Vivid and full of abundance; summer in Hokkaido is incredibly scenic with many regions to explore. From the coast to the countryside, Japan's northern island is brimming with stunning natural scenery and fresh local produce to taste.
Niseko is the perfect base to explore Hokkaido in summer with a number of day trips only a short drive away. It's a great idea to rent a car so you can explore at your own pace; however, many day trip tours are also available to those who want someone else to drive. Here's some of our favourite day trips ready for you to explore this summer.
Jutting out into the beautiful turquoise Sea of Japan, Shakotan Peninsula is a pleasant 90 minute drive from Niseko and a great day trip idea. Take in the breathtaking coastline as you drive along, taking stops along the way for those picture-perfect photo moments. Get the very best vantage point by taking the short hike along Cape Kamui (15-20 minutes) and take in the panorama from the end of the cape. The Shakotan area is also popular in summer for water activities like SUP (standup paddle boarding), swimming, fishing and kayaking.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the under water action, take a ride on one of the sightseeing cruises with glass bottom boats. Not only take in the coastline and rock formations views of the peninsula but also the fish and Shakotan's famous sea urchins below. Before you head home, try Shakotan's famous dish: Sea Urchin Rice Bowl.
Lake Toya is one of those jaw-dropping places. A vast lake 45km around in size, home to a volanic island in the middle, it is truly a special sight to be seen. Located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park and a 60 minute drive from Niseko, the picturesque lake offers many great activities during the summer months including SUP, canoeing and hiking. There's also boat cruises departing every half an hour from the lakeshore to the island in the centre of the lake, where you can hop off and enjoy a stroll and if you plan ahead, pack a picnic lunch for you friends and family to enjoy.
Take a ride to the summit of nearby active volcano, Mt Usu, via the Usuzan Ropeway and you'll really get the best views. After dinner, witness the sparkling colour display in the sky and reflections on the lake with the summer fireworks on every night (weather permitting) from April 28th to October 31st.
Japan is famous for its volcanic activity and Hokkaido is no different. See the steamy sighs of Jigokudani, known as "Hell Valley" nearby Noboribetsu. Witness the incredible plumes of steam in this stunning valley landscape, only 90 minutes drive from Niseko. The area featurs hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity.
There's an easy-access viewing platform for those who aren't so mobile and there's also a number of walking trails through the wooded hills above for those who want to explore more. Follow the trails for about 20 to 30 minutes and you will get to Oyunuma, a sulfurous pond with a surface temperature of 50 degrees Celsius and a smaller, even hotter, mud pond nearby. Afterward, enjoy a relaxing soak and meal at one of the various onsens in town.
A charming destination and a great day trip for all ages: the port-side city of Otaru. Just 90 minutes drive from Niseko and you'll arrive in a quaint city with many old, photo-worthy warehouses and former office buildings giving Otaru's city centre a special charm reminiscent of past decades.
Stroll along the iconic canals before enjoying the scrumptious street food, including the Hokkaido's famous fresh seafood, along Sakaimachi Shopping Street. Browse the quirky stores, many stocking Otaru's famous glasswares. Taste the sweet flavours at Le Tao, famous for its cheesecake, then visit the Music Box Museum to pick up a gift for your loved ones. Rainbow ice cream will be a hit with the kids!
Need a car? Find out more about Car Rental in Niseko.