Party from Memphis to Miami on this early season gem...

Southern Sunshine


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Southern Sunshine Overview

Polaroid - Florida Beach

Music, swamps, and sunbathing... Explore the contradictions and culture of America’s extreme southeastern corner, as we warm up and enjoy the nightlife and sunshine across seven states from Memphis to Miami. Kick off in the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, with a tour of Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion (included). Next up, Hot Springs National Park and Hot Springs, Arkansas, a historic spa town frequented by gangsters such as Al Capone, and the childhood home to former president Bill Clinton. Discover a vast, partially submerged cypress forest by steamboat (included) and lose yourself in the ethereal atmosphere. Travel the back roads of Louisiana through the heart of Cajun Country where French creole settlers evolved their own unique culture in isolation. Visit an original southern plantation home, before arriving in New Orleans for two days of jazz, sightseeing and nightlife. In Panama City, Florida soak in the sun and glimpse American spring break hedonism at its best! Take a dawn swim with the elusive manatee, one of world’s ugliest and most endangered mammals (included). Laze all day on a pristine white sand beach before sampling the nightlife of historic Ybor City. Traverse Everglades National Park searching for giant alligators, then escape the heat (and predators) in Key West, Florida’s very own Caribbean-style island. Enjoy its beautiful weather with a snorkel trip to a tropical reef teeming with fish (included). Finally, wrap up the tour in Miami Beach where Art Deco architecture, house music, and South Beach style bring everything back together!

DAY 1: Memphis.

Arrive any time. HOTEL: Memphis, TN

DAY 2: Memphis.

Tour starts. City tour of Memphis and night out. HOTEL: Memphis, TN

DAY 3: Hot Springs National Park.

Drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas. HOTEL: Hot Springs, AR

DAY 4: Sunken Forest of Cado Lake.

Morning hike in Hot Springs? Drive to Cado Lake. HOTEL: Jefferson, TX

DAY 5: Louisiana Bayou Country.

Boat tour of Cado Lake (included). Afterwards, explore the bayous and backwaters of rural Louisiana. HOTEL: TBD, LA

DAY 6: New Orleans.

Visit a historic plantation house on the way in to New Orleans. Night out. HOTEL: New Orleans, LA

DAY 7: New Orleans.

City tour and free time in New Orleans, night out. HOTEL: New Orleans, LA

DAY 8: Panama City Beach.

Drive Panama City for American spring break craziness. Night out. HOTEL: Panama City Beach, FL

DAY 9: Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Morning at the beach, afternoon stop in Appalachicola, FL. HOTEL: Homosassa, FL

DAY 10: West Florida Beaches.

Morning swim with the manatees (included). Afternoon on the beaches near Saint Petersburg. HOTEL/CABINS: Tampa or Sarasota, FL

DAY 11: Everglades National Park.

Visit Big Cypress National Preserve and the Everglades. CABINS: Homestead, FL

DAY 12: Key West.

Drive down the Keys for a night out in Key West. HOTEL: Key West, FL

DAY 13: Key West.

Optional morning snorkel trip or free day to explore Key West. HOTEL: Key West, FL

DAY 14: Miami Beach.

Continue back up the Keys to Miami for a night out in South Beach, end of tour. HOTEL: Miami Beach, FL

Summer 2013:  13 days / 14 nights

DAY 1-2:


Arrive any time on Saturday. Our tour kicks off in Memphis, Tennessee, birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, home of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Take a tour of Graceland mansion (included) Sunday before delving into the history of the South - Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated here. Tonight, sample the cuisine at an authentic Memphis BBQ joint before hitting Beale Street for live music and entertainment.

DAY 3:

Hot Springs National Park.

Cross Arkansas to Hot Springs National Park, intertwined with Hot Springs, Arkansas, a historic spa town frequented by gangsters such as Al Capone, and childhood home to former president Bill Clinton. With only 35,000 people, it is considered one of America’s most beautiful small cities. This afternoon or tomorrow morning, take a hike in the Ouachita Mountains around town for outstanding views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Depending on the weather, we may enjoy one of the numerous lakes in the vicinity or visit the Gangster Museum, before a night on the town.

DAY 4:

Sunken Forests of Cado Lake.

After wrapping up our stay in Hot Springs, we head down to mysterious Cado Lake which straddles the Texas - Louisiana border. Once more appropriately called ‘Fairy Lake’, Cado Lake and its adjacent lakes and bayous (wide, sluggish streams) are home to a vast, partially submerged bald cypress forest, one of the largest sunken forests in the world. Cross the border into Texas to experience a very atypical part of this state, as we spend the night at the edge of the bayou.

DAY 5:

Louisiana Bayou Country.

Discover the fey qualities of Cado Lake and drift through time aboard a historic steamboat (included). Then, travel the back roads of Louisiana through the heart of Cajun Country where French creole settlers evolved their own unique culture in isolation. Tonight we will find a memorable Cajun roadhouse to warm up the night, way out here in the middle of nowhere.

DAY 6-7:

New Orleans.

Continuing on towards New Orleans Thursday, visit a historic southern plantation home, one of the original grand belles of the South. See how the elite of southern society lived in the era of slavery, before air-conditioning did away with the need for two story verandas and sleeping porches. Out of place and time, these great houses dot the riverbanks of major waterways, often incongruously sitting next to oil refineries and modern day slums. Arriving in New Orleans, take a brief driving tour of its various historic districts before setting out on foot for an exploration of the French Quarter, birthplace of jazz music. Walk on Bourbon Street, eat a gumbo or jambalaya, and visit the oldest bar in America! Enjoy a mostly free day Friday to take in all the best New Orleans has to offer.

DAY 8:

Panama City Beach.

Break out of New Orleans as we hit the road en route to Panama City, Florida for a glimpse of American spring break hedonism! One of the many locations catering to spring breakers, mix with Americans from those chilly northern states who come down to drive quad bikes around town, get blindingly drunk, and fry to a crispy red in Florida’s golden sunshine for the first tan of the season! Different universities observe spring break (traditionally Easter vacation) on different weeks, assuring a month long uninterrupted party. When in Rome...

DAY 9:

Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Recover your energies with a few hours of beach time this morning before venturing along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Largely undeveloped, this area is a natural paradise of bays, rivers and sand islands. Stop in historic Appalachicola for lunch, a tidy town of Victorian architecture and home to working fleets of shrimp and oyster boats that ply Appalachicola Bay. Spared development by not being directly on the ocean, this is Old Florida, before the era of high-rise beach front hotels and living towers that blight much of the prime coastal real estate. Continuing on, we spend the night in the small town of Homosassa, close to the largest springtime congregation of manatees.

DAY 10:

West Florida Beaches.

Take a dawn swim in the water with the endangered and shy manatee, sometimes referred to as the ‘sea cow’ – fat and ugly, but also endearing (included). Travel down to the Tampa / Saint Petersburg metro area as we enter the heart of west Florida. Pass through historic beach communities such as Tarpon Springs, a Greek-American sponge fishing village. Spend the rest of the day on one of the Saint Petersburg area’s stunning white sand beaches. In the evening, get cleaned up and we’ll explore Ybor City, a compact old cigar manufacturing district outside of Tampa, and now a nighttime hotspot.

DAY 11:

Everglades National Park.

Cross the tip of Florida from west to east, traversing Big Cypress National Preserve, various state parks, and the Everglades National Park in our quest for giant American Alligators, sawgrass and mosquitos. Largely flat and unassuming, the Everglades is nevertheless one of the most important wetland ecosystems anywhere in the world. Here it seems, everything is either sharp or wants to bite you. Tonight, stay in cabins near Homestead, Florida on the edge of the Everglades, a rural area home to a burgeoning (and profitable) exotic fruit industry. Before we leave, sample a tropical smoothie from 'Robert Is Here', a fruit stand and local mainstay since 1959.

DAY 12-13:

Key West.

The Florida Keys are next, with Key West at the very southern tip the crown jewel. More moderate in temperature than mainland Florida, enjoy perfect weather for a half day snorkel trip to an offshore barrier reef (included). More laid-back than Miami, Key West basks in its own peculiar disheveled charm that no amount of tourism can erase. With two days here, there is plenty of time for both snorkelling and exploring the town, once home to Jimmy Buffet and author Ernest Hemingway (who knew a good place to drink when he saw one!) Hire a bike, lie on the beach, or chase roosters down the narrow lanes... In the evening, view street performers while taking in sunset at Mallory Square. Finish off the night bar hopping around Duval Street. Visit the rooftop Garden of Eden, Key West’s clothing-optional bar if you dare!

DAY 14:

Miami Beach.

All good things must end, but not without a finale. Wrap up our tour with a drive up the Keys to Miami Beach where Art Deco architecture, house music, and inimitable style merge effortlessly. Check out the cosmopolitan Latin American vibe of Miami, where the first language you might hear is Spanish. Large numbers of Cubans and Venezuleans co-exist with Peruvians, Chileans and Mexicans to make Miami predominately hispanic; a refuge of Latin American expats from around the world. In a more conservative America, Miami Beach tolerates a euro-style beach scene, and South Beach and club culture here are world-famous. Shop, sightsee, and indulge in one final night of debauchery before our tour concludes!

IN ADDITION:  If you like, arrange anywhere from a few days to one week of extra time afterwards and visit the theme parks of Orlando and Kennedy’s NASA Space Center (both a few hours north) on your own. Ask us how!

What do I get for my money?

  • Included activities (see sidebar at right).
  • All ground transportation by climate-controlled van (maximum 13 persons).
  • Shared hotel accommodation (2+ stars) or cabins on all 14 nights.
  • Admission to all included national parks and recreation areas.
  • Services of an experienced tour leader.
  • Sandwich lunches on most days (excluding free days).

$2,600 USD   per person

Departure 1

April 2013 calendar

  • APRIL 6, 2013 (saturday night arrival in Memphis) to APRIL 19, 2013 (trip ends on friday in Miami Beach.)


wildlife or nightlife?

GRAPH - Southern Sunshine Ranking Index

departure #1

  • APRIL 6, 2013 (saturday night arrival in Memphis) to APRIL 19, 2013 (trip ends on friday in Miami Beach.)

view brochure

View or save our brochure in PDF format:

our route

Southern Sunshine Itinerary Map

travel style

  • age range: 18+
  • accommodation: 12-13 nights hotels / 1-2 nights cabins (possibly))
  • group size: maximum 13 persons

Polaroid pic #1 Polaroid pic #2 Polaroid pic #3

make your own memories!

included activities

  • Graceland mansion tour
  • 2 hour boat tour of a sunken forest aboard a wood fueled steamboat
  • Swim with the manatees
  • Snorkel trip in Key West

major cities

  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Miami Beach, Florida

cultural heritage

  • Historic town of Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • Cajun Country of rural Louisiana
  • Southern plantation homes
  • French Quarter of New Orleans
  • Appalachicola and Florida's Forgotten Coast
  • Ybor City in Tampa
  • Key West, Florida

national parks

  • Hot Springs National Park
  • Everglades National Park

national preserves

  • Big Cypress National Preserve