As it's the one thing not associated with the bay, we decided to walk through the paths to Zuiganji Temple first. There are two paths, one lined with cedar trees,
the other with trees on one side and caves that used to be used by the monks for meditation on the other. As you can see, this area had lots of green moss.
We skipped the Temple and headed to Godaido, an island with a shrine on it. It's the island closest to the mainland, and didn't have much of a view owing to all the trees around it.
The second accessible island, Fukuurajima, had a great view. It's got the longest bridge, and is a symbol for the area.
It's a very popular place for tour boats. My first trip here, many years ago, I entered the bay via tour boat (and subsequently didn't get a map of the area or know where the train station was). I don't remember my boat being followed by a swarm of birds either.
After Fukuurajima, we walked back through Matsushima, stopping for lunch before going to Oshima island. It's the last of the islands you can reach via red bridges. Like the path to Zuiganji, it has caves where monks used to meditate, and different views of the bay.
Matsushima is the epitome of Zen Buddhism, you can't see all of the islands from one vantage point, and if you move, your view of the islands change - so what was visible before is now obstructed. I can see why so many monks chose this area for their worship, beyond the fact that it's a beautiful area.
The woman at the tourist information office, who gave us our map of the area, mentioned a look out point at a park above the bay. We decided to try for it - and got lost. The map's not that accurate, and while we found two look out points I don't think we actually found the park... Still, the view from there was exquisite, so it was worth the walk. It's not hard to understand why Matsushima is one of the Three Views of Japan.