Many visitors are content to hire a car and drive through the forests and mountains but Hokkaido is perfect for all kinds of more active exploration.
A tempestuous volcanic past has scalloped the coastline, and strewn the interior with deep caldera lakes and mountains. Signs of this volcanism remain today in still active craters and hot springs and hiking is the ideal way to connect with the primal quality of this northern wilderness. The Niseko area’s most obvious objectives are Annupuri itself and the mini-Fuji form of Yotei, and there are less strenuous alternatives too including through the wetlands at Shinsen-numa and Kagami-numa.
With Hokkaido’s roads well maintained and invitingly empty, and its drivers unfailingly polite, road biking here is a treat. Niseko has several outfitters who can rent you a bike or help with other gear needs. They often have relationships with other shops across the island too – handy for supporting long-distance rides. Mountain bike rentals are available too, with a few small trails open to bikes and several operators running half- and full-day tours.
If water is more your element, try whitewater rafting on the Shiribetsu River. It’s at its peak in spring, swollen with snowmelt, but the rafting runs from April right through until autumn. And if the whitewater sounds too taxing, there are kayak and SUP options on the river’s quieter reaches.
There are saltwater alternatives too with Oshoro, on the coast between Yoichi and Otaru, having a lovely sheltered bay just right for sea kayaks and SUP.
Planted amid the natural beauty are a number of beautifully manicured golf courses, all open to non-members and offering club rental. Visiting golfers are often pleasantly surprised to find the prices quite reasonable by international standards.
One of the easiest ways to connect with Japanese culture is to slip into the mineral-laden waters of a hot spring or onsen. They are a national obsession, with many traversing the country to try different compositions, different temperatures, different views.
Several big hotels in the Niseko area are located to take advantage of natural springs and accept visits from non-guests. Then there are characterful independent onsen open to all such as Yugokorotei, Yukichichibu and Goshiki.
The Niseko area offers a surprisingly wide range of outdoor activities for all the family, ranging from horse-riding and hot-air ballooning, to climbing and canyoning. There are kids’ camps summer and winter too for a more immersive experience for your more active offspring.