20447
Florida
Natural Wonders of Florida’s Great National and State Parks
Explore the wonders of South Florida as you discuss its treasured state parks, delicate coral reefs, wildlife recovery efforts and history of early pioneers with local experts.
Rating (4.75)
Program No. 20447RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,649
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8 days
7 nights
19 meals
7 B 6 L 6 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Everglades City, FL
D
Ivey House

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and to learn when and where the Orientation session will take place. If your arrival is delayed, please ask for your packet when you check in. Join us for a reception to meet and start getting to know your fellow participants.

Dinner: At the Inn, we will have a 3-course welcome dinner buffet, plus one house wine or beer.

Evening: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. All lectures and field trips will be led by our Group Leader or a local expert unless specified otherwise. All transportation will be provided via motorcoach. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in available activities on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

DAY
2
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Ah-tah-thi-ki Seminole Museum
Everglades City, FL
B,L,D
Ivey House

Activity note: Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day on wooden boardwalks.

Breakfast: At the inn, we will have a selection of hot and cold items including fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll hop aboard the motorcoach and head to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where a naturalist will provide commentary and then lead us around parts of this 14,000-acre sanctuary. Encompassing several distinct habitats from marsh, to flatland, to the oldest Bald Cypress forest in North America, Corkscrew Sanctuary is managed by the National Audubon Society. The sanctuary protects and helps maintain native flora and fauna that have thrived for thousands of years. Depending on the time of year, wildlife found in the sanctuary includes bears, alligators, otters, red-bellied turtles, white-tailed deer, Anhinga, woodpeckers, and more. From the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, we will ride to the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation.

Lunch: At the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum, we will have a boxed lunch with bottled water.

Afternoon: Our afternoon is dedicated to visiting the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Members of today’s Seminole Tribe of Florida can trace their roots back 12,000 years. Today, we will experience Seminole culture and history in the scenic Everglades. Our visit will begin with a panoramic orientation film. Then, an expert will lead you through the diorama-style exhibits that will transport you back in time to explore Seminole culture of the 1890s. Other displays, including a new exhibit featuring beadwork, will show contemporary life. Afterwards, we will learn about how the Seminoles used different plants and animals to survive in the Everglades while walking through the beautiful cypress dome. In the Seminole language, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum means a place to learn, a place to remember.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will have a plated meal, plus coffee, tea, soft drinks, or water.

Evening: At leisure. Talk over the highlights of the day with new Road Scholar friends, or simply enjoy some R&R.

DAY
3
Museum of the Everglades, Marsh Walk
Everglades City, FL
B,L
Ivey House

Activity note: Walk approximately 2.5 miles on pavement; marsh walk on dry terrain.

Breakfast: At the inn.

Morning: Start the morning off with a walk to the Museum of the Everglades. We will hear from a local author on the history of the Everglades and the conservation of the unique environment. Learn the background to the founding of the National Park and the struggle to maintain and protect the Everglades, and future developments in the Everglades’ restoration. In the late morning, we will learn the history of this unique region on a guided walk through Everglades City.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, enjoy a plated lunch and a bonus sampling of stone crab with our meal.

Afternoon: We will set out on a marsh walk through the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge. This 35,000 acre plot of mangroves is home to about 200 species of fish, 190 species of birds, as well as a variety of reptiles and mammals, some of which are endangered. A wide variety of wildlife is able to call this region home thanks to the brackish water where fresh and saltwater meet. At the end of our field trip, we will return to the Ivey House.

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

Evening: At leisure after a long day. Relax, recharge your batteries, and prepare for a full day tomorrow beginning with early morning check-out and transfer to Florida City.

DAY
4
To Florida City, Shark Valley, Fruit & Spice Park
Florida City, FL
B,L,D
Best Western "Gateway to the Keys"

Activity note: Drive to Florida City is about 2 hours with stops along the way. Walking up to 2 miles on uneven terrain.

Breakfast: At the inn.

Morning: Check out of the hotel and board the motorcoach, beginning our journey to the east side of Florida’s peninsula, stopping for our field trip to Shark Valley. Once here, we will ride an open-air tram along the 15 mile trail perched on the northern border of the park, teeming with flora and fauna. This loop takes us through a saw grass prairie for close-up views of biological diversity as our naturalist shares “hidden aspects” of the ecosystem that makes the Everglades a world-renowned wetland. Halfway along the trail, we will stop at the 45-foot-high Shark Valley Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the heart of the Everglades. When the Everglades’ flow was stronger, the water from Florida Bay would reverse and sharks would be found well up into the slough. As a result the name of "Shark" Valley stuck. The Loop Trail is an ecological highlight of Everglades National Park. At the end of our field trip, we will board the motorcoach and head to Three Sisters Farm.

Lunch: At Three Sisters Farm, enjoy an organically sourced meal from the farm in the second story tiki dining room.

Afternoon: At Three Sisters Farm, we will join a farm expert for a walk through the farm. As we walk, learn the story of Three Sisters, why they live in a culinary paradise, and the process of farm to table cuisine. We then transfer to the Fruit & Spice Park and celebrate the annual Redland Heritage Festival. Local community members will showcase traditional and natural arts and crafts, and nurseries will display native plants and tropical fruit trees. This is the only tropical botanical garden of its kind in the United States and hosts over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and nuts, and other commercially important plant specimens from around the world. At the end of the field trip, we will make the final portion of our transfer to Florida City.

Dinner: At a local restaurant in Florida City, we will be joined by a local expert, John Owens. John has an extensive environmental background as a Florida Master Naturalist, Observer, Listener, Interpreter and Soundscape Ecologist. His introduction to the history of Biscayne Bay, its surrounding area, and ecosystems of the coast will prepare you for Monday's field trip to Biscayne Bay National Park. Following the lecture, we will have a plated meal, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
RF Orchids, REEF, John Pennekamp State Park
Florida City, FL
B,L,D
Best Western "Gateway to the Keys"

Activity note: Walking up to 1 mile on flat surfaces. Participants prone to motion sickness, please remember to take tablets before the field trip.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: The motorcoach takes us to R.F. Orchids in Homestead. This third-generation family enterprise has become one of the most highly respected orchid-growing operations in the South. We will have an expert-led look through the house and see thousands of exotic orchids growing in a hammock-like setting accented with gazebos, ponds, tiki huts, and lush landscaping. A ride to Key Largo then brings us to the headquarters of REEF, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. A private presentation discusses the work of this grass roots environmental education foundation that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating, enlisting and enabling divers and other marine enthusiasts to become active ocean stewards and citizen scientists. We will experience a special lionfish dissection and feeding demonstration! Then return to the motorcoach for our ride to John Pennekamp State Park.

Lunch: At John Pennekamp State Park, we will have a boxed lunch with bottled water.

Afternoon: At the state park, we will embark a glass-bottom boat for a nautical field trip into John Pennekamp State Park with commentary from our captain. Ride above the first underwater state park in the continental U.S. with a fully-intact coral reef consisting of many varieties and species of living coral.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will have a plated meal, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Deering Estate, Biscayne National Park Visitors Center
Florida City, FL
B,L,D
Best Western "Gateway to the Keys"

Activity note: Drive about 1 hour. Walk up to 2.5 miles on uneven terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Our day begins at the Deering Estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site of two 3-story buildings – one stone and one wooden – the 444 acre property is also an archeological site containing bones of animals from the Pleistocene and early human bones and artifacts. The site is dedicated to preserving the unique experience offered by the natural resources of Florida. At Deering Estate, we are guided through the estate's historic houses with a local expert. After a short break, you will walk an ancient Tequesta path to the Cutler Burial Mound to learn about some of the 40,000 year old fossils and artifacts that were left behind by the Tequesta Native American Tribe.

Lunch: Enjoy a boxed lunch on the Deering Estate grounds.

Afternoon: Continue to the site of our next activity; Biscayne National Park and the Dante Fascell Visitor Center and Gallery to learn more about the park and the history within its borders, both above and below the water. Inhabited for more than 10,000 years, Biscayne National Park preserves many traces of human and natural history. Each island including Elliott Key, the northernmost of the Florida Keys, has evidence of human civilization. Beneath the surface, shipwrecks add to natural reefs while preserving a more violent time of history.

Dinner: Enjoy a plated meal at a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Royal Palm Visitor Center, Anhinga Trail, Gumbo Limbo Trail
Florida City, FL
B,L,D
Best Western "Gateway to the Keys"

Activity note: Drive approximately 1 hour round trip. Walk up to 1.5 miles on flat, paved and boardwalk trails.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: The motorcoach takes us to begin our morning at the Ernest F. Coe Visitors Center at the Main Entrance of Everglades National Park. We will enjoy an informative film on the Everglades in the comfortable theater before having an opportunity for a self-led walk among their self-provoking exhibits. The center has a giant diorama with life-size replicas of Everglades denizens on the prowl.

Lunch: We will ride to the Long Pine Key picnic area a few miles from the Visitors Center where we will have a box lunch including a choice of sandwich, chips, cookies, fruit, and water.

Afternoon: We are off to hike at the famous Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm area of Everglades National Park. Follow the trails and boardwalks to get a close-up view of wild gators, turtles, Roseate Spoonbills, and abounding varieties of wading birds and aquatic species. The Anhinga Trail was so beautiful and indicative of the Everglades that a group of women petitioned for its protection as a state park in the early 20th Century. This state park was the genesis of Everglades National Park, dedicated in 1947.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will have a plated farewell dinner, plus a choice of house wine or domestic beer, coffee, tea, fountain drink, or water.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for departure in the morning.

DAY
8
Program Concludes
Florida City, FL
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m. The Road Scholar shuttle will leave for the airport at 10:00 a.m.; do not book departure flights before 1:00 p.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Our program concludes with breakfast. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!