The Okhotsk Line (Route 238) is a long coastal byway dotted with outstanding natural landscapes, such as brackish lakes, hidden marshes, wildflower gardens, rocky capes and seaside farms. This line is designed as North Okhotsk Prefecture Natural Park. In winter, you might look over the endless frozen sea from the coastal road.
Okhotsk Line (Route 238: Monbetsu to Wakkanai)
DURATION: 5 hours +
BEST TIME: June to October for touring / February for sea ice cruising
PLAN YOUR OWN TOUR
Esashi ›› Halfway on the coastal Okhotsk Line between Monbetsu and Wakkanai, Mikasa-yama offers grand ocean view.
Hamatonbetsu & Kutcharo-ko ›› Admire the elegant swans and migratory birds on Northern Hokkaido’s largest lake.
Soya-misaki ›› Reach this national-famous cape after the long road trip northward, then follow the scenic footpath on the Soya Hills.
Monbetsu 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 a good base for traveling to Wakkanai on the Okhotsk Line.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› You can reach Monbetsu from Sapporo, Asahikawa, Kamikawa or Engaru by bus. Monbetsu terminal (紋別ターミナル) sends 12 buses to Okoppe (45min) and five buses continue to Omu (1hr 17min), operated by Hokumon Bus (www.hokumonbus.com).
Okoppe is a key junction of the Okhotsk Line and Route 239 (for Nayoro), where the town center offers the michi-no-eki (道の駅おこっぺ) located in an old train station.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› There are daily Meish Bus (www.meishibus.com) to Okoppe if you are start this trip from JR Nayoro Station (名寄駅前). Okoppe bus terminal has a michi-no-eki and a small railway gallery. Hokumon Bus from Okoppe to Omu pauses at Hotel Hinode-misaki (ホテル日の出岬) on the scenic cape.
If you are heading from Abashiri to Wakkanai via Saroma-ko by car, you are halfway there. Michi-no-eki Omu (道の駅おうむ) and a bus terminal are in one building.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Omu bus terminal is a striking construction with an airship-shaped observation deck (free) overlooking the Sea of Okhotsk. Soya Bus (www.soyabus.co.jp) operates two daily services from Omu to Esashi (1hr 12min).
This fishing town has the largest catch of kegani (horsehair crab) in Japan. If there is a long wait between local buses, drop in the friendly tourist information office and stroll the town.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› There are four buses from Esashi to Hamatonbetsu (45min) via the unusual rocky cape of Kamui-misaki (カムイ岬). You can switch to the intercity bus here for Asahikawa (3.5hrs) or Sapporo (5.5hrs) via JR Otoineppu Station (55min).
Hamatonbetsu is North Okhotsk’s main transport hub for Wakkanai and Otoineppu. Northern Hokkaido’s largest natural lake, Kutcharo-ko (クッチャロ湖) is a paradise for migratory birds near the town center.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› The bus terminal is next door to the modern Michi-no-eki Kita-Okhotsk Hamatonbetsu (北オホーツクはまとんべつ). If you plan to head north on the Okhotsk Line, there are four daily departures to Onishibetsu (鬼志別: 1hr) via Sarufutsu Koen-mae (さるふつ公園前).
This small but rich fishing village is famous for its hotate (scallops). Isolated marshes and flat coastline makes a dramatic landscapes. The marshes of Mokeuni-numa (モケウニ沼), Kamuito-numa (カムイト沼), Kimoma-numa (キモマ沼) and Poro-numa (ポロ沼) can be seen from nearby roads. The spacious Sarufutsu Park (さるふつ公園) has a michi-no-eki.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› About 4km west of Route 238, Sarufutsu’s main bus terminal is called Onishibetsu (鬼志別), you have enough time to see the small railway gallery here. From here, there are four buses daily to Wakkanai Station (1hr 40min) via Soya-misaki (44min).
Wakkanai’s most popular tourist destination, Soya-misaki is the northernmost tip of mainland Japan overlooking Sakhalin Island (just 43km away from here) on a clear day.
TRAVEL BY BUS ›› Four daily buses between Onishibetsu and Wakkanai stop here. Note that the last bus to Wakkanai from Soya-misaki leaves at 14:55.
Japan’s northernmost train station of Wakkanai is an important turning point for all tourists. In summer Wakkanai is crowded with group tourists, railway enthusiasts, hiker, bikers and cyclists. They spend a couple of time in the town and its surroundings before traveling onward.
CONNECTIONS ›› Wakkanai has ferry connections to Rishiri and Rebun islands. In summer there are also international ferries to Sakhalin Island, Russian Far East. JR Soya Line connects Wakkanai with Asahikawa. There are also intercity buses to Sapporo vis the coastal Ororon Line.