The Ultimate 9D8N Hokkaido Itinerary in Autumn: Things to Do, See & Eat

The Ultimate 9D8N Hokkaido Itinerary in Autumn: Things to Do, See & Eat

If you think Hokkaido is a place to visit only during wintertime, think again!

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Hokkaido, Japan, a dream destination of mine thanks to Hokkaido Tourism Organization’s invitation. In this article, I will share the ultimate Hokkaido itinerary in autumn and the best attractions you wouldn’t want to miss, all from my personal travel diary in Japan’s northernmost region! Plus, I’ll also be sharing some essential travel tips

For travellers looking forward to autumn foliage in Hokkaido, check out our more detailed Japan fall foliage forecast here. Since I visited Hokkaido in early October, the full spectrum of autumn colours had yet to set in. Nevertheless, you could still spot hints of yellow and red in some places as the leaves began turning colours, plus the many mesmerising sights to boot. 

Also read: Autumn Season in Japan: 15 Things to Do & Places to Visit

My Hokkaido itinerary and travel tips

Day 1: Arrival in Sapporo

To get to Sapporo, I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo’s Narita Airport before transiting to New Chitose Airport. There, I met my tour guide and travel mates for the upcoming few days. 

After the 14-hour flight plus the time it took to get to the city, it was already 9pm by the time we checked into RICHMOND HOTEL SAPPORO EKIMAE, a small yet delicate accommodation in the heart of the city. 

TripZilla Tip: Since most restaurants in Sapporo close at about 9pm, I recommend grabbing some food, like onigiri from the airport or convenience store if you’re arriving late at night. Alternatively, there are some izakayas in Sapporo that open till late at night where you can dine in and enjoy snacks like yakitori (Japanese chicken skewers). 

Day 2: Exploring Hokkaido’s top wineries and the best hotel I’ve ever been in

After having a decent ikura don as breakfast at the hotel, we kicked off our journey with a visit to the NIKI Hills Winery. Spanning more than eight hectares, the vineyard boasts incredible panoramic views from the top of the hill. Some of these grapes you see would later be made into wine. 

The premise is also home to an English garden with a statue holding up a glass of wine to show appreciation to all the popular winemaking countries. With the help of an English-speaking local guide, I discovered how sparkling wine, white wine, and red wine are made. After exploring the winery, we stopped by NIKI Hills Winery’s gorgeous restaurant for wine tasting. Although I’m not a big fan of alcoholic drinks, I thoroughly enjoyed the Chardonnay and Late Harvest, mostly because of the fragrant and fruity flavours. 

We then got to enjoy an exquisite wine-pairing lunch course meal named “Aperçu” (which means “insight” in French). From the flavour and texture to the presentation, you can tell that the chef put a lot of effort into perfecting the course. The price of this lunch course excluding service charges and wine is only JPY¥5,500 (~RM175 or ~S$50), which is pretty affordable for its overall quality and ambience, if you ask me. 

After that, we embarked on yet another winery tour at the Otaru Wine Gallery, which is one of the largest wineries in the country specialising in making Japanese wines. Here, you can indulge in wine-tasting, delicious soft-serve, and pick up some souvenirs. I bought a bottle of Otaru Special Selection Niagara which I thought had a pleasant and sweet taste. 

Note: The availability of soft serve here is limited to specific seasons, typically from late March to late October.

Before checking into our hotel for the night, I went to the Seicomart convenience store nearby to purchase some Japanese snacks. 

P.S. Did you know that Seicomart is exclusive to Hokkaido? You won’t find this convenience store chain anywhere else in Japan!

The male public onsen; the indoor relax area

The hotel that we stayed in on our second day in Hokkaido is without a doubt, one of the best hotels I’ve ever experienced! Surrounded by lush trees and a garden, walking into Otaru Kourakuen is like discovering a rare gem. The hotel features an aesthetically pleasing traditional Japanese ryokan design both inside and out. It also boasts various amenities, like public onsens, a traditional Japanese restaurant, a hidden campfire spot, and an indoor area where guests can have a cup of tea or roast rice crackers for free.

My jaw dropped when I stepped into my room for the night. Not only was it spacious and gorgeous, but it also featured a private, open-air onsen with a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape! I took my own sweet time showering and relaxing in the onsen amidst the chilling autumn weather, and needless to say, I had the best time of my life!

Kaiseki dinner; me and one of my travel companions, Lisa

That night, we had dinner in the hotel. It was a sophisticatedly crafted, classic multi-course Japanese dinner known as kaiseki. We also wore yukata while having dinner like a local would. One great thing about staying in Otaru Kourakuen, is that your booking includes both a delightful breakfast and a fantastic kaiseki dinner. Plus, for what it offers, the room rate’s quite reasonable too!

Day 3: Fun attractions around Niseko and the spectacular Mount Yotei

After having a hearty breakfast, we bid farewell to the hotel and departed to our first destination of the day — MILK KOBO Niseko Takahashi Farm. This place boasts a cosy cafe, a restaurant, and a chocolate store, all complemented by a magnificent view of Mount Yotei

I had a good time cherishing the charming Mount Yotei view while enjoying my milk-flavoured ice cream. According to our tour guide, this place is not only well-loved by international tourists, but also a locals’ favourite spot to go for delectable milk products. So of course I had to buy some souvenirs back home, too!

TripZilla Tip: I highly recommend the milk, blueberry, and pumpkin ice cream, they are also the most popular ones. The pumpkin flavour is only available during the autumn season, though! For souvenirs, I personally prefer their Baumkuchen. But do note that most of their dairy products have a shorter shelf life to maintain the best quality. 

Image credit (left): Provided by Setsu Niseko

We had an omakase lunch at Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono, paired with wine from the aforementioned NIKI Hills Winery. You can choose your preferred appetiser and main course. While they are all tasty, my personal favourite was actually their desserts from Pierre Hermé Paris.

Afterwards, we checked into Setsu Niseko, a new luxury hotel in the popular ski resort of Niseko. The facilities at Setsu Niseko are truly eye-opening. Their wellness centre features a spa, yoga studio, hotel gym and private & public onsens, with a variety of restaurant options, showcasing Michelin star mastery and culinary traditions from around the world.

My room for the night was huge and boasted an elegant blend of contemporary style aesthetics with traditional Japanese charm throughout. For travellers looking for a more extravagant experience, there are rooms with a private bathtub, and an outdoor private onsen overlooking Mount Yotei. Some rooms are large enough to accommodate more than ten guests.

We had a fabulous dinner at méli mélo – Yuki No Koe , a French-Italian restaurant in the hotel. I got to try my favourite oyster, Ishikari Pork, and al Ragu pasta with Hokkaido wagyu beef. I felt extremely fulfilled! They are open for lunch and dinner all year round, and feature an extensive selection of alcoholic beverages for you to indulge in.

If you’re wondering what are the things to do in Niseko during autumn or summertime, then you’re on the right page. At night, we arrived at Niseko Hanazono Resort to watch the beautiful “Mountain Lights” outdoor exhibition. We took the gondola lift to reach the top, then strolled for about 15 minutes back to our starting point while surrounded by a radiant display of glittering lights.

These “Mountain Lights” are actually tiny light bulbs in the shape of umbrella-like flowers. When the wind blows, they look almost like luminous jellyfish drifting in the water! The vista of the art installation accompanied by the gondola lift and the city night view from afar was incredibly mesmerizing. 

P.S. Aside from this nighttime art exhibition, you can also relish the exhilarating “Hanazono Zipflight” zipline experience here.

Also read: 10 Airbnbs in Niseko for an Unforgettable Snowy Holiday

Day 4: A journey around Lake Toya, Showa Shinzan and Mount Usu

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Mount Yotei (left). If you look closely, you can already spot a dusting of snow on the peak of the mountain.

Day 4 of my Hokkaido itinerary began with a sunny day. I could finally see Mount Yotei clearly, offering a splendid view to kickstart the day. After having a hearty breakfast paired with my favourite ochazuke, we departed to Herbal Ranch, a serene cafe situated on a hill. 

TripZilla Tip: Generally, if you missed breakfast, you can head to a Lawson convenience store to grab some quick bites. 

Encircled by lush mountains and a herbal farm, Herbal Ranch is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of tea in tranquillity. The outdoor seating also grants you a panoramic view of the stunning Lake Toya. Here, you can pick your herbs at the herbal farm and enjoy your very own aromatic herbal tea. 

We indulged in a finely presented course meal by a private chef from LUX TOYA, with the highlight being the exotic venison. Besides that, I also interacted with Lovely-chan, the owner’s adorable poodle. This place provides a wonderful escape from city life, and I highly recommend including it in your Hokkaido itinerary. 

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Lake Toya; me on a motorboat

Swan boat; the “zero point” of Lake Toya

Onto our next activity which I was very excited about — motorboat and swan boat riding at Lake Toya. It was fun touring around while cherishing the unobstructed view of Lake Toya and its surrounding mountains. We also reached the Lake’s unique “zero point”, aka the shallowest point of the lake, where the rocks underneath could be evidently seen.

We then visited Showa Shinzan, a young volcano that boasts a distinct red hue; as well as Mount Usu, an active stratovolcano alongside Lake Toya that is more than 200 centuries old. These two attractions are next to each other, and there are many traditional eateries and shops around the area. 

I recommend taking the cable car up to Mount Usu Terrace, and revel in a breathtaking vista of both Lake Toya and Showa Shinzan. Another 15 minutes up the stairs will take visitors to the Usu Crater Observatory, where you can observe Mount Usu’s volcanic vent up close! 

Our server of the night, Yuki (middle)

It’s finally dinner time. Day 4’s dinner at Jardin De Bonheur was exceptional. This French restaurant boasts an elegant and classic interior, allowing us to bask in the romantic ambience while savouring the finest fusion of Japanese and French cuisine. 

Nonetheless, the food was not the only thing that amazed me. We met Yuki, a very entertaining server who made us laugh all night long. The restaurant also provides a shuttle service to Rose Garden Christ Church, a famous wedding venue that boasts a great view of Sapporo city. 

The day ended with a stay at Onsen Ryokan Yuen Sapporo, a zen and minimalist hotel in the city. It’s an ideal accommodation for travellers who rely on public transport as it’s near the metro station. 

Day 5: The captivating charm of Hokkaido’s Rishiri Island

On a propeller plane; Lisa and I

Day 5 of this Hokkaido itinerary, in my opinion, stood out as one of the highlights of the trip! We arrived at Okadama Airport early in the morning and then flew to the enchanting Rishiri Island. This also marked my first time on a propeller plane, so cool! Rishiri Island spans 183 km², yet it is home to a population of only approximately 4,000 residents.

hokkaido itinerary in autumn

I recommend checking out Rishiri Activity, a place in the heart of the island that offers services such as SUP tours, bicycle rentals, and camp rentals. I rented an E-bike there and explored the island while cycling. On the way, you’ll encounter locals drying kombu kelp. 

Fun fact: Rishiri Island’s kombu is regarded as the best kelp in Japan!

For lunch, we had mouthwatering ramen in Rishiri Ramen Miraku, which has the reputation of being the best ramen in Japan. This Michelin Bib Gourmand ramen shop has a homey vibe, and the most recommended ramen flavours here are Miso and Shoyu. Both were super flavourful, and aside from the taste, I also loved how the ramen was chewy and stringy. 

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We then proceeded to one of the local seafood stores to purchase ingredients for the night’s BBQ session. Afterwards, we headed to the seaside to attend a kelp craft class. Here, we learned to create our own kombu products to bring home. We also attempted to catch crabs at the nearby shore, but unfortunately, the crabs were too smart and resilient, and I failed to catch any!

Did you know that there’s a place on Rishiri Island that produces whisky? One of the attractions of our trip to this island is Kamui Whisky. Here, you can take a tour of its whisky factory and get a sip of the pre-mature whisky. Yes, you read it right — whisky typically requires about three years of ageing in the barrel, but this distillery only started operating a year ago. So, what you’ll be having is an early, younger version of whisky. The taste of the pre-mature whisky was so intense, that I needed to drink a big cup of water to counteract it.

In the evening, we had a barbeque at a glamorous camp prepared by the aforementioned Rishiri Activity. Thanks to the help of one of my travel companions, Dr. Leslie, who is also a chef himself, we got to savour a scrumptious feast of freshly grilled seafood and vegetables. 

At night, we arrived at Hotel Rishiri, a quaint hotel that includes facilities like an onsen and sauna. The hotel’s interior had a vintage and nostalgic atmosphere, which reminds me of hotels back in the 1990s. Not to mention everything was very well-maintained, perfect for a good night’s rest.

Day 6: Enchanting natural marvels on the Rishiri and Rebun islands

Shiroi Koibito no Oka

In the morning, we headed to several locations to catch a glimpse of the captivating Rishiri Fuji Mountain. These include the Shiroi Koibito no Oka, also known as the Numaura Observatory, Otatomari Swamp, and Himenuma Pond. The last two attractions were my personal favourites, and I’ll explain why.

P.S. Did you know that the mountain on the famous Shiroi Koibito cookies is actually the Rishiri Fuji Mountain?

hokkaido itinerary in autumn

The Otatomari Swamp, or what some may call the Otatomari Marsh, is absolutely stunning. I liked the tranquil atmosphere and the surrounding early autumn foliage which added an additional charm to this spot. Besides appreciating the beautiful view, you can also try out the “万年雪” (perennial snow) milk-flavoured soft serve here, or buy some Rishiri Island specialities like the Rishiri kombu ponzu sauce. 

hokkaido itinerary in autumn

The Himenuma Pond, on the other hand, is nestled in a huge park. It showcases a picturesque sight of the Rishiri Fuji Mountain, a lush forest, and a serene pond. I was even lucky enough to witness some trees transitioning into vibrant red and yellow colours, it was such a lovely sight!

Inside a ferry in Japan

Speaking of beautiful islands in Hokkaido, Rishiri Island is not the only island worthy of a visit. Only about a 40-minute ferry ride away from Rishiri is Rebun Island, a smaller island with several natural wonders worth exploring. Taking a ferry in Japan was such an astounding experience for me. Not only was the ferry spacious and tidy, but it also boasted two levels and resembled a shopping centre! 

Once we docked at Rebun Island, we went to Takechan Sushi on the second floor of the ferry terminal for a bowl of yummy kaisen don

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Then, we embarked on a journey to the photogenic CAPE SUKAI which features crystal-clear blue water. Our next stop was CAPE SUKOTON, which is another stunning sightseeing spot in Rebun. However, the wind was too strong, so I only stayed for a short while. 

hokkaido itinerary in autumn

Can you spot the cat and the peach?

Next, we made our way to the Momodai Nekodai Observatory. True to its name, this spot features two adorable scenic marvels — a hill resembling a “momo” (peach) and a rock resembling a “neko” (cat). Coincidentally, we arrived during sunset, and the whole place became even more spectacular thanks to the lovely sunset colours, making it a marvellous sight to behold. 

hokkaido itinerary in autumn

Lastly, we went to the last sightseeing spot of our trip in Rebun Island, the Kita no Canary Park. This location was used as the setting for a famous Japanese movie “Canaries of the North”. The park includes a classroom, a picnic area, and a small playground, but what really captivated me was undoubtedly the awe-inspiring backdrop of Rishiri Fuji Mountain in the distance. 

TripZilla Tip: I recommend visiting Kita no Canary Park before 4pm, so you get to enjoy ice cream at the cafe nearby. 

Mitsui Kanko Hotel in Rebun Island

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Seafood dinner in Mitsui Kanko Hotel

At night, we checked into the Mitsui Kanko Hotel, another accommodation that also exudes a retro and nostalgic charm. Our dinner in the hotel was a delicious seafood feast. As a crab lover, I was extremely happy to savour that large and incredibly fresh crab!

Day 7: Visiting Wakkanai, Hokkaido

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On Day 7 of my Hokkaido itinerary, we headed to Wakkanai, the northernmost city in Hokkaido via ferry. We visited an architectural masterpiece — the North Breakwater Dome. It officially opened in the 1930s, and was constructed with the purpose of shielding the area from the powerful wind and waves.

Next, we proceeded to our hotel for that night, Surfeel Hotel, to enjoy an appetising buffet lunch. I was pretty amazed by the hotel’s grand and classic interior. It made me feel like I’d enter a movie set back in the 2000s. 

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With a satisfied tummy, we visited the Wakkanai Omotenashi Kimono Team which offers kimono rental and walking tours. Here, I was able to select my preferred kimono and accessories with the help of a very friendly sensei. Accompanied by the sensei, we visited some of Wakkanai’s most dazzling attractions.

wakkanai park

Wakkanai Park

wakkanai hokkaido itinerary

Cape Soya

Our first stop was Wakkanai Park, a massive park that overlooks the sea and the city. Afterwards, we proceeded to Cape Soya, aka the northernmost point of Japan. On a bright and clear day, you can even see Russia from here! It goes without saying that if you’re travelling to Hokkaido, this place is a must-visit. 

wakkanai, hokkaido itinerary

Following that, we went to a hidden gem in Wakkanai — the Eurus Soya Misaki Wind Farm. I took many pretty pictures and videos here while wearing the graceful kimono.

Fun Fact: These windmills are powerful enough to generate electricity for the whole of Wakkanai!

Note: Eurus Soya Misaki Wind Farm does not accept individual visitors.

hokkaido itinerary

Me in a kimono

hokkaido itinerary

Dr. Leslie, Lisa, Sensei, and I at Cape Noshappu

The final two destinations of the kimono tour were the Souya-Highland White Road and Cape Noshappu. The former is a long, white road leading to the sea, with Rishiri Fuji Mountain as the backdrop. Just in case you’re wondering, the white path isn’t sand. It’s actually tons of scallop shells! As the golden hour descended, we rushed to chase the sunset at Cape Noshappu, another popular sightseeing spot in Wakkanai.

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And that was the end of our kimono tour. We changed back into our initial attire and proceeded to Kurumaya Genji, a well-known local restaurant for dinner. You may have enjoyed the classic shabu shabu a lot of times in your life, but have you ever tasted tako shabu shabu before? A speciality of the restaurant, we were served a large plate of thinly sliced tako (octopus), alongside other scrumptious seafood like scallops, tuna, and shrimp. We returned to our hotel rooms respectively, and that marked the end of Day 7.

Day 8: Returning to the main city, Sapporo

Room in Hotel Gracery; view of Daimaru Sapporo from the hotel elevator

On Day 8 of my Hokkaido itinerary, I said goodbye to my travel companions, Dr. Leslie and Lisa, and travelled back to Sapporo from Wakkanai by car. It was about a five to six-hour drive, so the sky had already turned dark when I arrived at Hotel Gracery, a hotel right opposite the Sapporo Station and the Daimaru Sapporo department store.

Here’s when I was completely alone. Even though this was my first time “solo travelling” in a foreign country, I was surprisingly not afraid, but felt rather excited. I shopped at Daimaru Sapporo and got my hands on some popular food items like cookies from LeTAO, bread from DONQ, as well as some sauces and udon soup base from Kayanoya Sapporo

I also visited a Tokyu Department Store nearby and purchased cute merchandise from a store called BANDAI CANDY OFFICIAL SHOP. When it was time for dinner, I walked to STELLAR PLACE, a shopping establishment inside of Sapporo Station. 

I randomly went into a shabu shabu restaurant called Yuusyokusaisa Iichiniisan. Then, I ordered a set of black pork shabu shabu and a glass of orange juice which cost around JPY¥3,500 (~RM111 or ~S$31) in total. It was incredibly tasty despite not really looking like much! By the time I finished dinner, it was already quite late, so I went back to the hotel to rest. 

Day 9: Bid farewell to Hokkaido, Japan

hokkaido itinerary

Time flies when you’re having fun, in just the blink of an eye, it was eventually the last day of my Hokkaido trip.  Since my flight was at 1.30pm, I woke up earlier than usual to grab breakfast at the hotel and then explored Hokkaido’s metropolis for a bit. Sapporo is indeed a lovely city, and almost everywhere I go makes a perfect photo-taking spot. 

hokkaido itinerary

Sapporo Clock Tower; Sapporo TV Tower

I briefly visited the Sapporo Clock Tower, one of the oldest clock towers in Japan, and Sapporo TV Tower, two renowned attractions in Hokkaido. 

TripZilla Tip: Sapporo is highly pedestrian-friendly, and you can easily explore these places solely on foot, as I did. 

Afterwards, I took the train from Sapporo Station to New Chitose Airport. The train ticket costs only JPY¥1,150 (~RM36 or ~S$10). I still had some time to spare when I arrived at the airport, so I went on another (window) shopping spree, and tried out the popular Calbee「Poterico」 and potato chips. The Poterico is well salted, and they were overall quite palatable and worth trying!

Needless to say, this trip to Hokkaido, Japan, was a fun adventure filled with countless enjoyable moments.

Also read: 11 Things to Do in Hokkaido to Experience Winter

So, there you go — this pretty much sums up the whole Hokkaido itinerary and my first trip to Japan. As you can tell from my bright smile in the pictures, this trip truly brought me a lot of joy and wonderful memories. And if you’re travelling to Hokkaido in autumn soon, I believe you’ll love this place as much as I did! 

Thank you Hokkaido Tourism Organization for the wonderful trip.

All images are credited to Cecelia Chang, unless otherwise stated.

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.