Monbetsu (紋別市) 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).
Monbetsu City Museum
(紋別市立博物館) 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. It is a few minutes’ walk north from the bus terminal.
(紋別公園) The city center’s pleasant spot for a walk, this hilltop park is about a 10-minute walk north from the bus terminal. At the entrance near Itsukushima Jinja (厳島神社), you will find the Okhotsk Garden (オホーツク庭園) that has three artificial falls.
On the top of the park, there is a small observation tower (8.45am-5.30pm; Free) with views of town and the Sea of Okhotsk. The park is open in winter, too.
(氷紋の駅) Opposite the bus terminal, Hyomon-no-eki is a convenient shopping mall housing a well-stocked supermarket and a ramen shop.
(はまなす通り) 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.
More info marugoto-m.net
Intercity buses (流氷もんべつ号: Ryuhyo Monbetsu-go) connects Monbetsu with Sapporo Station (4 daily; 4hrs 40min) and Asahikawa Station (4 daily; 3hrs). Some buses stop at Kamikawa Station (2hrs) on the JR Sekihoku Line, local buses run for Sounkyo from Kamikawa.
From Monbetsu bus terminal, local buses run to Engaru (9 daily; 1hr 25min), Omu (5 daily; 1hr 17min) via Okoppe (12 daily; 45min) and Takinoue (6-9 daily; 70min).