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Secrets of Southwest Florida: From the Gulf to the Glades

Program Number: 20896RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/8/2015 - 3/13/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Naples, Florida
Price starting at: $1,159.00 - 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; Gluten Free; Low Fat; Low Salt    

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
   Holiday Inn Express - Naples
  Naples, FL 5 nights
 Holiday Inn Express - Naples
Type: Hotel
  Description: This newly renovated Naples hotel is conveniently located steps from the famous 5th Avenue downtown Naples in the heart of the entertainment and shopping district, world class restaurants and night life. This hotel is ideally located, just one mile from Naples Pier, pristine white sand beaches, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens as well as Naples Philharmonic and just a block from the historic Tin City Marketplace.
  Contact info: 1785 Fifth Avenue South
Florida, FL 34102 USA
phone: 239-261-3500
  Room amenities: Room Amenities: -32” HD LCD -Free Wireless Internet -Ipod / Iphone Docking Station -Refrigerator -Microwave -Hairdryer -Coffee Maker -Mini RefrigeratorTea Maker -Individually Controlled Air Conditioning -Iron / Ironing Board
  Facility amenities: - 24 hour state-of-the art fitness center features extensive range of PRECOR equipment - Outdoor Pool - Business Center - Complimentary Parking
  Smoking allowed: No
  Additional nights prior: TBD 
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: TBD 
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
3 to 5 p.m. in hotel lobby for registration. You will be staying at Holiday Inn Express - Naples that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends by 11am. You will be staying at Holiday Inn Express - 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


Please note prices are subject to change.

Driving Directions
  From the East (I-75 N) Head North on I-75 N. Take exit 101 for County RD 951/FL-84 toward Naples/Marco Island. Turn left onto Collier Blvd. Turn Right onto FL-84 W. Continue Straight onto FL-84/Davis Blvd. Slight right onto 5th Ave S/Tamiami Trail. Hotel will be on Right.
  From the South (U.S. 41) Take U.S. 41 N/Tamiami Trail E toward Naples. Hotel will be on the Right.
  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. Slight Right, continue onto Interstate 75 South toward Naples to exit 123 toward Estero. Merge onto Corkscrew Rd. Turn Left onto Pine Ridge Rd. Take 3rs right onto Goodlette Rd N. Turn Left onto 5th Ave S/Tamiami Trail. Turn Right onto Sandpiper St. Make U-turn at Curlew Ave. Take the 1st Left onto 5th Ave S/ Tamiami Trail. Hotel will be on the Right.
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, March 8)
 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 at a nearby restaurant.
 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: Holiday Inn Express - Naples
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Big Cypress National Park, 10,000 Islands Boat Excursion, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
(Monday, March 9)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Begin your program with a visit to the 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: Enjoy lunch at the Havana Cafe in Everglades City.
 Afternoon: After lunch we depart for the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Preserve to explore the Everglades by boat. 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. Then, led by an expert, continue your experience at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park by further exploring this subtropical, strand swamp forest known as “the Amazon of North America.” As we walk along the swamp boardwalk, look for the active eagles nests.

 Dinner: Take this evening's dinner at a local restaurant near the hotel.
 Evening: Enjoy an evening lecture by Charles Sobczak, author of "The Living Gulf Coast" as he 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.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express - Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Collier County Museum, Conservancy of Southwest Florida
(Tuesday, March 10)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a selection of hot and cold items including fresh fruit, coffee and tea.
 Morning: Board the motor coach for a visit to 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, Seminole warriors and Spanish explorers.
 Lunch: Lunch at the Conservancy
 Afternoon: After lunch enjoy a visit to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Learn about the Conservancy's mission to protect the area's unique natural environment and how its members work to accomplish this. You will have the opportunity to walk through the exhibits in the new discovery center, see the animal hospital, or stroll along their marshwalk.
 Dinner: This evenings dinner is on your own in Naples. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express - Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Expert Naturalist Introduction to the Everglades, Lunch at City Seafood, Shark Valley Field Trip with Tram Ride
(Wednesday, March 11)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Depart Naples for Everglades City where 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: Take lunch at Everglades City restaurant City Seafood.
 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: Enjoy this evening's meal at Camellia's Street Grill in Everglades City.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express - Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Rookery Bay Reserve, Naples Depot, Historic Palm Cottage
(Thursday, March 12)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Board the motor coach for Rookery Bay Reserve. Visit the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center, which offers a variety of hands-on experiences, including 2,300-gallon aquarium and interactive exhibits addressing research and stewardship efforts ongoing within the Reserve. Stroll the grounds and learn more about the plants and animals that inhabit this beautiful coastal environment, the issues they face for survival, and how every species contributes to the vitality of this ecosystem.
 Lunch: Enjoy lunch at Cafe Luna on the Tamiami Trail.
 Afternoon: Afterwards, we will visit the 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. Afterwards head over to the Historic Palm Cottage to learn about one of Naples oldest houses.
 Dinner: Enjoy a farewell dinner with good company and good food.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express - Naples
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Wrap-up Session, Program Concludes
(Friday, March 13)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Enjoy a final farewell lecture which will provide 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: A modern classic of personal journalism, The Orchid Thief is Susan Orlean’s wickedly funny, elegant, and captivating tale of an amazing obsession. Determined to clone an endangered flower—the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii—a deeply eccentric and oddly attractive man named John Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America’s strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida’s swamps and beyond, along with the Seminoles who help him and the forces of justice who fight him. In the end, Orlean—and the reader—will have more respect for underdog determination and a powerful new definition of passion.

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