Monbetsu (紋別) is the third-largest city in Okhotsk Region and most travelers come here to take an ice breaker cruise and meet the seals in winter. The city’s main attractions are dotted around the center and the Gariya Zone waterfront district at the south side of the port.
It is also a good base for traveling to Wakkanai by bus or car along the coastal Okhotsk Line (Route 238).
About 3km south of the city center, the waterfront district of Gariya Zone (ガリヤゾーン) has an icebreaker pier, a beach (mid Jul-mid Aug) and a few sights with a 515m-long breakwater promenade.
Gariya-go bus to Garinko Station (Kaiyo-koryukan)
The main reason to visit Monbetsu in winter is to take the drift icebreaker Garinko-go into the Sea of Okhotsk. From January to late March, one-hour cruises depart from the Gariya Zone at the south side of Monbetsu Port. Sunrise and sunset cruises are available in February. You need to make reservations by the day before.
Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum of Hokkaido
15min walk from Garinko Station / 7min walk from Okhotsuk-Tower-iriguchi bus stop
The world’s only scientific sea ice museum has displays on lumps of ryuhyo (drift ice) and frozen local fishes in the -20C ‘cold experience room’. It also has numerous exhibits of sea ice, models and clione (sea slugs). A newly renovated astrovision shows a sea ice film with English subtitles.
10min walk from Kaiyo-koryukan
Built at the tip of the breakwater promenade, this offshore tower has an underground observation windows showcasing life under the sea, with live fish in tanks. You will be able to see drift ice in winter. The Okhotsk Theater offers a 360 degrees 3D short playing.
Okhotsk Tokkari Center Goma-chan Land
1min walk from Garinko Station
The Goma-chan Land runs a protective facility of local seals (tokkari in Ainu). Feeding times at the seal pond are five time in a day. Adjoining the Goma-chan Land, visitors can hand-feed or training experiences at the seal pond. Check the website for feeding times.
1min walk from Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum
This 12m-high humorous object (called kani-no-tsume in Japanese) staring up on the beach near the Sea Ice Museum. It is a popular spot for photographing to tourists.
Monbetsu City Museum
7min walk from Monbetsu bus terminal
This earnest free museum takes a look at the city’s history, models, maritime displays and mining artefacts. Behind the museum, there is an art gallery (geijutsu-kan) exhibitions tend to focus on local artists.
7min walk from Monbetsu bus terminal
The city center’s pleasant spot for a walk, this hilltop park is about a 10-minute walk north of the bus terminal. On the top of the park, there is a small observation tower (8.45am-5.30pm) with views of town and the Sea of Okhotsk. The park is open in winter, too. The entrance is near Itsukushima Jinja.
O-yama Ski Area
1.8km west of Monbetsu bus terminal
O-yama (334m) ski area looms west of the city center. For good views of town and ocean, climb the summit to the Okhotsk Sky Tower (オホーツクスカイタワー) by car or a 6km-long trail from Route 238. The return hike takes about two hours.
3min walk from Monbetsu bus terminal
About 300m south of the bus terminal, this street is a good place to look for nostalgic izakaya, pubs and bars after dark. Check out Marugoto Monbetsu for more listings.
Monbetsu Prince Hotel ♨︎
10min walk from Monbetsu bus terminal / 2min walk from Minamigaoka 1 bus stop
Monbetsu’s most comfortable place to stay is located on the main street, this hotel has both Japanese- and Western-style spruce rooms. Complete with excellent onsen (free to guest) on the basement.
Hotel Okhotsk Palace
1min walk from Monbetsu bus terminal
In a prime location behind the bus terminal, the Okhotsk Palace has spacious ocean-view rooms, with restaurants and a bowling alley. There is a 24-hour food vending machine.
Buses are the main form of transport around Monbetsu. Hokumon Bus (北紋バス) operates intercity and local buses from Monbetsu terminal (紋別ターミナル) in the city center.
Intercity buses connects Monbetsu with Sapporo Station (4hr 40min) and Asahikawa Station (3hr). Buses to/from Asahikawa stop at Kamikawa Station (2hr) on the JR Sekihoku Line.
From Monbetsu terminal, buses run to Engaru (1hr 25min), Omu (1hr 17min) via Okoppe (45min), and Takinoue (70min).
Okhotsk-Monbetsu Airport is about 7km southeast of the center. ANA has a daily flight to Tokyo. There is a rent-a-car counter and a cafe.
A daily free shuttle bus runs between Monbetsu terminal and the airport (17min), stopping at the main hotels and the Okhotsk-Tower-iriguchi.
You can rent electric-assist bikes and MTB at Monbetsu Tourism Promotion Corporation inside the bus terminal. Reservation is recommended.
In winter (mid Jan-late Mar), the shuttle bus Gariya-go (ガリヤ号) runs between Monbetsu terminal and the Sea Ice Museum, stopping at the main hotels and the Icebreaker Garinko Station (ガリンコステーション).
If you plan to visit the Gariya Zone during the off-seasons, take the bus for Engaru from Monbetsu terminal and get off at the Okhotsk-Tower-iriguchi (オホーツクタワー入口: 7min).
Monbetsu Tourism Promotion Corporation
Inside Monbetsu bus terminal. Has brochures, bus timetables and local mascot character Monta-kun goods.
Monbetsu bus terminal
紋別 | 몬베츠
Address：5 Saiwai-cho, Monbetsu-shi, Hokkaido
Distance：137km from Asahikawa