You can admire the most representative of the Taiwan coastline in Northeast and Yi-lan Coast National Scenic Area.
With rocky terrain formed by the ancient settlement, Northeast Coast is among the most distinctive coasts in Taiwan. It became a national scenic area in Taiwan in 1984. The scenic area has encompassed the thirty some kilometers of Yi-lan coast since 2007, continuing to be the only unexploited sandy coast in Taiwan.
There is a local proverb "the head of the wind and the tail of the water," describing a place situated in an area with unfavorable natural resources. The head of the wind means "terrain receiving direct blows from strong winds," and the tail of the water means "the end of a river."
Northeast Coast has always been "the head of the wind" of Formosa Island. The rocky coasts and sedimentary environment eaten away by the pounding waves and blown by the 6-month-long northeast monsoon are perhaps the harshest areas while presenting the matchless scenery.
The Northern Coast Highway, which used to be the only way to get to Northeast Coast, is one of the main roads to Yi-lan.
The coastal highway is quite long, requiring you to go through the heavy traffic in the bustling Keelung area. There is sometimes a danger of falling rocks due to the terrain by the highway.
Although there are numerous types of gorgeous scenery, it's a very distant journey. You can further experience "the head of the wind" when the northeast monsoon blows during winter.
Since Shue-shan Tunnel on National Highway 5 and Wan-rui Expressway became opened to traffic, the journey to Northeast Coast has shortened significantly.
Coming from Toucheng Interchange, you can head in the opposite direction from Jiaoxi to connect to Northern Coast Highway.
As long as there are no traffic jams heading north from south in Shue-shan Tunnel, you can leisurely pick one of the many scenic spots along the way. They all afford the indulgence in the most distinguished scenery of this coastal part of Taiwan.
You'll first arrive at Lan-yang Museum.
Lan-yang Museum has a rather uncommon appearance, looking almost like a semi-collapsed building. It actually imitates the terrain of Yi-lan, which features the unique cuesta. The museum utilizes wax statues and numerous medias to bring the history of Yi-lan to life.
Lan-yang museum was initially a territorial sea of Wu-shi Port. This part of the coast was named Santa Catalina when the Spanish occupied Su-au Harbor in 1624.
It was the largest harbor in Yi-lan during the Qing Dynasty. The Han Chinese entering the Yi-lan Plain for land reclamation had a violent clash with the local aboriginal people in order to claim sovereignty of this place in the 18th century.
In addition to sedimentation, a United States vessel ran aground at the harbor in 1883, causing the harbor to lose its function.
The new Wu-shi Port with a visitor center is situated east of the original harbor. You can board a ship to put out to sea for whale watching. Wu-shi Port, Audi Port and Nan-fang-ao Port are the three major whale-watching ports in Taiwan.
Further north is the Wai-ao Beach. It faces and feels very close to the Gui-shan Island. This is a newly established bathing beach. You almost get an illusion of holding the entire island in your arms sitting on the beach!
The service area is also in the shape of a cuesta, and the bright yellow building is quite appealing. You can get a view of the entire Gui-shan Island from the front entrance in good weather.
Wai-ao Beach is where the Yi-lan Rain Festival is hosted. Along with Daxi Honeymoon Bay a bit further north, it's a holy land of surfing. There has been an influx of tourists every summer in the past 10 years.
Bei-guan Tidal Park
Once you pass Geng-fang Fishery Harbor, you'll arrive at Bei-guan Tidal Park.
Bei-guan in Chinese means "north tollgate." During the Qing Dynasty, there were two batteries deployed here protecting the fishery harbor.
With waves crashing against the reeves, the scenery in Bei-guan is spetacular. It forms various types of odd terrain. This is one of the Eight Scenes of Yi-lan.
Perhaps the most special part is that you get to view the Gui-shan Island from afar when you walk into the park. You also get to see and enjoy numerous types of terrain of marine abrasion, including Chessboard Rock, One Line Sky and more.
Honey Moon Bay
After passing by Daxi Fishery Port, you'll see the Honey Moon Bay. Initially a very remote fishing village, it became sort of like Kenting or Southern California due to the tourists coming to surf and splash around.
You'll suddenly see eye-catching surf shop signs amongst the old Taiwanese tile-roofed houses and concrete townhouses. The mingling between the tradition and modernity is quite special.
You must not go too fast driving on this highway lest you miss the historic trail and the entrances to gorgeous scenery.
For instance, the Dali Tian-gong Temple, also known as Qing-yun Temple, is the entrance to a segment of the Caoling Historic Trail. Once you get to the ridge from here, head north to arrive in Gong-liao and experience the feeling of coming to Yi-lan from Taipei using the only mountain trail 300 years ago.
Alternatively, you can head south to arrive in Daxi and observe the magnificent coastal scenery in Yi-lan from Tao-yuan Valley aloft.
Shih-cheng Service Area
There are many places on the coastal highway that allow you to admire Gui-shan Island from different perspectives; one of them is Shih-cheng Service Area, which is a little place packed with tourists during holidays.
Old Caoling Circle Line Bikeway
Heading north from here, you will be leaving Yi-lan and entering Great Taipei. The recently opened Old Caoling Circle Line Bikeway brims with allure.
This round bikeway starts at Fu-long, New Taipei City. Riding to Yi-lan from the Great Taipei border, You can enjoy the mountain and sea scenery along the way.
The bikeway is by the coastal highway. When you are about to arrive at San-diao-jiao Lighthouse, pay special attention to every upland as there is a white scenic overlook.
This scenic overlook is right beneath San-diao-jiao Lighthouse, allowing you to look at the ocean ahead and observe sunrise. We happened to catch the beautiful scenery right before the sunset.
San-diao-jiao was initially named San Diego by the Spanish occupying Taiwan during the 17th century. The Chinese name was renamed San-diao-jiao to sound more Taiwanese.
If time allows on your way north toward Fu-long Beach, taking an uphill route will afford frequent encounters with alluring scenic spots.
Ling Jiou Mountain Wu Sheng Monastery
Take Ling Jiou Mountain Wu Sheng Monastery for example, it's extremely breathtaking to look at the ocean from the hillside.
Fu-long is the most bustling town along the highway, and the Fu-long Beach is right where you enter the administration office.
Spanning over 3 kilometers, Fu-long beach is the most famous bathing beach in northern Taiwan.
There are Sand Art and various water activities during the peak tourist season in July every year, making it very bustling.
There is a 4-star hotel with villas next to the ticket window. The rooms facing the ocean all have a balcony offering fantastic scenery.
There are also many homestays on Fu-long Street. Coming here, don't forget to try the famous Fu-long Bento Box.
Continuing north, you'll arrive at Dragon Cave after passing by Yan-liao and the sealed Nuclear Plant No. 4. There are a seawater pool and connected yacht harbor on the south side.
This was the very first yacht harbor in Taiwan, allowing for accommodation of 76 ships.
Continuing a bit further north, you can view the south Dragon Cave scenery from afar at the Xiling Yansi parking lot.
The terrain of Dragon Cave stretches long like a dragon and affords places for rock climbing and diving, making it a great spot for oceanic leisure. There are two seawater pools transformed from the old abalone-breeding ponds.
The south pool is larger; the north one is situated behind reeves, allowing you to enjoy the thrill of huge waves pounding the shore.
Bee-toe Cape Park
There is Bee-toe Cape Park between Dragon Cave and Nan-ya Rock Formations. The scenery is amazing, and you can spend 3 hours strolling around.
Nan-ya Rock Formations
Continue going north, and the Nan-ya Rock Formations is a must-stop. Situated at the coast beneath the 81st highway kilometer stone, it has an entire field of uncannily shaped rocks. One of them closely resembles ice cream!
This is the result of many years of strong winds and waves, rendering only the sturdiest land substance to remain. There is also a trail on the other side of the highway, allowing you to climb to a higher position to admire the sea scenery.