Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Tarpon Springs, Florida

Spongeorama Sponge Factory

A small museum lets visitors soak up the history of the "sponge capital of the world." 

Tarpon Springs, Florida, is a one-stop shop for all things sponges. Sea sponges, that is—not the synthetic scrubbers you use to clean your dishes.

Spongeorama Sponge Factory, which contains the world’s largest collection of natural sea sponges, also houses a small museum and movie theater. The educational exhibits are perfect for anyone seeking to soak up information about the squishy sea animal (yes, sea sponges really are animals).

The factory’s colossal collection is no surprise, as the factory and museum are within the self-proclaimed “sponge capital of the world.” The Florida city has largely dominated the sea sponge scene since the early 20th century, when a man named John Cocoris introduced mechanized methods for harvesting the aquatic animals.

Cocoris, a Greek man, recruited divers from his native country. They spearheaded an industry that generated millions of dollars each year. Diving and harvesting became one of Florida’s leading maritime industries up until 1940, when a blight caused the sponge population to dramatically decline. Thankfully, the species has since recovered and the sponge harvesting business is once again booming.

Tarpon Springs has embraced both its industrial and cultural heritages. In addition to the Spongeorama Sponge Factory, it boasts historic Sponge Docks and sponge diving boats that are open to tourists. The city, which has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the United States, pays homage to Greece via its architecture, cuisine, and traditions.

Know Before You Go

The GPS coordinates and address lead to Spongeorama’s Sponge Factory.