Gainesville: From Sinkhole Science to the Pioneer Homesteads

Gain a deeper understanding of Florida’s unique natural history, exploring its state parks, botanical gardens, ports and old towns in this thrillingly comprehensive adventure.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20439RJ
6 days
Starts at
Special Offer
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At a Glance

North Florida is a nature lover’s paradise where unique geological and climatic conditions have given rise to a landscape of sinkholes, rivers and lakes amid sub-tropical palms and moss-draped hardwoods. Get outdoors and enjoy the delights of historic Gainesville, the urban base for your wild adventure. Immerse yourself in natural splendor at Paynes Prairie State Park. Weave through dense woods to the 120-foot-deep Devil’s Millhopper sinkhole. Discover the famous “talking walls” at Haile Homestead. Make your way to Micanopy, believed to be Florida’s oldest inland town, then travel west to the Gulf of Mexico’s sleepy Cedar Key. After full days of exploration, enjoy the traditions of Southern living and dining in a historic 1885 Victorian Inn.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to one mile on well-maintained trails; steps into the Devil’s Millhopper sinkhole.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Enjoy a visit to Cedar Key Island, and learn about the local culture of one of the state's oldest ports.
  • Delight in an expert-led exploration through the historic Haile Homestead which has 12,500 words written on the walls.
  • Experience the sights and sounds of Paynes Prairie and learn about its Seminole tribal history, and unique biological and geological significance.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Debbie Segal
Debbie Segal is an environmental scientist who has worked in the field of wetlands ecology, water quality, and wildlife for over 25 years. She helped design several constructed treatment wetlands, including Sweetwater Wetlands Park. An avid bird watcher, she serves as the newsletter editor and on the Board of Directors for the Alachua Audubon Society. She also volunteers for the Florida Springs Institute where she gives presentations on springs and aquifer protection.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Debbie Segal
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Paynes Prairie: The Great Savanna: A History and Guide
by Lars Anderson
This new paperback edition of Paynes Prairie still offers the sweeping history of the shallow-bowl basin in the middle of Florida, just south of Gainesville, but now adds a guide to outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in the state preserve there today, along with maps of trails for biking, hiking, and canoeing.
The Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation: An Illustrated History
by Karen Kirkman (Author), Kevin McCarthy (Contributor)
This is the first detailed history of one of the oldest houses in Alachua County, Florida: the Haile Homestead. Fully illustrated with many photographs, most of which were in private collections, this history deals with an important family in the county's history and brings the story of the house up to the present.
Cross Creek Cookery
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
First published in 1942, Cross Creek Cookery was compiled by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at the request of readers who wanted to recreate the luscious meals described in Cross Creek -- her famous memoir of life in a Florida hamlet. Lovers of old-fashioned, down-home cooking will treasure the recipes for Grits, Hush-Puppies, Florida Fried Fish, Orange Fluff, and Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie. For more adventuresome palates, there are such unusual dishes as Minorcan Gopher Stew, Coot Surprise, Alligator-Tail Steak, Mayhaw Jelly, and Chef Huston's Cream of Peanut Soup. Spiced with delightful anecdotes and lore, Cross Creek Cookery guides the reader through the rich culinary heritage of the deep tidal South with a loving regard for the rituals of cooking and eating. Anyone who longs for food -- and writing -- that warms the heart will find ample portions of both in this classic cookbook.
Gainesville (Images of America: Florida)
by Rob Hicks
Gainesville, Florida, has grown from a small agricultural community in the north-central part of the state to a thriving city. Many people have had a hand in Gainesville’s evolution. After befriending the Timucuan Indians, who had originally inhabited the region, the Spanish began recruiting other settlers to move to the area. Despite those valued contributions, however, the people who brought the railroad to Gainesville deserve the most credit for giving the town its start. Soon after tracks were laid through the city, small businesses sprouted and opportunities for new industries arose. The city’s population expanded along with its economic growth, and more people began to witness the unique potential of Gainesville. In 1905, the city became home to the University of Florida, and a rich educational heritage began. The university brought great attention to the town and subsequently made Gainesville one of the most important cities in the state and one of the most prominent educational epicenters in the South.
The Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Young Jody adopts an orphaned fawn he calls Flag and makes it a part of his family and his best friend. But life in the Florida backwoods is harsh, and so, as his family fights off wolves, bears, and even alligators, and faces failure in their tenuous subsistence farming, Jody must finally part with his dear animal friend. There has been a film and even a musical based on this story.

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