Keys, Everglades & Dry Tortugas: Human History & Outdoor Study

Discover the Florida Keys with a master naturalist as you visit protected islands, explore coral reefs, taste local cuisine and enjoy lectures on shipwrecks, pirates and Native Peoples.
Program No. 2801RJ
7 days
Starts at
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7 days
6 nights
15 meals
6 B 4 L 5 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Key Largo
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

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

Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table at the Orientation session [please ask the front desk for the specific location] 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. If your arrival is delayed, please ask for your packet when you check in. 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. Unless specified otherwise, all transportation will be provided via passengers vans. Our Group Leader will lead all field trips unless otherwise noted. Evenings will often include a review of the day’s sightings and an introduction to the activities for the following day with the remainder of the night at leisure. Meals at local restaurants will have plated table service of regional dishes from a select menu with soft drinks, coffee, tea and water included; other beverages available for purchase. 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 change due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: We’ll then travel in vans to a local restaurant for a plated regional dish with soft drinks, coffee, tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to take a stroll along the boardwalk, continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the full day ahead.

Everglades National Park
Key Largo
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles throughout the day over paved sidewalks and boardwalks; our afternoon hike destination is weather and time dependent. The drive is approximately 45 miles, about 1.5 hours.

Breakfast: At a warm and friendly local restaurant, we’ll have a plated home-cooked breakfast with coffee, tea, juice and water.

Morning: We’ll begin with a field trip to Everglades National Park's "River of Grass” where we will go on a walk led by a local Park Ranger along the Anhinga Trail while learning about local animals and the impact of human development on the Everglades’ ecosystem. The expansiveness of this environment will provide and abundance of excellent birding and photo opportunities.

Lunch: At the park, we’ll find a comfortable spot to sit and rest while we enjoy delicious and healthy picnic boxed lunches.

Afternoon: We’ll then go on a short hike led by our Group leader around a lake and bird rookery or in the pine flat woods and grass prairie. Which location will depend on time available and weather conditions. Before returning to the hotel we'll stop at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center with some time for independent exploration to peruse exhibits, a short video and the Everglades/Natural Florida book store.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

John Pennekamp State Park, Pigeon Key, Mallory Square
Key West Florida
Westwinds Inn

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles throughout the day in short installments; some uneven terrain and boardwalks; paved sidewalks. The drive is approximately 92 miles, about 2.5 hours. Getting on/off a boat; the ride is about a 1/2 hour.

Breakfast: Local restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Our first field trip of the day will be to the John Pennekamp Visitor Center and Aquarium featuring a 30,000 gallon saltwater aquarium and other natural history exhibits that provide examples of the park's unique marine environment. After some time for independent exploration in the visitor center, we'll embark on a short walking field trip through the park led by our Group Leader on a path through mangrove habitats, over pathways and on boardwalks. We’ll learn about the importance of mangroves to the reefs and why the mangrove system is the second most productive bio-zone on the planet as we walk inside this virtual jungle above the water. Afterwards, we’ll then transfer to Pigeon Key where we'll take a trip through time as we explore buildings that were built in 1909 to house more than 400 workers who were working 14-hours a day, six days a week, to build Henry Flagler's Florida Overseas Railroad. We’ll ride the Pigeon Key boat from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and cross beneath the new 7-Mile Bridge as well as a 2.2-mile segment of the old 7-Mile Bridge! Once on the Island, we will explore the historic buildings and the Pigeon Key Museum led by an expert from the park staff.

Lunch: On Pigeon Key overlooking Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay, we’ll prepare our own sandwiches and salads for lunch.

Afternoon: We’ll then board the boat and take it back to US-1 to continue our journey to Key West where we will check into the hotel and have some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: After walking to a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a plated meal of regional specialties with soft drinks, coffee, tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll then walk to Mallory Square for the iconic Sunset Celebration—a unique Key West experience—where we will enjoy some independent exploration. A nightly arts festival featuring street performers, artists’ stalls, crafts, music, and more, the Sunset Celebration always draws a crowd to the coast to enjoy the sinking sun over the Gulf. Ask the Group Leader for suggestions regarding entertainers worth seeing. After sunset, you may choose to stay on Duval Street on your own to soak in the nightlife or head back to the hotel with the Group Leader. Be sure to remember we have an early morning tomorrow.

Yankee Freedom, Dry Tortugas National Park & Fort Jefferson
Key West Florida
Westwinds Inn

Activity note: Early departure from the hotel for a short walk to the dock to board the Dry Tortugas National Park Ferry, a large 150 passenger catamaran with an air conditioned lower deck and an open air top deck; restrooms on board. Getting on/off the boat; the ride is about 2.5 hours. Walking about 2 miles, about 1 hour, throughout the day on group activities with some periods of standing; some uneven terrain and boardwalks.

Breakfast: Aboard the ferry, we’ll have a breakfast buffet featuring choices including bagels, cereal, yogurt, fruit, juices, coffee and water.

Morning: En route to Dry Tortugas National Park, our onboard naturalist will provide an orientation about the area and the national park's surroundings. During our voyage, we will enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Marquesa Islands, Boca Grande, have an opportunity to see turtles and dolphins, and listen to pirate legends. Upon our arrival to the Park, we’ll enjoy a walking field trip through Ft. Jefferson led by a Park Ranger while learning about its role in U.S. history.

Lunch: Aboard the ferry, we’ll have a buffet lunch.

Afternoon: We’ll then enjoy some free time on the island. You may wish to go on a walk around Ft. Jefferson’s moat with a naturalist, snorkeling, bird watching, or just relax on the sandy beach. Birders, be aware that beginning in late February the adjoining Bush Key is closed to visitors to enable the sooty terns and other unique birds to nest undisturbed. However, activity can often be viewed through volunteer rangers’ spotting scopes. We’ll then board the boat and, after returning to hotel, take some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: We will walk to a local restaurant, soft drinks, coffee and water included.

Evening: We’ll have a group session at the hotel during which our Group Leader will provide ideas, recommendations and brochures for things to do on the free day in Key West tomorrow. The remainder of the evening is at leisure for you to do what you wish.

Free Time in Key West
Key West Florida
Westwinds Inn

Breakfast: By the pool at the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet including an assortment of cereals, fruit, bagels, pastries, eggs, juice, coffee, tea and water.

Morning: Free Time. Take this opportunity for 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.

Lunch: 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.

Afternoon: Free time.

Dinner: On your own to sample the local fare.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to explore Key West's lively night scene by visiting a favorite watering hole, taking in a cabaret revue or jazz performance, strolling some quieter neighborhoods on a Ghost Walk, sauntering down to the Westin Marina or Old Seaport to see a visiting celebrity's luxury yacht, or simply relaxing at the hotel. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Windley Key State Park
Key Largo
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Walking about 1.5 miles, approximately 1.5 hours, on uneven and paved terrain. The drive is approximately 92 miles, about 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel and beginning our transfer back to Key Largo, we'll stop for an expert-led field trip at Florida's southernmost state park to learn about some U.S. Military history and the role that Fort Zachary Taylor played in it. Constructed to defend America’s southeastern coastline along with a series of other strongholds in the mid-1800s, Fort Zachary Taylor was completed in 1866 and was thereby significantly involved in both the Civil and Spanish-American Wars.

Lunch: En route at beautiful Sombrero Beach, we’ll have our picnic boxed lunches.

Afternoon: Carrying onward, we’ll make another field trip stop to visit the Windley Key Fossil Reef State Park and walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross-sections of ancient coral. We’ll learn about the history of the quarry and its operation—an important part of Florida's 20th century history—as we walk among samples of the quarry machinery that have been preserved at the park. This land was sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad in the early 1900s because it is made up of Key Largo limestone and fossilized coral and these materials were integral to the construction of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad shortly thereafter. Once the railroad was completed, the main product extracted from this quarry was Keystone, used primarily for decorative purposes. We’ll then complete our journey back to the hotel in Key Largo with some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy our plated farewell dinner in the company of new Road Scholar friends with standard beverages; other drinks available for purchase.

Evening: While remaining at the restaurant, we’ll have a recap session to review our program and share our favorite experiences of the week as well as outline our activities for the following morning. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures tomorrow.

Biscayne National Park, Program Concludes
Key Largo

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant.

Morning: En route to our final drop off point at Miami International Airport, we'll make a short visit to Biscayne National Park for a field trip where we will view a short film about the park and enjoy some insightful history presented by a Park Ranger. Despite Miami being within sight, Biscayne houses an unparalleled conglomeration of distinct ecosystems, life forms, and evidence of human history. The lush islands float on top of the brilliant blue waters that shelter and preserve the vibrantly colorful coral reefs and multiple shipwrecks beneath the surface. Tales ranging from the emergence of ancient peoples to escapades of piracy and presidential visits all have an anchor at Biscayne. Immediately following our field trip, we'll depart for the Miami International Airport for our final drop-off and departures. This concludes our program. 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!

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