Lavender in Hokkaido

A Spectacular Hokkaido Summer Itinerary

As I recently noted, it’s debatable whether summer is actually the best time to visit Hokkaido or not. If you’ve settled upon traveling to Hokkaido between June and September, however, and are ready to start planning your trip, you are now in the right place.

This page is a Hokkaido summer self drive itinerary, but it’s also more than that. It’ll talk you through Hokkaido attractions from the obvious to the somewhat obscure, and also give you tips for Hokkaido rental cars and where to stay in Hokkaido during the summer. There’s a lot of ground to cover (here, and once you land in Hokkaido), so let’s get started.

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Hokkaido Car Rentals

Car rental is Hokkaido is basically unavoidable, since the public transportation in Japan’s northernmost island leaves a great deal to be desired. Though this involves some inconveniences (you’ll need to obtain an International Driving Permit in your home country, for example), it makes your trip a lot easier, particularly if you don’t have very long.

Additionally, driving in Hokkaido is a pretty stress-free affair, particularly if you buy the “Expressway Pass” that affords you unlimited use of Hokkaido’s tollways, where you can (in practice, if not according to the law) drive as fast you want. Likewise, one benefit of the relatively high rental car prices in Hokkaido (plan to pay no less than ¥8,000 per day) is that they include insurance.

Top Hokkaido Summer Attractions

If the Lavender Farms of Furano rank among Hokkaido points of interest you want to visit (and I don’t see why they wouldn’t), allow me to save you some trouble selecting dates: You should take your Hokkaido summer road trip during the last half of July, which is when the lavender is at peak bloom. Once you select these dates, book your rental car, flights and hotel (more on that in a second) as early as possible to avoid getting charged through the nose.

There are some potential downsides to visiting Hokkaido at peak lavender bloom, however, first among them that Hokkaido weather in July isn’t always as sunny as marketing photos would have you believe. This is also the busiest time of summer in Hokkaido. In addition to the calamitous crowds at Farm Tomita (at least the main part—Lavender East is pretty tranquil by comparison), other Hokkaido sightseeing like Biei’s Blue Pond and volcanic Lake Toya will be bursting at the seams with tourists.

Beyond Hokkaido Lavender

My Hokkaido road trip summer included all the places I mentioned above, but it also expanded upon them. For example, after traveling from Furano up to Biei (where I saw Shirahige Falls, which sits just two minutes by car from the Blue Pond), I spend a night and half a day in underrated Asahikawa, whose zoo is one of the most-visited in Japan, and which sits near Numata, Hokkaido’s premier spot for seeing fireflies.

To be sure, though Hokkaido is an island, many travelers skip the coast entirely—head to Capes Kamui and Shakotan, like I did, or simply walk down to the oceanfront in the port city of Otaru. Finally, obvious places to go in Hokkaido like the prefectural capital of Sapporo are also worthy of a stop on your road trip, though I personally think this huge city makes a better last stop than a first one. (Especially since coming here last will allow you to enjoy Sapporo’s beer—and its beer museums—without the temptation to drive drunk!)

 
 
 
 
 

Visualizing a Summer Week in Hokkaido

The photos above should provide an enticing preview of the sort of imagery you can expect when you drive through Hokkaido during summer. Looking for a more tangible visualization? Check out the Hokkaido self drive map, which you can click (or you can click here) to see the route I’ve described in this post mapped out in a relatively broad way.

 

Where to Stay in Hokkaido During the Summer

Prices on Hokkaido summer hotels tend to be high, even for simply ryokan and guest houses. As a result, you’ll want to book these as soon as possible after lining up flights, booking a rental car and finalizing your route around the island. Some of my favorite places I stayed in Hokkaido during the summer were the simple (but homey) Mimatsuso Ryokan in Asahikawa and the stylish b hotel susukino in Sapporo. If I’m honest, rural Hokkaido accommodation (i.e. in Furano, Biei and Toya Onsen) left a lot to be desired.

The Bottom Line

Even if you only use it as a starting point, this Hokkaido summer self drive itinerary will make planning your trip a lot easier. From tips about renting cars and where to stay, to an overview of Hokkaido attractions from the obvious (Furano’s lavender farms) to the slightly more obscure (Capes Kamui and Shakotan), Hokkaido is a lot of fun to visit during summer. Have you booked your flights to Sapporo?