page-turner or flick through the photos of your memorable adventures through Tarpon Springs.
Recommended places to stay in Tarpon Springs for sightseeing
For a budget stay in Tarpon Springs, slide into this value-laden hotel. Located on US Highway 19, you’ll have quick access to all the top tourist attractions in Tarpon Springs as well as in neighboring Dunedin, Palm Harbor, and Clearwater.
Offering spacious rooms, this mid-range hotel is a great choice for exploring the area to its fullest. Cool down from the Florida sun in the outdoor pool.
Located in nearby Holiday, this hotel offers both rooms and suites and a host of excellent amenities, including an outdoor pool, fitness center, and daily breakfast buffet.