An outside lunch in the middle of nature is possibly the greatest way to enjoy Florida’s sunshine. It’s the ideal dinner with a view, and if your dish is influenced by or uses ingredients from the garden, all the better.
Each of these gastronome-friendly locations offers a distinctive way to experience the traditional garden picnic around the Sunshine State. Carry a camera. It’s difficult to decide which is better: the vibrant flavors or the beautiful setting.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
An expansive Japanese garden like the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach is somewhat unexpected in a world of palm trees and beaches.
When some Japanese farmers moved to southeast Florida in the early 20th century, the region’s agricultural roots were established. One gave the county his property to use as a park. Roji-en, or the Garden of the Drops of Dew, is what we have today.
Don’t miss the opportunity to witness or participate in the traditional art of sado with a tea ceremony. The grounds are beautiful with its bridges, stone lanterns, and bonsai. A dinner at the Cornell Café is also nice.
To learn how to make, serve, and consume tea as well as the correct manner to enter and sit in a tea house, you can either watch a demonstration or sign up for a course. Enjoy your cup of matcha green tea while admiring the tiny swirl of foam that has been produced by whisking.
Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
There are several gardens in Florida where you can enjoy a picnic, but just one will have imposing, monolithic statues watching silently from a distance. Sound strange? It’s true that Ann Weaver Norton’s prior residence is somewhat different. There are about 250 different types of cycad and palm trees in the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, along with various pieces of art. By slowing down your visit to this rare spot, picnicking here enhances the experience.
When I phoned the garden for recommendations on where to eat lunch, they suggested Aioli, which turned out to be great advise. Aioli has a location that is five minutes away and has been a West Palm Beach favorite since 2014. Don’t miss the seeded sourdough! The bakery specializes on freshly baked bread, and the salads, sandwiches, soups, and desserts highlight regional ingredients that are expertly prepared.
I can personally attest to the caprese on ciabatta, which is as delicious as can be found in Italy, and the turkey and brie on cranberry walnut bread, a lovely blend of sweet and salty. Even the side pasta and potato salads, which are frequently forgotten about, are tasty and creatively seasoned. Remember to save room for dessert because it is best enjoyed in the garden courtyard where there are seats, chairs, and a surrounding sculpture fountain to admire while munching on the meltingly moist chocolate cake.
Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens is a must-see attraction in Central Florida that includes a 1930s home, an art deco carillon, and a landscape created by the renowned Frederick Law Olmsted.
The kitchen garden will appeal to foodies with its orchard, herb beds, and seasonal vegetables like kale, cabbage, peppers, and tomatoes—some of which are utilized in cooking workshops. If you enroll in a class, you might learn how to ferment beans, create your own salsa, or make vegan “lovely cream.”
The on-site café offers a variety of foods, including avocado toast and Asian noodle salad, as well as beer and wine. You can also buy it as a packed lunch. The garden most recently introduced a “brunch in a bag” series on particular Sundays. The portable supper, which varies from week to week, allows for plenty of social isolation as you discover your own oasis on the vast 250-acre estate.
The wildlife sanctuary and garden Flamingo Gardens are located about 20 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale. Many of plant varieties, together with alligators, otters, bobcats, panthers, and other animals, can be found on its 60 acres. The old-Florida beauty is further enhanced by the roaming peacocks and century-old oak trees.
Back in 1927, the garden was just a citrus orchard. Since then, it has developed into one of South Florida’s most popular botanical attractions. See the hammock, wetlands, and tropical groves where Indian jujube, mangos, kumquats, jackfruit, guava, lychee, and other fruits thrive by taking the tram tour, which is included with entry.
Have a seat at the Flamingo Café after that. The view, which includes flamingos wading in their pond, butterflies darting around the pollinator garden, and the occasional ibis or starling intent on your meal, is the restaurant’s main attraction. It also provides sandwiches, salads, snacks, and pies.
A family-run nursery established in 1962, Rockledge Gardens is close to Cape Canaveral.
Nevertheless, this is not just ordinary plant nursery. The four-acre property boasts well-kept gardens, ponds, and fountains, as well as a number of vibrant plantings to offer buyers a sense of what their purchases might turn out to be in the future. It’s attractive enough to be a sought-after wedding destination with its floral vines and shrubs, but picnickers are also welcome.
A fresh item from the farmer’s market, the most of which were obtained within 100 miles of Rockledge, can be a good addition to your lunch. There is no need to prepare when using hummus, cheese spreads, honey, jams, and candied jalapenos as a buffet for diners. The top seller? Baby greens and a few edible flowers (violas, nasturtiums, begonias, calendulas, and borage) were included in the salad mixture. It is seasonally offered and derived from a nearby farm and the on-site garden. Even some of the flowers and greens can be picked by you.
If you don’t feel like packing a dinner, come on the weekends when Cypress Table, the in-house caterer, provides charcuterie and meals that explore various facets of Florida cuisine.
More Gardens to Savor
Hungry for more? Here are a few other Florida foodie experiences where you can get a flower fix.
Fort Myers: Stay at the new Luminary Hotel & Co. downtown and you’re just a mile from 20 acres of gardens on the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Then return to your hotel for dinner at The Silver King Ocean Brasserie and taste some of the finest seafood of the Gulf Coast.
Miami: Across from the Orchidarium and adjacent to the Swimming Pool Grotto, the café at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens will fortify you for a full day exploring the grounds. The 1920s landmark wows visitors with 10 acres of bayside Italianate gardens, laid out as a series of garden rooms, fronting a Mediterranean-style villa.
Sarasota: Sun Garden Café is Florida outdoor dining at its best. Located on Siesta Key, it serves creative dishes like chicken with mango habanero or Cajun benedict topped with mahi-mahi, crawfish, and Gulf shrimp. It tastes even better on the colorful patio surrounded by greenery and blooms.
Ocala: Privately owned but free to visitors, Shalom Park celebrates tranquility, seen in its expansive trails, woodlands, and labyrinth. Pick up a pie from Piesanos Stone Fired Pizza, a popular local chain, to enjoy on the open lawns.