Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids – Itinerary for Autumn foliage, telephone numbers and map codes for GPS

Continued from Self-drive holiday to Hokkaido with kids (Part 1) – Flight, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo

I was in Hokkaido with my parents and two kids from 15 to 19 October, which was autumn, and the main focus of the trip was to view autumn foliage.  It was not particularly interesting to the kids, who spent most of the time just sleeping in the car and stroller.

But they were at the age where they weren’t too demanding.  So I got away with planning a trip with little regard to their interest and indulging my parents and I in photo-worthy scenery.  Which is the whole point of AUTUMN right??

Day 1: Sapporo

By the time we arrived at Sapporo, it was late in the evening. We had been awake since 3 am, taken a 7 hour flight from Singapore to Narita, followed by a 1.5 hour flight from Narita to New Chitose Airport, followed by a 1 hour bus ride from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo. So all we did was have a quick dinner at Matsuya near our hotel, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, and went back to the hotel to rest. Matsuya was not particularly kids friendly – no high chair or kids meal, but there was enough space to put our stroller so MY just sat in the stroller during the meal.

Day 2: Houheikyou Dam, Jozankei Onsen, Otaru

We woke up bright and early and went to Odori Park (about 10 min walk from our hotel) for a morning stroll. Odori Park was beautiful in autumn, with some trees turning bright red.

As it turns out, Autumn was not just a season for bright red ‘koyo’.  There were many other flowers blooming beautifully around Odori Park.

And I was super happy to even spot sunflowers!

We also popped by the Sapporo Clock Tower, but it was not open yet.

We only walked about half of Odori Park, before heading to Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo‘s Susukino Minami 4-jo office office to pick up our rental car. We drove through Jozankei Onsen town to Houheikyou Dam, which was a popular place for viewing autumn foliage.

The GPS map code for Houheikyou dam did not work very well.. It guided us to the middle of nowhere – I suspect it was guiding us to the dam itself, rather than to the carpark for the electric bus tour. Thankfully it was peak tourist season for Houheikyou dam and there were many cars and tour buses headed that way, so we just followed the main road where many tour buses were coming out from.

The were soooo many tourists there, the electric buses were all packed to the brim. It was not a very comfortable ride, with the kids and our bulky stroller and all. And we discovered that we could actually skip the bus ride and walk to the dam (about 30 min walk – stroller friendly) and save the 600 yen per pax bus ticket.

There was a mini cable car that you could take to the restaurant at the top, but there was a long queue plus a long flight of stairs to climb before that – not a good idea with kids and stroller involved, so we did not bother with that. We could have walked up to the restaurant instead of taking the cable car, but it was drizzling and we were kinda lazy, so we just walked around the dam area.

The view at the bottom was good enough. It was simply breathtaking, with autumn colours at its peak while we were there.

Although we purchased return trip tickets for the electric bus, we decided to walk out instead of queueing for the bus. MF had fallen asleep in the stroller and we did not want to take him out, so we just pushed the stroller and walked all the way out.

Along the way out, we passed by a waterfall, so at least I felt rewarded for walking… in a way.

After leaving Houheikyou Dam, we drove through Jozankei Onsen town, where many visitors come to stay in autumn because the whole town turns yellow and orange in autumn.

We proceeded to drive to Otaru, via the Jozankei lakeline.  The autumn colours along the way were simply beautiful.

We made a brief photo stop at Sapporo Lake.  Which was much less crowded (trash that, we were the ONLY people there to be precise) compared to Houheikyou dam.  There was parking lot where we could pull over and take photos by the lake without much walking and definitely no need to take an electric car.

The scenery was not as gorgeous as Houheikyou Dam for sure (which explains the lack of crowd), but for us Singaporeans, to be able to see a dam surrounded by autumn foliage was well worth the brief stop.  Anyway it was totally along the way from Jozankei to Otaru, so if you’re doing the drive, don’t forget to keep a look out for the carpark and pull over.

When we arrived at Otaru, the first thing we did was to eat sushi! This was my third trip to Otaru, and every time I was there, I would definitely eat sushi – Otaru‘s sushi was the best!

There was a sushi street in the heart of Otaru with many good sushi restaurants, but we chose to dine at somewhere less touristy (and hence cheaper): Toppii sushi, which was a short walk from Otaru canal. Toppii sushi had a free carpark for its patron, so it saved us the hassle of looking for a coin parking. There were high chairs available, and kids were entitled to the drinks bar – FREE!

When we finished eating, we sneaked off for a quick walk to the Otaru canal, leaving our car at Toppii. If you don’t wish to be inconsiderate, or if it’s peak dining hours, there is a Times open-air carpark (click here for location of carpark on Google Map) just next to the canal.

Beside Times carpark, you will find the famous ice-cream shop, Kita No Ice, in a small historic building. The ice-cream shop sells really strange flavoured ice-cream.. Like uni (sea urchin), squid ink and crab flavours.

After I had my fill of weird ice-cream for dessert, we headed back to our car and drove through Sakaimachi, the main street of Otaru. If it’s your first trip to Otaru, I would advise you to walk through Sakaimachi instead of drive, because there is so much to see, do and eat along the way! There are many shops selling intricate glass handicraft where you can experience glass-blowing, a candle workshop where you can make your own candle, and the famous music box museum at the end of Sakaimachi is definitely worth a visit. Along the way, there are cafes like Amato and LeTao where you can sit down and enjoy delicious Hokkaido sweets, and you can also find Rokkatei (六花亭) and Kitakaro (北菓楼) which are famous confectionery shops. In particular, Kitakaro has the most yummylicious ice-cream and cream puffs.

Since bringing kids (esp one with itchy hands like MF) to glass shops and music box museum sounds like a pretty bad idea, I asked my parents if they wanted to go and take a look, and I could drop them off at the music box museum while I chill out at Le Tao or take a drive to the Otaru Aquarium with the kids, but they passed. So we just drove through the street, stopping the car at the side of the road in front of Kitakaro while I hopped off to grab a cream puff, before driving back to Sapporo.

When we were back at Sapporo, we parked our car at the hotel and went to shop at Tanukikoji.

For dinner, we had ramen at my favourite ramen joint: Barikiya, located at Tanukikoji 4-chome.

The eatery was a little cramp and did not provide high chairs, you basically sit on stools along a counter to eat. But we managed to find a spot to leave our stroller (and MY just bummed there while we ate).

MF managed to balance himself on the stool and stretched his neck a bit to finish his noodles (I guess it helped that he LOVED the noodles here!). The shop had small bowls and children’s fork ready for kids.

Day 3: Furano

This was the day when Typhoon Wipha, Japan’s worst typhoon in a decade, hit. Although Hokkaido was spared the full brunt of the typhoon, it still brought heavy wind and rain (or snow in the colder regions). Being ignorant Singaporeans, we clearly did not understand how bad things would get when there was a typhoon, and went driving around anyway.

In the morning, the weather did not look too bad, so we decided to drive to Furano to see the flower fields. It was windy and rainy (not that we could feel it in the car) along the way. We made a brief stop at SA (i.e. service-area, referring to large parking areas with toilets, shops, restaurants and petrol kiosk) Sunagawa (SA 砂川)along the expressway, which was a nice place to take a break if you are driving from Sapporo to Furano. There was a cafe serving hot meals and a beautiful little park next to it.

There were also Gashapon machines for the kids, and we bought some gashapon toys to let MF entertain himself on the car before moving on.  If you have time and weather is good, you can visit Kodomo No Kuni (子どもの国 – translates to mean ‘Children’s Country’) – there was an entrance to it from SA Sunagawa. From across the road, I saw some beautiful autumn foliage and playgrounds for kids there.

As we approached Furano, the rain became snow. We were actually pretty excited about it, because you know, we don’t get to see snow in Singapore.

We finally arrived at some flower fields belonging to Choei Lavender Park just before reaching Farm Tomita.  There were no more lavenders in autumn, but there were still those neat rows of colourful flowers. It was snowing and the kids were sleeping in the car, so we took turns to go down to take some photos.

We then drove on to Farm Tomita. It was snowing heavily, but we somehow managed to unload the kids and stroller and make a mad dash for the shelter from the carpark.

Since it was snowing heavily outside, we started by checking out the beautiful dried flower shop.

There was a balcony at the second storey of the cafe where we could see the flower fields without having to go into the snow.

It was time for lunch, so we had our lunch at the cafe there. We found a seat next to the window with a nice view of the flower field.

If the weather had been better, we could have been sitting out there right next to the flower fields.  But oh well, it was not meant to be.

MF had a burger and MY had some potatoes and pumpkins (a nice change for him from cereal and food pouches), while I had some yummy lavendar-flavoured cheescake and drink.

The snow got heavier and heavier as we were eating, and we figured it was not going to go away anytime soon. So after eating, we got MF into the stroller and wrapped it up with a rain cover, and I wrapped MY in the carrier and, armed with our umbrellas, we made a mad dash for the greenhouse to see some lavender.  And yeah, I actually bothered to take some photos along the way to remind myself how crazy we were, running through a typhoon to see lavender.

It was so cold and my fingers were freezing by the time I reached the greenhouse!  But I was so happy to see (and smell) the lavenders in the greenhouse that it called for a celebratory shot. Never mind the messy hair.

After we were warmed up enough, and MF had ran enough rounds around the greenhouse checking out all the flowers, we dashed back to the dried flower shop. I made a slight detour to check out the autumn field.

Not that I could seem much in the storm… But at least I can say I’ve been here. Next challenge was how to get the kids and stroller back to the car in the storm. We decided to just ignore no-entry signs and drive the car all the way to the porch of the dried flower shop to load the kids in. A staff looked like she was about to stop us, but when she saw that we had a toddler and baby in tow, she let us go ahead.  So yeah, there are perks to travelling with kids!

By the time we left Farm Tomita, snow had covered all the roads and everything was just a piece of white. We couldn’t see the roads, and underestimated the difficulty of driving in the snow, and our car ended up in a ditch. Thankfully Toyota had an English-speaking emergency hotline. I called them to explain our situation, and they said they would call us back. While waiting for them to call back, a passer-by, who had a chain in his car, helped us pull our car out of the ditch. Toyota only called us back much later, so thank goodness for the good Samaritan, or we would have been stuck in the car for hours, in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of the snow storm and with 2 screaming kids. Lesson learnt: Never drive out when there is a typhoon.

Somehow, we managed to crawl back to Sapporo. We had dinner at Barikiya again (a piping hot bowl of yummy soupy ramen was the ultimate comfort food after our stormy ordeal) before calling it a day.

Day 4: Noboribetsu, Lake Toya

We were planning to go to Noboribetsu today. It was raining in the morning, and weather forecast said that it should clear up by the afternoon, so I suggested we visit Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe until the rain stopped. As we drove towards Noboribetsu, the sky started getting nice and blue, and thanks for the snow storm from the previous day, we got to see beautiful snow-capped mountains amidst the autumn colours.

Since it was no longer raining, we skipped the marine park and resumed our autumn foliage viewing at Jigokudani (地獄谷 – translates to mean Hell’s Valley) instead.

The walk around Jigokudani was pretty stroller friendly. You could push your stroller most of the way.

There were some stairs to the view points, but you could leave your stroller at the side for a while to go to the view point.

Next, we went to view Oyunuma (大湯沼), which was a short drive away. There weren’t much autumn colours yet, so we did not stay long.

Next stop was the Shinnoboribetsu bridge (新登別大橋). There was no map code or telephone number for the location of the bridge, so I asked for directions from the tourist information centre at Jigokudani. To get to the bridge, you drive out along the main road from Jigokudani, all the way until you see a petrol kiosk on your left. After the petrol kiosk, there is a traffic light junction where you can turn right. Take the right turn, then take the first left turn and you will be driving across the Shinnoboribetsu bridge. After you cross the bridge, there will be a carpark on your right. (Click here to see route on Google Map.)

After all the effort to find the Shinnoboribetsu bridge, sad to say, the autumn colours have yet to arrive in the gorge.  Imagine how amazing this view would be when all the trees turn shades of orange, red and yellow!

At least we saw ONE tree near the carpark that was a nice shade of red.

From here, we decided to drive to Mount Usu (or Usuzan 有珠山). The GPS gave us directions via the expressway, but we wanted to take the scenie route via Orofure pass (オロフレ峠), so we had no GPS help here and had to follow road signs directing to Lake Toya and Orofure pass. However, after about 10 min of driving, we saw a sign that said Orofure pass was closed due to accumulated snow! So we backtracked and followed the GPS instructions to get to Usuzan via the expressway.

It was not all in vane, because using the expressway, we got to stop at SA Usuzan (SA 有珠山), which provided beautiful panaromic views of the town below.

I was convinced that the Japanese deliberately chose spots along the expressway which were good vantage points to be their rest stops.  We had our lunch there, which was quite yummy. And MF got to buy more gashapon toys.

A short drive from there and we arrived at Showa Shinzan / Usuzan.

At the foot of Usuzan, where the ropeway station was, there was a huge carpark with some shops and restaurants right next to it.  And plenty of photo ops.

We went to ride the Usuzan Gondola, which MF enjoyed a lot. At the start of the ride, the trees were still pretty green but the trees turned slightly redder as we got to higher elevation.

On the whole, the autumn foliage along the Usuzan ropeway wasn’t as nice as what we saw at Jozankei.  But the mountain and lake scenery along the way more than made up for it.

The scenery that greeted us as we alighted from the ropeway at the top was just amazing. Thank goodness for good weather!

We brought our stroller along and had no problem getting up to the ropeway with it – there were ramps all the way. At the summit, the lake toya observatory was just beside the station and we could see Lake Toya and Showa Shinzan from there.

After soaking in the scenery at the observation deck, we took a walk towards the crater observatory, and noticed some interesting autumn colours along the way.

We took the walk to the crater observatory, and we could push our stroller all the way until the very last part, where we had to climb the stairs to the top. We left our stroller at the bottom and climbed up.

And there we have it.  THE CRATER! Muahaha…

Never mind the crater.  I think I still preferred looking at the lake.

After visiting Usuzan, we drove to the nearby Lake Toya onsen town.

We parked near where the dock for the Lake Toya sightseeing cruise was, and went down for a walk around the shores of Lake Toya.

MF found a playground nearby and ran right for it.  We were happy to let him play for a while, since he hasn’t exactly had much fun besides the ropeway ride.

Lake Toya was actually worth a stay for the night, because one could go for a ride on the castle-like boat, and every night for a few months (between end April and end October), there was a 20 minute fireworks display at Lake Toya from 8.45pm to 9.05pm.

If you are planning to drive to Hakodate, Lake Toya is the perfect spot midway between Sapporo and Hakodate to spend the night.

But since we had a long drive back to Sapporo, and we were pretty traumatised with the snowy drive from the previous day, we decided to skip the cruise and fireworks and start driving back to Sapporo while there was still daylight.

Driving back from Lake Toya, the shortest route was actually via the Nakayama Pass and the GPS provided this route for us. However, since it was getting dark and we did not want to risk running into any road closure (considering the snow storm yesterday and our encounter with Orofure Pass), we chose to go back using the expressway. So, without the help of the GPS, we backtracked the same road we came from to get to the expressway.

Back in Sapporo, instead of driving back to our hotel, we drove to Sapporo station area. We parked at Daimaru and had our dinner at Tadumura (たづむら), a tonkatsu restaurant on the 8th floor.

The restaurant was very child-friendly and welcoming to the kids. They brought out toys for the kids to play, high chair for MY and children’s utensils.

They had kids meals on their menu, and the kids meal came with a free toy.

If you drive and park at Daimaru and dine at one of the restaurants there, don’t forget to pass your parking ticket to the cashier when you are paying the bill for parking discount.

After dinner, we went to level 1 and exiting Daimaru, we found ourselves right inside Sapporo station. There was a large souvenir shop selling famous confectionary from different parts of Hokkaido there, where I grabbed a box of my favourite Snaffles cheesecake.

After that, we headed to JR Tower, which was also connected to Sapporo station, directly facing Daimaru. We went up to the T38 Observatory, for stunning night views of Sapporo.

And the highlight of T38 observatory in my opinion, has to be the toilet with a view.  LOL…

Day 5: Sapporo

In the morning, our original plan was to visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park which was supposed to be holding an autumn festival and a pretty kids-friendly park with playgrounds and all. But, believe it or not, it was closed for a bear hunt! How unlucky. Hence, we went for a stroll at Hokkaido University instead.

Non-authorised cars were not allowed inside Hokkaido University, but there were plenty of coin carparks nearby. We just parked at a random public carpark near the main entrance of the university.

There were some autumn colours around the University grounds, but nothing really spectacular.

Our main purpose of going to Hokkaido University was to find the gingko avenue, where the row of trees turn a beautiful yellow during autumn.  But we got hopelessly lost within the university grounds.

Eventually, we asked people for directions to the gingko avenue and finally managed to find it.

Disappointingly, only ONE of the trees had turned yellow.

Well… One was better than nothing so… No complaints!

Next, we drove on to Sapporo Beer Factory. The carpark at Sapporo Beer Factory was huge and free of charge, and the beer museum was free to enter too!

As I was still breastfeeding, I kept thinking whether I should help myself to some freshly brewed Sapporo beer. It seemed like such an injustice to go all the way to Sapporo Beer Factory and not drink any beer. Turned out, they actually had a non-alcoholic beer! Bottoms up!

After drinking up, we drove on to Sapporo TV Tower. The nearest carpark was the underground parking of Odori Park, which was huge but kind of expensive.

We went up the TV Tower for a bird’s eye view of Odori Park.  I absolutely loved the view of Odori Park with the mountains behind!

I doubted MY could see a thing, but he didn’t seem to mind.

From the TV tower, we walked to Nijo Market for some shopping and lunch. On hindsight, we should have drove over, because there was a large public carpark just beside Nijo market which was cheaper than the Odori Park carpark. At least the walk was not entirely boring, as we walked through a small park which had some autumn leaves.

At Nijo market, we walked around looking at giant crabs and other seafood. Popular souvenirs to buy home included vacuumed packed corns, yummy Japanese melons (which will be packed nicely in a cardboard box) and dried scallops (much cheaper here compared to Singapore – great for cooking baby porridge). We had lunch at the kaisen don (seafood rice bowl) shop inside the market, and bought a big melon before heading back to Odori Park.

We hung around Odori Park for a while to admire the autumn colours.

The trees were looking redder compared to our visit at the start of the trip!

Next, we drove to Makomanai Park, which was a popular spot for viewing autumn leaves. The telephone number we keyed into the GPS brought us to an isolated coach carpark, so we had to drive around the park a bit to find the road going into the centre of the park where there was a huge carpark in front of the stadium.

Unless it was autumn, I wouldn’t recommend coming to Makomanai Park because there was nothing much to do or see.

But in autumn, it was absolutely beautiful, because the park was FULL of momiji trees!

Makomanai Park was pretty flat and well paved, which made it a nice park to stroll around with kids and stroller.

From Makomanai Park, we drove to Mount Moiwa. You can drive up the Mount Moiwa sightseeing road, but we chose to take the ropeway up because MF really enjoyed taking ropeways.

We went up in the late afternoon so that we could catch both day and night views and also see the sunset from the top of Mount Moiwa.

There was a restaurant-cum-cafe at the top where we sat around and ate very yummy quiche while waiting for the sun to set. There was also a Star Hall with 3D movie screenings.

After the sun set, we took the ropeway back down and went to return our rental car. We walked around the Susukino area and went to a small shop called Go Tsubo (五坪)which is one of my favourite places to eat in Hokkaido. They served really cheap (105 yen each) and delicious grilled oysters. The shop was really small so we just ate from the window and left.

And since it was our last dinner in Hokkaido *sobs*, my dad suggested we ate somewhere nice, so we walked around and found a random restaurant with English menu and english-speaking waitress and dined there.

It was tatami-style dining, so MY did not need a high chair and could sit with us – making him one happy baby.

On our way back to the hotel, we passed by Gindaco, and I couldn’t resist buying some takoyaki – It tasted pretty much the same as the Gindaco at ION Orchard, of which I was not a big fan. I have had much nicer takoyaki at Tokyo and Osaka. Hokkaido was not the best place for takoyaki after all.

Day 6: Sapporo, Narita

Our flight to Tokyo was in the afternoon, so we had some spare time in the morning. We went for a stroll at Nakajima Park, which was about 15 min walk from our hotel.

There were some autumn colours around Nakajima Koen.  Not as spectacular as Makomanai Koen, but still beautiful and worth a visit if you have time.

What I liked most about Nakajima Koen was the pond at the centre of the park which mirrored the buildings and plants around beautifully.

After our morning stroll, we went back to hotel and caught the airport limousine bus to Shin-Chitose airport. The airport was a destination in itself – it gathered all the famous food from all over Hokkaido and I happily stocked up on Snaffles and Kitakaro goodies to munch on during the flight. I would have bought more.. If not for MF making a big fuss about wanting to see Doraemon. There were lots of kids stuff on the 3rd floor, including a Doraemon Waku Waku Sky Park. Well.. We never made it there because we did not have enough time. By the time we found our way there (the airport was bigger than expected), it was almost time to head to the boarding gate. If I ever come to Hokkaido with the kids again, I shall make it a point to spend more time at the Shin-Chitose airport.

At Narita airport, we had a few hours in transit before our evening flight back to Singapore. So we checked in our luggage first, then hopped on the subway to Narita to visit the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

The temple was approximately 1.3km walk from Narita station. Although the route to the temple was stroller friendly and we could push the stroller all the way, there were some pretty steep slopes which made it a tad tiring.  It was made worse by the fact that it was drizzling when we were there.

Ah well.. On the while, the visit to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple was boring for us, partly due to the gloomy weather and partly due to super bored kids.  MF basically slept through it. Haha…

If I ever have a few hours to bum at Narita airport next time with the kids, I shall go shopping at Narita Aeon mall instead (there is a shuttle bus running between Narita airport and Narita Aeon Mall).

And that ends our short trip to Hokkaido! If you have more time and want to make it more interesting for the kids, possible day trips from Sapporo include visits to Asahiyama Zoo (near Asahikawa), Maruyama Zoo (in Sapporo), Otaru Aquarium and Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe. Within Sapporo, Takino Suzuran Hillside Park is also pretty kids-friendly and we would have visited if not for the bear hunt (we eventually visited it in June 2014 and it was awesome fun!). Despite the lack of child-friendly activities in our itinerary, MF did get to enjoy riding the gondolas at Usuzan and Mount Moiwa, and simply running around the parks and abundant spaces. I imagine in good weather, he would have loved running around the flower fields at Furano. Till next time, I am going to miss you Hokkaido

Telephone Numbers (For GPS):

Daimaru, at Sapporo station (011-828-1111)
Vicinity near Hokkaido University’s main entrance (011-242-2220)
Odori Park underground carpark (011-231-3733)
Makomanai Park (011-581-1961)
Mount Moiwa (011-561-8177)
Takino Suzuran Hillside Park (011-592-3333)
Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill (011-851-3080)

Jozankei Tourist Association (011-598-2012)
Houheikyou Dam (011-598-3452)

Food Hall beside Otaru Canal (0134 – 24 – 8002)
Music Box Museum (0134 – 22 – 1108)
Otaru Aquarium (0134 – 33 – 1400)
Toppii Sushi (0134-27-8111)

Furano / Biei:
Farm Tomita (0167 – 39 – 3939)
Furano Marche (0167 – 22 – 1001)
Shikisai No Oka (0166-95-2758)
Hokusei No Oka Observation Park (0166 – 92 – 4445)
Hill of Zerubu and Atom (0166-92-3160)

Noboribetsu / Lake Toya:
Noboribetsu Tourist Association (0143-84-3311)
Usuzan Gondola (0142-75-2401)
Sobetsu Fruit Village (0142-66-2333)

Map Codes for GPS

(forgive the crumples and torn corner.. That’s what happens when you drive with kids)

Free & Easy Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids - Map CodesFree & Easy Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids - Map CodesFree & Easy Self-drive holiday to Autumn Hokkaido with kids - Map Codes

More posts of my trips to Hokkaido with the kids:

Hokkaido in Winter (Feb – March 2010)
> Eastern Hokkaido Winter Self-drive

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 Summer (June 2014)
> Outline of Itinerary
Part 1: Chitose, Lake Toya, Hakodate, Niseko, Otaru
Part 2: Sapporo
Part 3: Furano, Biei, Tomamu, Obihiro, New Chitose Airport

Hokkaido in Winter (December 2014)
> Outline of 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

Hokkaido in Summer (June 2016)
> Outline of Itinerary
> Part 1: Furano, Biei, Asahikawa
> Part 2: Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Niseko
> Part 3: Sapporo, Otaru
> Part 4: Asahikawa, Sounkyo, Abashiri, Shiretoko
> Part 5: Akan National Park. Kushiro, Akkeshi, Ikeda
> Part 6: Obihiro, Yubai, New Chitose Airport

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  • Eve says:

    Great blog. Tks for sharing

  • Lynn says:

    Thanks for sharing your itinerary.

    May I know where can i get the map code? I am also going to do self drive holidays in Hokkaido.

  • Casey says:

    very great sharing. Thanks!

  • I am amazed that you managed to do all of that with 2 young kids in tow!! I think we were there also at the same time as you and we nearly cancelled our drive trip cos of the snow but thank God it eased up the next day. I’m sure it was a trying drive for you’ll.

  • serene says:

    Hi, we are planning a trip to Hokkaido with our 4 year old boy this mid June and saw your blog when I do the search. Thanks for sharing our trip details and the map codes.

  • SC says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I enjoy reading in your blog. My family will be travelling to Hokkaido this June and your blog comes in handy.r
    With the Fukushima’s radiation incident, is it safe for children to drink boiled tap water in Hokkaido and Tokyo? Or do you get bottled water to drink during your trip?
    Also, is it still very cold in early June? I notice some night temperature can go into 6°c even in June? Do we need to bring along thermal wear?

    Best regards,

    • bumblebeemum says:


      I gave my kids bottled water throughout our trips to Japan. Hokkaido will be chilly in June. There is no need for thermal wear, long sleeves, a jacket and long pants should suffice. If you plan to go places with high altitude, especially at night, like Mount Hakodate or Mount Moiwa for night scenery, or Unkai Terrace at Tomamu, then just wear a few more layers when visiting those places.

  • veronica says:

    Hi. Thanks for your informative blog. Would like to dine at toppi sushi as recommended by you. Do you have toppi tel no so we can locate the place? Tks

  • Anonymous says:


    Ran into your blog while doing research on my Hokkaido trip this Oct. extremely useful!,,

    Thanks 🙂

  • bumblebeemum says:

    You may want to pop into hostels (or stay in hostels). Those are the best places to find travel companions. 🙂

  • Wendy Wong says:

    Hi bumblebee mum,

    Thank you for all ten information, just one side note, how did u manage to sign up for the membership for the car rental for time decade rents? I trod but required japansnese address etc. only manage to found some offer for international visitor, http://rental.timescar.jp/lp/international/index.html?ua=i please advice, if not I will just take the 20% for foreigner . Thank you. Have nice weekends

  • Josh says:

    Hi BUMBLEBEEMUM, need your help. I’m arriving in NRT on October 28th and need to be in TYO on 2nd November. I would love to visit Hokkaido but not sure where to go as I’ve 5 days and would love to see autumn foliage. I’m flexible and can rent a car. Any suggestions? Thanks.
    PS: you have a wonderful blog

  • Christina Chang says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I am going to Hokkaido on 26 Sep to 11 October. I will have 14 full days and 2 days on air. Do you advise that I should follow your Autumn itinerary or if there is any place I should visit? Hubby and I plan to go to: Sapporo, Tomamu, Furano, Otaro, Noribetsu, Lake Toya and Hakodate. Do you think it is wise to start with Sapporo, day trip to Tomamu and Furano, 1 nite in Noribetsu and day trip to Lake Toya, there after drive to Hakodate (stay a few nites) and back to Sapporo and complete with Otaru?

    Hope you can advise as this is our first self drive trip to Hokkaido. We are also thinking to try the car rental website (Tairai) that you have recommended.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For late Sept – early Oct, I would recommend you head to Daisetsuzan National Park for autumn foliage there. If you do, this is what I would suggest:

      26 Sep: CTS – Sapporo
      27 Sep: (rent car) Sapporo – Asahikawa
      28 Sep: Asahikawa (day trip to Asahidake)
      29 Sep: Asahikawa (day trip to Sounkyo)
      30 Sep: Asaikawa – Biei – Furano
      1 Oct: Furano
      2 Oct: Furano – Tomamu
      3 Oct: Tomamu – Noboribetsu
      4 Oct: Noboribetsu – Hakodate
      5 Oct: Hakodate
      6 Oct: Hakodate – Lake Toya
      7 Oct: Lake Toya – Jozankei – Sapporo (return car)
      8 Oct: Sapporo
      9 Oct: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      10 Oct: Sapporo
      11 Oct: Flight back

  • Christina Chang says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    To add, I will be arriving early morning at 8.30 am on 27 Sep in New Chitose and departs on 10 Oct at 10.30 am. Do you think I should pick up car at Sapporo to save cost ? Or pick up car directly from New Chitose airport and drive to Furano, Tomamu and stay a night at Noribetsu, day trip to Lake Toya (or stay 1 nite) along the way onto Hakodate (stay few nites)? I am not sure if I should stay a night at Furano. For return, currently plan to drive from Hakodate back to Sapporo (stay few nites) and visit Otaru. (drop car at Sapporo)…

  • Christina Chang says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I have come up with the itinerary for my Sep/Oct trip as follow:

    Pick up car at Chitose Airport

    Drive to Asahikawa Ramen Village (Lunch)

    Drive to Daisetsuzan National Park (stay 2 nite at Sōunkyō onsen – Sounkyo Kankou Hotel)
    Visit Sounkyo Gorge with the cascading Ryusei and Ginga waterfalls. And ropeway at Sounkyo and a cable-car at Asahidake

    29 Sep Drive to Furano/Bei Bei (1 nite in Furano – New Furano Prince Hotel)
    Visit Tomita Farm, Tomita Farm East, Flower Land Kamifurano , Furano Cheese, Furano Winery

    30 Sep Drive to Tomamu (Stay 1 nite in Hoshino Resort)

    1 Oct Visit Unkai Terrace early in the morning.
    [OCT 1 – OCT 16] 5:00 – 7:00(Last ride up)
    Located in the Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU.

    Please use the shuttle bus from [RISONARE Tomamu] or [The TOWER].
    (About 5 to 10 minutes you will arrive at the [Resort center])
    Take resort shuttle from the hotel tower to the gondola station,

    1 Oct Drive to Noribetsu (stay 2 nite)
    Visit Jigokudani, and any other places around there?

    3 Oct Drive to Hakodate (Stay 3 nite) (should I drop the car on 3 Oct and pick up car again on 6 Oct to save cost?)

    6 Oct Drive from Hakodate to Lake Toya (1 night in Lake Toya)

    7 Oct Drive to Sapporo (drop car) – 4 nite in Sapporo (Any hotel to recommend)
    Otaru (day trip) and visit other parts of Sapporo town etc.

    11 Oct Sapporo to Chitose (Train/bus)

    Do help to change my itinerary if you think its too tight and not workable. Many Thanks! Would love to hear your recommendation on Sapporo and Hakodate hotel too.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary looks alright actually. Just a couple of things:

      1) Are you going to drive all the way from CTS to Sounkyo on the first day? That sounds like a very tiring drive to be done right after a long flight. I suggest you break it up, spend the night at Asahikawa.

      2) If you’re big on hiking, I suggest you spend 2 full days at Daisetsuzan national park – one day for Asahidake, one day for sounkyo.

      3) I usually only spend 1 night at Noboribetsu – just for the onsen.

      4) I don’t think dropping the car off at Hakodate and picking up another one again later on will save you that much money, because there will be drop-off fees. And one-way rentals usually restrict your choice of car rental companies, and less choice = more expensive.

      5) I would fit in a visit to Houheikyou dam at Jozankei onsen enroute back from Lake Toya to Sapporo.

      For hotel recommendations, you can refer to this post:

      • Kris says:

        Hi Bumble bee mum
        I need help to plan a trip to Hokkaido in Aug 8 to 20.

        I would like to go To many and do fruits picking As am not sure where are the places to go visit. May I get your suggestions pls?

        Many thanks

  • Purple says:

    Hi Bumblemum

    Need your advice as it’s our 1st driving trip in Hokkaido in July.

    I would arrive CTS at 12 noon and shop around in CTS for an hour before picking e car at CTS. I would like to travel to Furano, Biei and Tomamu and heAd back to Sapporo.

    1. Which place should I go first Furano or Tomamu? Should I have dinner at kumagera on the day from CTS or should I have it when heAd back to Sapporo?
    2. Do you recommend me buy ETC card or rent HEP pass for the route to Furano?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. You should go CTS – Tomamu – Furano – Biei – Sapporo in that order.

      If you REALLY want to dine at Kumagera, I suggest you do it the first day you’re there. Just in case anything goes wrong (e.g. they are not open that day or you can’t get a table), you can still come back the next day. If you leave it till your last day and they are not open or you fail to get a table, then you won’t have a chance to dine there anymore.

      2. How many days are you renting the car for? You can refer to this post:

      Compare the fee of CTS – Tommau + Biei – Sapporo with the cost of the HEP for the number of calendar dates you’re renting the car for.

  • mel_kids says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum,

    Thank you for the information on driving in Hokkaido. Our family (2 adults & 2 young children) will be going to hokkaido first time in early September and would love to visit the flower farms, lake toya, sapporo and possibly noboribetsu if time allows. We have about 7 days and coming from Tokyo we can choose to arrive at any airport in hokkaido.
    My initial itin. is as below. Would really appreciate your inputs:

    9-10: tokyo stay
    11-asahikawa airport (pick up car and stay in asahikawa?)
    14-sapporo (return car in sapporo?)
    16-lake toya
    18-chitose airport

    Thanks in advance for your review & suggestions.

  • Monica says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I am going to Hokkaido for the autumn foliage from Oct 1-7 and would like to visit the eastern side as we have covered the southern part previously on a package tour. Is our planned self-drive itinerary below do-able? Is the duration of the drives times on google map accurate? Appreciate your advice please.

    Hotels: Obihiro 1N, Kiyosato 2N, Asahikawa 2N, Sapporo 1N

    Sun 1 Oct HOKKAIDO
    Arrive Sapporo 2.35pm
    Pick up rental car

    New Chitose Airport – Obihiro

    Check in hotel; check out:
    Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden
    Kita no yatai
    Tokachi sweets

    Mon 02 Oct
    Obihiro – Tokachigawa – Lake Akan – Kiyosato

    Tokachigaoka Scenic View point
    Ikeda Wine castle
    Sogakudai viewpoint
    Lake Akan
    Lake Kusharro
    Lake Mashu
    Mt Io
    Kaminokoike Pond

    Tue 03 Oct

    Shiretoko 5 Lakes
    Oshinkoshin waterfall

    Wed 04 Oct
    Shiretoko – Sounkyo – Asahikawa

    Sounkyo Gorge
    Ryusei Waterfall
    Ginga no taki waterfall
    Obako rock formation
    Kurodake Ropeway
    Asahikawa ramen village

    Thu 05 Oct
    Asahikawa- Biei- Furano- Asahikawa

    Blue Pond
    Panoramic Road
    Patchwork Road
    Furano Farm Tomita
    Kaze no Garden Ningle Terrace

    Fri 06 Oct
    Asahikawa – Sapporo

    Nikka Whisky Distillery Yoichi

    Sat Oct 7
    Sapporo – New Chitose Airport

    Mitsui Outlet
    Dep Sapporo

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Driving time in Google maps is accurate – if you don’t run into bad weather. It’s not uncommon for there to be snow as early as October, especially in the Daisetsuzan region that you’re going to be driving through.

      1 Oct: By the time you collect your rental car and drive all the way from CTS to Obihiro, it will be dark. I don’t think you have time to visit all those places in Obihiro. It’ll be more like check-in, dinner and sleep.

      2 Oct: Look quite rushed. I would probably skip the Ikeda part.

      6 Oct: Nikka Whiskey Distillery is not in Sapporo.

      On the whole, I feel your itinerary is VERY rushed. My recommendation would be to strike out Sapporo completely and just do Eastern Hokkaido. Spend 1 night in Shiretoko and spread out the itinerary for the Akan part.

      Remember that by Oct, daylight hours are pretty short. It will be dark by 5+pm. Plus you need to give yourself snow leeway for driving time in the event of bad weather. It is okay to plan to reach your accommodation early – especially for ryokans because you can just go soak in the onsen and relax. But you really do not want to be caught out in a bad storm after it turns dark, as the roads generally have no street lights outside of the big cities. So spread out your itinerary a little and prioritize the places you want to visit each day and be prepared to drop some places if you find you’re running out of time.

  • Cheong TH says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    Thanks for all the info on driving in autumn. I’m planning a 8D7N drive from Sep 27 to Oct 4 this year (this is my 1st time to Hokkaido and driving in Japan). Can I please have your advice on the tentative itinerary?

    D1 Sep 27 Sapporo
    – arrive at CTS and stay at Mercure Sapporo
    D2 – Sapporo
    D3 Sep 29 (Asahikawa)
    – collect toyota rental car and drive to Asahikawa
    – check out Asahikawa / drive to Biei
    D4 sep 30 (Asahikawa)
    – drive to Sounkyo and take gondola, short hikes to see autumn colours
    – see waterfalls
    D5 Oct 1 (Furano)
    – drive to Furano and explore all the popular sites
    (any hotel to suggest in Furano??)
    D6 Oct 2 (Otaru)
    – drive to Otaru and stay 1 night
    D7 and D8 (Oct 3 – 4) Lake Toya
    – check out Hell Valley, Ainu museum and other attractions near Lake Toya
    – Drive straight to CTS on Oct 4 morning to catch flight back to Spore

    Will appreciate your advice!! Thanks a lot.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would shift Furano up to D3. Then from Furano, go to Biei and then to Asahikawa. Then from Asahikawa, go back to Otaru.

      In Furano, you can try New Furano Prince Hotel, see if there’s a promotion going on (their non-promotional rate is exorbitant). Closer to the city centre, you can also try Furano Natulux Hotel. These two are the most popular hotels in Furano.

      • cheong says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum

        Thanks a lot for your reply and suggestion to do Furano first. I’ll do just that.

        Have a great weekend!


  • Zoe says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Thanks for all the great info. Really need ur advices/input on these:

    1) im driving from sapporo to Furano to Asahikawa (2 night stay), then down to shikotsu, Toyako (2 night) including 1 day trip to nooribetsu, then finally hakodate. Where can I get free parking? I only know my hotel in Toyako n Asahikawa (Aeon mall) has paid parking..

    2) is the washroom readily available in these places? I’m going otaru too, without car. My stomach can be weak at times & read somewhere about mostly squatting toilets=(

    3) will I be able to spot any festivals? hokkaido 28june-5july & 5-9 tokyo.

    4) will 1h 40min transit time at haneda be enough to transfer to domestic flight to Chitose?

    Thank u so so much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) I don’t think you can really get free parking unless the place you want to visit offers free parking. For e.g. many of the attractions in Furano and Biei region offer free parking. And along the shores of Lake Toya, there is also free parking. But within the cities (like Asahikawa and Hakodate), it is very difficult to find free parking. And if the attraction you are visiting has a parking fee (e.g. the carpark at Jigokudani in Noboribetsu has a parking fee), you will just have to pay for it.

      2) Hmmm.. I don’t really have recall having difficulties finding toilets in Japan. Most attractions will have toilets. Restaurants and cafes will also have toilets. Convenience stores will also have toilets. When we are on the roads, many parking areas (rest stops along the expressways) have toilets. If you are using national roads (non-toll roads), convenience stores are your best bet for finding toilets. Many times we stop at convenience stores for the kids to use the toilet there.

      3) I’m not sure of festivals during your dates. Perhaps you could pop by a tourist information desk when you’re there to ask if there are any festivals going on during that time?

      4) If both your arrival flight and departure time is in the same airport (Haneda), then 1h 40 min is enough time.

  • Huyen says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,
    I ve found your blog very informative. my family is going to Saporro from 15 – 19 Oct, which is exactly your trip before. I would like to have your advices/input for my itinerary as follow:
    15 Oct: landing to CTS at 20.10pm, take bus to Tokyo DOme hotel
    16 Oct: Nakajima Park, Takino Suzuran Hillside Park,Hokkaido University’s Ginkgo tree avenue
    17 Oct: Pickup car, depart from hotel from 8 am

    Sapporo-> NIshikibashi Bridge (photo): 45’ (26.3 km), spend 15’
    -> Hoheikyo Dam (photo): 12 min (6.8km), spend 30’
    -> Jozankei Onsen (lunch): 11min (5.1km), stay until 1pm
    -> Lake Toya ; Photo: 1h12min (64.2 km), stay about 15.20’
    -> NOboribetsu Date Jidaimura: travel of 1h3min (68.1 km), play & photo in 2 hours
    18 Oct: Daisetsuzan National Park
    19 Oct: back to Tokyo

    Thank you very much


    • Queen Bee says:

      16 Oct: You may need a car if you want to cover Nakajima Koen, Takino Suzuran Hillside Park and Hokkaido University on the same day. Anyway during your dates, the Gingko trees should be still mostly green. I would recommend visiting Makomonai Park instead.
      17 Oct: Your plan for the day looks very rushed. For e.g. a Houheikyou Dam, from the carpark, you still need time to get to the dam itself, either by walking or by taking an electric bus. It’s not like you can just hop off the car, take photos and hop back on. I would just do Jozankei and Lake Toya, I won’t go all the way to Noboribetsu in a day. Daylight hours are not long in October.

      I suggest you rent a car from 16 Oct, it will save you some time and allow you to take in more sights in Sapporo, since you are only going to be there for such a short time. You can also go up to Mount Moiwa in the evening.

  • Rima says:

    Finally I got some useful blog about Hokkaido. All this while I did find substantial information about North Japan but this was very helpful. I am planning my first trip to Japan and I have to weeks. Confused between south or North.
    Your resource is very detailed and helpful

  • Pinkle says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum, we’ll be travelling to Hokkaido in October and wonder if we could travel to other areas in addition to those in your itinerary. Which other areas do you think we can add on to our trip? We should be driving. We will arrive CTS on 16 Oct 1pm and will leave on 22 Oct 12pm.

  • Gilly says:

    Hi, just wondering for the onsens in sounkyo or anywhere, e.g. Utoro that you have been to, do they provide clothes/towels that we can wear into the onsens for outdoor baths?

  • Ying Jie says:

    Hi there Bumblebeemum, I’m planning an autumn self drive trip with my husband to Hokkaido next year (I know I’m a bit early). I’m spending 9 full days in Hokkaido. This is my tentative itinerary:
    Day 0: Night flight to Sapporo (CTS)
    Day 1: Sapporo – Overnight in Sapporo
    Day 2: Otaru Tour – Overnight in Sapporo
    Day 3: Asahikawa tour – Overnight in Furano
    Day 4: Furano Tour (Farm Tomita, Biei, Blue Pond) – Overnight in Furano
    Day 5: Noboribetsu Tour – Overnight in Noboribetsu
    (What route would you suggest for the drive from Furano to Noboribetsu?)
    Day 6: Lake Toya Tour – Overnight in Lake Toya
    Day 7: Hakodate Tour – Overnight in Hakodate
    Day 8: Hakodate Tour – Transfer back to Sapporo, overnight in Sapporo
    Day 9: Sapporo
    Day 10: Flight back home

    Is this itinerary do-able?
    Many thanks in advance!

  • YING JIE says:

    Hi there Bumblebeemum, I posted a comment earlier in December but did not get your reply so I’m here again posting the same comment hoping that you would come across this. I’m planning an autumn self drive trip with my husband to Hokkaido next year (I know I’m a bit early). I’m spending 9 full days in Hokkaido. This is my tentative itinerary:
    Day 0: Night flight to Sapporo (CTS)
    Day 1: Sapporo – Overnight in Sapporo
    Day 2: Otaru Tour – Overnight in Sapporo
    Day 3: Asahikawa tour – Overnight in Furano
    Day 4: Furano Tour (Farm Tomita, Biei, Blue Pond) – Overnight in Furano
    Day 5: Noboribetsu Tour – Overnight in Noboribetsu
    (What route would you suggest for the drive from Furano to Noboribetsu?)
    Day 6: Lake Toya Tour – Overnight in Lake Toya
    Day 7: Hakodate Tour – Overnight in Hakodate
    Day 8: Hakodate Tour – Transfer back to Sapporo, overnight in Sapporo
    Day 9: Sapporo
    Day 10: Flight back home

    Is this itinerary do-able?
    Many thanks in advance!

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