I'd never really had an interest in flowers until I arrived at Noko Island Park. Originally a fishing island, the park is now known for its stunning collection of flowers blooming all-year round. Take my word for it, you won't be disappointed. I went in April and July and I'm pleased to report that it wasn't overcrowded as so many tourist places can be. The whole experience was just fabulous and very different both times. Be sure to pick up the pamphlet which includes a flower calendar for when you want to visit again.
As you come out of the entrance, don't be tempted by the tantalising view of the flower path on your right - take the left turn for a preview of what's to come. You'll pass a Noko-Noko Ball (golf-croquet) field and see a hill-side of perfectly arranged flowers.
Once you've taken your photos, go back and take the right turn to experience a dream-like stroll through the flower path. It includes an Azalea garden, a Hydrangea garden and Trumpet Daffodils. Many areas are slightly hidden so make sure to walk through all the paths - you don't want to miss a thing!
Once at the end of the path, you'll come to the beginning of "Omoide-dori" (Memory Lane). It's a street constructed in the old fashioned Japanese style. Nostalgic for Japanese, fascinating for foreigners! Here you'll find a few shops selling old toys, crafts and pottery - good news if you need to buy presents. The street also boasts an old water pump and telephone box. To add to the old fashioned experience (if you're as lucky as I was), you might just see a lady playing the koto for passersby.
The grand finale is the Great Lawn which has a wonderful panoramic view of Hakata Bay. During March and April, an incredible display of Rape Blossoms smothers the back of the field. I can honestly say that I've never seen anything so epic - a sea of yellow in the foreground, a sheet of blue in the middle ground, a city skyline in the background. You might think things couldn't get any better, but I was once lucky enough to visit while a live band was playing in front of this scene. There's a restaurant looking out to sea and plenty of space for a picnic. The view is relaxing yet overwhelming - you'll find it difficult to leave.
Aside from the main flower paths, there are restaurants and shops dotted around the rest of the park. There are also some miniature zoos inhabited by goats, hens and rabbits. The rabbit enclosure is great for children because they can pet and hold them all they want. I think I enjoyed this bit as much as the children! There are also plenty of activity areas such as a rope skiing hill, kids' playgrounds and a volleyball court. If you time it right, there's also the Cherry Blossom Hill with its breathtaking pink blooms to admire.
Noko Island Park is great for anyone, whether you're with your family, a group of friends, alone or with your other half. It's also a true paradise for the photographer. It caters for everyone.
(If you have a while to wait for the ferry home or the bus up to the park, make sure to try a Noko Burger at the restaurant next to the ferry port. It may appear small and simple, but it tastes magnificent. It's made from local ingredients and is served by a nice old couple.)
Mon-Sat: 09:00-17:30, Sunday & Holidays: 09:00-18:30
Adults: ￥1000, Children: ￥500, Infants: ￥300, Group (30+): 20% discount
Noko-Noko Ball: ￥500-800, Rope Skiing: ￥200, Stilts: ￥100, Barbecue at Sakimori res: ￥2500/person