It’s time to leave this dreary winter behind and head to a place that sparkles! In Crystal River, the gem of the Nature Coast, we’ll gaze upon crystal clear spring fed waters that are home to manatees, migratory bird species and tons of native wildlife. From here there is so much to explore. A pre-Columbian National Historic Landmark containing a six-mound complex that served as a ceremonial center for Native Americans for 1600 years awaits our visit. We’ll wander the day away in lovely Mount Dora where we’ll view local art, take a one-of-a-kind canal boat ride and enjoy the scenery. Off the beaten path is charming, historic Cedar Key, a town similar to Key West from 50 years ago. We’ll find ourselves in a rainforest, cruise as “An Ancient River Dweller”, go antiquing and visit a delightful town whose name is the Gaelic version of Edinburg, all while enjoying the amazingly warm weather that only Florida can provide in January!
Day One: Scottish Dunedin
After landing in Tampa, you’ll feel more like we’ve landed in Scotland on our visit to the historic, quaint town of Dunedin. Marked by the red telephone box and street signs with names like Scotland St and Highland Ave, this art and culture hub celebrates its Scottish Heritage. Take your time to explore the vibrant street art and galleries while finding a nice lunch on your own. What you won’t find here are chain stores or restaurants; what a perfect taste of Old Florida!
Day One: Plantation on Crystal River
Onto the Manatee Capitol of the World, Crystal River, a town within a world of spring fed rivers and bays that picture perfectly attract large numbers of manatees throughout the winter months. We’ll make our home here at the Plantation Crystal River, a beautiful 232-acre eco-friendly resort surrounded by the natural springs of Kings Bay. Sit back and relax as we enjoy dinner tonight right here at our resort.
Day Two: Three Sisters Sanctuary
This morning will be filled with manatees! A trolley from the Three Sisters Springs, part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge will whisk us away to the boardwalk traversing through the magnificently beautiful, crystal clear springs where you can come close to wintering manatees enjoying the warm waters. Take your time and enjoy the panoramic scenery where native mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians of the Florida ecosystem also dwell.
Lunch Downtown Crystal River:
When you are ready, the trolley will take you to Citrus Ave or Heritage Village in the heart of downtown Crystal River where you can find a great place for lunch on your own and browse the variety of eclectic shops.
Day Two: Crystal River Archeological State Park
This afternoon, we explore a complex of Native American mounds and get a glimpse into Florida’s past at the Crystal River Archeological State Park. This complex features an important ceremonial site in use before the arrival of Europeans where people traveled to from great distances to conduct trade and bury the dead.
If you’re up for a climb, the top of the Temple Mound, after you catch your breath, provides a spectacular vista as a gentle breeze refills your spirit. Here you’ll be standing in the same place where Native Americans stood more than 500 years ago.
Old Florida style dinner:
Tonight is a special included dinner at an Old Florida style restaurant featuring waterfront tiki dining. Bon Appetit!
Day Three: Mount Dora
Today we spend the day in a charming, one hundred plus years old historic village in the heart of Central Florida. Mount Dora is famous as “The Festival City” offering a large variety of annual, fun filled events and today we have the chance to peruse Florida’s natural landscapes painted by a group of self-taught African American artists at the Florida Highwaymen Art Show and Sale.
Day Three: Lunch at Lakeside Inn
There will also be plenty of shops to browse among this old-fashioned small town and we’ll enjoy an included lunch at the town’s most historic hotel, The Lakeside Inn, with its large moss draped oak trees and acres of beautifully landscaped grounds sweeping down to the white sand shoreline of Lake Dora. Throughout its 134-year history, The Lakeside Inn has hosted many noted dignitaries and celebrities and is the last of the Grand Victorian Era hotels still remaining in Central Florida.
Day Four: Dora Canal
There’s one more amazing and unique experience to have today in Mount Dora, a guided tour across beautiful Lake Dora through the world-famous Dora Canal and into Lake Eustis. It will be an adventure as we drive our own 2-person powered catamaran through this millennia old cypress tree lined jungle waterway filled with wildlife as we learn the exciting history of this area. Not to worry, no boating experience is necessary!
We spend the rest of our evening at our leisure to dine at the resort or a place of your choosing nearby.
Day Four: Cedar Key
Today we go off the beaten path to the delightful, historic Cedar Key, a town full of artists, great seafood restaurants, and a fascinating history. The three block long main street of this old fishing village is lined with historic buildings holding galleries and shops while charming wooden cottages cluster in the residential streets. What you won’t find here are high rises or a McDonalds or Walmart.
We’ll spend some time here among the tranquility of the rhythms of the sea and immerse ourselves in the small town feel while we savor a delicious, included lunch and visit two historical buildings that make up the Cedar Key Historical Society & Museum.
Day Four: Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park
Time to step into a rain forest! In the midst of Central Florida’s sandy terrain and pine forests, a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep leads down into a miniature rain forest. Small streams trickle down the steep slopes of the limestone sinkhole disappearing through crevices in the ground and lush vegetation thrives in the shade of the walls even in dry summers.
The nature trail at the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park offers views into the sinkhole and if you’re feeling extra adventurous and energetic, follow the boardwalk and stairs that descend into this amazing geological wonder as you feel the temperature drop and notice how the busy sounds of humans is replaced by the quiet chirp of birds, rustling of leaves and trickling of water.
Now we relax back at the resort where we can have dinner or choose the option to go out downtown.
Day Five: Micanopy
The town of Micanopy is on the agenda today, another small historic village filled with southern charm that’s a great destination for treasure hunting and shopping. The Main Street here is Old Florida at its best, lined with huge oak trees enveloped with Spanish moss among historic storefronts. We’ll have time here to browse, wander and enjoy a comforting and delightful included lunch at the Old Florida Café.
Day Five: Sunset Cruise
For our last night at the Plantation Resort, we’ll take in the scenery and feel the serenity on a sunset journey around Kings Bay after dinner on your own at the hotel.
Day Six: Breakfast & Flight Home
You will have time in the morning to take in the serenity of Crystal Springs one last time before making out way home to New Jersey bringing back fantastic Old Florida 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.
Group Tours & Travel
1710 E. Lancaster Ave. #319 Paoli, PA 19301