There are several brackish lakes and lovely countrysides surrounding Abashiri, you could spend a few days making day trips out of the city. Between Abashiri and Shari along the Sea of Okhotsk makes a good stopover on the way to Shiretoko or Kushiro.
Points of interests between Abashiri and Shiretoko-Shari
There are seven trains daily between Abashiri and Shiretoko-Shari on the JR Senmo Line. Genseikaen Station, between Kitahama and Hama-Koshimizu, is open from May to October each year.
Abashiri Bus (www.abashiribus.com) runs from Abashiri bus terminal stop 5 to Koshimizu (5-7 daily; 53min), stopping at Hakucho Koen-iriguchi near Tofutsu-ko, Genseikaen and JR Hama-Koshimizu Station. About half of buses leave and arrive at JR Abashiri Station.
During the high-seasons (mid Jun-early Oct & late Jan-mid Mar), Shari Bus (sharibus.co.jp) operates Shiretoko Airport Liner between Utoro Onsen and Memanbetsu Airport via JR Abashiri Station and Shari bus terminal, stopping at Genseikaen (summer season) or Hakucho-koen-iriguchi (winter season).
(濤沸湖) Located between Abashiri and Shari along the Sea of Okhotsk, this pleasant lagoon is visited by many birds, including whooper swan (in winter), gadwall, white-tailed eagle and gray heron.
Birdwatchers should head for the Tofutsu-ko Waterfowl and Wetland Center (濤沸湖水鳥・湿地センター) on the western shore of the lake. It has useful brochures (in English) and a limited number of free rental bike.
The center is a 10-minute walk east of JR Kitahama Station. Buses from Abashiri stop at Hakucho Koen-iriguchi (白鳥公園入口).
Kitahama Station and Cafe Teishaba
(停車場) As its name suggests, Teishaba (station in Japanese) is a tiny and charming cafe inside the wooden JR Kitahama Station. The owner offers coffee, tea, cakes, parfaits and curry. The Okhotsk ramen topped with seafood and hotate curry topped with scallops are favorite. You can see both local trains and the Sea of Okhotsk. Note that it is closed on Tuesday.
(小清水原生花園) Hokkaido’s most easily accesible wildflower garden by public transport, Koshimizu Genseikaen on a 8km-long sandbank is sandwiched between the Sea of Okohotsk and Tofutsu-ko, with over 40 species of flowers bloom from June to July.
From May to October, trains from Abashiri and Kushiro on the JR Senmo Line stop at Genseikaen Station (原生花園駅). Regular buses from Abashiri also stop here.
Michi-no-eki Hanayaka Koshimizu (JR Hama-Koshimizu Station)
(道の駅はなやか小清水) Inside the roadside station (adjoining JR Hama-Koshimizu Station), this small cafe serves potato curry, ikura-don (rice topped with salmon roe), coffee and ice cream. It also has a shop with local snacks and souvenirs.
(原生亭) On the pleasant eastern shore of Tofutsu-ko, onsen enthusiasts should detour to Genseitei. Bathing rooms are very small but the waters are full of botanical minerals (hot!). It is 2km south of JR Hama-Koshimizu Station.
Yamubetsu Station and Cafe Ekibasha
(止別駅・えきばしゃ) Located between Shiretoko-Shari and Hama-Koshimizu stations on the JR Senmo Line, this cafe is inside the wooden JR Yamubetsu Station. Our picks are tsuu-ramen (topped with shredded green onion) and ekicho-no-ramen (topped with seafood).
During warmer months, you can stroll in the coastal forest of Yamubetsu Coast Chisan-no-mori (止別海岸治山の森) behind the left hand of the station if you have time after a meal of coffee.