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Secrets of Southwest Florida: From the Gulf to the Glades

Program Number: 20896RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/19/2014 - 1/24/2014;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Naples, Florida
Price starting at: $1,149.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Natural History Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

On southwest Florida’s Paradise Coast, Naples enchants visitors with a charming historic center, world-class dining and museums, and a beautiful setting on the Gulf of Mexico. The nearby Everglades is a sacred reserve with a magical quality that has inspired artists and writers and mobilized politicians and conservationists in its defense. Become engrossed in the history and atmosphere of both places and study the interplay through the centuries between a booming city and a fragile ecosystem.


• At the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, learn about urgent ecological issues facing the region and how conservationist organizations work to resolve them.
• Explore Shark Valley, the "heart of the Everglades," with an expert naturalist and observe one of North America's unique ecosystems.
• Visit the Collier County Museum and Naples Depot Museum to hear the story of the region from prehistory and early human habitation to the frontier era and the arrival of the railroad.

Activity Particulars

Walking one to two miles per day on some uneven terrain. Some standing and stair climbing.

Date Specific Information


Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.


Named for the Italian city and only two miles west of Picayune Strand State Forest, Naples is part of the Paradise Coast vacation area that includes Marco Island and the Everglades. The city is home to a thriving arts scene and nourished by its clean beaches and many championship golf courses.

Centrally located hotel minutes from downtown with outdoor pool.
Meals and Lodgings
   Courtyard Marriott Naples
  Naples, FL 5 nights
 Courtyard Marriott Naples
Type: Hotel
  Description: Near the Courtyard Naples lies a thriving business center, beautiful beaches, fantastic golf courses, and a vibrant cultural scene that makes Naples a wonderful world of its own. Less than a mile from Naples' pristine beaches, the Courtyard offers easy access to a variety of attractions. For the business traveler, the hotel offers spacious rooms smartly appointed with full-size work desks, complimentary high-speed internet and in-room coffee service. Nature lovers will appreciate the short driving distance to outdoor attractions, zoos and wildlife centers, as well as wetlands, sanctuaries and preserves. For the shoppers who can't resist the urge to splurge, you will love Naples' unique boutiques, intriguing shops and grand shopping centers.
  Contact info: 3250 Tamiami Trail N
Naples, FL 34103 USA
phone: 239-434-8700
  Room amenities: Spacious Naples hotel rooms that combine comfort and functionality Large desks include conveniently placed lighting, outlets and ergonomic chairs Plush beds offer the ultimate night's sleep Our hotel rooms in Naples feature Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs & premium cable channels In-room coffee and tea service offer the perfect way to start your day Naples hotel rooms include alarm clocks, irons & iron boards
  Facility amenities: Coffee in lobby Coffee/tea in-room Housekeeping service daily Laundry on-site Local restaurant dinner delivery Newspaper in lobby Phone calls: toll-free Safe deposit boxes, front desk Valet dry-cleaning Vending machines Cardiovascular equipment Free weights Treadmill, bicycle, natilus weights Outdoor Pool Whirlpool
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Varies by Date Please contact the hotel directly and ask for Ashley Porraro. January and February: $169.00/night; March: $199.00/night
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Varies by Date Please contact the hotel directly and ask for Ashley Porraro. January and February: $169.00/night; March: $199.00/night
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
3 to 5 p.m. in hotel lobby for registration. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott Naples that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends by 11am. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott Naples the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free Parking available at hotel
To Start of Program
  Location:  Naples, FL
  From End of Program
  Location: Naples, FL
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Southwest Florida International Airport


From Airport




MBA Airport Transportation
phone: 239-482-2777


Per Person/One Way:


$65 The rates are valid for up to three passengers; each additional passenger is $10
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


45 minutes 




30 miles

Driving Directions
  Interstate-10/Gulf Region Start going on Interstate-10 east towards Pensacola, and take exit 296A to merge onto Interstate-75 South towards Tampa. From I-75, South toward Naples to exit 107-Pine Ridge Rd. Go west on Pine Ridge approx. 5 miles to U.S. 41. Turn left (South) on U.S. 41. Hotel is approximately 2 miles on left.
  Points North/Interstate - 75 Take Interstate 75 South to exit 105 County Rd 886/Golden Gate Pkwy toward Golden Gate Naples. Turn left onto Golden Gate Pkwy. Turn right onto U.S. 41 N/9th St N/ Tamiami Trail. Continue to follow U.S. 41 N/Tamiami Trail. Hotel will be on the Right. Turn left (South) on U.S. 41. Hotel is approximately 2 miles on left.
  Southwest Florida International Airport, Ft. Myers FL Follow the signs for Terminal Exit. Turn left onto Ben Hill Griffin Pkwy/CR-885 S. Turn Right onto Alico RD/CR-840 W. Take Interstate 75 South toward Naples to exit 107-Pine Ridge Rd. Go west on Pine Ridge approx. 5 miles to U.S. 41. Turn left (South) on U.S. 41. Hotel is approximately 2 miles on left.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival and Check-in, Program Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
(Sunday, January 19)
 Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Available from 3:00pm.

Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar desk in the lobby to pick up your arrival packet containing your name tag, the up-to-date schedule, and to confirm the time of the orientation session.

Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

 Dinner: Enjoy a 3-course meal including salad, entrée, and dessert at the hotel.
 Evening: Orientation: Gathering in our hotel meeting room, the Group Leader will greet you with a warm welcome, introduce everyone, and provide key staff contact names and phone numbers. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

Take the rest of the evening to settle in, relax, and prepare for the full day ahead.

Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Naples
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Big Cypress National Park, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, 10,000 Islands Boat Excursion
(Monday, January 20)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Big Cypress Swamp National Preserve. The Big Cypress is an amazing place and very different from the Everglades in the East (which you will experience later this week), notable for its 500-year-old cypresses, whose roots are specially adapted to grow underwater for months at a time. During a visit to the Welcome Center, you will hear from a Ranger and have time to walk through some of the 18 exhibits describing the history, hydrology, and habitats.
 Lunch: For lunch in Everglades City, choose from a select menu of sandwiches and salads.
 Afternoon: Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Led by an expert, experience this subtropical, strand swamp forest known as “the Amazon of North America.” As we walk along the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, look for the active eagles nest .

Later in the afternoon, we depart for 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Preserve. The name is misleading as there are only a few hundred of these island and mangrove islets but assuredly exceptional. Parts of this 35,000 acre refuge were occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years and today it protects important habitats and a rich diversity of native wildlife, including several endangered species. We will have a narrated cruise to watch for birds, manatees, and other wildlife along the water's edge.

 Dinner: Dinner is Naples at a local restaurant near the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Naples Depot Musem, Conservancy of Southwest Florida
(Tuesday, January 21)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a selection of hot and cold items including fresh fruit, coffee and tea.
 Morning: Charles Sobczak -- author of "Living the Gulf Coast" -- will provide an introduction to Southwest Florida and the Everglades. You will receive a copy of his book, and over the course of the program we will visit many of the places mentioned.

At the conclusion of the presentation, we will transfer to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Its mission is to protect the area's unique natural environment. You will have the opportunity to walk through the exhibits in the new discovery center, see the animal hospital, or stroll along their marshwalk.

 Lunch: For lunch in Old Town Naples, choose from a select menu.
 Afternoon: After lunch visit The Naples Depot Museum connects the history of Naples through interactive exhibits that tell the story of how trade and travel transformed it from a napping village of 300 souls into today's glittering Gulf Coast resort.
 Dinner: Dinner is on your own in Naples. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Expert Naturalist Introduction to the Everglades, Lunch at Seafood Depot, Shark Valley Field Trip with Tram Ride
(Wednesday, January 22)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: John Owens, a naturalist, will introduce you to the fascinating Everglades and to some of the "critters" living in the area. He will also discuss the diverse terrestrial, freshwater, marine, and coastal ecosystems of the Everglades.

 Lunch: For lunch in Everglades City, choose from a select menu of sandwiches, salads, and seafood bar at a popular restaurant.
 Afternoon: John Owens will continue his talk on the motor coach en route to Shark Valley, at the heart of the Everglades. When we hop aboard the Shark Valley tram, park naturalists will point out any wildlife in motion. In addition to providing insights into the ecosystem as a whole, these guides will also point out some of the "hidden" aspects of this world-renowned wetland. The open vehicle will allow you to view wildlife within the sawgrass prairies on either side of the tram. At the half-way point , a 45-foot-high observation deck offers an opportunity to observe the tranquil vistas of the Everglades, extending 20 miles in all directions. A ramp with gradual include provides access to the observation tower deck, and every part of the ramp and deck provide chances to view something different.
 Dinner: Dinner in at a popular restaurant in Everglades City offers a 3-course meal of appetizer, entrée, and dessert.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Naples Botanical Garden and Collier County Museum
(Thursday, January 23)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Led by a docent, explore the Botanical Garden to see the essence of the Florida landscape and learn about native plants you will see throughout the course of the program. This world-class “paradise” combines delightful cultivated tropical gardens with beautifully restored natural habitats, connecting people and plants through display, education, conservation, and science. It began in 1993 with the purchase of an extraordinary 170-acre site comprising seven different habitats just south of Old Naples, where an existing strip mall and parking lot were transformed, culminating in six cultivated gardens, 2.5 miles of walking trails, and 90 acres of restored native preserve.
 Lunch: Enjoy a box lunch from the café at the Botanical Garden.
 Afternoon: Afterwards, we will visit the Collier County Museum in Naples, one of five related facilities that trace the pre-history, natural and human history and culture of southwest Florida over more than a million years. Nestled on five acres of native Florida landscaping, the flagship museum at the county government center offers newly created exhibits and galleries. We will have a guided introduction and presentation on one of many subjects covered in the museum such as the prehistoric saber-tooth cat, Calusa Indians to Spanish explorers, or Seminole warriors.
 Dinner: Enjoy a farewell dinner with good company and good food.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Wrap-up Session, Program Concludes
(Friday, January 24)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: A wrap-up presentation providers further perspectives on Southwest Florida’s human and natural history.

The program concludes with this presentation.

We hope you have enjoyed this Road Scholar learning adventure and look forward to having you on other programs in the future. Please stay in touch and share your memories, pictures, and comments via the Road Scholar Social Network. Best wishes for all your journeys! Best wishes for all your journeys!

Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Naples, FL Clyde Butcher Art Gallery / Big Cypress Gallery
Breathtaking Black and White photos of Southwest Florida. Enjoy this amazing collection of photographs, books, nature trails and tours that can only be brought to you by Clyde Butcher. Check out the annual Swamp Walk, where Clyde will take you out to the heart of the Everglades and share his photography skills and the beauty that inspires him. 239-695-2428. 52388 Tamiami Trail • Ochopee, FL 34141 For additional information, visit
  Historic Smallwood Store & Museum
Experience the unique history of the 10,000 Islands in the Ole Indian Trading Post and Museum. 239-695-2989 360 Mamie Street • Chokoloskee, FL 33925
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise

Author: Michael Grunwald

Description: The Everglades was once reviled as a liquid wasteland, and Americans dreamed of draining it. Now it is revered as a national treasure, and Americans have launched the largest environmental project in history to try to save it. The Swamp is the stunning story of the destruction and possible resurrection of the Everglades, the saga of man's abuse of nature in southern Florida and his unprecedented efforts to make amends. Michael Grunwald, a prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, takes readers on a riveting journey from the Ice Ages to the present, illuminating the natural, social and political history of one of America's most beguiling but least understood patches of land.

The Everglades: River of Grass

Author: Marjorey Stoneman Douglas

Description: When activist Jow Browder was trying to round up people to fight a proposed jetport in the Everglades, one of the people he approached was Marjory Stoneman Douglask whose 1947 Everglades:River of Grass had first brought the state's most famous marsh to a national audience. But she demurred. Nobody would listen to some half-blind old lady, the 78 year old writer said. People only pay attention to organizations. "Well" Browder retorted, "why don't you start an organization?" So she did, founding Friends of the Everglades with dues of $1.00 per year so everyone could join. Douglas not only denounced the jetport, she transformed herself into Florida's environmental conscience. She spent the next 30 years-until her death at 108-fearlessly confronting local, state, and federal officials. One of the most important books written about the FL Everglades.

Gladesmen: Gator Hunters, Moonshiners, and Skiffers

Author: Glen Simmons

Description: It is difficult to believe, but there was a time when South Florida was not populated with Rust Belt retirees, packed with strip malls, and landscaped like the world's largest golf course. Florida has had a few economic booms and busts, and after the roaring Twenties, many Floridians survived only by hunting and fishing. Simmons, a lifelong gator hunter born in the swamps in 1916, teams up with anthropologist Ogden to document that time, only 70 years ago. Though Ogden's text is curiously similar to Steinbeck's Log from the Sea of Cortez, it is humorous and easy to read. This book is part of a series designed to preserve Florida's history, and Simmons contributes rather admirably. Lay readers will appreciate his work, but it will be of particular interest to ecologists, conservationists, and even hunters and fishers.

The Orchid Thief

Author: Susan Orlean

Description: Orchidelirium is the name the Victorians gave to the flower madness that is for botanical collectors the equivalent of gold fever. Wealthy orchid fanatics of that era sent explorers (heavily armed, more to protect themselves against other orchid seekers than against hostile natives or wild animals) to unmapped territories in search of new varieties of Cattleya and Paphiopedilum. As knowledge of the family Orchidaceae grew to encompass the currently more than 60,000 species and over 100,000 hybrids, orchidelirium might have been expected to go the way of Dutch tulip mania. Yet, as journalist Susan Orlean found out, there still exists a vein of orchid madness strong enough to inspire larceny among collectors. The Orchid Thief centers on south Florida and John Laroche, a quixotic, charismatic schemer once convicted of attempting to take endangered orchids from the Fakahatchee swamp, a state preserve. Laroche, a horticultural consultant who once ran an extensive nursery for the Seminole tribe, dreams of making a fortune for the Seminoles and himself by cloning the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii. Laroche sums up the obsession that drives him and so many others:

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