Getting to the Goto Islands is easier than it ever has been before, and new infrastructure on the islands themselves, including a fleet of electric cars means that, although the archipelago is still a bit off the beaten path, traveling on and between the islands has become far simpler.
Fukue is the best base for exploring the islands, and there are few options for getting there, usually from Nagasaki. Flights between Nagasaki and Goto-Fukue Airport on ANA Wings and ORC (the two airlines codeshare the route) operate a few times a day. The Bombardier Dash 8 is mostly used by business travelers and locals who need to cut their trip time. The flight takes about 30 minutes and a round-trip ticket can be had for around 10,000 to 19,000 yen, depending on the season, flight schedule and how far in advance it’s booked. The same codeshare arrangement operates a second route in from Fukuoka, as well, usually running at a slightly more expensive price and a mere five minutes longer than the Nagasaki flight.
Tourists getting off the propeller plane arriving on the island
Most opt for the ferry out to Fukue, rather than the turbo prop. Departing from Nagasaki, there are two options: the Kyushu Shosen Ferry and the Kyushu Shosen Jet Foil. The standard ferry chugs out to the island in just over three hours, making the round-trip three times a day, while the Jet Foil cuts the travel time in half for almost triple the price (2,400 for the ferry and 6,080 for the jet foil).
If you arrive at the airport, a shuttle bus can take you into the ferry terminal, where most of the island’s services and accommodations are located. Once you arrive at the area around the terminal, it’s a simple matter to get set up to explore Fukue, or take a ferry out to the other islands in the chain.
As in most things, the rental bike infrastructure on the Goto Islands is just getting started. There are options across the larger islands, but Fukue has taken it a step further with its Gotochari program. An IC card will unlock the bikes and 1200 yen will get you a day of riding. The bikes are electric-assisted, so they’re great for cruising around the lowlands, and make the hills of Fukue somewhat manageable.
About a decade ago, the prefectural government teamed up commercial and technological concerns to form the Nagasaki EV&ITS Consortium, putting them in charge of shipping electric and hybrid cars to the islands. There is now a sizeable electric fleet on the island and the infrastructure to charge them. On Fukue, there are a number of services around the ferry terminal, including non-electric options from well-known providers and independents; on Hisaka, once you pre-arranging a rental, there is a pickup at the port arranged to courier guests to the rental cars; and on Narushima, rentals can be picked up right at the terminal.
An example of an electrical cars that can be rented on the island
There are a myriad of options to get from Fukue to the rest of the islands in the chain, or back to Kyushu. Information can be found online for specific sailing times, which can change with the season, but expect several sailings a day to Nagasaki, Sasebo, Narao Port on Nakadori Island, and Kashiragashima, which is liked to Nakadori Island and Wakamatsu Island by bridges.
For smaller islands, there are usually comparatively fewer sailings. Kyushu Shosen, for example, operates a ferry on a single round trip daily from Fukue to Naru Island, and there is also Goto Ryokyakusen’s route which runs out to Naru Island in about 30-45 minutes twice a day. From Fukue, it is possible to reach all of the major ports on the island, although a stopover is sometimes required. There are ferries out to Hisaka Island's Tanoura Port from both of Fukue’s main ports for around 1000 yen and within about twenty minutes, and also an option of taking the Seagull whose hull is fitted with windows, letting passengers watch the passage from a submarine perspective.