Visiting the Morikami Japanese Gardens and Museum in Delray Beach, Florida

Updated on September 25, 2018
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Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Morikami Japanese Gardens
Morikami Japanese Gardens | Source

Located in Delray Beach, Florida, is a wonderful oasis of outdoor flora and fauna that is the Morikami Japanese Gardens and Museum. Opened in 1977, it is situated on land that at one time was the home of the former Yamato Colony.

Established in 1904, the Yamato Colony brought young Japanese farmers to this part of Florida in an effort to start an agricultural community with the mission of developing improved farming techniques.

Although the colony disbanded in the 1920s and most of its members returned to Japan, a few hardy souls remained, one of them being the namesake of the park—George Morikami.

Morikami stayed on in Florida and worked the land for the remainder of his life. By the mid-1970s, Morikami—who was now in his mid-80s—made the very generous decision to donate his property to Palm Beach County with the stipulation that the land be preserved as a park and historical monument to the Japanese farmers of the Yamato Colony.

The Yamato Colony
The Yamato Colony | Source

Today, the Morikami Gardens offer visitors the opportunity to take a leisurely 1-mile walk through the beautiful grounds and gardens, all with a distinctive Japanese flavor. The park is in absolutely immaculate condition, and the scenery and wildlife here are stunning.

In addition to the beautiful ponds and the six authentic Japanese gardens, there is the usual assortment of wildlife that can be found in this part of Florida. On my recent visit, I saw a number of water birds, ducks, turtles and a couple of the largest iguana’s I have ever seen. You may also see armadillos, alligators, and the elusive bobcat.

There is also a world-class bonsai collection in the park (located near the old original museum building) that I found very interesting. I never knew there were so many different kinds of bonsai trees.

Did you know that there was a Japanese influence in southern Florida that dates back to the early 20th century?

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Plenty of spots to sit and relax
Plenty of spots to sit and relax | Source

The walk around the lake offers visitors many opportunities to sit and relax while taking in the views with well-placed benches. The easy-to-follow path is well marked and has water stations located every few hundred meters. This is a great place to unwind with a good book or to just sit and watch the turtles and other wildlife. It’s also a great place to clear one’s mind or to do some good old fashioned thinking and reflecting on life.

Before you head out on the path be sure to grab a map inside the visitor center. The map will explain the various gardens for you as you traverse your way around the lake. The map assumes you will be going in a counter-clockwise direction but you are free to go in whatever direction you want.

The walk should take you about an hour or so depending on how many breaks you take and how much time you spend at each garden. There should be no rush, as this is certainly one of the most beautiful and serene garden settings in this corner of Florida.

Morikami Japanese Gardens
Morikami Japanese Gardens | Source
Hotei - Japanese God of Hapiness
Hotei - Japanese God of Hapiness | Source

As you circle around the lake, one of the last stations you come to will be the original museum building, which is situated on Yamato Island. You’ll know you have reached this point when you come to the giant Hotei statue that is located just in front of the bridge that takes you to Yamato Island. In case you're wondering, Hotei is the resident Japanese God of Happiness.

As you cross the bridge, you will come to a large patio that surrounds the outside of the old museum. This is where the bonsai collection is located. It is quite extensive and worth a look. Inside the original museum building are a couple of permanent exhibits that give visitors a glimpse of Japan through a child’s eyes and some of the history of the Yamato Colony.

Bonsai garden
Bonsai garden | Source

While on Yamato island, be sure to look for the giant iguanas. I was fortunate to come across two of these beautiful and colorful creatures and one, in particular, had to be the largest iguana that I have ever seen. Check out the short video below for a glimpse.

Be sure to go around to the back of the old museum by the water’s edge, as this is where I spotted one of the iguanas. That's also where you'll find the Challenger Memorial Lantern dedicated to Ellison Onizuka, the Japanese American astronaut, and the six other astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986.

A very large and colorful iguana
A very large and colorful iguana | Source

After walking the grounds, be sure to leave some time to visit the Morikami Museum, which contains exhibits and artwork from Japan’s past and present. The museum is a great place to learn about the culture and history of Japan and hosts a number of special exhibits throughout the year. Entry to the museum is included with your general admission ticket, so don’t leave without visiting the museum.

Challenger Memorial Lantern
Challenger Memorial Lantern | Source

Visitor Information

If you happen to be visiting the Fort Lauderdale – West Palm Beach area of southeast Florida and need a break from the beach, consider heading to the Morikami Japanese Gardens and Museum. Morikami makes for a very relaxing way to spend a few hours and is conveniently located between Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike in Delray Beach.

Morikami is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. They are closed on Monday’s. There is an admission fee for Morikami and adults 18+ will pay $14. For seniors, the fee is $13 and children ages 6–17 cost $9. Kids 5 and under are free. You can also become a member of Morikami for $60 ($40 for students), which entitles you to unlimited free admission to the gardens and museum plus other discounts and benefits.

Morikami Japanese Gardens
Morikami Japanese Gardens | Source

Should you develop an appetite while visiting the gardens, there is the Cornell Café located on the grounds. This open-air café looks out over the gardens and lake and serves an assortment of Japanese and Asian cuisine. Although I did not stop for lunch, the menu looks reasonably priced and you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting for a quiet lunch.

Throughout the year, Morikami hosts a number of special events ranging from concerts to family workshops, cultural demonstrations, interpretative walks, and seminars. They also can accommodate weddings and the gardens certainly would make for a very special setting.

I hope you enjoyed this visit to the Morikami Gardens and Museum and found this helpful. Morikami is a wonderful destination and if you find yourself in the area, be sure to stop by and pay a visit.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Bill De Giulio

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      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Jill. Thank you. Morikami is truly a hidden gem in southeast Florida. It was certainly worth the time and effort to visit and I will return next time I am in the area. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

      • jill of alltrades profile image

        jill of alltrades 

        4 years ago from Philippines

        You have truly captured the beauty of this place!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Angela. My mother spent a few months last winter in Delray Beach and while visiting that is how I discovered Morikami. What a beautiful and tranquil place. I hope to return next winter. If you get an opportunity plan a visit, I think you might enjoy it. Thanks again, have a wonderful weekend.

      • quildon profile image

        Angela Joseph 

        4 years ago from Florida

        I live about an hour from Delray Beach and never heard of the Japanese gardens. Your description and pictures make me want to visit. I think I'll do that this summer. Voted up and beautiful.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi teaches12345. What a gem Moriakmi is. I look forward to returning next winter when I am down in that area. There is so much to see there that I'm sure I see something different also. Thanks again for stopping by and have a great weekend.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        4 years ago

        I have been to this beautiful garden a few times and each time I go I see something different. I hope to enjoy a cup of tea in the cafe next visit. Your post is excellent coverage of this garden.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Glimmer. I was surprised as well. It's a beautiful and peaceful place. I still can't get over the size of the iguana there. A happy fourth to you also.

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        4 years ago

        Wow Bill - I had no idea about the Japanese gardening influence in Florida. This looks like an absolutely lovely place to visit. Right up my alley. Shared around. Hope you have a nice fourth.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Thelma. If you love gardens I think you would love Morikami. Really a beautiful place. Thanks so much for stopping by and for commenting. Have a wonderful day.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        4 years ago from Germany and Philippines

        What a beautiful place to visit! I love visiting city gardens but I have not visited a Japanese garden, yet. Thanks for sharing this awesome hub. Well done!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Janis. It's a really beautiful and serene place and I look forward to returning. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

      • WriterJanis profile image

        Janis 

        4 years ago from California

        This looks like such a beautiful place to visit. I really like your images.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi there Heidi. Thank you for the nice comments. Morikami was a very pleasant surprise and a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours. Thanks so much for the vote, etc. Have a great week.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Linda. Thank you. It really was both beautiful and peaceful. If I lived there I would become a member so I could go there often. I had no idea that these giant iguanas were there so that was a pleasant surprise. Have a wonderful week.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Mel. Thanks for stopping by. Neither was I initially. Now that I know it's there I'll certainly return. Have a great day.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        4 years ago from Chicago Area

        All I can say, like with most of your hubs, is wow! This garden looks like an amazing place. Voted up and beautiful!

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

        This looks like a lovely place to visit, Bill. I'd very much like to see the gardens and enjoy their beauty and peace. I love the photo of the iguana, too!

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        4 years ago from San Diego California

        I was unaware of the Japanese presence in Florida. Very informative hub!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Flourish. Thank you. If you enjoy this type of thing Morimaki would make a great way to spend part of a day. I really enjoyed my visit there. I didn't know about the iguana being there so when I first stumbled upon them I thought they were statues. When they moved it actually startled me.

        Thanks as always for stopping by. Have an enjoyable Sunday.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 years ago from USA

        I love this hub, Bill! I feel a Florida trip coming up in the next year or so, and I will definitely save this for other things besides Orlando attractions. I'm also pinning to my "Awesome Places I Want to Go" board. Great iguana photo, too!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thanks Thelma. Isn't that funny how things work? I've lived here in New England most of my life and there are so many places I've never been to. Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the article.

      • ThelmaC profile image

        Thelma Raker Coffone 

        4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

        I lived in Palm Beach County for 21 years before moving to the Blue Ridge mountains. I heard of the gardens but never visited them. You did a wonderful job on this article!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Suzette. I had been to Delray Beach before also but did not discover Morikami until this past winter. What an amazing place. It was just so beautiful and serene, I could have stayed there all day. Now that I know it's there I'll definitely return next winter when I'm down in that area. Have a great weekend.

      • suzettenaples profile image

        Suzette Walker 

        4 years ago from Taos, NM

        I have been to Delray Beach but never knew the gardens where there. This sounds like a lovely place to check out. Japanese gardens are so beautiful, serene and tranquil. I also think it is so wonderful there is a memorial to the Challenger and those who passed in the accident. Your photos are beautiful. Thanks so much for a tour of these lovely gardens and informing us of the history behind it.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Randi. Thanks for stopping by, so glad you enjoyed the gardens. If your ever in that corner of Florida stop by for a visit. When a shot the video of the iguana I thought for a second that he was coming to check me out. I could not believe how big they were. Thanks again and have a nice weekend.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you dis-cover. Glad you enjoyed the visit to Morikami. It's a beautiful place with a lot of history. Thanks so much for the vote, have a great weekend.

      • btrbell profile image

        Randi Benlulu 

        4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

        Beautiful place! Thank you for this informative and interesting hub. Your description make me want to visit more. I loved your pics and video. Up++

      • dis-cover profile image

        Nikolic Predrag 

        4 years ago from Serbia, Belgrade

        I really enjoyed in your very descriptive hub. Voted up as interesting!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Bill. I was very excited when I discovered this Japanese Garden in Delray Beach and the history of the place is fascinating. They certainly knew what they were doing when they planned this park. Have a great weekend.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        You do get around, my friend. Beautiful pictures and quite interesting. There is something very peaceful about a Japanese garden. You don't suppose they plan it that way, do you? :) Have a great weekend.

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