Japan’s Northern Island of Hokkaido makes up over 20% of the country’s land mass but despite this, few tourists make the journey to visit it sticking to the more beaten tracks of Tokyo and Kyoto. We think that any Japan bucket list should include a trip to Hokkaido so in this guide we round up the best things to do in Hokkaido with an outline Hokkaido Itinerary!
7 days in Hokkaido – is this enough time?
We spent a whole month in Japan, and I don’t think that you can ever allocate enough time to see everything this country has to offer! However, a good amount amount of time to visit Hokkaido would be a week! Below I will list some of the best things to do in Hokkaido before providing an outline 7 day itinerary!
Best things to do in Hokkaido
In this section we will look at the amazing things that should be added to your Hokkaido Bucket List. As Hokkaido is such a large island we will break down the best things to do in Hokkaido via area, mainly large cities and towns and then some of the more remote hidden gems!
Best things to do in Sapporo
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, and is also the commercial centre of the island! Sapporo is the most bustling of all of the places in Hokkaido and is most likely the first place you’ll head for your Hokkaido itinerary!
Sapporo Beer Museum
If you ask most people what they know about Sapporo they will say Sapporo Beer! Your visit to the museum includes a two hour tour through the museum and distillery where you will learn about the process of making Japanese beer!
There is also the famous Sapporo Beer Garden! Here you can sample some of the locally brewed beer and also try some great food!
Added bonus – entry into the museum is free however the guided tour is 500 yen!
Sapporo TV Tower
If there is one iconic landmark on the Sapporo skyline it is the Sapporo TV Tower! The Tower was built in 1956 and is located in Odori Park (see the next entry). The tower stands at 90 metres tall and offers unrivalled views of the city and the Sea of Japan on a clear day!
There is also a mall underneath the tower!
Admission – 720 yen per adult. Price of admittance for children varies on age!
Odori Park is the most famous in Sapporo, if not the whole of Hokkaido!
The park is a particular must if you are visiting in Winter as it is the home of the Sapporo Snow Festival!
There are lots of things to see in the park from beautiful flower gardens to trees and is a treat whatever season you visit. It is perhaps most specatacular during the Fall!
Sapporo Clock Tower
A distinctly un-Japanese looking clock tower dating from 19th century with a small exhibition space about the clock!
This is one of the most magical views in the whole of Sapporo. I would recommend taking a ride up the mountain and taking in the view in the evening for the best experience. Be sure to ring the bell of happiness while you are up there!
Sapporo Historical Village
A living history museum which showcases Hokkaido life in the 19th Century.
Entrance fee: 800 Yen per adult.
Your Hokkaido itinerary will change depending on what season you visit in however if you are visiting during the Sakura season (Spring) then I advise you head to Nakajima Park as this is the best place to see cherry blossoms in Hokkaido!
Sapporo Children’s Puppet Theatre “Kogumaza”
Puppet theatre is a Japanese tradition and if you are travelling to Hokkaido with kids, you will definitely want to watch a show in Sapporo!
Sapporo Maruyama Zoo
Sapporo Maruyama Zoo is the largest zoo in Japan and is especially great if you are travelling to Hokkaido with children!
Ticket price for adults – 500 yen!
This beautiful shrine is next to Maruyama Park. I would recommend adding a visit to the shrine whatever time of year you visit however it is especially beautiful during Sakura Season as the shrine is surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms!
Best Things to Do in Otaru
Otaru is the Venice of Japan. Kids will love walking the canals or taking a boat ride round the sites of the city!
Otaru glass blowing lesson
Otaru is famed for its glass as well as its’ canals. There are many studios you can go and watch glass blowing in and even some reasonable priced lessons that older children with love!
Music box museum
A beautifully quirky museum with creaking floorboards that is a delight to wander around.
If you are visiting Otaru with a car then the Shakotan Peninsula is well worth a visit. It has some of the most spectacular coastline on the Hokkaido island.
Hokkaido Natural Wonders
Located in Hakodate, you take a short bus ride up to the top of the mountains for some of the best views in Hokkaido! It is particularly stunning at night as you the city lights twinkle!
A beautiful volcanic caldera that is easy to explore with kids in tow
Home to beautiful flower fields. There is a lavender express in summer which makes Furano accessible by public transport.
If you have time also combine with a hike to the
A beautiful place to take photos.
A hot spring town! One of the most famous onset towns in all of Japan not just Hokkaido! A place to truly relax in Hokkaido in the natural hot bath and springs!
Shiretoko National Park
Hokkaido has several National Parks but the one we went for was Shiretoko! A designated UNESCO World Heritage site with easy hikes. The main entrance is at Shari and is the easiest place to go with kids. But one special way to see the park is to take a cruise. On our cruise we managed to see the symbol of the park the elusive Brown bear! We really enjoyed Shiretoko as it was such a contrast to the rest of the Japan with its busy cities and ancient shrines and temples.
Hokkaido Travel Tips
Getting Around Hokkaido
There are lots of ways getting around Hokkaido and I would say it depends whether you want to mainly visit the cities or whether you would prefer to get out into nature on what mode of transport is best for you!
Getting Around Hokkaido by Train
Hokkaido now has its very own bullet train and corresponding JR Pass. This is very useful for those that want to explore the cities. However if you want to get out into the countryside and national Parks I would recommend
Hiring a Car
Hiring a car is the best way to see Hokkaido if you want to see the countryside and National Parks.
Excursions and day Tours in Hokkaido
If you don’t want to travel around Hokkaido with a car don’t worry, there are plenty of excursions and day tours that can take you to the main sites. Below we have listed some of favourite things to do in Hokkaido as day tours!
Best Time to Visit Hokkaido
Visiting Hokkaido in Winter
Visiting Hokkaido in Winter is brilliant for skiing enthusiasts as I am told (non skier here) that Hokkaido has the best skiing in Japan. On top of that there are some great Winter Festivals, most notably the Sapporo Snow Festival
Visiting Hokkaido in Spring
One of the biggest things on anyone’s Japan Bucket list is seeing the cherry blossoms. Now visiting Kyoto during Sakura Seasons may be more famous however there are some great places to see cherry blossoms in Hokkaido that are less crowded than the Kyoto counterparts!
Next read: If you are planning to visit Kyoto with kids in tow check out this post!
Visiting Hokkaido in Summer
We visited in Summer and it worked perfectly for us because of the better weather! Actually out of everywhere we went in Japan, Hokkaido is probably the best summer weather as it is not quite so hot!
Visiting Hokkaido in Autumn
Hokkaido has large swathes of forest land and national parks. Visiting Hokkaido in Autumn means you will be rewarded with beautiful Fall colours!
For a more in-depth guide on the best time to visit Hokkaido click here!
Sample 7 Day Hokkaido Itinerary
It is difficult to prescribe a set 7 day Hokkaido itinerary (or an itinerary for Hokkaido for any length of time) because the seasons affect what to do in Hokkaido so much. Below I will outline a rough seven day Hokkaido itinerary and give length of time per place but with added suggestions for seasons so that you can tailor the itinerary for you!
Day 1 – Sapporo
AM – Visit Odori Park and Television Tower
After you have explored, head to the clock Tower and take in the exhibition on the inside.
PM – Head to Sapporo Beer Museum and have dinner in the beer garden!
Evening – Take in the View from Mount Moiwa
Day 2 – Day Trip to Otaru
AM – Walk the Canals
Lunch on Otaru’s Sushi Street
PM – Glass blowing class and music box museum.
Alternatively if you have a car – Head to the Shakotan Peninsula.
Day 3 – Sapporo
AM – Hokkaido Shrine and Park
PM – Sapporo Historical Village
Day 4 – Furano
Can be reached by car in a few hours and is definitely one for the Hokkaido Summer Itinerary because it is home to beautiful flower fields and rows of lovely lavender.
Can also be reached by the Furano Lavender Express Bus.
Day 5 and Day 6 Shiretoko National Park
Take the 4 and half hour drive to Shiretoko National Park. The National Park is breathtaking and there are lot of ways to view the park – either hiking or by cruise excursion.
Highlights in the park are:
- Fureppe Waterfalls
Please note there are bears in the park – we saw them from our boat which is definitely the best place to see them from rather than on foot! Be sure to take sensible hiking precautions in the park.
After that you will want to head back to Sapporo.
As I mentioned, this is only a rough outline and you may want to alter your itinerary dependent on season
What to add to a Hokkaido Summer Itinerary
- Furano – a must for the flower season
What to add to a Hokkaido Winter Itinerary
- Sapporo Snow Festival
- February – Snow Light Path Festival in Otaru
Where to stay in Sapporo
Hokkaido is a huge island and there are so many choices for types of accommodations and places to stay. I t really depends on your itinerary for the best places to stay in Hokkaido.
If you are looking for one place to base yourself then the best choice is Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido!
Some good rated hotels in Sapporo are:
Ibis Styles Hotel – good for families as they are known to have quite generous room sizes and are reasonably priced!
JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo – a centrally located hotel with great public transport access.
However, depending on the time of year you are going and whether you decide to rent a car you may want to move around more!
Have you been to Hokkaido? What was the best thing to do in Hokkaido? What was your Hokkaido itinerary?