The town faces Matsushima Bay, famous for some 260 tiny islands (島 - shima) covered in pines (松 - matsu) — hence the name -- and ranked as one of Japan's Three Great Views.
In 1689, Haiku poet Matsuo Basho visited Matsushima on the trip recorded in Narrow Road to the Deep North. A well-known poem often attributed to Basho claims to record his reaction, signifying that nothing more could be said:
The town did not suffer significant damange due to the Great East Japan Earthquake; the tsunami damage was minimal. The temples, shrines, and sight seeing destinations are still there and still worth the trip.
The Senseki train from Sendai is currently functional and travel to Matsushima-kaigan station is possible.
The town is only a short distance from prefectural capital Sendai.
Most visitors arrive on the JR Senseki Line (仙石線) connecting Sendai (25 minutes by express train or 40 minutes by local) and Ishinomaki. The most convenient station is Matsushima-Kaigan (松島海岸). The Matsushima station on the JR Tohoku Main Line is located a fair distance away from the seashore.
From Tokyo, the Shinkansen bullet train runs to Sendai for connection to the Senseki Line. The total one-way fare is ¥10,900 using the fastest, all-reserved shinkansen service, and the journey to Matsushima-Kaigan lasts around 2 3/4 hours. There is no charge if you use the Japan Rail Pass.
Another popular choice is to take the JR Senseki line train to Hon-Shiogama (don't mistake it with JR Tohuku line train to Shiogama station), connect to a sightseeing boat to Matsushima (viewing some of the famous islands along the way), then return by train.
Matsushima's seaside attractions are within walking distance of the train station and ferry pier, but the best views are from mountaintops not so easy to reach on foot. The most spectacular views are from Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park, a ¥660 cab ride up from the station. It is covered with cherry blossoms in the spring, but the food available there is nothing special. Other overlooks are Sōkanzan, a promontory that juts out into the bay, and Ōgitani, a hill across the coastal highway from Sokanzan.
Unfortunately, this hostel has closed due to the 3/11 disaster.