When there's no fresh Pow on the slopes in Niseko, you take a quick one and a half hour drive from Hirafu to Otaru. Though in all honesty, you don't need any excuses to make the journey to Otaru (小樽) and visit any of its many outstanding attractions: the magnificent canal area, the Nikka Whiskey Distillery, the city museum or just soak in the atmosphere by walking down the magnificent streets and feasting on an array of delicious foods.
Otaru is a small harbour city, which can also be reached from Sapporo by train in about half an hour. Its beautifully preserved canal area and interesting herring mansions make Otaru a pleasant day trip from Sapporo or a nice stop en route to or from Niseko or the Shakotan Peninsula.
In the late 1800s, Otaru served as a major trade and fishing port. It was chosen as the terminal station of Hoddaido's first railway line that connected the port with nearby Sapoporo. Many old warehouses and former office buildings by shipping and trade companies give Otaru's city center a special character reminiscent of past decades.
There are two routes you can take from Niseko if travelling by car to Otaru. One takes you via the beach road through Yoichi and the other through the mountains. Both options have stunning views. The route through the mountains can be a little slower during periods of snow, but the views and scenery is something not to be missed.
I also love travelling via the beach road and have spent many hours admiring the freezing cold waters and being mesmerised where the snow and ocean join in one. On several occasions I have seen surfers don very warm wet suits and take to the ocean at Yoichi.
The Canal area of Otaru, a popular area for tourists. In winter bring your jackets - this area can become very cold.
A great place to sample food around the Canal area.
You can find some lovely souvenirs around the Canal area.
Wander the streets, keep warm, and experience the atmosphere of Otaru.
A must try if you like green sweets.
Experience the seafood scattered along the streets of Otaru.
And sample the food.
Enjoy the scenery and rug up.
Admire the buildings.
Take a rickshaw ride.
Yoichi beach - if you're keen go for a surf like the locals do.
The shots of Yoichi were night time shots, so I missed any of the adventurous surfers.