Your guide to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks
Tarpon Springs has so much to offer. It is the oldest city in Pinellas, founded in 1887, and boasts 1 million visitors a year.
It has a small, but impressive aquarium, and 2 easily accessible beaches with Fred Howard Park and Sunset Beach, and a lively downtown. However, it’s perhaps best known for an area stretching less than 1 mile fondly called the Sponge Docks.
Once a hub of the sponging industry, the Sponge Docks today are full of kitschy shops, Greek culture and sponge history.
We’re two local moms and we write about all the family fun happening in Pinellas. The sponge docks were a place we visited often as kids growing up here and our family recently did a whole day at the Sponge Docks with three kids to research this article.
We hope that it will help you plan your next Sponge Docks visit. Let’s dive in!
Tarpon Springs started as a sponge industry hub in the last 1800s. Sponging boomed in the area thanks for Greek immigrants (source: Tarpon Springs Historical Society), which is why you’ll find a unique blend Greek culture and sponging history at the Sponge Docks.
Tourism has now replaced sponging as Tarpon’s big money maker, thanks in part of people visiting the Sponge Docks. Today you’ll find lots of Greek restaurants, unique shops and sponge industry history at the docks.
Parking at the Sponge Docks
There are lots of parking options at the Sponge Docks, including free parking and paid lots.
If you’re up for searching a little, there are free parking options and street parking but they’re more limited. Head towards the end of the docks by the waterfront to look for street parking on the side roads.
If you eat at a restaurant, many of those also offer free parking to customers.
You’ll also find many pay-to-park options with reasonable daily rates. Note that the paid parking prices vary so don’t necessarily go for the first lot you see if it seems pricy.
Things to Do at the Tarpon Sponge Docks
1. Sea Monkey Vintage
This amazing throwback store gives parents a unique opportunity to share with their children sweet memories of toys, movies, and products popular in the 80s and 90s.
2. Jolly Trolley
You can hop on and off the Jolly Trolley from several locations in the area. The Jolly Trolley can be used to travel all the way to Clearwater.
The Jolly Trolley holds a special place for us because we used it as our wedding transport. Now it is a great activity for the kids that they love.
3. Dimitri’s on the Water
No trip to the sponge docks is complete without some Greek food. Dimitri’s on the Water is a delicious restaurant, though possibly on the fancier side for some families.
It has an amazing view outside right on the water of the docks. The best part? The waitresses throw the tables’ extra bread in the water for the fish which was a very memorable experience for my kids.
4. Sunset at Rusty Bellies
Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill is the best place from the Sponge Docks to watch the sunset at the docks.
You don’t have to eat at the restaurant to enjoy the sunset there. They have an open space next to the restaurant that allows people to walk out on the dock.
Note, it is not a clear unobstructed sunset as it would be at the beach, but it is a great experience just the same.
5. Spongeorama Sponge Factory & Museum
Spongeorama Sponge Factory is a store that also houses a small museum in honor of natural sponges. They have the alleged largest natural sponge collection in the world.
If you grew up in the area like we did, you’ll probably get a nostalgic kick out of seeing the same sponge dock video still playing on a loop (it’s free to watch during your visit).
They also have some fun things for kids to check out, like a hat-shaped sponge you can wear and other interesting specimens.
6. Try Saganaki – Greek flaming cheese
Saganaki is a fried cheese Greek appetizer which is both delicious and a cool experience. Many places will flambée halloumi cheese at your table so it is a flaming dish that is exciting for kids (and adults too, let’s be real).
Our favorite place for this is Mr. Souvlaki, a local institution that’s been around for decades. Mr. Souvlaki is technically not on the Sponge Docks but is only a block away on Pinellas Ave.
Many local places do a version of flaming cheese. If you want to stay on the Sponge docks, you can also find it at Hellas.
What trip to the Sponge Docks is complete without some baklava? If your kids are like mine, “sugar!” is always a hit so this one is a no brainer.
Thanks to Tarpon’s Greek culture, you can find amazing baklava and pastries on the docks. Hellas, one of the more popular restaurants on the docks, has an adjoining bakery where you can find baklava.
8. Take a tour
There are a number of boat tours that leave from the Tarpon Sponge Docks. Many of them will take you out to the beautiful offshore islands and other Tarpon landmarks. These tours are nice for visitors who may otherwise not boat in our area.
9. Candy Shop or Ice Cream
There are several places for ice cream at the sponge docks as well as a fun candy shop called Candy Barrel. Your kids can pick out several treats and keep the price minimum.
Not too far from the docks
There are a couple places amazing for kids within 3 miles from the sponge docks.
1. Tarpon Splash Pad
At the end of your Sponge Docks day, head over to the awesome Tarpon Springs Splash Park to cool off. It is one of the best splash pads in Pinellas and it is only 3-minutes away from the docks.
And don’t forget to check out our full review the Tarpon splash pad before you go.
2. Replay Museum
This arcade boasts 120 games. For a cover on entry its all free play inside.
Prices are as of December 2023 for a full day pass:
Adults 13+ $14
Children 7-12 $8
Children 6 and under are FREE with paying adult
Tip: The pay once and play whatever is a great way to play video games with little kids! Since they aren’t good at video games, regular arcades can eat through a lot of quarters. Plus, kids can bounce around from game to game and try things without penalty.
Read to explore another Pinellas town? Check out of list of things to do in Safety Harbor with kids.