Offshore wind simulations were performed with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model driven by three different sea surface temperature (SST) datasets for Japanese coastal waters to investigate the effect of the SST accuracies on offshore wind simulations. First, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Final analysis (FNL) (1° × 1° grid resolution) and the Operational Sea Surface Temperature and Sea Ice Analysis (OSTIA) (0.05° × 0.05° grid resolution) datasets were compared with in situ measurements. The results show a decrease in accuracy of these datasets toward the coast from the open ocean. Aiming at an improved accuracy of SST data, we developed a new high-resolution SST dataset (0.02° × 0.02° grid resolution). The new dataset referred to as MOSST is based on the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) product, provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). MOSST was confirmed to be more accurate than FNL and OSTIA for the coastal waters. Then, WRF simulations were carried out for 1 year with a 2 km grid resolution and by using the FNL, OSTIA and MOSST datasets. The use of the OSTIA dataset for a WRF simulation was found to improve the accuracy when compared with the FNL dataset, and further improvement was obtained when the MOSST dataset was applied. The sensitivity of wind speed and wind energy density to SST is also discussed. We conclude that the use of an accurate SST is a key factor not only for realistic offshore wind simulations near the surface but also for accurate wind resource assessments at the hub height of wind turbines. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.