Hokkaido Deep South Cycle Tour including Okushiri Island

Posted on Oct 30, 2016
113 4

Posted on Oct 30, 2016

113 4


11 days





Highest point





By around the 1400’s, ethnic Japanese from the mainland started to settle along the coast of the northern ‘wild land’ of Ezo (Hokkaido). It would not be until more than 400 years later that a relatively centralized Japanese government would push deeper into the north of Japan and develop it as a northern frontier island. Until then, the indigenous Ainu people were the only ones whose culture was sufficiently adapted to Hokkaido’s harsh environment. As such, the deep-south southern coast of Hokkaido contrasts starkly with the rest of Hokkaido: traditional Japanese architecture, castles, a history of conflict, and a turbulent past of natural disaster.

Last updated Apr 25, 2023

Route Map

Route Overview

Here, we outline a 10-day, very leisurely bicycle touring route around this fascinating coastal part of southern Hokkaido. It starts and ends on the JR trunk-line that connects Hakodate City with Sapporo City. This route can happily stand alone as a sub-two-week getaway from Sapporo (taking bicycles on the train to and from start/finish), or parts of it could be incorporated into a length-of-Japan trip. A big highlight of the route is the offshore island of Okushiri (location on Google Maps). This sleepy island, only 60km in circumference, is home to wine, empty roads, and sobering reminders of one of the most powerful tsunami in modern history.

Okushiri Island ferry: Heartland Ferries run a ferry service to Okushiri Island once or twice daily from Esashi Port (location). NOTE: The ferry used to run between Setana and Okushiri, but it doesn’t anymore (as of 2023).

  • Ferry timetable: Timetables are season-dependent, so check the current timetable here: http://www.heartlandferry.jp/english/
  • Cost: Esashi-Okushiri route starts at about 3,100yen. Biycles are an extra 1,800yen if rolled on, free if packed up in a bike bag and carried on as luggage. See fares here.
  • Duration: The ferry takes 2.5hrs (Esashi-Okushiri route).
  • Food on board: Basic snacks and instant noodles etc. are available on the ferries.

Daily Route notes

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route or parts of it? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Hokkaido Deep South Cycle Tour including Okushiri Island”

  1. Great blog, I’m lucky to have stumbled upon it!
    Got a question about accommodations along this route. I notice you guys usually camp out, something I’m a big fan of but I’m getting a bit old for dragging tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear along. With that in mind, are there adequate other forms of accommodations along this route like hostels, minshuku, ryokan and so on.
    If I were to go the camping route are there showers in all campgrounds?
    With regards to food, is the route pretty well-populated with restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores or are these few and far between?
    One final question: are there any considerations with taking bikes on the trains, like limited to certain times of day or folding bikes only?

    1. Hey Brian, we haven’t relied soely on ryokan or minshuku on a tour before, but whenever we have been wet cold and miserable we have always been able to find one on a whim when we’ve needed it. In a small town or village just ask around. In larger cities, best to try to find the main train station, as there will be more options around there.

      Camping grounds generally don’t have showers, but many have hot springs (onsen) within about 5km or so.

      Food – if you have a few rice balls in your panniers then you shouldn’t go hungry. You will no doubt be in a town of some sort for the night, so dinner and breakfast won’t be an issue. The issue is whether or not there is a place to eat or buy food when you want to have lunch. There are convenience stores fairly regularly, but we have spent a hungry few hours in the middle of the day sometimes when we were caught out at lunchtime with no food.

      For bikes on trains, there is no limitation on time of day. You can travel witha non-folding bike, just need to remove the front wheel. See my post here for tips: https://www.14degrees.org/traveling-with-a-tern-folding-bike-on-the-train-in-japan/

  2. This is truly wonderful and thank you for sharing.

    I am preparing for a cycling tour in Jamaica and would love to create something like this as a memory, would you be able to share how to start a wonderful picture dairy like this?

    Thank you,
    Heidi Saul
    713 373 1780

    1. Hi Heidi,

      I use a few different services and combine them all together. Flickr.com for hosting my photos, Youtube for the videos, RideWithGPS for the routes, and WordPress for this blog.

      Probably one good way to start is to make a free blog on WordPress.com 🙂

      I hope this helps!

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Hokkaido Deep South Cycle Tour including Okushiri Island Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



Time ascending













GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.