Travel Guide to Florida - - WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA -

Greek cui­sine, art and cul­ture—it’s all found in the small fish­ing village of Tar­pon Springs. The area was first set­tled in 1876 by Greek im­mi­grants, and to­day has the high­est per­cent­age of Greek-Amer­i­cans than any other city in the US. What was once “the sponge cap­i­tal of the world” is a pop­u­lar daytrip des­ti­na­tion from Tampa, Clear­wa­ter, St. Peters­burg, Dunedin and Pasco County. Go for the his­tory, cul­ture and food, and you’ll find your­self want­ing to go back for more!

Park the car and walk, run, cy­cle or rollerblade along the Fred Mar­quis Pinel­las Trail, a 40-mile pro­tected, multi-use greens­pace cre­ated along an aban­doned rail­road cor­ri­dor that ex­tends from St. Peters­burg to Tar­pon Springs.

For a truly unique ex­pe­ri­ence you won’t soon for­get, head over to Crys­tal River where var­i­ous tour op­er­a­tors pro­vide the equip­ment and let you swim among West In­dian man­a­tees in su­per clear wa­ters. Vis­i­tors who pre­fer to stay at arm’s length from the gen­tle giants can rent a kayak (with or with­out a guide) to ob­serve them as they swim and play below in the warm wa­ters. If this op­tion is still too close for com­fort, you can watch man­a­tees any day of the year from the un­der­wa­ter ob­ser­va­tory at the nearby El­lie Schiller Ho­mosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The park also show­cases other na­tive Florida wildlife, in­clud­ing black bears, bob­cats, white­tailed deer, Amer­i­can al­li­ga­tors and croc­o­diles, and river ot­ters, and of­fers Wildlife En­counter pro­grams and a chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter.

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