The Hamada town and coast in Shimane Prefecture is a popular summer getaway destination for beach lovers and families from around the area as it offers a lot of fun activities along this beautiful coastline. The long (fairly) white sand beaches, and the (often) clear blue water make it well worth the extra effort to get there. There is also elaborate kiddie slides and playgrounds as well as the Aquas aquarium.
Iwami Seaside park is a well-kept camping and leisure area that spans several kilometers of coastline. The main area has an auto-camp (about ¥3700 a night) and various grades of cabins for rent. Park your car (for ¥800 a day) and haul your gear a couple of hundred meters to the cabins or you can use the excellent free campsites.
The beach here is protected by picturesque concrete tetrapods and is perfect for small kids throughout most of the season although the riptide does get strong at times. Ask local staff for the most recent advice about water safety. It is very popular for surfers, swimmers and other people doing water play, but the more serious swimmers might want to try to keep away from all the activity.
The whole place is fairly family oriented it seems - lights go out at 9pm and there is no alcohol on sale on the site. Although there are a couple of convenience stores nearby on Route 9 where you can stock up on booze, fireworks and all your weekend-at-the beach essentials. That said, we did go once in the Obon holidays or on other holiday weekends and the free camping areas were heaving, many in nearby tents stayed up late partying, chatting, playing music and drinking. So, if you are looking for a party atmosphere, great- if not, best book a cabin in the quieter areas.
Our only gripe would be that there are no free showers and there are only hot showers on offer in small cubicles during summer season or in the restroom area next to the campsite's barbeque area for ¥200 for 2 minutes. However, we must'nt winge as this does go a long way to conserving water, which is a big issue in this area.
Reservations for the cabins and auto-camp areas have gotten easier as they have made online bookings available (in Japanese) which shows you a calendar and clearly shows which days are available and which you need to call about (meaning bookings are limited). You can also make bookings for the tennis courts or beach volleyball courts. The staff only speak Japanese, but are very patient and helpful. They seem used to dealing with many non-Japanese customers over the years. Some of the cabins come with air-conditioning units, you pay a little more each day to use the A/C.
If you are thinking of taking the kids, this is a great choice as there is a lot to do. This is a very family-friendly facility, the hills of the park have a great adventure course for kids to play, climb and slide on. Barbeque areas, toilets and other facilities are kept quite clean throughout the year and get special attention during the busiest beach season (July to September). During this time, there is also a small shop open near the beach and lifeguards are on duty watching out for swimmers in the main, designated swim zone.
If you get tired of the same view, there is also a great surfing and swimming beach nearby called Kokufu, which is also a big hit each summer. If you see the surfing shop on the main road, turn down the street next to it and find this great beach. This surfing shop called "Surfers" and Japanese restaurant "Shikitei" also has some of the best Japanese set teishoku meals around. We always make a point of stopping here at least once when we stay in the Iwami seaside park. You can read more on the Shikitei blog [ja].
It takes just over an hour to get here from Hiroshima which has made it a popular summer trip for many Hiroshima residents. Take the Sanyo and then Chugoku Hwy toward KitaKyushu/Hamada then keep follow the Hamada Expressway to the Hamada interchange from where it is a 10min drive going east along Route 9. There is also a bus service from the main bus station in SOGO (or in front of the Shinkansen side of Hiroshima station) which takes you to Hamada station. You can also access Hamada-station by JR train.