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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Sponge Docks and Anclote Key River Cruise

Since we have been in Florida, we have had several people tell us that we need to go out to the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs.  We were a bit unsure of what exactly this was, but a couple weeks ago we thought we had better check it out.  It is about a 15 minute drive from our house, so it wasn't a huge excursion but a great place to spend an afternoon.  The area is one of the most prominent Green communities in the country, filled with Greek restaurants, little shops and is right on the water where the boats go out to collect sea sponges from the bottom of the gulf, hence the name, the Sponge Docks.   

We started out just wandering as I was looking for some seashells and fun things to decorate our house.  This area has the cheapest and coolest seashells of anywhere I have been and obviously there are thousands of different kinds, shapes and colors of sea sponges.  

The first thing I found was this ridiculously large Loofah.  

There is also sme cool artwork depicting the main way of life in this area for nearly 100 years.

A lot of sponges.  All of these have different uses.

There is a little mini mall in the heart of the area with tons of different shops, a cute fountain and a boat, great white and sea turtle statues.

Of course all decorated up for Christmas.

Rusty Bellies is where we had lunch.  Such an awesome place right on the water with their own shrimp boat that brings everything in fresh first thing in the morning.  The also have the best chowder I have ever had (sorry Maine!), crab and corn.  

Pirate tour ship docked for cleaning.

Back on the docks.  The sponge capital of the world.

the history of the area.

Some sponges drying out on the boats.

There is an entire museum on the docks dedicated to sponges and the history of the sponging industry.  No mention of Spongebob though.

Because I enjoyed the Sponge Docks so much, I decided to take my parents there while they were staying with us for the holidays.

Family photo in front of the shark this time.

This time we stopped at one of the amazing Greek restaurants in the area, Hellas.  This place is really cool, and has the best Gyro I have ever had.  Jim also got the Grouper and it was awesome too. 

By the time we were done eating it was time to go on the river cruise that we booked.  We booked through Odyssey cruises to go down the Anclote River to Anclote Key.  Along the river while we were leaving the docks it was really cool to see all the sponge boats and shrimp boats lining the river.

There were tons of birds and wildlife along the river as well.  Ducks, pelicans, cormorants and osprey were flying around and fishing.

Not long into the trip we spotted some Dolphins near our boat.  Right away they came right up and stated jumping around and entertaining us.  They stayed with us for about 15 minutes and surfed in our wake when we started going again.

The ride out was pretty short, and we got 30 minutes to stop and do some shelling on Anclote Key.  We found the nicest shells on this sandbar and in the water around it.  Lots of nice full shells and sand dollars.

Horeshoe crab shell.

Jesse was in control of the camera while I searched for shells.

Once our bags were filled with shells, we got back on our boat and headed back down the river to land.  Jesse and I had a great selfie.

Back on dry land we had to stop back at Hella's for some of their amazing desserts and pastries.  This was one of the best Greek/regular bakeries I have ever see and everything was amazing!  We are already planning trips out to Anclote next time my family comes down.  It was a great laid back trip and totally worth the $19 per person.

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