Recently, we took a day trip to Clearwater on the way to Tarpon Springs. Regardless of the rumors that have been floating around on the internet, in TV commercials and on the news, the only chemical encounter we had for the entire day were the fumes wafting off of a diesel semi which we were next to at a red light. The water was
clear. There was no oil slick, no sheen and no tar balls.
There were no noxious fumes coming in from the Gulf. In fact, the only scents we encountered were the typical fishy and briney smells of the coast and the handmade soaps that Tarpon Springs is well known for. They are also known for their sponges, shells, Greek food, Greek Orthodox traditions and fresh seafood.
The restaurants are still serving fresh seafood. We didn’t think to order any because we just love their Gyro sandwiches. But we saw other patrons ordering mouth watering seafood dishes after we had already made our order. We intend to order some seafood when we take our visiting cousin back in October.
We love Tarpon Springs. This is my fourth trip to this charming city. There are at least three ways of getting to Tarpon Springs from the Tampa side of the Bay:
The most obvious way, and the one that we’ve taken every time, is by way of 275 S to the Airport exit. Stay to the right going to Hwy 60 on Memorial, then take exit 2A on the left which leads to the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Which takes you into Clearwater.
Pass under the McMullen Booth overpass and take the first right on the next overpass, which is Hwy 19. Then you take Hwy 19 to Tarpon Ave and turn left. If you drive until N Pinellas Ave and turn right, you will find yourself on the main drag of Tarpon Springs.
The second way of going was suggested to us by one of the shop owners who drives that way for regular buying trips in Orlando. This is the way we intend to use on our subsequent trips. Of course, this route is more suitable for those of us in the East Tampa Bay Area. Take I-4 to I-75 N toward Ocala, to SR 54. Turn left and drive until you get to Hwy 19, turn left until you come to Tarpon Ave and turn right.
The third way is recommended by Mapquest who apparently does not have any residents in this area or they definitely would not have suggested this. I’m mentioning this route to warn against using it.
Mapquest suggests taking I-4 W, passing I-75 and taking exit 7 toward US-92/Hillsborough Ave. Then follow the signs toward US-92/Hillsborough Ave until you’re on US-92/Hillsborough Ave. As you follow this road it becomes Tampa Rd and will take you across the north end of Tampa Bay. Follow it until you come to US-19. Then turn right until you come to Tarpon Ave and turn left.
The problem with this route is that even though by distance and on paper the time ought to be only a bit over an hour to get to Tarpon Springs, it is usually a lot longer this way. The traffic is snarled due to all of the out-of-sinc traffic lights, the crowded traffic conditions and the fact that everyone is constantly turning left in the middle of Hillsborough Ave. There are no left turn lanes so those who are turning block all traffic behind them until those behind them are able to move to the right lane.
In Tarpon Springs, there is a lot to do that can easily take a whole weekend to fill. If you like to poke around antique shops then anywhere along Tarpon Ave is a good place to go. That is where most of the antique shops are located.
If you like to drool over beautiful Victorian houses, then the best place to go is to continue down Tarpon Ave until you get to N/S Spring Blvd. There are Victorian houses to the left and to the right of Tarpon Ave, on S and N Spring Blvd.
I would suggest go to the left onto S Spring Blvd, until you get to Craig Park. Then turn around returning to and continuing past Tarpon Blvd, taking the left curve on around Spring Bayou, still on N Spring Blvd, until you come to the bridge. Then turn around and return to Tarpon Blvd, turn left, then left again on Pinellas Ave and continue down the road until you turn left on Dodecanese Blvd.
This is the area of the famous sponge docks. There are plenty of parking lots where you can park and are expected to pay, or you can drive onto a side street and park in one of the neighborhoods or drive to the end of the street, past the roundabout and park on the side of the street near the fish market/restaurant. Both places are free parking.
This area has gift shops, sponge shops and a sponge museum, a soap factory and several good restaurants. Our favorite is Hellas. We love their Gyro sandwiches, combination plate and their bakery. Which is next door. There are other things to do on this street. But I’ve always run out of time before I’ve been able to go everywhere.
As for the oil situation in the Gulf, You may think that it’s just my uninformed opinion that the environment is healthy in Florida right now. But allow me to explain something. I’m kind of like the human version of the canary in the mine. When I lived in California, the only place I lived where my skin wasn’t broken out from head to toe, twelve months out of the year, was in Northern California, where there’s no heavy industry, no huge exhaust fumes.
When I lived in the San Francisco area and in Southern California I was broken out from head to toe. In Southern California, it was so bad during the summer, that I had to stay in all summer long, during all of the smog alerts or have the inner part of my eyes swell up under the inner and outer swollen eye lids with long open raw gashes on my cheeks.
We spent the entire day on the coast near the water having a wonderful time and at the present time my skin is still clear and healthy.