Hokkaido in summer, with its stunning mountains, volcanic lakes and beautiful rolling fields, is a nature lover’s paradise.
The pristine fresh water that flows from its mountain lakes and streams, offers fantastic swimming, fishing, rafting and other water sports fun and its abundance of wildlife offers rare encounters with a myriad of creatures. Bird watching in particular is spectacular in Hokkaido and at its best around the lakes and coastal areas.
One of the best ways to truly enjoy this natural playground is by exploring Hokkaido’s campsites. There are hundreds of campsites to be found in every corner of the island, varying from extremely well appointed setups with running water, cabins, electricity, hot showers and even wi-fi (!), to basic plots in secluded fields. Some of the best ones can be found around Hokkaido’s lakes, but the coastline and mountains of Hokkaido also offer some spectacular campgrounds. Which campsite you choose will ultimately depend on just how far you are prepared to ‘rough’ it and who you are traveling with.
Along the south west coast
Hokkaido’s coastlines and mountain areas have beautiful campgrounds and spectacular scenery. The west coast running south from Otaru to Hakodate is particularly beautiful and relatively easy to access from Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate.
This stunning rugged coastal peninsula, juts out westward between Otaru and Iwani. Its jagged cliff faces separate beautiful, sandy beaches and offer some great places to camp including Shakotan Cape Campsite near the end of the peninsula, and Notsuka Campsite, a beautiful beach-front campground, that is known for its stunning sunsets over the water.
Okushiri island lies off the coast, about an hour on the car ferry and has two great campgrounds. One on the west coast, Kitaoimisaki Park Camping Ground and Sainokawara Park Camping Ground on the island’s northern tip. Certainly worth a day or two detour from a Hokkaido camping road trip.
Better known as a mecca for powder snow lovers in the winter, Niseko is also a fantastic spot for summer activities.
Hangetsuko (Half Moon Lake)
Half Moon Lake at the foot of Mt. Youtei is a beautiful little area. Plunge into its waters for a refreshing swim on a hot summers day or discover the lovely nature trail that runs around its edges (about an hour trip). The Mt. Yotei Hangetsuko Campsite is just 10 mins away and has fresh water and toilet facilities. A little restaurant at the end of the road offers tasty bowls of udon if you tire of burnt sausages. From the campsite you can hike to the top of Mt. Youtei (about a 4 hour round trip) and enjoy the stunning views. If you are lucky, the crater may still have a small lake of winter snow melt in which to take a dip.
Also in the Niseko area is Sahina Niseko Campground (sahina-mulberry.com). Located closer to Rankoshi this campground is open year round and offers snow camping for those determined to brave the famous Hokkaido winters!
Another of Hokkaido’s most famous lakes and the second deepest in Japan at 363m, this lake is surrounded by spectacular volcanic mountain peaks and boasts magnificent vistas in every direction. The picturesque Bifue Camping Ground (shikotuko.jp) has great facilities and is nestled on the lake’s western shore. Be sure to pack your fishing rods since the lake is teeming with freshwater trout and salmon.
A well known and exceptionally beautiful destination for both locals and visitors alike. Lake Toya is a volcanic caldera lake, about 10 km in diameter with a small island in its centre. A road encircles the lake, linking up the small towns, restaurants and onsens that hug its shores. Cycling around the lake is a great way to spend the day – or just relax in one of the well appointed campsites with a book, while the kids swim or enjoy some water activities on the lake.
Some recommended campsites include: Nakatoya Camping Ground, a large camping area in the trees, right on the lake with great swimming and it’s own onsen; Toyakochoakebono Park, a more secluded campground on the north west of the lake and well appointed with cabins and BBQ facilities; and Toyamizubenosatotakarada Camping Ground, located close to Toya town on the northern end of the lake.
Central Hokkaido is home to Hokkaido’s highest peaks, all of which are part of the Daisetsuzan National Park – the largest in Japan. Daisetsuzan is crisscrossed with walking trails and there are plenty of information points and signs to point you in the right direction. Two great camping options are: Hakuginsomae Camping Ground at Tokachidake – the start of a trailhead into Daisetsuzan and Sonkyo Campsite, a free campsite in Sonkyo gorge – a great place to explore during the summer and spectacular in autumn.
Tip: Take the ropeway up to the top of Kurodake and enjoy a spectacular 360 degree vista across northern Daisetsuzan (weather permitting).
The area around Hokkaido’s most famous lakes – Akan, Mashu and Kussharo, is famed for its pristine volcanic wilderness and an area worth spending several days exploring.
Lake Kussharo has several campgrounds around its southern and eastern side which make for a perfect base to set up camp and explore Lake Mashu and Lake Akan on day trips. Sunayu Camping Ground is certainly worth considering as an option for camping, a beautiful spot with the added bonus of being able to dig your own onsen! Natural hot spring water bubbles up through the sand on the edge of the lake and with a bit of effort you can dig yourself your very own private bath.
On the southern side, the Wakotohanto Campsite is also a beautiful location, right on the lake and close to Wakoto hot spring. From here exploring Lake Mashu is a must, with a 7 km one way hike to the summit of Mt. Mashu recommended for those seeking a little adventure. The water of lake Mashu is dubbed the clearest in the world with visibility over 40m! Lake Akan is also close by and has the largest Ainu village in Hokkaido.
If you’re looking for another lakeside campground in the area, but a little more secluded, check out the site at Lake Onneto. Further East is Shiretoko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Undeniably one of Hokkaido’s most beautiful areas, Shiretoko has spectacular scenery and fantastic options for hiking and day trips to explore the area. It can become busy in summer but Rausu Nature and Green Campground and Rausu Onsen Campground on the southern side of the peninsular near Rausu are definitely worth trying.
The northern tip
Looking to the northernmost point of the island you will see Rishiri and Rebun, two small islands located just off the coast. Rishiri is punctuated by a towering volcanic peak – visible from almost 100 km away. This remote corner of Hokkaido offers campers a truly unique location with several choices of campsites around the small island. There are a variety of campsites with onsens close by to suit families or more secluded sites for wildlife and adventure enthusiasts.
See our Hokkaido Campsite Map.