Itinerary: (Subject to change due to local conditions, unforeseen events, or more interesting, as-yet unplanned awesome experiences that become available)
An Excellent Everglades Experience
Ten Thousand Islands ~ Fakahatchee Preserve Big Cypress ~ Everglades National Park
Six Day Tour ~ February 11-16, 2021
Highlights: Nonstop, Roundtrip Airfare Newark to Fort Myers • Five Nights’ Accommodations Bayfront Inn 5th Ave, Naples • Everglades National Park • Ten Thousand Islands Boat Tour • Smallwood Store • Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park & Visitor Center • Jones Memorial Scenic Drive Tram Tour • Big Cypress Boardwalk • Everglades City Seafood Festival • Big Cypress National Preserve Scenic Drives & Visitors Center • Miccosukee Village • Alligator Demonstrations • Shark Valley Tram Tour • Catamaran Cruise to Keewaydin Island • Conservancy of Southwest Florida • Downtown Naples • San Marco Island • All Breakfasts • Three Lunches • One Dinner • Fully Escorted
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 the swamp. So kick off those snow boots, grab your flip flops, and hop on our flight to Florida!
Day 1. 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 the Bayfront Inn 5th Ave, a Caribbean Chic boutique hotel located in the heart of paradise. These accommodations 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 check in, you will have the remainder of the evening to spend wandering the lovely streets of Naples and find a wonderful restaurant to have dinner on your own.
Day 2. 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. As we arrive back on land, we will make our way for a lovely included lunch at Havana Café of the Everglades on the picturesque Chokoloskee Island. Before our next nature adventure, we will make a stop at 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. Onto our next adventure, the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, the largest state park in Florida and home to a variety of plant and animal species not found anywhere else in the continental United States. Here, we will take a guided Ghost Rider tram along the Jones Memorial Scenic drive where we may come face to face with the elusive Ghost Orchid hiding amongst the lushness in the park. We will travel past a wet prairie, learning its ecology and stop at a slough where we can take a short, guided walk on an old logging path lined with air plants, ferns, and orchids. On our way back to our inn in Naples, we will make a short stop at the Big Cypress Boardwalk located in the park where we can take a stroll out into the swamp and experience its beauty from a safe distance. Once back at our hotel, the rest of the night will be yours to enjoy in downtown Naples.
Day 3. The 51st Annual Everglades City Seafood Festival will be our first stop today. 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. After our fun in the sun, Big Cypress National Preserve, a freshwater swamp ecosystem larger than the state of Rhode Island, will be our adventure. Here we will be immersed in a diverse landscape where it’s possible to see cypress and mangroves, alligators and panther tracks all in one day! We’ll make a quick stop at the Big Cypress Visitors Center to get a feel of the natural and cultural history of the Big Cypress Swamp through exhibits and a short film. Our journey into the remote areas of the swamp and preserve will take us along a 27-mile scenic drive where we’ll view seas of sawgrass, cypress strands, logger trails, deep culverts, pinelands, Miccosukee Tribe homes, and hopefully a lot of wildlife! We’ll make a stop at the Loop Road Education Center to stretch our legs and have a chance to walk along the Tree Snail Hammock Trail to get up close and personal with Liguus Tree Snails and hopefully some other surprising creatures. Our scenic drive will take us back towards Naples where we can spend a leisurely evening on our own to explore and have dinner.
Day 4. Our first exploration of the day will return us to Big Cypress National Preserve for another scenic drive, in case we missed something cool on our first one! On this drive, which is filled with canals, it’s likely to experience shining waters, flurries of wings, sunning alligators and red bellied turtles. A short walk along the boardwalk at a roadside park provides a safe platform to see alligators, fish, turtles, and birds more up close and personal. Our day of exploration continues at the Miccosukee Village, a Native American Tribe still inhabiting the Everglades today. The Village Museum will give us insight into the Tribe’s culture, history, and unique way of life. We will see an example of their uniqueness first hand at the Alligator “Wrestling” demonstration, which is not actually wrestling, but a way to show the respect and love towards these creatures that have provided them with important resources for survival over the lifetime of the Tribe. We will watch in awe as these Native Americans explain and demonstrate centuries old traditions and rituals passed down for generations that have now changed the relationship with the gators into one of conservation and education. After an included lunch at the Miccosukee Restaurant, we will explore another part of the Everglades, Shark Valley. The Shark Valley 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. We will take a relaxed, informative tram ride through this fascinating ecosystem in search of all the wildlife that roams freely here. 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. We then make our way back to our comfortable hotel to have dinner on our own in downtown Naples.
Day 5. 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. Once back on land, we’ll enjoy a delicious lunch at EJs Bay Café along the water. We will then adventure to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and join our naturalist guided tour of the nature center. We’ll encounter live animals, enjoy a narrated electric boat cruise on the Gordon River, and peek into the wildlife hospital that cares for over 3200 wild animals per year. This evening we will spend time in a laid-back part of Marco Island, a sun-kissed sandy jewel on the Gulf Coast, to have dinner on our own at one of the delectable restaurants and browse the colorful Shops of Olde Marco. We will then make our way back to Naples for a restful night at our hotel.
Day 6. You will have time in the morning to dip your toes in the ocean one last time before making out way home to New Jersey bringing back fantastic Everglades memories.
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 11: Flight #2274 departs Newark at 7:40 AM and arrives in Fort Myers at 10:52 PM
Tuesday, February 16: Flight #2453 departs Fort Myers at 11:43 PM and arrives in Newark at 2:31 PM
Price per person is $2340.00 Twin & $2950.00 Single. No reservations accepted without a deposit of $350.00 per person. Make checks payable to “Group Tours & Travel”, and mail to our address below. Final payment is due November 5, 2020. There are no refunds if cancellation occurs after November 5, 2020. 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.
Methods of Payment:
Pay by check: make payable to Group Tours & Travel, mail to 1710 E. Lancaster Ave. #319, Paoli, PA 19301
Call 973-513-9001 to pay by credit card over the phone (Credit Card payments have a 4% surcharge)
Please contact us with any questions regarding your payment.