Highway 11 – Taiwan’s Great Ocean Road

We love a good road trip, and when we read that Taiwan’s Highway 11 had stunning ocean scenery, we didn’t need much convincing.

Armed with our uncomfortable scooter for a second day, we set out early, driving out of the city and onto the highway.

It wasn’t the best of starts. The first beach we stopped at looked ok, but there was no way down to it. We then entered a huge section of the road which was far from the coast and we started to wonder whether it was worth it.

Highway11Beach1

After a while however we found ourselves by the coast again and saw this inviting entrance.

Highway11BeachEntrance

We followed the very steep track down and eventually got a to a beach. Now I’ll be honest, it doesn’t look like much. It probably was great in the summer but it was October and very overcast. We found the beach fascinating though. The black sand was very coarse but still nice to walk on, and the larger stones were really interesting. Lots of unusual colours flecked with the marble which is so common in the area.

Highway11NiceBeach

Highway11BeachSand

There still had to be better scenery, right? So we carried on to JiQi beach, which a restaurant owner the night before had told us was really nice, with a hidden cave somewhere.

But the beach was closed, and did not look inviting. Undeterred we climbed a trail which lead to a lookout point, and the beach from a distance was far more impressive.

Not good

Not good

Better

Better

After stumbling across a town which had petrol (much needed) and a 7/11 (also much needed), we carried on to the unfortunately named Shih Tie Fishing Port, where Katy made friends with a dog, as usual.

KatyDogHarbour

We pushed on, feeling slightly jaded by the lack of decent scenery, to the Tropic Of Cancer marker. I’ve always wanted to see one of these, and thankfully it runs slap bang through Taiwan. While it was difficult to get a photo among the hoardes of Chinese tourists, it was a unique sight I enjoyed seeing.

TropicCancer1

TropicCancer2

Time was against us at this point so we decided to head back towards Hualien. On the way back though, Katy spotted a place called Shihtiping. We rode in, past some hotels and a campsite, then made our way to the shore, just expecting another beach.

What we actually found was this.

Shihtiping1

Huge cut away volcanic rock jutting high up over the shore. Climbing and exploring the rocks was great fun, if a tad scary. We sat on the edge and were just blown away by the awesome power of the waves below us.

Shihtiping2

If it hadn’t been edging towards darkness we would have stayed for hours. Shihtiping is definitely somewhere we’d like to come back to and perhaps camp at if we visit Taiwan in the summer.

Shihtiping3

Alas, it was time to turn back and make our way to Hualien, with just one more stop on the way.

Count the scarecrows

Count the scarecrows

Hualien City

Although it’s most convenient as a base for Toroko Gorge and Highway 11 (among others) Hualien is actually a nice city. Lots of shops and restaurants, and a really good night market, make it far more than just a place to sleep.

The seafront was being heavily excavated/repaired when we were there but by all accounts in summer it is a nice plavce to be. Even with all the construction some hardy souls were surfing!

The downtown area is full of shops, it almost feels like a Taipei suburb. The only critisim of the town is the lack of a public transport system, so a scooter or bicycle is required to get around.

We stayed at Journey Hostel, and it was awesome. The staff were really friendly and the dorms very comfy. Walkable from the train station and the night market, but a bit far to downtown. 8/10

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