A Road Trip Along the Fukui Coast

A Road Trip Along the Fukui Coast

Recommended Length: 5 Days

Journey off the beaten track on a five-day road trip to experience the striking landscapes and rich culture of coastal Fukui. Rent a car to explore at your own pace as you tour islands, charming museums, and historical townscapes.

Fukui City, the prefectural capital, is an ideal starting point, with easy access from Kyoto or Kanazawa on JR Thunderbird Limited Express and Hokuriku Shinkansen services. There are several car rental agencies near the station, some of which allow you to drop the car off at an alternative location if you are not planning to return to the city.

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Day 1: Magical castles and coastal wonders

Head east from Fukui City to Ono to see Echizen Ono Castle, which is built on a small mountain. Clouds occasionally wreathe the mountain early in the morning between October and April, making the castle appear to float above the town and earning it the nickname “castle in the sky.” The best way to view this phenomenon is by hiking about 20 minutes to an observation point on Mt. Inuyama, about a kilometer to the west.

Driving northwest to the coastal city of Sakai, you can find rare examples of columnar jointing. This striking geological phenomenon occurs in cooling lava flows and produces outcrops of polygonal columns. Tojinbo Cliffs are a series of cliffs made of these dramatic columnar formations. From the cliffs, you can see the striking red pedestrian bridge that connects Oshima Island to the mainland. The densely forested, uninhabited island has a shrine and lighthouse, along with stone paths that provide routes for exploration. It too has outcrops of columnar jointing, best viewed from the bridge.

Overnight in nearby Awara Onsen, a hot spring resort with varied accommodations with baths to unwind in.

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Day 2: Rock formations and unique museums

Follow the rugged coastline south towards Tsuruga. On the way is Hokojima , an islet of columnar jointing, formed approximately 14 million years ago. Other unique rock formations on the route include Kochomon Gate, a natural arch formed by erosion, and the Torikuso-iwa Rock, a 100-meter cliff that is a nesting site for seabirds.

Several attractions and museums on the way to Tsuruga allow for a break from driving. In the quiet fishing town of Kunimi, the Kunimi Jellyfish Aquarium has mesmerizing displays of jellyfish floating in illuminated tanks. The coastal town of Minamiechizen was home to several prominent shipowning families in the Edo period (1603–1867) and features a full-scale replica of a wooden kitamaebune cargo ship. The Kitamae Shipowner Ukon Family Residence is a Western-style mansion that belonged to one such family. It serves as a museum with exhibits on the kitamaebune trade that flourished between the eighteenth to late nineteenth centuries.

Tsuruga is a vibrant port city and an ideal stop for the night, with a range of accommodations and historical sites including museums, and brick warehouses from the early twentieth century.

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Day 3: Scenic views of Wakasa Bay

The road around Tsuruga Peninsula affords spectacular sea views, pristine beaches, and charming lunch spots. As you continue south towards Wakasa, you can see the uninhabited island of Mizushima and take a stroll along the crystalline sands of Suishohama Beach.

En route to Wakasa, the Mikatagoko are five connected lakes located next to the sea, whose beauty has been celebrated in poetry since ancient times. Drive the scenic Rainbow Line which runs around the lakes, or take a ropeway to the Rainbow Line Summit Park on Mt. Baijodake. Enjoy panoramic views of the lakes, and relax at the park footbaths or in hammocks, and enjoy snacks and drinks.

Wakasa is a charming town with a range of accommodation options, some with views of the Mikatagoko.

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Day 4: Historical townscapes and rejuvenating waterfalls

Venture inland from Wakasa to Kumagawa-juku on the banks of the Kitagawa River, a once thriving post town where travelers rested on journeys between Kyoto and Wakasa. This preserved townscape is lined with buildings from the Edo period (1603–1867) that now serve as cafes, shops, restaurants, and accommodations. Stroll around and discover the cultural sites and local crafts, such as pottery and woodcarving.

Take a 10-minute drive west from Kumagawa-juku to visit the moss-covered grounds of Tentokuji Temple, then walk to Uriwari no Taki Falls . These low falls are fed by a spring and resemble a series of small rivers. There are faucets around the parking area where you can bottle the delicious spring water for a small fee.

Make the most of the surrounding scenery by staying at Akagurisaki Auto Campground on the tip of the Oshima Peninsula in Oi. You can spend a leisurely afternoon fishing in Obama Bay or simply relaxing in a log cabin.

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Day 5: Blue Flag beach day

Take it easy on the final day at Takahama’s Wakasa Wada Beach , which received the Blue Flag designation for its environmental quality and sustainable practices. The white sandy beach is open for swimming from July to August. Barrier-free facilities and equipment rental shops ensure that everyone can enjoy the clear waters.

Onward Travels

From Takahama, continue onward to San’inkaigan National Park to the west, with islands, caves, and sand dunes to explore. Or, head back to Tsuruga and catch a train to central Kyoto.