The Shiretoko Peninsula is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. It is one of the best places to enjoy the nature of Hokkaido. I will share you the information about the access route to Shiretoko.
The base of Shiretoko sightseeing is Utoro or Rausu. Utoro is the largest town in Shiretoko and has hot springs. Rausu is the second town, but it is slightly more difficult to access than Utoro.
During the summer, a road that crosses the Shiretoko Peninsula is open and you can pass between Utoro and Rausu, but in the winter the road is closed and basically you can only stay in Utoro or Rausu.
In the summer season, you can enjoy sightseeing and various outdoor activities based on Utoro or Rausu. The drift ice watching is very popular in the winter time, and you can not only see the drift ice, but also enjoy activities such as going on the ice.
Access to Utoro from Abashiri via Shiretoko-Shari
The route from Abashiri to Utoro via Shiretoko-Shari is the most common route because of more frequent service of buses than an access to Rausu.
From Abashiri to Shiretoko Shari, take the JR Senmo line local train, and from Shiretoko Shari to Utoro, ride on a local bus operated by the Shari Bus. It takes less than 1 hour on each train and bus, so the total time is about 2 hours.
At Shiretoko Shari Station, there is a bus terminal in front of the station, so a transfer from train to bus is very easy.
In February 2020, I went to Utoro from Abashiri via Shiretoko Shari just before Covid-19 outbreak in Japan. Please watch the movie below and you will find how to take a train and a bus from Abashiri to Utoro via Shiretoko-Shari:
You can find the timetable of bus for Shiretoko-Shari to/from Utoro in the link below. Utoro is one of the bases in Shiretoko peninsula.
You also can find the timetable of tourist bus. This is a guided bus for overseas tourist. You can visit Shiretoko as day trip by this bus service.
Access to Utoro from Kushiro via Shiretoko-Shari
You can take the JR Senmo line local train from Kushiro to Shiretoko-Shari. The trip time is more than 2 hours. And the number of train trips is much fewer than Abashiri to Shiretoko-Shari. You must check a timetable before you go. If you miss a train, you have to wait for a few hours.
After an arrival in Shiretoko-Shari, take same route as Abashiri to Utoro.
The limited express Super Ozora connects Sapporo and Kushiro. Please read the article below to find more information of this train:
Access to Rausu from Kushiro
You can also take a bus from Kushiro to Rausu. However, the number of buses is very limited, and on weekends there are only two round trips a day.
Unfortunately the timetable of the bus service between Kushiro and Rausu is available in Japanese only. You can find it in the link below:
The bus from Kushiro to Rausu takes about 4 hours. Since this bus service focuses on regional transportation rather than sightseeing, it stops at many bus stops and is very time consuming.
If you really want to go to Rausu, I think a drive is a more realistic option.
Shiretoko is a little bit hard-to-go destination, but it is worth to visit in my view. You can enjoy both summer and winter, so please try to include it in your travel plan.
I hope this article helps you to build your trip plan to Shiretoko.