Taiwan’s North-Eastern Coast – A Day Drive with 6 Surprising Finds!
August 30, 2017
Previously, I’ve written a guide on visiting Yilan County, and spilled the beans on the fastest way to get there – through the Hsuehshan Tunnel which reduced the driving time between Taipei and Yilan to less than 50 minutes. However, we didn’t want to take the same route back to Taipei, so we drove along the coastal road, passing by Gongliao District and Ruifang District. Along the way, we made 6 stops, and the views from these places are amazing!
#1 – San Diego Cape (三貂角)
After exiting Toucheng Township (Yilan County), you’ll arrive at Sandiaojiao Cape Lighthouse within 15 minutes. Located at Gongliao Township of Taipei County, Sandiaojiao is the northernmost terminal of the Xueshan Mountains Range before it encounters the seas and a cape abundant with boulders along its coast. Built in 1935, the lighthouse has been referred as, “The Eye of Taiwan”, which is an important landmark for fishing vessels operating in the surrounding waters.
Wondering why the lighthouse is named, “San Diego”? It is said that in the year 1626 AD, a Spanish ship sailed from the Philippines and arrived at Taiwan’s Northeast coast. They were clueless about their location, but had to record it in their log, so they named the place “San Diego” in Latin. It is a common practice for Spanish people to name locations with “San”. Later on, Taiwan’s residents translated according to the sound of the Latin name, hence “Sandiao” in Taiwanese. Since “Sandiao” was located around a cape, the area became “Sandiao Cape”.
Follow the trail to the highest point, and you’ll be surprised by the view of the entire Northeast coastal line. There’s also a white pavilion which exudes a feel of Santorini Island in Greece. No wonder this is a hot spot for romantic wedding photos in Taiwan!
Address: No. 38 Magang Street, Gongliao District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 228
#2 – Nanya Rocks (南雅奇石)
Known for its unique rock formations, Nanya is easy to miss, as it is located on the side of the road along the coast. If you’re driving too fast, you might go pass it unknowingly. There is a parking lot for cars across the street, and it is rarely full. The large rocks have been formed over thousands of years of weathering and erosion. While some stick out in the sky looking like ice cream cones, there are other weird looking ones which resemble the shapes of animals (well, that depends on how wild your imagination runs).
Nanya Rocks Details
Address: No. 224 北部濱海公路 Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
#3 – Yin Yang Sea (陰陽海)
A few years back, I watched in awe as the Tasman Sea’s turquoise waters clashed with the Pacific Ocean’s darker blue waves in a spectacular swirl of currents. This division of waters can be found at Cape Reinga in New Zealand. This time round in Taiwan, the Yin Yang Sea’s mix of yellow and blue waters puzzled me. This strange phenomenon brings to mind the ancient Chinese principle of yin and yang – the natural concept of duality. Similar to the dichotomy of light and dark, Yin Yang Sea expresses a natural balance of two sides of a mutual whole.
In the past, there were heavy mining activities which went on in the area. This resulted in high levels of water pollution, and the locals believed that the colouration of the bay was caused by chemical runoff. However, the unusual hue of the waters remained even after the mines have been shut down for many years. Eventually, it was proven that the unique colouring came from insoluble floating iron ions from the heavy concentration of pyrite in the area. Due to this highly concentrated heavy metal ions in the water, you are strongly advised not to take a dip in the sea.
Yin Yang Sea Details
Address: Ruifang District, New Taipei City 226, Taiwan
#4 – Golden Waterfall (黃金瀑布)
Located near the Gold Ecological Park in Jinguashi, the Golden Waterfall is an interesting sight to behold. The attractive gold hue is caused by the copper and iron deposits and frequent rainfalls in the mining area. If you take a little hike up the mountain, you’ll notice that only the areas where the water flows by turn into the gold colour. The waterfall is beautiful, but please do not touch the water due to its high levels of toxic.
Golden Waterfall Details
Address: Jinshui Road, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
#5 – Jiufen Old Street
Jiufen Old Street is worth a visit, but I’m always turned off by the sheer number of tourists here. I wouldn’t recommend going on a weekend. The maze of narrow lanes and alleyways are rich in history and culture, but it felt so uncomfortable jostling around with the crowd. There are numerous retro style cafes, tea houses, eateries offering local delights, and souvenir shops.
Jiufen Old Street Details
Address: Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
#6 – Xiang Bi Yan (象鼻岩)
This is a great alternative to the touristy Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園). Due to the monsoon that happens frequently in the Northeastern part of Taiwan, as well as, erosions, unusual rock formations came about. You will drive pass a rock formation that resembles the face of a Red Indian. To get to the Elephant Rock, you will have to travel on foot across many mushroom rocks. Always watch where you’re stepping as the rocks are quite slippery.
Xiang Bi Yan Details
Address: Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Recommended Driver For A Day Trip Out Of Taipei
There are buses which bring you to Jiufen Old Street, but the other scenic spots are quite inaccessible if you don’t hire a taxi or driver. Fortunately for us, the driver we engaged, Eason, or affectionately known by his passengers as Cola, knows Taiwan at his fingertips. He was able to show us places that are less visited by tourists, yet still beautiful. He is very friendly and helpful, and offers reasonable rates. If you’re interested in getting a driver for convenience sake, you can look Eason up here.
If you’re staying in Taipei for some time, it is always a good idea to escape the urban culture for a day or two, and see some of the gorgeous scenery Taiwan has to offer. I highly recommend a day drive around the Northeast Coast!
Hi Alexis, may I ask how long did it take for this north eastern coast drive from Yilan to Taipei, with the stops included? Was 3 hours enough? The stops are so scenic! 🙂
Hi Emeline, it took an entire day for us as we didn’t want to rush through our trip (:
Does the driver speak English? Is he a good and safe driver? Does he drive from Taipei? Grateful for reply. Flying to Taipei in 3 weeks.
The driver doesn’t speak fluent English. However, he is good and very safe and alert. He drives from Taipei as well. Hope you’ll have a wonderful time in Taipei (:
How can I contact Eason, Cola in Taiwan by email
Hi, he doesn’t have an email but you can Facebook message him on https://www.facebook.com/hao.ge.73?fref=pb&hc_location=profile_browser (: