Zhuhai Island Guide
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Zhuhai is home to 217 islands, most of which are super tiny and uninhabited, but, the few that are inhabited, are totally worth exploring, and with clean blue water, mountain trails, and spectacular seafood, I highly recommend a trip. These islands are relatively unknown to foreigners, and as usual, there is virtually no information about them in English. I am no expert, and I haven’t scoped out every island (yet) but after copious amounts of research and help from Chinese friends, Justin and I have made it to and from multiple islands unscathed and with great memories, and with this post, I hope y’all can do the same.
Dōngào Island 东澳岛
How to get there from Zhuhai
Take the ferry leaving from Xiangzhou Port, located next to the scallop shell opera house and across from Chaoyang Wet Market.
From Xiangzhou Port you can actually access 4 of Zhuhai’s Islands: Dōngào 东澳, Wàilíngdīng 外伶仃, Wànshān 万山, and Guìshān 桂山
You can find the ferry schedule here but in general, there are 2 ferries leaving for any one island in the morning, and 2 coming back in the afternoon. Since there is one ferry shuttling to 4 islands, not every ferry ride will be a direct trip, so make sure you get off at the correct stop (they will announce in Chinese which island they are at when the ferry makes a stop). If you get a direct ferry, it will take about 45 minutes to get to Dongao.
Beach: To get there from the port on Dongao, turn left after departing the boat and follow the road along the coast up and over the mountain. The whole island is walkable, but there are also buses and little golf cart type vehicles that can shuttle you to the beach. The beach is also where you will find Club Med, the new super fancy resort built on the island. The resort also has some boats, kayaks, and jet skis available for rent if you want to try out some water sports as well.
Hiking: Dongao is awesome for hiking as stone hiking paths cover the entire island, both perimeter an interior, and a couple of the mountains have beautiful pagodas at the peak. The trails start right at the port, just turn right after getting off the boat and you will see the signs for hiking trails.
Our best meal was at a big seafood restaurant right on the road that leads to the beach, however there are also some little more hole-in-the-wall type restaurants right in town where the port is, and, of course, if you are staying at the resort, Club Med, there will be lots of options available there.
Besides Club Med, mentioned above, there is one other Chinese style motel by the beach, as well as a few guest houses in town, which are very basic, hostel-like accommodations.
Hébāo Island 荷包岛
How to get there from Zhuhai
Take the Hebao Island ferry from the Hebao Island Port荷包岛码头 (hébāo dǎo mǎtou) located at Gaolan Port 高栏港 (gāolángǎng) about an hour drive from Zhuhai City. Ferries depart every two hours from the port starting at 9:00am, and leave from Hebao every two hours starting at 8:00am to return to Gaolan. The ferry ride is 30 minutes long, and the island is just a short distance from Gaolan, in fact, you can actually see the island from the mainland.
Beach: Upon getting off the ferry there is a free bus that transports people to the beach on the other side of the island. The water is great for swimming, and this is the main attraction on the island.
Hiking: We found one hiking trail that starts right at the beach, and goes up the mountain giving you nice views of the ocean. The trail was a little bit overgrown, as it didn’t seem like hiking was a very popular activity on the island.
There is only one restaurant on the island, and as it has a monopoly on restaurants, the food quality was pretty bad. We only ate there for one meal, and cooked the rest of the meals ourselves, camping style. In addition to the restaurant and camping food, you can also rent a barbeque for cooking, which seemed to be very popular among the Chinese. They must have brought all of their meat and veggies with them, as there are no markets or grocery stores, besides a small snack stand selling beverages and instant noodles, but their food sure looked tasty!
Accommodations on Hebao are rather lacking, as there was only one hotel we saw near the beach. The main form of sleep arrangements is camping.
Camping: There are three options for camping on Hebao, the first is to rent a small wooden hut (when I say small I mean the huts aren’t much bigger than a regular tent), the second is to rent a tent to camp on the beach, and the third option, which we opted for, is to bring your own tent and camp further down on the beach.
With a lack of food, accommodations, and activities, we recommend Hebao for a day trip, or a one night beach camping stay only. It’s definitely nice for relaxing by the beach and swimming in the ocean and makes a great getaway from the city. Oh, not to mention the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets!
Shàngchuān Island 上川岛
How to get there from Zhuhai
Take the Shangchuan Island ferry leaving from the Chuan Island Port located at the Chuan Island Tourism Scenic Area 川岛国家级旅游景区 (chuāndǎo guójiājí lǚyóu jǐngqū) in Jiangmen 江门. The port is pretty far away from Zhuhai taking about 1.5 hours drive, plus a 40-minute ferry ride to arrive on the island. There are no exact ferry times as the boats leave when they are full, and they will send more or less boats depending on how many people are there. The ferries start their departures from Jiangmen at around 8:00 am and end service at 6:00 pm.
The port actually has access to two islands: Shangchuan Island and Xiachuan Island 下川岛. Both of the islands are tourist friendly and very popular weekend destinations.
Upon arrival to Shangchuan Island there is a bus parked right outside the ferry port that shuttles people over the mountain to the nice beach/resort area. Upon arrival at the entrance to the tourist area, there is a mandatory fee of 54rmb to enter. This is the only area on the island with tourist accommodations so unfortunately, the fee is kind of unavoidable.
Side note: We did actually manage to avoid paying the entrance fee by bringing our bike with small bags attached and not taking the bus. Since we didn’t come on the bus or have large bags, we appeared to have already been there, and the guards let us in no questions asked. Super sneaky, I know.
Beach: Shangchuan Island has a really nice beach with chairs and umbrellas for rent (although somehow we managed to get one of those for free as well, the perks of being clueless foreigners I guess!). They have one designated swimming area with lifeguards, yet in order to swim, you have to wear a lifejacket, which is provided on the beach. Try as I might to explain to the lifeguard that I really do know how to swim, it seems there are no exceptions to this rule. The beach is pretty long though, so if you walk down to the far end you could probably manage to swim sans life jacket, and free of mobs of Chinese, win win! There are a couple other beaches on the island you could check out as well, but they are a bit of a hike from the hotels. These beaches have no lifeguards or rules, but as such, they are unmaintained and have a bunch of trash on the beach.
Buddha: A short hike up the mountain from the beach affords the opportunity to see the 6 meter tall gold Buddha recently constructed on the island. There is a small fee of 10rmb to see the Buddha.
Fisher Girl: At low tide, you can walk out to a tiny island right off shore and climb to the top to see the fisher girl. It’s a nice spot to sit and look out at the ocean and the shoreline.
Hiking: The island has a hiking trail that spans the length of the island for those who want to get away from the beach. The island has beautiful scenery and would be a great place to do some hiking.
Nature Reserve: At the tip of the island there is a nature reserve you can pay to enter and take a look around. We never ended up going in as we were on a bike ride and didn’t bring any money with us, but certainly worth checking out next time.
Cycling: Shangchuan Island is the largest island in Guangdong province and it’s a great spot for a bike ride. Even though there is only one road, it goes from one end of the island to the other over multiple mountains with beautiful views of the ocean. I would suggest bringing your own bike as we didn’t see any bikes for rent to ride on the road.
There are tons of amazing seafood restaurants on the island, all of which offer similar choices and serve up delicious meals. Just take a walk on the pedestrian street beside the ocean and you will find tons of restaurants to choose from.
There are tons of hotels in the tourist area on the island in every price range. We didn’t book ahead of time, went during peak season, and still had to trouble finding a good place to stay for a reasonable price. Something to note though if you are staying over the weekend, the hotels jack up the price on Saturday as this is the most popular night to stay.
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