The whole idea of going to Tarpon Springs was brought about one day by saying how bad I wanted to go to Greece (daydreaming about traveling to European countries, as I do.) My friend Jonathan said, “I know a place that has good Greek food that I’ve been wanting to try!” Little did I know that this was going to turn into one of my favorite days of the entire year!
On a beautiful sunny day in April 2019, Jonathan, our friend Carlos, and I hopped in the car, got the Mamma Mia soundtracks blasting on the radio, and we road tripped about two hours from Orlando to our destination of the day.
Tarpon Springs is a city along the Gulf Coast of Florida that was built up by Greek immigrants who developed the sponge industry. They made it into “The Sponge Capital of the World.” We discovered a plethora of Greek restaurants, adorable shops, and boat tours!
Here is the list of things we did during our day in Tarpon Springs:
1. Lunch – Mykonos
We arrived hungry so we decided to eat at a restaurant named “Mykonos.” It had a very classic Greek diner feel, with white and blue walls to match that quintessential Greek color scheme. The restaurant was jam-packed when we initially arrived. It felt like a lot of the locals were enjoying their lunch hour, which really gave this restaurant that intimate community feel.
For an appetizer, we got a platter with octopus, calamari, and shrimp – but it wasn’t fried or breaded! That was a little adventurous for me but I still tried it. (gotta try everything at least once!) The boys really enjoyed it!
We also shared some pita bread and hummus and I got chicken souvlaki with a side of rice. Everything was wonderful! My stomach was irritated that day so I had to go sort of plain on the entrée, but the menu was extensive and I would definitely go back to try so much more!
This was my personal favorite segment of the day. The main strip in Tarpon Springs is admittedly pretty touristy, but there are some shops that have really great quality stuff. The one I found in particular was called “ShellShop Boutique” that had clothing similar to Francesca’s. I found my birthday outfit there and everything, I was very impressed. (thankfully the boys kept themselves entertained elsewhere while I took my time trying on half of the store)
3. Taking Pictures
Then I had my Mamma Mia 2 dream photoshoot out on the docks. And yes, of course I dressed for the occasion. I am a sucker for that nautical color scheme!
An older gentleman offered me the opportunity to go on his boat to take some more photos, which I would typically advise against getting on a stranger’s boat… however, I felt safe and figured I had Carlos and Jonathan there as back up!
Needless to say, taking photos on that boat made me feel alive. I got my “Why Did it Have to Be Me” style pictures that I will forever and ever be obsessed with.
4. Boat Ride – St. Nicholas Boat Lines
There were a lot of people trying to get us to go on boat rides as we walked down the strip, but in the boutique I asked an employee which one she recommended, which was St. Nicholas Boat Lines. They offered a Sponge Diving Exhibition that was a much more reasonable time frame (only about 30-40 minutes as opposed to 1-2 hours for the others) and their price was very reasonable.
We got to learn all about sponge diving on our little cruise. The weather was beautiful, we had gorgeous views of the waters, greenery, and houses along the shore. Our guide wore a full out diver suit and went in to dive for a sponge that was 15 feet deep! He is third generation Greek here in America and gave us such rich history on the background of sponge diving. It was a very educational boat ride, as well as a relaxing cruise through the water.
5. Dessert – Taste of Greece Bakery
The variety of dessert that were in this bakery was expansive. They all looked delectable so it was extremely difficult to decide! The staff in this restaurant was very patient and kind with us while we mulled over our options.
I got the coconut cream cake, which was an excellent choice. Carlos got the chocolate cake, and then we also got some baklava to split. Everything was superb – I am so glad we stumbled in here! (and that the boys have as big of a sweet tooth as I do!)
Another thing I loved about this restaurant in particular was all of the artwork on the walls. It was gorgeous!
So, although I still have not been to actual Greece, Tarpon Springs helped tide me over and gave me a great taste of this beautiful culture only 2 hours away from home. We were there from around 11 am until 5 pm, which gave us a decent amount of time. I could have stayed longer (and eaten more) but I did feel like we had an extremely fulfilling day!
If you’re an Orlando local and you’re looking for something a little different to do outside of the theme park realm, this was a very easy and fun day trip that I would highly recommend! I’m so glad we got to go here and have some (americanized) Donna Sheridan adventures.
Until next time!