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Attractions Near Tarpon Park

What to do in Tarpon Springs, Florida and the Surrounding Gulf Coast Areas

You can spend time in Tarpon Springs and shop, and eat great Greek food and pastries at the historic Sponge Docks but there is also plenty of other awesome dining in Tarpon Springs as well as the neaby quaint town of Dunedin. Our current favorite eatery in Tarpon is Currents located right at 200 East Tarpon Avenue; it’s gotten rave reviews from the locals and restaurant critics and we love their menu and wine selection. Here is our list of restaurants that we have been to and can recommend–feel free to send us your own recommendations or update ours if you feel the place is no longer up to our review! There are also a number of area art festivals throughout the season all along Florida’s Gulf Coast especially in nearby Dunedin and Tampa and we always try to find an interesting place to eat after one of these shows or weekend festivals.

But the truly awesome thing about our region is the easy access to really special Parks and recreational areas. Within a roughly 8 mile radius of Tarpon Springs there are beaches and wildlife areas like Honeymoon and Caladesi Island that are consistantly voted as being the best in the country! The first activity we recommend when you arrive is a quick nature tour by boat on SunLine Cruises. The ticket price is well worth it as these folks do a comprehensive well-organized tour, know the waters and the wildlife in the area and their pontoon boats are stable and comfortable. Any of their tours are worthwhile but be advised that the daytime tours often have school children on board. If that is not your cup of tea then take their Anclote Key Tour or the Sunset Cruise.

Now, even though we have so many great Parks, our own Chesapeake Point Park is in our opinion the West Coast’s best kept secret. We are a bird sanctuary and each year have nesting great blue herons and osprey. At dusk, you can see hundreds of birds fly in to roost for the night on the surrounding mangrove islands. We never get tired of watching this nightly event. Almost everyday we can see dolphin feeding along the seawall and manatee swimming during the Winter season especially on the “sunrise” side of the Park. At high tide we see many different species of fish going about their business in the waters around the Park. As a result, most of our guests seem to prefer setting up their lounge chairs at the edge of the seawall and spending the day sunbathing, reading, fishing and relaxing! The fishing is great in our Park and previous guests have enjoyed fishing daily off of the seawall. If you are handy with a cast net, tasty mullet are an easy catch. I have seen one of our residents routinely catching mullet off of the seawall at high tide which he says he smokes in a simple smoker he purchased around the corner at the hardware store. Dolphins also regularly fish around Chesapeake Point and we have seen them playfully swimming upside down at high speed just under the water’s surface along the seawall and then watched them chase mullet towards the seawall and catch and eat them! I shot this quick movie this year that shows a dolphin grabbing a mullet along our seawall. Here is also a quick slideshow of some of the photos we have taken along the Gulf Coast.

Outside of Chesapeake Point there are lots of places to choose from for any type of outdoor activity. Not much more than a mile away from Chesapeake Point is the entrance to Fred Howard Park where watersports are the dominate activity there and you can enjoy fishing, kayaking, jet skiing, windsurfing, and swimming. Close by is Sunset Beach and it is appropriately named for there is always a full parking lot at the end of the day to watch the consistantely gorgeous sunsets on the beach. Also close by is the Anclote River Park with a huge number of boat ramps, designated swimming area, plenty of picnic areas and facilites. We really like just sitting on the beach and watching the boats head out the channel to the Gulf of Mexico.

Several of our family members have had exciting manatee encounters while out kayaking in the waters of Craig Park located in the center of Tarpon Springs. Craig Park, the undisputed heart of Tarpon Springs, is a fantastic place to walk along the promenade which surrounds it and to go fishing. Just a few weeks ago in the middle of the day, we watched dolphins feeding there against the seawall swimming at high speed and creating an 2 foot wave running behind them in the process. It was quite spectacular. And, during the Winter, Manatee are always bobbing around in the center of Craig Park’s waters. If you wish to get out on the water yourself then we recommend our local kayak guides at Simply Kayaking. Their trips are safe and as low-impact as you need. Once familiar with the area waters you might also rent pontoon boats at Captain Jacks.

Our favorite Park by far is Honeymoon Island which is a beautiful place about a eight mile drive down Alternate Route 19 and across the causeway. A season pass is quite reasonable at $75.00 (or you can opt to pay the $5 entry fee each time you go) and the shell collecting there is outstanding. It is never crowded and you can walk for hours on the beach. There is seemingly endless parking and ample restroom facilities. We always pack our lunches because, though there is a large snack bar there, we find their prices a bit high. We actually spend more time at Honeymoon Island than at Howard Park because there are fewer people there and it is such a huge well maintained Park. There are people from all over the world there as well as locals who regularly drive up from Tampa to avoid the crowded Clearwater area beaches.

We also highly recommend taking the ferry from Honeymoon Island over to Caladesi Island which was just voted the #1 beach in the country. There is plenty of hiking at Caladesi and opportunites to view wildlife but most folks go there to enjoy its uncrowded white sand beach and enjoy the peace and quiet the natural surroundings offer. The ferry is somewhat pricey so we do not do this as often as I would like. We will be exploring walking there from North Clearwater Beach which I am told is about a 3 mile walk and will report back here on the level of difficulty and how far it truly is to walk into Caladesi Island.

If you prefer fresh water there is always Tarpon Lake with its Parks bordering both sides. It is one of Florida’s top bass fishing lakes and has an excellent boat launch and picnic areas. There are also deep-sea fishing charters available that leave out of Tarpon and areas close by as well as several golf resorts if that is what you enjoy.

We also heartily recommend the 2 hour drive to Venice Beach and Caspersen Park. We were just there in late September and found 60 fossilized shark’s teeth right in the sand in about an hour and a half. Most of the park has been left in its natural state and you can see all kinds of wildlife including some large gopher turtles that call it home. We brought our own bottled water with us for the day since we wanted to walk a good ways down the beach and there are no concession stands. We later walked back up the beach and drove the mile back down the road to Sharkey’s Restaurant (a Venice institution) and had lunch on the beach and right in front of the Venice Pier. We did this as a daytrip to avoid hotel costs so be advised that it makes for a long day.

One of our other favorite parks is Ft DeSoto which in year’s past has also had the honor of being voted America’s best beach. The blue water there will take your breath away. And, though the Park gets a lot of visitors in the season, for some reason it never seems crowded. The drive is a bit over an hour but well worth it in our opinion. Highly recommended!

Most of the places I mention above are our favorites because the natural beauty has been retained but if you are interested in the nightlife or shopping or beaches that are more for people watching than wildlife watching and relaxing then head South to Tampa and the Clearwater beaches. Tampa is an easy 30-45 minute drive from Tarpon Springs where you can visit the Historic Ybor City famous for its small cigar shops, restaurants, and clubs. There is the Tampa Aquarium, plenty of big sporting events and the International Mall near the Tampa International Airport. We still enjoy going to Clearwater Beach even though it is crowded since it is a stunning white sand beach and restaurants are within walking distance from the beach. Just be absolutely sure to get there early or you will not find parking and plan to spend the day and enjoy dinner at one of the many good eateries in town. If you go to any of these places around Tampa or South of Tampa, do your best to travel during the non-rush hours if traveling during the work week.

Tarpon Springs (and the West Coast in general) is also a great place to spend the Winter because you are also within a 2 hour drive of some of the coolest amusement parks in the world like Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and Busch Gardens. Since any of these parks involve longer than a day trip to really enjoy what each attraction has to offer, we have found that the drive is quite reasonable considering you will be spending several days there.

Beautiful Howard Park

Fred Howard Park

A fantastic park that is a short bike ride or very healthy walk from Chesapeake Point Park. You can fish, walk, hike, kayak, sunbath, swim, windsurf, camp, picnic, grill or just really relax on the white sand beach or park and set up beach chairs along the causeway and watch the kite boarders and windsurfers. We often see dolphin feeding in the shallows along the causeway and always keep our eyes peeled for them. There is a ton of park space in the wooded area before the causeway and we like to picnic under the oaks. The Park is meticulously maintained and patrolled but can be crowded on the weekends. We often opt for Sunset Beach or Honeymoon Island on the weekends.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Our favorite for watching the sunset. It has BBQ grills, covered picnic tables, bike racks and restrooms. It is mainly a place the locals know about so is not usually crowded. This small beach is also a great place to watch kite boarders and windsurfers. There is no official website for Sunset Beach.

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island

One of our favorite places! About 8 mile drive South down Alernate Route 19 and across the Causeway. Due to the Gulf currents, this is reputed to be an excellent place for shelling especially during the Winter months. Plenty of restrooms and parking. Really beautiful beaches. Walk down beyond the rocky shores about 1/2 mile and its all white sand beach. Worth the walk. We were just there in early Fall and watched dolphins play off shore and saw a mature bald eagle fly to its nest in a big pine tree in the woods behind the sand dunes. We collected some pretty shells and recommend water shoes if you are planning a long walk on this beach as there are many shell pieces along the beach and I found walking barefoot to be uncomfortable in a few places. The seasoned shell collectors all had water shoes on and well-worn netted collecting bags. If you are fit you could bike the Pinellas bike trail from Tarpon Springs to Honeymoon but be aware that it might be an hour to an hour and a half ride each direction depending upon your fitness level.

Caledisi Island

Caledisi Island

Accessible by boat or a ferry from Honeymoon Island. Consistantly rated as one of the Nation’s best beaches. Kayakers love this place. Plenty of slips if you rent a boat and motor over. Dr. Beach just rated Caladesi the best beach in America for 2008. I find the place to be so beautiful and remote. I bet we would go there several times a week if it did not involve a ferry ride. I have been told that you can walk from North Clearwarer Beach the 3 miles to access Caladesi by foot but have yet to make the hike. It certainly would be a great way to get in shape while spending the season in Tarpon Springs!

Fort De Soto

Fort De Soto

Rated America’s #1 Beach in years past. This beach is so worth the drive. The turquoise blue water and white sand beach is just breathtaking. Do visit their website. Tons of stuff to do and close to many other activities if you decide to stay overnight and do more than a daytrip. An especially fun trip for military history buffs as the site contains the only remaining 12-inch M1890-M1 mortars in the country. And, you can see how soldiers lived by peeking in the Quartermaster Storehouse Museum. There is also a short 1/2 mile nature trail where you may see some interesting birdlife.

Pinellas Trail

Pinellas Trail

This is a well maintained bike path from St. Pete to Tarpon Springs. You can walk, bike, jog or skate. Pick up a map from the Tourist Info Center at the Sponge Docks. The online map is highly detailed and tells you where there are State Parks near the trail, shelters and what restaurants and fast food joints are near the trail as well as nearby accomodations. If you are in good shape, you might consider biking to Honeymoon Island for the day or over to Dunedin for lunch.

Lake Tarpon

Lake Tarpon

The “Jewel” of Pinellas County. Anderson Park is located on Lake Tarpon. Great boat launch. Excellent picnic area. Website also has 360 degree views that are worth the download wait.

Homosassa Springs

Homosassa Springs

About an hour drive from Tarpon Springs. This is a fantastic park. Well worth the drive and the Rangers do a comprehensive lecture on the manatees who seem to arrive on cue to eat the carrots thrown into the water for them. The water is crystal clear here and you can see the manatee, and many schools of fish among the boaters and swimmers.

The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium

Pretty nice aquariun. And, you can always go out to a fantastic dinner afterwards in Tampa.

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens

Planning ahead is necessary and you can purchase passes that include other theme parks like SeaWorld.

Blue Spring

Blue Spring

About a 2.5 hour drive but the riverboat cruise really makes it worth the effort.

The Salvador Dali Museum

The Salvador Dali Museum

40 minute drive South toward St. Pete.

Lowry Park Zoo

Lowry Park Zoo

Our family has been here a number of times and was enjoyed by both kids and adults alike. It is pretty much in the middle of Tampa just off of 275 so you could combine this with some other activities in Tampa or save the trip for visiting family.

Tarpon Springs Public Library

Tarpon Springs Public Library

Very very nice library and good place to check email.

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World

You must plan ahead for this.

Sea World

Sea World

You must plan ahead for this.

Innisbrook Golf Resort

Innisbrook Golf Resort

We are not golfers but there are several resorts nearby. Also, a number of our residents in the Park play golf so you may be able to make some golfing friends who golf together weekly.

Tampa Players Club

Tampa Players Club

We are not golfers but there are several resorts nearby. Also, a number of our residents in the Park play golf so you may be able to make some golfing friends who golf together weekly.

Tarpon Springs Golf Course

Tarpon Springs Golf Course

We are not golfers but there are several resorts nearby. Also, a number of our residents in the Park play golf so you may be able to make some golfing friends who golf together weekly.

Weeki Wachee Springs

Weeki Wachee Springs

Yes, the mermaids still perform but mainly it is just a huge waterpark that opens for the season in mid-March.

City of St. Petersburg

City of St. Petersburg

St. Pete is so close by, it would be a shame to not visit the “Sunshine City.” We will soon have a list of restaurants to recommend to you here.

Visit Tampa Bay

Visit Tampa Bay

There is an endless list of things to do in Tampa.

Vacation Rentals By Owner

Vacation Rentals By Owner

We pay to advertise year round on this site and the link will take you directly to our ad. It is a very popular search site and you can look for quality vacation rentals worldwide.

Simply Kayaking

Simply Kayaking

Check out our friendly and family oriented local kayaking tour company that focuses on fun and safe all inclusive outings. I regularly see them go past our Park when I am there in the Winter months. Here is what they have to say: We DO go past your location on a regular basis and have taken quite a few of your residents as well… Our kayak tours are not a high speed intense workout at all. These trips are relaxing trips on the water enjoying the sights of nature to possibly include manatees, dolphins, and a wide variety of birds throughout the trip. We use very stable kayaks to enable a wide variety of skill levels to enjoy these trips. Everything they say is true; our family has done a fair bit of kayaking in the area and you can have a great time just paddling around the quiet bayou waters. You can see manatee bobbing around in a simple paddle around Craig Park and also see all manner of birdlife and fish right in the heart of Tarpon Springs.

Anclote Key State Park

Anclote Key State Park

Great place to fish and surperb birding area. It is considered by experts to be among the top five sites in the state for diversity and numbers of birds. There is also a 19th century lighthouse on the key so if you are a lighthouse enthusiast then this is not to be missed. The website now reveals that there is a ferry service and gives the number to contact the ferry in Tarpon Springs which is SunLine Cruises. I highly recommend this family owned business for their nature tour in Tarpon Springs and am delighted to see them expand their business with a ferry service to Anclote Key.

Discover Our Town - Tarpon Springs

Discover Our Town – Tarpon Springs

An up and coming site for vacation rentals that has grown tremendously over the past year. This links to the page with our ad but you can search anywhere for vacation rentals and if you are not interested in our rentals there are plenty more out there to check out.

Value Vacation Rentals

Value Vacation Rentals

This is one of the easiest vacation rental site to navigate in my opinion and why I have chosen to exchange information from our site with them (scroll down to see our link). Simply click on the map of Florida and when you get to the area surrounding Tarpon Springs you can click on individual towns to see available rentals and you can search all over the country just as easily.

1Villa.net

1Villa.net

Here is link to an up and coming site where you can search for vacation rentals. They seem to be covering Florida pretty well and you can also search for rentals around the world. I find the site pretty easy to navigate. We have swamped links with them and our site is listed here.