©iStock / paprikaworks
©iStock / paprikaworks

Island-hopping cycling from Honshu to Shikoku: Shimanami Kaido

3 minutes to read

Shimanami Kaido connects Onomichi, Hiroshima, and Imaji, Ehime, with six islands, crossing the Seto inland sea. The Seto inland Sea has a mild climate with few rainy days, so you can enjoy cycling all year round except for special weather occasions -such as the rainy season from the middle of June to early July and the typhoons season in September. Shimanami Kaido is designated as the national cycle route of Japan. Its length is 70 – 80 km. It is possible to complete this route on a day if you are a fit cyclist; however, there are many unique amazing viewpoints, eateries, guesthouses, and galleries on islands that are worth stopping for!

©iStock / thanyarat07
©iStock / thanyarat07

The attraction of the Shimanami Kaido is that you can cycle over the sea. Three routes link Honshu and Shikoku, but Shimanami Kaido is the only one that allows vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrian walking. The bridges connecting each island are well maintained and offer a comfortable cycling experience. It is highly recommended to cycle from Honshu to Shikoku through Shimanami Kaido, as you can enjoy endless stunning views of the Setonai inland sea. A bicycle speed of 15 to 20 km/h is not too slow or too fast; it is ideal for absorbing the Shimanami Kaido experience fully. It is a waste of time to just drive on the highway by car. A bicycle is a just-right vehicle for exploring the Shimanami Kaido.

Rental bike on Shimanami Kaido

©wikimedia / unknown
©wikimedia / unknown

If you want to rent a bicycle at Shimanami Kaido, there are three options. It is important to check the type of bike you can rent, the rental fee, the location of the terminal, the drop-off system, etc.; there are slight differences among the rental bicycle services. The public Shimanami Rental Cycle is the best option as you can drop off the rental bicycle anywhere - there are 13 terminals on the route. You can rent casual bikes, sports-type bicycles, or bicycles with electric assistance that have multiple gears.

Onomichi Port Bicycle Rental Terminal
Onomichi Port Bicycle Rental Terminal
5-11 Nishigoshochō, Onomichi, Hiroshima 722-0037, Japan

Take a break at the Cycle Oasis

©flickr /  nhayashida
©flickr / nhayashida

There are more than 100 resting spots called 'Cycle Oasis' along the routes.  Cyclist friendly local areas such as farmhouses, gas stations, retail stores, and coffee shops offer spaces to take a break. The service varies depending on each cycle oasis, but basically, you can refill your tires, get some water, use the toilet, or simply take a break. It is a great way to interact with local Setouchi people.

Starting from Onomichi

©iStock / tupungato
©iStock / tupungato

The recommended route starts from a gorgeous temple country seaside town of Hiroshima, called Onomichi. In fact, many bicycle travelers who visit Shimanami Kaido seem to choose Onomichi as the starting point due to its convenient access to public transportation (the Shinkansen bullet train and Sanyo Main Train Lines). There is a connecting boat to Mukai-jima island, which is the starting point of the cycling route. However, it is possible to start from the Shikoku side. You can check the wind direction forecast the day before and decide whether you will be taking a bus or boat to the starting point.

©flickr /  cotaro70s
©flickr / cotaro70s
Onomichi Ferry Port, Onomichi, Hiroshima
Onomichi Ferry Port, Onomichi, Hiroshima
1-chōme-16-14 Tsuchidō, Onomichi, Hiroshima 722-0035, Japan

Shimanami Kaido is one of the three routes connecting Honshu and Shikoku. Still, it is the only one that allows the bicycle riders to go across the sea and stop on the bridge to enjoy the stunning view of the Seto inland sea. If you are an advanced bicycle traveler or just like to experience fun cycling over the sea, cycling on Shimanami Kaido would give you satisfaction and ample memories.   


The author

Mayo Harry

Mayo Harry

Hi, I am Mayo from Japan. Travelling around the world and Japan since my late teens, my life has been a continuation of trips. I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences of Japan with all of you.

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