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
1,899
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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, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Everglades City, FL
D
Ivey House

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 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 up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and to learn when and where the Orientation session will take place. Please remember to bring your name tag sent with this packet to the program. If your arrival is delayed, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. 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 daily 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. Some businesses in the Everglades and the surrounding area may be closed for repairs due to damage by Hurricane Irma. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. “America the Beautiful” passes cover entrance fees at national parks and wildlife refuges for up to 4 adults. If you have one of these national park passes, please bring it with you to the program and on our field trips to benefit other members of the group. On the Road programs are journeys that take participants to multiple study sites in a region with a number of overnight stays. Lectures, talks, discussions, field trips, and on-board commentary amplify the program theme. Some journeys involve great distances and may take hours, others are much shorter. Long or short, On the Road journeys are learning experiences that make the most of our time together.

Dinner: At the Inn, we will have a buffet dinner.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Museum of the Everglades, Expert Lecture, Marsh Walk
Everglades City, FL
B,L,D
Ivey House

Activity note: Walking about 2.5 miles on pavement; marsh walk on dry terrain.

Breakfast: At the inn.

Morning: We will start off with a walk to the Museum of the Everglades. This museum is devoted to displaying local history from early Native American times to the present, as well as exhibits of works by local and regional artists. We will have an opportunity to explore the Museum of the Everglades, and hear a lecture by a local expert. In the late morning, we will hear from a local author on the history of the Everglades and the conservation of this unique environment. Learn the background of the founding of the National Parks, the struggle to maintain and protect the Everglades, and future developments in the Everglades’ restoration.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, enjoy a plated lunch.

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. Before our walk to dinner, enjoy a talk and sample of local stone crab!

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will have a plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Ah-tah-thi-ki Seminole Museum
Everglades City, FL
B,L
Ivey House

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day, indoors and outdoors, on wooden boardwalks. Driving about 175 miles throughout the day; approximately 3.5 hours total.

Breakfast: At the inn.

Morning: 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 transfer to the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation.

Lunch: Boxed lunch with bottled water at the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum.

Afternoon: We will visit the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. In the Seminole language, Ah-tah-thi-ki means a place to learn, a place to remember. 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 us through the diorama-style exhibits that will transport us back in time to explore Seminole culture of the 1890s. Other displays, including a new exhibit featuring beadwork, showcases contemporary life. Afterwards, we will create our own work of art using watercolor pencils to draw and paint the inspiring beauty of the cypress dome before us.

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. Elective movie night to learn more about the Everglades.

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

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach and tram; Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day, indoors and on uneven terrain. Driving 85 miles; about 2.5 hours with stops along the way. Transfer to Florida City.

Breakfast: At the inn.

Morning: We will learn about local flora and fauna at Shark Valley. 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, this special place was named of "Shark" Valley. At Shark Valley 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.

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

Afternoon: Across the street, we will discover the Fruit & Spice Park showcasing the rich agricultural bounty and heritage of the area known as Redland. As a local expert leads us through the park, learn about the history of the Homestead area beginning in 1898 when the area was first cleared for farm settlement. The park hosts over 500 varieties of fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs, and nuts, and maintains two original historic structures: the original one-room Redland Schoolhouse built in 1906, and a coral rock building built around 1913 as a laboratory for citrus canker research. At the end of this field trip, we will make the final portion of our transfer to Florida City.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Walking up to 1 mile on flat surfaces; getting on/off boat from dock. Participants prone to motion sickness please remember to take tablets before the boat ride field trip.

Breakfast: At the hotel, enjoy choices such as scramble eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, cereal, grits, oatmeal, bagels, english muffins, bread, pastries, waffles, juice, water and coffee.

Morning: We will transfer via motorcoach 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. Learn about 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!

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

Afternoon: We will embark on 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 a soft drink, coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Walking up to 2.5 miles on uneven terrain; driving 45 miles, approximately 2 hours.

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 era and early human bones and artifacts. We will be guided through the estate's historic houses with a local expert. After a short break, we will walk the ancient Tequesta Trail 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: We will discover Biscayne National Park and the Dante Fascell Visitor Center and Gallery to learn about the wildlife and history 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: At a local restaurant, enjoy a 3 course plated meal plus a soft drink, beer or wine, coffee, tea, water.

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: Walk up to 1 1/2 miles on flat, paved and boardwalk trails. Driving approximately 100 miles throughout the day, 1 1/2 hours round trip.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will head to 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 the center's self-provoking exhibits. The center has a giant diorama with life-size replicas of Everglades denizens on the prowl. We will walk 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 is 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.

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: Independently discover the Flamingo Visitor Center and the Marina in Everglades National Park.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will have a plated meal plus a soft drink, coffee, tea, 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.; please do not book departure flights before 1:00 p.m.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program. Please note that the Road Scholar shuttle departs promptly at 10:00 a.m. to the airport. 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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