South Beach… has been called the American Riviera and an Art Deco Playground. Everglades National Park… The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. The Key’s… The word Key comes from the Spanish word cayo, which means little island. The Florida Keys, therefore, means “little islands of Florida”, and it is with the Spanish that our brief history of the Florida Keys really begins. These little islands had been home to Caloosa Indians who lived here until the arrival of the history-making Spanish Ponce de Leon expedition. When the expedition first arrived here these explorers were looking for the Fountain of Youth but instead found money.
Day 1 – Friday April 21 – Home to Miami
Welcome to Miami and our home for the next two nights The Hampton Inn South Beach… one block from Miami Beach and the boardwalk. Enjoy the best of Miami, with Faena District and South Beach’s shopping, dining and more. Did you know Miami is the only metropolitan area in the United States whose borders encompass two national parks – the pristine Everglades National Park and the Biscayne National Park? South Beach… has been called the American Riviera and an Art Deco Playground. Yet there’s more than fine white sand and colorful buildings to South Beach’s fantasyland of exuberant Deco architecture. South Beach offers an eclectic mix of world-class boutiques, galleries and stores. It’s also a culinary hot spot for everything from gourmet to casual beachside cuisine. Hampton Inn South Beach
Day 2 – Saturday April 22 – Everglades N.P. Local Touring
After breakfast we’ll take in the Everglades National Park by airboat… Skip across the shallow waters and sawgrass prairie to a distant Miccosukee Island as your Native American guide prepares you for a day of natural wonders and historical discovery! Watch in wonder as Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Wood storks and Ibis take to flight. It is here among the sawgrass prairie that remote cypress islands fill with Seminole and Miccosukee history still exist and it is here that our adventure begins.
Only accessible by airboat, we will travel miles into the Everglades to experience a historic Miccosukee island camp… hear how the Miccosukee families learned to live in harmony for generations in what many considered an unlivable landscape.
Enjoy some free time on the world-famous Ocean Drive… it is the quintessential Miami boulevard – think cute cafes, beachgoers, art deco digs, and booming all-night gigs. The avenue runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean, with a row of busy venues on one side and the beachfront Lummus Park on the other. Next, we’ll take in the Coral Castle Museum for a tour of the stone sculpture garden, built by one man, Edward Leedskalnin. From 1923 to 1951, Ed single-handedly and secretly carved over 1,100 tons of coral rock and his unknown process has created one of the world’s most mysterious accomplishments. Tonight, enjoy some European cuisine at a local favorite. Hampton Inn Miami Beach (B, D)
Day 3 – Sunday April 23
It was not long ago that Miami was a rather large but quiet Southern City. The 1959 Castro Revolution in Cuba changed Miami forever. Wave after wave of Cuban refugees have transformed Miami into the Capital of the Americas: a fast-paced, internationally connected, commercial and entertainment hub with a racy Latin image. From the food to the accents on the street to the fashion scene and artist’s studio, Miami pulses to the beat of an original blended culture.
We’ll journey through the story of Miami’s Cuban community. Experience the passion and vision that these motivated exiles brought to their new home. We will visit a well-loved marketplace, great Cuban food spots, moving monuments, lively street scenes and a place of spiritual reflection and longing. Take in the smells, sights, sounds and colors of a street that launched the dramatic transformation of Miami over five decades ago and prepare yourself for a day of discovery and fun. We’ll also enjoy some great Cuban cuisine this afternoon. We’ll make our way to Key Largo our home for the night, it is the first of the fabulous Florida Keys and is the self-proclaimed Dive Capital of the World. Your evening is free to explore the many restaurants, shops and more! Hampton Inn Key Largo (B, L)
Day 4 – Monday April 24 – Key Largo to Key West
This morning we’ll have a photo stop of the Iconic African Queen. In 1951 she starred in the famous movie directed by John Huston starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn she remains a timeless classic.
We will be traveling on the historic “Over the Sea Highway” it officially opening for traffic on January 25, 1928, the original highway existed in two segments. One segment ran from the mainland via Card Sound Road to Key Largo and extended as far as Lower Matecumbe Key, while a segment in the lower keys existed from No Name Key to Key West. An automobile ferry service connected the 41 mile gap between Lower Matecumbe and No Name Keys. State Road 4A mostly ran alongside of the Overseas Railroad in the upper keys but in the lower keys, it followed a much different path than the railroad and current highway.
First stop is the History of Diving Museum… Over a span of forty years, Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer acquired one of the world’s largest collections of diving helmets, hand-operated air pumps, armored suits, lights and other accessory gear, plus memorabilia, prints, photographs, books, film and video. Their passion took them to virtually every corner of the world and the Museum’s collection now represents the contributions of more than 30 countries to diving history. Next, stop lunch at a local favorite… Wahoo’s Bar & Grill, located Above Whale Harbor Marina, they offer spectacular views and some of the Key’s best seafood.
Welcome to Key West and our home for the next 3 nights the Historic Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotel. Located in the heart of Key West… take a leisurely stroll to nearby attractions like the Mel Fisher Museum, Hemingway House and Mallory Square. Duval Street offers fine dining, chic boutiques and more! Dinner tonight is at a famous landmark, Sloppy Joes… Key West being a bastion of free thinkers even in the thirties, Prohibition was looked on as an amusing exercise dreamed up by the government and Joe Russell was just one of the enterprising individuals who operated illegal speakeasies. Even Ernest Hemingway, who made Key West his home at the time, slipped over to Russell’s on occasion to buy illicit bottles of Scotch. It was Hemingway, a favorite patron of Russell’s bar from the start, who encouraged its name change to Sloppy Joe’s. The new name was adopted from Jose Garcia Rio Havana club selling liquor and iced seafood. Because the floor was always wet with melted ice, his patrons taunted this Spanish Joe with running a sloppy place… and the name stuck. Crown Plaza Key West (B, L, D)
Day 5 – Tuesday April 25 – Local Touring Fort Jefferson
Almost 70 miles west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. This 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life and the vast assortment of bird life that frequents the area.
Fort Jefferson was built to protect one of the most strategic deep-water anchorages in North America. By fortifying this spacious harbor, the United States maintained an important “advance post” for ships patrolling the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. Nestled within the islands and shoals that make up the Dry Tortugas, the harbor offered ships the chance to resupply, refit or seek refuge from storms. The location of the Tortugas along one the world’s busiest shipping lanes was its greatest military asset. Though passing ships could easily avoid the largest of Fort Jefferson’s guns, they could not avoid the warships that used its harbor.
In enemy hands, the Tortugas would have threatened the heavy ship traffic that passed between the Gulf Coast (including New Orleans, Mobile and Pensacola) and the eastern seaboard of the United States. It could also serve as a potential staging area, or “springboard” for enemy forces. From here they could launch an attack virtually anywhere along the Gulf Coast. We’ll head back to Key West where your evening is free to explore on your own. Crown Plaza Key West (B, L)
Day 6 – Wednesday April 26 – Local Touring Key West
This morning we’ll take in the Ernest Hemingway house & museum… It was on the advice of John Dos Passos, a fellow member of the “Lost Generation” of ex-patriate artists and writers populating Paris during the 1920s, that Hemingway was first prompted to visit Key West. Hemingway did not go directly to South Florida from Paris, but rather arrived through Havana, Cuba a city and country that would prove to be critically important in Hemingway’s later personal and professional life.
One of the more stunning and unusual features of the Hemingway Home property is the in-ground swimming pool, an extraordinary luxury for a residential home in 1930s Key West. The final cost of construction in 1938 was $20,000. Even more mind-boggling is the sheer labor of digging, in solid coral, a massive hole 24 feet wide, 60 feet long, 10 feet deep at the south end, and 5 feet deep at the north end. The Hemingway pool the only one within 100 miles in the 1930s was truly an architectural feat. We will also take in the house and gardens.
Your afternoon is free to explore this beautiful place on your own… you may want to get on the “Hop On, Hop Off” trolley it offers a narrated tour. Visit more than 100 points of interest among Key West’s top attractions, with an expert guide who takes you through the history of the city. Early evening we’ll meet up to take in the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. Take a walk among hundreds of free flying butterflies, exotic birds and 2 glorious flamingos inside the soaring glass-domed tropical butterfly habitat.
Dinner tonight will be one to remember. All aboard for Key West’s legendary sunset dinner cruise celebration! Enjoy unbeatable views of the sunset along with an amazing tropical food buffet, open well bar & live music. Grab a tropical beverage and groove into the sunset as a steel drum performer fills the air with tropical vibes. Crown Plaza Key West (B, D)
Day 7 – Thursday April 27 – Key West to Home
We’ll head home with fantastic tropical memories! (B)
$4,664 Double $5,918 Single
A $100 per person deposit will hold space; balance is due by January 19th, 2023