If you’ve travelled Japan a lot then you’ve probably spent a lot of time near the sea. This slim country with over 2000 islands has a lot of coastline to cover and nearly all of the major cities are on a coast. However, one of the most beautiful and rewarding ways to enjoy this is to take a trip on the Shimanami Kaido.
The Shimanami Kaido is a series of bridges and islands on the Nishiseto Expressway that run from Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture on Honshu island to Imabari city in Ehime prefecture on Shikoku Island. It crosses a series of 6 islands with some remarkable bridges joining them together – in fact it’s the biggest chain of suspension bridges in the world! The suggested path you can take is a mixture of local roads skirting the coastline and Expressway bridges which combine to deliver a spectacle of fantastic scenery and nature.
The best part of Shimanami Kaido is that it’s accessible to any level of cyclist from the novice to the lycra clad professional. There are rental shops and drop off points all on each island so if you’re struggling to make it to the end you’re not stuck lugging a bike the rest of the way and you can just jump on the closest bus. The path is clearly marked the so it’s pretty hard to lose your way. Having said that there is a large list of things to do and see that are off the main track.
The main route is a total of 70kms and can take 8-12 hours depending on your bike and skill level however if you want to take your time and enjoy some of the attractions off the main course then there are a number of places to stay along the way. For the more adventurous traveller there are a number of beautiful camping spots providing you with stunning sunset views.
Some of the main highlights are Sunset Beach with its beautiful coastline. You can give your legs a rest and try out a canoe or just relax at the beachside restaurants. Innoshima Castle and Innoshima Amenity Park are worth a drop in and one shouldn’t miss the famous Hakata Salt ice cream. There are also a number of great museums and parks available on the way. If you’ve come from the Onomichi side you will finish up by crossing the truly impressive Kurushima-Kaikyo bridges. Stretching over 4km and passing over a number of small islands along the way, this is an amazing way to cap off a great trip.