It’s the perfect weekend getaway for Nagasaki locals…and the perfect place to add to a visitor’s itinerary!

Nagasaki Prefecture, in southwestern Japan, is full of islands. In fact, it has one of the longest shorelines in Japan, second only to Hokkaido (which is, in itself, an island). Some of Nagasaki’s islands are quite famous among travelers, including the Goto Islands, Iki Island, Tsushima Island, and Gunkajima (also known as “Battleship Island”).

But while our Japanese-language reporter and Nagasaki native Mariko Ohanabatake thinks all of those places are amazing, there’s one island that locals love but that remains relatively unknown outside of Nagasaki. That’s Iojima Island. It’s a resort island so close to Nagasaki City that you can get there in just 20 minutes by ferry for only 680 yen (US$4.65)!

Like Gunkajima and other islands around the Nagasaki coast, Iojima was once a prospering coal town. The mines were closed in 1972, but unlike Gunkajima, which was immediately abandoned, Iojima’s proximity to the city of Nagasaki made it a perfect resort island, and it was redeveloped during the bubble economy at the start of the Heisei period (1989).

Mariko actually has a photo from when she and her family stayed at the Lunessance Iojima, a resort whose design was influenced by Spanish architecture. The various buildings making up the resort had white walls and orange roofs, and to Mariko now, the western-style design really reminds her of the early ’90s.

The island was heavily marketed too, with a theme song called “Angel Island”, and the weather on the island was reported on local television. Unfortunately, shortly after the resort’s development, the economic bubble burst. The hotel management switched numerous times in a short span, and for a long time, many people wondered what would become of the island.

Finally, a few years ago, the buildings were all repurposed and the whole island got a facelift, rebranded as “i+Land nagasaki.” Now there are onsen hot spring baths, outdoor activities, barbecue spots, swimming beaches, and saunas, and the island has been restored as a very stylish resort.

A bridge called Iojima Ohashi actually connects Iojima to the city of Nagasaki, so you can get there by car if you want. However, it’s faster to go by ferry, and far and away more fun, so Mariko decided to take that route.

The ferry makes quite a few trips throughout the day, so it was pretty easy to catch one. The trip takes just 20 minutes and costs just 680 yen. Compared to the three hours and 5,000 yen it takes to get to the Goto Islands, that’s a steal.

The ferry departs from Nagasaki Port, which is just a 10-minute walk from both Nagasaki Station and the bus terminal in Chinatown. You could lunch on some of Nagasaki’s most famous dish, champon, in Chinatown before heading over.

The island itself is small, with a circumference of just 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles). The harbor is the central area, and the bay coastal area has a swimming spot called Costa Del Sol.

You can explore the island on foot if you like, but there’s a shuttle bus that comes around every 10 minutes or so, making it easy to get around. There are three zones within i+Land nagasaki, and each one has hot springs and spas.

Mariko visited Ark Land Spa, which has an outdoor hot spring, a heated pool spa, a relaxation space called Book & Bedrock Terrace, and a restaurant serving fresh seafood.

Entry costs just 1,000 yen, and that includes the heated pool and spa area!

There is also a tent sauna, which requires an additional fee.

One hour inside is 2,980 yen (with two hours going for 4,980 yen). Mariko thought that was a reasonable price for a Finnish-style sauna, where you create steam by throwing water on hot rocks. You can also rent a bathing suit for 200 yen, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting yours.

Mariko really enjoyed the quiet and peace. There was plenty of privacy, and though the outdoor space didn’t have a view of the sea, the salty breeze coming off the ocean really helped her clear the cobwebs from her mind. It was the best!

The outdoor bath, however, does have a great view of the ocean, though bathers should be careful because if you stand up, the people swimming can see you. But Mariko couldn’t help but feel like that was hardly a problem worth worrying about in such a peaceful place.

The restaurant at Ark Land Spa serves kaisen-don (seafood bowls) and fish head soup.

Nagasaki’s fresh, abundant seafood made for really exceptional sushi. Plus, depending on the season, you can get usually expensive fish for low prices.

The view outside the restaurant was of the beautiful, calm water and a sandy beach.

The other zones have a dog park, BBQ picnic areas, delicious bakeries, and cafes. Mariko was really surprised to find so much style on the island!

Those areas also have benches and hammocks lined up in sunny areas, where Mariko could just see herself lounging about on a longer trip.

But that’s not all there is to do on Iojima. It’s not just a flashy resort. Just a few steps away from the busy resort area is stunningly quiet island scenery.

One of the most famous landmarks on the island is Magome Church, which overlooks the ocean.

With its pristine white walls, it’s become a symbol of the island. The view of the ocean after climbing the hill is absolutely stunning.

Iojima is also a great spot for fishing, so you’ll see a lot of people with fishing poles out by the water. Swimming in the ocean and pools, hot stone saunas, hot spring baths, fishing, walks along the peaceful coast…There are activities for everyone, whether you’re outdoorsy or not!

Plus, the island’s hotels have accessible rooms, remote lodges, pet-friendly accommodations, and just about every kind of lodging you could ask for.

And it bears repeating: Iojima is just 20 minutes from the city of Nagasaki, and the ferry costs just 680 yen. You don’t have to stay overnight; a day trip is just as fun as an overnight stay. Take it from Mariko, since she’s from Nagasaki and visits Iojima every time she goes home.

There’s plenty to do in Nagasaki, too, from historic European neighborhoods to a beach whose sand is made of glass, so it’s certainly worth a trip.

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