11603
Florida
Amelia and Cumberland Islands and the Okefenokee Swamp
Alongside naturalists, discover the idyllic landscapes and unique wildlife of the Barrier Islands and Okefenokee Swamp. Plus, visit historic towns and learn about Civil War history.
Rating (4.87)
Program No. 11603RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
1,199
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Fernandina Beach, Florida
D
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously). Orientation: 5:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel meeting room, we’ll enjoy a catered buffet meal with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In preparation for our field trip to Cumberland Island, we will sit back, relax, and watch a breathtaking video introducing us to this beautiful and enchanting Island.

DAY
2
Cumberland Island Full Day Field Trip
Fernandina Beach, Florida
B,L,D
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving approx. 30 miles one way to Cumberland Island, about 1 hour each way. Ferry ride is less than 1 hour. Be sure to bring a daypack to carry your own packed lunch and water bottle(s). Driving approx. 20 miles in vans; about 2.5 hours total, with stops; rough, bumpy roads. Walking approx. 1/2 mile total; about 2 hours on feet; some uneven, sandy/grassy terrain, rocks, roots. Comfortable walking shoes recommended. Field trip is not wheelchair accessible.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the hot breakfast buffet served daily will feature fresh fruit, eggs, biscuits, waffles, pancakes, baked goods, and breakfast meats with coffee, tea, fruit juice, water.

Morning: We will leave early to travel by motorcoach to the Cumberland Island National Seashore located at St. Mary's, Georgia, where we'll board a ferry for a boat ride to Cumberland Island, the state's southernmost and largest barrier island. We may even see dolphins and other wildlife on the way! Upon arrival, we will meet our expert from the National Park Service and transfer to our motorized minivan that will be our mode of transportation for the entire day. We will see both cultural and natural landmarks including the remains of Robert Stafford’s plantation and cemetery, Plum Orchard Mansion, Cumberland Wharf, The Settlement, and the First African Baptist Church. This is the church where John and Caroline Kennedy were married. This all-day trip travels along rugged roads and there will be places for bathroom stops at certain points along the way.

Lunch: At a renovated building with picnic tables in and outside, we will have our packed lunches consisting of a sandwich, fruit, cookie and water.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our Cumberland Island field trip until we board the ferry in the late afternoon for our return trip to St. Mary’s, and then onto Fernandina.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Amelia Island History, Trolley, Fort Clinch, Island Ecology
Fernandina Beach, Florida
B,L,D
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Getting on/off the trolley at various points; total ride is approximately 15 miles; about 1.5 hours. Walking approximately 1.5 miles total throughout the day, with places to rest; periods of standing up to 1 hour. At Fort Clinch, stairs are steep and narrow, railings are absent, walkways are uneven with many trip hazards; two large ramps give access to the rampart and gun deck.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Today will be a day of fascination and historical adventure. Through an expert-led history lecture in the classroom, we will learn about the history of the eight flags of Fernandina. First populated by the Timucuan Indian tribe, the area eventually became known as the “Isle of 8 Flags.” Since 1562, it has had the flags of France, Spain, Great Britain, Spain (again), the Patriots of Amelia Island, the Green Cross of Florida, Mexico, the Confederate States of America, and the United States flying over it at one point or another. Afterwards, our trolley will meet us at the hotel for a field trip, during which we will explore the downtown historic district of Amelia Island. As we go, our expert will share the story of the visionary whose exhilarating dream so stirred his neighbors that they agreed to move their entire town to the site of a plantation he owned, thereby creating "New" Fernandina in the 1850s. From the "giant" Timucua Native Americans, to Spanish and French explorers, to the lawless spirit of pirates, to the dignified air of Victorian-era residents, Amelia Island has been home to diverse cultures that have left a truly exciting heritage. We can expect the rare privilege of observing the uniquely gracious and historic homes of another century. As we continue, we’ll allow ourselves to get in touch with efforts to preserve the nearly extinct, pristine architectural styles within a small, gifted American town struggling to retain its fragile sense of family and community, as well as its birthright and historical integrity.

Lunch: At a popular local restaurant located inside a charming historic downtown building, we’ll enjoy delicious plated meals from a select menu with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase. An eclectic palette of colors, furnishings and a large garden patio shaded by huge oak trees will invite us to a fun and unique culinary experience.

Afternoon: Fort Clinch State Park is a 1,086-acre outpost of pristine beaches and dunes, nature trails, ponds and salt marshes and the island's only campgrounds. While here after arriving by trolley, a re-enactor dressed in period uniform will take us back in time on a field trip around the fort while vividly describing what our ancestors may have experienced here. Named for General Duncan Lamont Clinch, an important figure in Florida's Seminole War of the 1830's who also fought in the War of l812, the fort is one in a system of permanent coastal fortifications. Construction began in 1847 and was occupied briefly by the Confederate forces while it was still being built until it was eventually overrun by the Union troops. It has been meticulously preserved and will provide us with a glimpse as to what life was like over 150 years ago. Close your eyes for a moment and you can almost hear the roar of the cannons! We’ll then return to the hotel.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: We’ll then gather in the hotel meeting room for a presentation on island ecology given by a naturalist.

DAY
4
Amelia Island River Cruise, Free Time
Fernandina Beach, Florida
B,L
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Getting on/off trolley and a boat; short trolley ride. Boat ride is approximately 1.5 hours; vessel is wheelchair accessible; the boat is covered and may be closed to protect guests against inclement weather. Walking approximately 1/2 mile total throughout the day.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: As we cruise the backwaters of Amelia Island and Cumberland Island on a covered pontoon boat, enjoy the spectacular views while watching for rare birds, dolphins, manatees and other wildlife. We’ll glide back in time along the rivers, creeks and marshes that surround Amelia Island. Commentary along the way is provided by a local expert.

Lunch: At a well-known restaurant on the riverfront, we’ll enjoy a plated entrée and dessert chosen from the select menu featuring local specialties. Coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time. This block of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You may wish to venture to the Amelia Island Museum, the historic village, or just relax on the beach.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Okefenokee Swamp
Fernandina Beach, Florida
B,L,D
Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island

Activity note: Getting on/off a boat; the covered boat ride is approximately 1.5 hours into the swamp; vessel is wheelchair accessible. Driving approximately 90 miles roundtrip; about 3 hours. Walking approximately 1.5 miles roundtrip; about 1 hour; boardwalks; some benches to sit and rest. Sun protection, bug spray, closed-toed shoes, water bottle(s), and snacks recommended. Bring layers in preparation for changing weather conditions.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll travel by boat into Okefenokee Swamp. Officially identified as a “Wetland of International Importance,” the Okefenokee Swamp is composed of a wealth of various habitats including a multitude of black-water lakes, pine & oak forests, and freshwater marshes (locally called “prairies”) with floating flowering islands amid flooded lowlands covered by cypress, black gum, and shrubs. This enormous peat bog is host to a lively human history of “swamp culture” as well as to an infinitely beautiful and complex ecosystem of flora and fauna with perhaps the most notable residents being Florida black bears and American alligators. An expert will lead our field trip into the Okefenokee Swamp, one of America's most famous national wildlife refuges. If you are a birder, don't forget your binoculars as there are sure to be opportunities for viewing red-cockaded woodpeckers, sandhill cranes, owls, and others. Whatever your interest, have a camera with you because Okefenokee is a wonderfully picturesque place! We’ll get off the boat at our lunch location.

Lunch: In the swamp, we’ll have a tasty cookout lunch complete with a favorite local dessert.

Afternoon: We’ll then take a drive along Swamp Island Drive to explore the19th-to-early-20th-century farmhouse located deep in the swamp that was home to a family for several generations. Fortunately, the property was saved from the fire of 2011 and has survived the constantly wet conditions of the environment, thereby sustaining the legacy of the “swampers” who once lived there. We’ll take a stroll along the boardwalk to explore the property. We’ll then transfer to our dinner location.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated dinner together with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then return to the hotel where the remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Continue the fun by sharing some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
6
Shrimping Industry, Program Concludes
Fernandina Beach, Florida
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: A local expert on shrimping will join us at the hotel and speak about what is currently happening in the world of the industry. He comes from a family of shrimpers and will share some of the often surprising goings-on regarding how shrimpers make a living. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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