A Must Visit Drift Ice Sightseeing Spots in Hokkaido!

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``Drift ice'' is known as a mysterious and spectacular view that can be seen in Hokkaido in winter. I'm sure there are many people who want to see and experience it at least once. In this article, we will introduce the highlights of Hokkaido's drift ice.

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1: Mombetsu's drift ice sightseeing boat "Garinko"

The icebreakers Garinko II and III, with their impressive red hulls, are drift ice sightseeing boats that depart from Monbetsu City on the Sea of ​​Okhotsk in the northeastern part of Hokkaido. "Garinko-go III", which debuted in 2021, is faster than the previous "Garinko-go II" and is capable of cruising further offshore. It can also accommodate 235 people, more people than previous ships.

A distinctive feature of the Garinko is the screw installed at the front of the ship to break up the drift ice. The thrill of breaking through the ice is a unique attraction of the Garinko.

This time of year is especially popular, and reservations are often difficult to make. We recommend early reservations.

Drift ice sightseeing boat Garinko


Departure location: 1 Marine Park, Monbetsu City, Hokkaido Marine Exchange Center (Monbetsu Garinko Station)

2: Abashiri drift ice sightseeing boat “Aurora”

Approximately 120km southeast of Mombetsu, where the Garinco train operates. The drift ice cruise ship "Aurora" departs from Abashiri City, one of Okhotsk's leading port cities.

The Aurora is a large ship that can accommodate 450 people, and its unique feature is that it dynamically breaks up drift ice using the weight of its bow. There are plenty of seats on board, and you can look out over the sea of ​​drift ice from the spacious deck. In 2023, a new drift ice sightseeing boat, Aurora 3, will debut.

The Aurora service period is from January 20th to March 31st. February is also a popular time to visit as the probability of encountering drift ice is high.

Drift ice sightseeing icebreaker ship Aurora


Departure location: Roadside Station Drift Ice Kaido Abashiri, Minami 3-jo Higashi 4-5-1, Abashiri, Hokkaido

3: Popular activity to enjoy in Shiretoko “Drift ice walk experience”

Along with the Drift Ice Cruise in Monbetsu and Abashiri, another popular experience is the Drift Ice Walk on the Shiretoko Peninsula, a World Natural Heritage site.

Drift ice walk, as the name suggests, is an experience of walking on drift ice. Wearing a thick dry suit that doesn't allow water to get in, you can walk on ice floes, and sometimes even float in the ocean between the ice floes, an experience you can't find anywhere else.

By the way, the reason why you can experience a drift ice walk in Shiretoko is that due to the topographical characteristics of the north side of the Shiretoko Peninsula, drift ice that has washed up from the Sea of ​​Okhotsk stays in the Shiretoko Peninsula in a way that it gets caught, so it moves every day due to the wind. This is because there is a high probability of encountering drift ice during the season here in Shiretoko.

An example of an outdoor company offering a drift ice walk experience

Shinra (Shiretoko Nature Guided Tour Co., Ltd.)

One of Shiretoko's leading outdoor businesses that held the Drift Ice Walk for the first time.

*“Drift Ice Walk” is a registered trademark of the company.


Godzilla Rock Sightseeing (Drift Ice Walk)

We are an outdoor business operator that has been operating mainly cruises for many years in Utoro and Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula.

4: Drift ice nature cruise in Rausu, east of the Shiretoko Peninsula

Lastly, we will introduce a drift ice cruise that you can experience in Rausu, on the east side of the Shiretoko Peninsula.

In Rausu, located on the eastern edge of Hokkaido, where you can see Kunashir Island, part of the Northern Territories, there are cruises where you can see the drift ice flowing over Cape Shiretoko up close, mainly from mid-February to March. You can enjoy.

Another feature of the Rausu drift ice cruise is that you can see wild birds. The extremely valuable Steller's sea eagle and white-tailed eagle winter in Rausu, so you can see the drift ice and the precious birds flying above it all at once, and photography enthusiasts from not only Japan but also all over the world come to Rausu during this time. Masu.

Godzilla Rock Sightseeing (Nemuro Strait Cruise)


Shiretoko Nature Cruise (drift ice/bird watching cruise)


in conclusion

Above, we have introduced the main drift ice experiences that you can enjoy in Monbetsu, Abashiri, and Shiretoko.

By the way, the amount of drift ice is decreasing due to the effects of global warming.

Even during the general season from late January to early March, the percentage of days when you can't see drift ice is increasing year by year.

If you want to be sure to enjoy drift ice, we recommend visiting in February, when the chances of seeing it are generally high, with a few days to spare.

Title image provided by: Higashi Hokkaido Road to Natural Beauty DMO, General Incorporated Association

Written by

Co-op Travel Co., Ltd. (Sapporo City) is a travel business company of Co-op Sapporo, a consumer cooperative with 1.95 million members in Hokkaido. We plan and sell tours unique to Hokkaido, such as gourmet, hot springs, and sightseeing. The planning staff, who know everything about Hokkaido's attractions and gourmet food, will introduce you to information that will make your trip to Hokkaido even more enjoyable. We will also introduce articles and tours related to model courses.

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