Escape to the Everglades this winter for an excellent adventure! Instead of dreary gray, cold, wintry weather we will enjoy temperatures in the mid to high 70s, see spectacular nature like nowhere else on Earth and eat seafood fresh from the Gulf & Atlantic!
As we explore the Everglades National Park and surrounding area, we will step into a mangrove sanctuary, immerse ourselves in our unique surroundings amongst the wildlife and relax into the slow pace of nature.
If you think you’ve seen the Everglades, think again! A simple drive through the area only gives a small glimpse of what makes up this amazingly diverse natural land.
So kick off those snow boots, grab your flip flops, and hop on our flight to Florida!
Day One: Arrival in Naples, Florida
We will make our way from Fort Myers Airport to the stylish and sophisticated beach town of Naples. While we’ll be surrounded by high end shopping and world class culture, we will be relaxed and comfortable at our local hotel that will provide a more intimate setting for our excursions into nature, far from the hustle and bustle of crowded resorts but still within walking distance to nearby restaurants and shops. After our included dinner, you will have the remainder of the evening to spend wandering the lovely streets of Naples.
Day Two: Ten Thousand Islands Cruise
Today we will visit the Ten Thousand Islands as we delve into the diverse ecosystems and tropical habitats on our first exploration of the Everglades National Park. Our cruise will take us out into the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Chokoloskee Bay and Indian Key Pass to this unique chain of islands and mangrove islets.
Our naturalist guide will teach us the rich history of the area as we keep a lookout for the variety of wildlife awaiting us such as sea turtles, ospreys, manatees, and playful dolphins. There will be spectacular views of several Keys and Marco Island.
Day Two: Smallwood Store
As we arrive back on land, we will make our way to Ted Smallwood’s Store est 1906. This historic store which served as a trading post that bought furs, hides, and farm produce in exchange for providing goods for survival, will teach us the history of the pioneers who first tamed this vast wilderness.
Lunch at Havana Cafe:
Now onto an included lunch at the chill, tropical Havana Café in the heart of picturesque Chokoloskee Island. Enjoy the delicious tastes of Cuba as we sit and relax among beautiful flora and fauna.
This is a most spectacular place!
Day Two: Big Cypress Boardwalk
On our way back home towards Naples, we’ll take a stroll on the Big Cypress Boardwalk located within the vast Fakahatchee Strand Preserve. As you wander under the tropical canopy, take in the serenity of this untamed landscape while keeping an eye out for varieties of native birds, strangler figs and those camouflaged gators!
Once back at our hotel, the rest of the night will be yours to enjoy in downtown Naples.
Day Three: Mangrove Airboat Ride
This morning we experience the Everglade’s mangrove swamp in an entirely different way. An airboat will whisk us through the winding tunnels allowing us to view this spectacular sight from inside the mangrove canopy. Hang onto your hat, we’ll be moving fast!
Day Three: Everglades City Seafood Festival
The 52nd Annual Everglades City Seafood Festival will be our next stop. We will spend a few hours hanging with the locals, indulging in delicious, fresh, local seafood, listening to live music and browsing the dozens of craft booths and vendors.
Day Three: Big Cypress Scenic Drive
Onto our next adventure, a scenic drive through the beautifully, wonderful Big Cypress National Preserve on an historic backroad that once surrounded a pioneer community with a Wild West reputation filled with people who wanted to avoid civilization.
Our slow drive along this unpaved road will take us deep into the wild areas where bridges over the crystal-clear reflective water reveal majestic cypress trees thick with airplants, flurries of wings, sunning alligators and red bellied turtles. We may come face to face with our alligator friends who laze about along the road or sometimes right in the middle!
Day Three: Big Cypress - Pinecrest
We’ll wind our way past the diverse ecosystems containing seas of sawgrass, cypress and sweetwater strands, deep culverts, pinelands and slash pines to the storied town of Pinecrest with stories of Al Capone and the infamous Gator Hook Lodge.
Day Three: Hammock Snail Trail
We’ll make a stop at the Hammock Trail where we’ll search the tree trunks and branches for the colorful shells of the Liguus tree snails hiding amongst the lushness.
Our scenic drive will take us back to Naples where we can spend a leisurely evening on our own as we wish.
Day Four: Shark Valley Tram
Our morning exploration will take us to southern end of the Everglades in Shark Valley. This area is home to a diverse number of plants and wildlife which changes throughout the year with the seasons and water levels giving each journey a different experience. Here, we will take a relaxed, informative tram ride through this fascinating ecosystem in search of all the wildlife that roams freely amongst its vastness.
At the halfway point, we can enjoy panoramic views at the top of the 45-foot-high observation deck, which has a gradual ramp for easy access. This will surely be a spectacular sight not to be missed!
After our tram ride, there will be time to explore the visitors center offering two short walking trails, educational displays, a park video and gift shop.
Day Four: Joanies Blue Crab Cafe
Now we’re off to an authentic Everglades experience, lunch at Joanie’s Blue Crab Café, housed in the oldest standing building in the Everglades. We’ll sit back and relax in this old-fashioned Everglades joint where the air conditioning is the breeze blowing through the open windows and the friendliest waitress in the world greets you and calls you honey. The food is delicious too!
Day Four: World's Smallest Post Office
After our lunch, we pass by the World’s Smallest Post Office in Ochopee for a quick photo, then make our way back to our comfortable hotel to have dinner on our own in downtown Naples.
Day Five: Keewaydin Island Cruise
Our beach island shelling cruise awaits us today! A 53-foot Gold Coast Yacht sailing catamaran will take us to a slice of paradise, Keewaydin Island, a barrier island with nearly eight miles of untouched white sand beach. We’ll relax on our leisurely sail in the fresh sea air, see various marine wildlife, then spend time on Keewaydin searching for treasures from the sea or just relaxing in the sand and water.
*make sure to bring along sandals or shoes that are easy to take off and put on, as the ladder from the boat will go directly into the water, so your feet will get wet*
Day Five: Taste of Europe - Divine Naples
Once back on land, we’ll enjoy a taste of Europe at our included lunch at Divine Naples. The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to spend as you wish among this luxurious town to shop, sightsee, walk along the beach, wander and relax.
We may have an optional special Happy Hour Surprise before your dinner out on the town, stay tuned!
Day Six: Last Goodbyes
Dip your toes in the water one more time before making our way to the airport home, filled with fantastic Everglades memories.
Pricing & Departures:
Air transportation is provided by United Airlines. A surcharge will apply if United Airlines increases the price of its airfare. One piece of luggage per person (baggage fee by United is not included) and one small carry-on are permitted. A valid, government-issued picture ID is required to board the plane.
Thursday, February 16: Flight #731 departs Newark at 8:35 AM and arrives in Fort Myers at 11:46 AM
Tuesday, February 21: Flight #2094 departs Fort Myers at 8:06 AM and arrives in Newark at 11:02 AM
Price per person is $2,645 Twin & $3,575 Single. No reservations accepted without a deposit of $350 per person. Make checks payable to “Group Tours & Travel”, and mail to our address above. Final payment is due November 5, 2022. There are no refunds if cancellation occurs after November 5, 2022. Once airfare is purchased, despite cancellation date, we are unable to provide refunds. Group Tours is not responsible for any delays, cancellations, injuries or circumstances beyond its control and reserves the right to change the itinerary. All trip components are subject to change in accordance with Government, State and Local guidelines and/or mandates. Travel protection/cancellation coverage is available and highly recommended, but not included. This tour will run rain or shine.
The Educated Wanderer
Group Tours & Travel
1710 E. Lancaster Ave. #319 Paoli, PA 19301