I finally got down to blogging about my June vacation! In June, we went to Hokkaido for 12 days. There were 3 adults, 2 kids and 1 senior in our group, so we rented a car throughout all 12 days to get around.
I have written two versions of posts for this particular trip: One was for my friends who were more interested to go Hokkaido to eat, and one was for families travelling with kids who were more interested to know what was there for kids to do. The version you are currently reading is the family-friendly version. Pop over to this post for the full itinerary of this trip and you will also find links to the foodie-friendly version blog posts at the end.
We spent the whole day flying from Singapore to New Chitose Airport and spent the night at Air Terminal Hotel which is connected to the airport. The kids loved Air Terminal Hotel because all the rooms face the airport runway and they could watch the planes taking off and landing.
We picked up our rental car and drove to Lake Shikotsu. There was nothing particularly interesting for the kids there, we were there just to take a break for the long drive from Chitose to Lake Toya.
Sobetsu Fruit Village Strawberry Picking
After a quick break, we drove on to Lake Toya. We first arrived at Sobetsu Fruit Village where we went strawberry picking.
MF took his strawberry picking very seriously and went all out, digging through the leaves, to find the red ones. The strawberries here were pretty small and not as sweet as the ones we plucked in Australia, but oh well, it was a fun activity for the kids anyway.
For lunch, we went to Sendoan (仙堂庵) which was located on the second floor of the Wakasaimo store along Lake Toya’s southern shore.
The restaurant offered a beautiful view of Lake Toya.
We got a table right next to the window with lake view and it was tatatmi style. The restaurant provided little stools for the kids to sit on.
The kids meal was excellent value for money! Less than 600 yen and came with a free toy. I would highly recommend dining here if you are visiting Lake Toya with kids.
There was a cafe at the first storey selling very cute cakes, the kids would love them.
We went for a short stroll around Lake Toya after lunch. There was a small playground, but the kids preferred to just jump around and climb up and down the stone sculptures around the lake.
Next, we drove further West to Lake Hill Farm which is famous for their gelato.
MF gave a thumbs up for the gelato.
After eating, we went for a walk around the farm. It wasn’t much of a farm, just some rabbits, horses and a goat.
There were balls and racquets for kids to play for free. The kids had fun running around the field chasing the ball. It was nice to let these hyperactive kids get away from the urban jungle of Singapore and just run around freely in the vast green field and kick the ball without fear of the ball rolling to the road or hitting something or somebody.
After this, we drove back to our hotel, Toya Sun Palace. We headed straight for the swimming pool which had big slides and a kids play area.
There was a giant ball thingy for the kids to run around in for a fee.
There were also floats that you could borrow (free of charge) to ride in the wave pool.
After swimming, we had buffet dinner at the dining hall.
Every night from late April to late Oct, there is a 20 minute fireworks display at Lake Toya at 8.45pm. As MY was sleeping, I stayed in the room to watch the fireworks while hubby brought MF to the shore in front of the hotel to watch.
Funkawan Panorama Park
After breakfast at our hotel, we started our long drive to Hakodate. We took a break at PA Yakumo which is next to Funkawan Panorama Park. There was an indoor playground for the kids there which was absolutely free!
There were also outdoor play areas but it was raining so we couldn’t go. After the kids had enough fun, we continued the drive to Hakodate.
The kids shared a chicken burger, together with some drinks and fries.
After eating, we went for a quick visit of Goryokaku Tower and Fort Goryokaku, which were not particularly interesting for the kids.
MF was much more interested in the Milkissimo ice-cream at the second storey of Goryokaku Tower.
Next, we visited the Red Brick warehouse district.
I’m not big on shopping and made a beeline for Snaffles cafe. Snaffles originated in Hakodate, although it also has cafes in Sapporo and its signature cheesecake can be bought at many souvenir shops in Sapporo, Chitose Airport and even in Singapore. However, having tea at Snaffles cafe is still one of my must-do things in Hakodate. At their cafe, you can order their signature cheesecake individually instead of buying the whole box.
After tea, I brought the kids to Brick Labo located near to the information counter (same building as Snaffles) for some Lego / Duplo fun – free of charge!
Our next destination was supposed to be Mount Hakodate for its ‘million dollar night view’, but it was super cloudy that day and the mountain was totally surrounded by thick clouds. We figured we weren’t going to get much of a view, so didn’t waste our money going up. It was a real disappointment, the kids would have loved riding the ropeway. (They always love all forms of cable cars and ropeways.)
We went for early dinner at Uni Murakami, a restaurant recommend in our guide book.
We thought we were early, but was told we had to wait an hour! They do accept reservations and told us we could make a reservation for later that evening and come back later. Since the kids were sleeping and my friend’s mum couldn’t walk much, we just sat in the shop and waited for a table. When MY woke up, he entertained himself by looking at the live seafood in the shop.
The food was not worth the wait. It was way over priced and didn’t pass the taste test either. I’ve had lots of seafood throughout Hokkaido and in my opinion, the seafood here was no way up to Hokkaido standards and the price was above average. The kids enjoyed the uni gratin (which we mixed with rice for them) though.
The next morning, we visited Hakodate Morning Market. There are many famous markets in the various cities in Hokkaido, but imo, Hakodate Morning Market is one of the best.
We started with the infamous squid fishing that is not for the faint-hearted. There are many stores in the market offering squid fishing at different prices, so if you have time, you can walk around to find the best deal. We headed for the originator with the symbolic giant squid structure.
After we caught our first squid, MF insisted on trying so we paid for another squid and let MF fish for it. He successfully caught a squid!
After catching the squid, the owner cut it up right in front of us and fresh squid sashimi was served! Watch the squid attempt to stand up even after its body has been severed.
Do not forget the most exciting part before you start eating: pour a bit of soya sauce on the tentacles and watch it move!
Next, we went in search for some famed Hokkaido crab. We went to the stall with lots of live crabs facing Hakodate station.
After the crab feast, we continued exploring the market. We reached a building called Hakodate market square.
This is where you can try to snitch a good deal with lots of bargaining. Most store owners were willing to bargain and the dried scallops here (after bargaining) was the cheapest we found throughout the trip. There were some fruit stalls inside and we bought a big apple for the kids (an apple a day keeps the doctor away). The store owner cut it up for us on the spot.
We also found a store selling snacks at discounted price. The kids loved the melon snacks!
Next, we moved on to a small but very popular store.
A huge bowl of uni (sea urchin) here only costs 1000 yen! It was too good to resist.
Just opposite this store was a store selling super sweet hokkaido melons. Summer is the best time to enjoy sweet hokkaido melons.
We had eaten everything we wanted to eat at the market and went back to the hotel to get our car. We drove to the Motomachi district, visiting the old Hakodate Public Hall first.
Next to the public hall was a small alley housing several soft serve stalls and everyone walking out of the alley was holding a soft serve cone. We couldn’t resist buying some for ourselves.
We wanted to drive around the church district but the roads were closed to vehicles due to road works. It had started raining so nobody wanted to get off the car to walk. We had also planned to drive up to Mount Hakodate for the day view, but it was still totally cloudy so we skipped that. (It is possible to drive up to Mount Hakodate in the daytime but the road is closed to private vehicles in the evening).
With nothing left on our itinerary for Hakodate, we drove on to our next destination, Onuma Koen. We dropped by the visitor centre to pick up an area map and MF occupied himself with free colouring activity while we took a toilet break.
From the visitor centre, we walked over to Numa no Ya (沼の家), a small souvenir shop selling a popular dango. I love the dango here, especially the sesame flavoured ones.
We then drove over to the car park nearer to the scenic walkway. It was raining pretty heavily and we didn’t want to take the kids out for a walk in the rain. I asked the rest if they wanted to walk while I stayed in the car with the kids, but only hubby was interested. He felt paiseh to let everyone wait for him so we decided to skip it and drive on.
Driving Break at PA Yakumo
Our next destination was Niseko which was 2 hours away. Along the way, we stopped at PA Yakumo again to have our lunch there. It was much less cloudy compared to the day before and we could see the surrounding park this time round.
At PA Yakumo, there was a small cafe beside the play area selling simple udon and don. Nothing makes me happier than having a place where the kids could play while I ate.
After lunch, we drove on to Niseko. Our first stop was Niseko Milk Kobo.
MY enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa!
The ice-cream and cream puff sold here were also very yummy.
Our next destination was Mishima san’s Shibazakura garden. We were too late for shibazakura season at Takinoue and Higashimokoto, so we visited this baby version at Niseko. It was past its peak when we were there, but still beautiful nevertheless. We couldn’t get a view of Mount Yotei though because it was totally covered by clouds.
Next, we went to Fukidashi Park to fetch some spring water. The spring water found here is said to be one of Japan’s 100 best spring water. Don’t forget to bring your own empty bottles!
Our last stop was for dinner. We went to the restaurant at Hotel Daiichi Kaikan for udon that is made of potato, a specialty of the Kutchan region.
We spent the night at Powder Tracks at Grand Hirafu. Niseko, being a ski resort, was a dead town in summer and I think we were the only guests in the whole building. There was free laundry at the basement, but it was pretty freaky going down to do laundry at night. I did it anyway, otherwise the kids would have no more clothes to wear.
The next morning, we went for a walk around Hirafu village but there was nothing but construction going on.. lots and lots of construction. Many of the shops close throughout summer and the only place open for breakfast was the Seico convenience store. We grabbed some bread from Seico mart and continued our drive to Shakotan.
It was a long drive along the Northwestern coast of Hokkaido to the Shakotan area.
We finally reached Cape Kamui and the kids were thrilled to get off the car and run around.
We embarked on a hike all the way to the end of the cape.
The water around the Cape is so blue and clear.
There were many yellow flowers that look like lilies growing around the Cape.
MF managed to hike all the way on his own without asking to be carried.
Celebratory shots upon reaching the end!
After all that hiking, it was time for lunch! We went to a popular restaurant, Shokudou Misaki, which was located along the main road from Shakotan to Otaru.
The local specialty was uni (sea urchin). We ordered the uni set that came with uni rice bowl and two live uni.
While we were enjoying our uni feast, the kids were fast asleep… Totally knocked out by the long hike earlier.
After the sumptious meal, we drove on to Cape Shakotan.
There was a flight of stairs to go down to the beach below, but it was drizzling so we just took a quick photo and dashed back into the car. We continued the drive to Otaru, passing by a supermarket where we grabbed some bread and banana for the kids who missed lunch.
Our first stop in Otaru was my favourite ice-cream shop, Kita no Ice, which was located right beside the hotel. Kita no Ice is famous for its many strange flavoured ice-cream. I love their ice-cream because the taste of each flavour is very distinct and strong, yet at the same time the ice-cream remains smooth and creamy.
Armed with our ice-cream, we crossed the road to the Otaru canal to take photo of the temperature. It has become a ritual (for me at least) to take photo of the temperature while eating ice-cream every time I’m here.
We went to Otaru Denuki where I bought some manju from a small little shop window facing the road for the kids because we were going to have sushi for dinner and I wasn’t sure if the sushi restaurant would have anything for the kids to eat. MY loved the manju here!
We walked towards our dinner place, Toppi sushi, browsing through the souvenir shops along the way. Toppi sushi is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant located along the canal. Otaru is well-known for their sushi and there is no lack of good sushi restaurants and everyone has their personal favourite. I like Toppi because it is more budget friendly than the *many* other sushi restaurants around Otaru. Furthermore, Toppi sushi had cooked food like udon and chicken karaage which the kids could eat. The kids were also entitled to free drinks from the juice bar and they even received free toys! It was a great place to dine with kids. (I didn’t take a photo this time round, but here’s a photo of Toppi sushi taken during my earlier trip.)
It was raining so we went back to the hotel, Hotel Vibrant Otaru, after dinner where the kids had fun climbing up and down the double decker bed. -_-
The next morning, we left our hotel slightly before 9am and began our eating tour along Sakaimachi.
Many of the shops were not open yet, except for the shops selling seafood. It was a rainy gloomy morning and we were starting to get bored walking along the empty streets of Sakaimachi when we were hit by a strong smell of coffee roasting. We decided to go into the cafe, Kahisakan, for some coffee.
As we had our coffee, we saw bus loads of tourists and school students on excursion arriving. By the time we left Kahisakan, the whole street had transformed into a bustling lively street! Our next stop was Pathos by Le Tao.
There were giving free sample of their signature double fromage cheesecake. I LOVE their double fromage cheesecake! But they only sold the whole cake here and that was a bit too much. I made a mental note to visit their main store at the end of Sakaimachi to see if they sold individual slices (which I later forgot to do because I was too full). They do have a cafe selling super yummy-looking crepe and ice-cream drinks, which made me immediately regret wasting stomach space at Kahisakan.
Just across the road is a haven for chocolate lovers, Le Chocolat (also ran by Le Tao).
They were also pretty generous with their samples and we got to sample a few different types of chocolates. Needless to say, the kids loved this place because the staff kept feeding them all sorts of chocolate.
The next stop was Kitaichi Sangokan (北一三号館). While Kitaichi was famous for their glass, we were there for food. Afterall, kids and glass do not mix. We ordered their giant chou cream which was bigger than the kids’ faces!
Watch how the kids tried to eat a chou cream bigger than their faces.
Well… It was more fun than tasty. The jumbo chou cream frankly tasted crappy. It was a waste of my precious stomach space.
At the end of Kitaichi Sangokan, there is an ice-cream kiosk selling six-flavoured soft serve. We just had to try one.
It was pretty yummy, except for lavender flavour. Nobody liked the lavender flavour. Look how the kids managed to work their way around the soft serve, carefully avoiding the lavender flavour.
Next, we visited my favourite store along Sakaimachi – Kitakaro main store (北菓楼)! This store is perpetually packed with people. They have a counter selling freshly made chou cream, baumkuchen and soft serve and there’s always a long queue. I especially love their chou cream and it gets sold out by late afternoon.
Another reason I love Kitakaro is because they are so generous with their samples! I love their cookies, it’s a bit like shiroi koibito but they have more flavours, and you can sample all the flavours in the shop! The kids went around helping themselves to the endless supply of cookies around the shop.
By now, I was stuffed silly, so we walked towards the Marchen intersection, skipping Le Tao’s main store and cheesecake lab.
At the Marchen intersection, you can find the symbolic old lighthouse and one of the world’s two steam clocks. Every 15 minutes, the steam clock would chime, puffing out steam from the top. At 12 noon, Le Tao’s clock tower also chimed right after the steam clock.
While waiting, we checked out the shops around the Marchen intersection. There were some shops selling character goods, stuffed toys and a Lover’s sanctuary where couples could buy a lock and sign on it before locking them to the tree.
After my friend came out from the music box museum, we slowly made our way back towards the canal for *ahem* lunch. Yes, we were still going to eat. We couldn’t leave Otaru without another sushi meal. Anyway I have 2 stomachs: one for proper meals and one for sweets and desserts. The proper meals stomach was still empty.
Our lunch place was Masazushi, located right opposite Otaru canal. It was recommended by my friend who lives in Otaru, who told me only tourists go to sushi dori (a famous street in Otaru lined with sushi restaurants) and to come to Masazushi for real good sushi.
After lunch, I popped over to Otaru Denuki again to buy some of those yummy manju for the kids who couldn’t eat sushi.
With everyone fully satisfied, we bid farewell to Otaru and drove to Sapporo.
To be continued: Hokkaido Self-drive with Kids (June 2014) Part 2 – Sapporo
Other posts for this trip
Posts of my other trips to Hokkaido with the kids:
Hokkaido in Autumn (October 2013)
Part 1: Flight, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo
Part 2: Itinerary (with telephone numbers and GPS Map Codes)
Hokkaido in Winter (December 2014)
Complete summarized itinerary
Part 1: Sapporo
Part 2: Asahikawa, Lake Akan, Lake Mashu, Iozan, Lake Kussharo
Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu
Part 4: Chitose, Lake Shikotsu, Niseko, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Rusutsu
Part 5: Sapporo, Otaru, New Chitose Airport
This post is archived under my Japan Travel Blog: