The ocean’s constant murmur, comforting sand and fresh, salty air are still there during the fall. What is lacking are the thousands of tourists who crowd China’s northern beaches.
Early fall is one of the best times to visit the beach. You can find a quiet spot to take in the view and the breeze, or hike along the coastline. Visit one of Beijing’s coastal cities, such as Qingdao or Dalian, to mix culture and tasty food into your seaside experience; or camp out on the isolated beaches of Emerald Island.
An early-fall visit to the ocean is a great way to say goodbye to summer and recalibrate for the upcoming fall and winter.
Qinhuangdao and Beidaihe
Shanhaiguan is where the Great Wall meets the Bohai Sea. It抯 a great spot for a day trip. Trains leave every hour from Beijing Railway Station and Beijing South Station, with fast trains making the trip in about two hours.
About 5 kilometers south of the Shanhaiguan train station is Laolongtou, the “old dragon’s head” at the eastern end of the Great Wall, which extends into the sea. Visitors can walk on the wall until it becomes surrounded by waves on three sides. A small Buddhist temple off the coast offers beautiful views of the wall and the ocean.
Two other nearby attractions are worth visiting: Shanhai Pass, also known as the First Pass under Heaven, which was built during the Ming Dynasty to fortify the passage between the Yan Mountains and the Bohai Sea; and Jiumenkou, a section that runs down a deep valley and features one of the wall’s few bridges.
For a full weekend getaway, you can spend the second day at Beidaihe, the famous summer resort south of Qinhuangdao. In 2013, Beidaihe ranked 60th on CNN’s list of the world’s best beaches. A favorite among Communist Party leaders and Russian tourists, the resort gets very crowded in the summer, which is also why it might be best to visit it off-season.
Dubbed the “Switzerland of the Orient,” the coastal city of Qingdao boasts European architecture, delicious seafood and the home of China’s popular Tsingtao beer. The city also has some beautiful beaches along its 730-kilometer-long coastline.
The fall is perfect for hikes along the Qingdao Seashore Scenic Area, a 25-kilometer stretch in the south of the city featuring mountains, beaches and local architecture.
Stroll along Qingdao Bay, the first of the six sections in the scenic area. Next, Huiquan Bay offers some of Qingdao’s most beautiful bathing beaches. Taiping Hill is known for its abundant vegetation and animals. Further west, red-tiled roofed villas dot the Badaguan Scenic Area.
The Eastern New City Area, built in the 1990s, is Qingdao’s center for finance, commerce and entertainment. Finally, the Shilaoren Tourist Holiday Resort is surrounded by three hills, with flowers, bushes, a fine-sand beach and reefs. The area also includes cultural hotspots such as the Dolphin Performance Museum and Beer Town, which offers culinary rewards and lots of beer at the end of a long hike.
Dalian is another of China’s northeastern port cities. Like Qingdao, it endured foreign occupation in the 19th and 20th centuries, when sections of the city fell under British, Russian and Japanese rule. More recently, Dalian has emerged as one of China’s most relaxed and livable cities, as well as a flourishing financial center.
The city also has some beautiful beaches. Golden Stone Beach, 50 kilometers north of the city, is a long pebbly beach with gorgeous coves and rock formations. The rocks have been dubbed the “solidified animal world?because of their shapes: a bird spreading its wings, monkeys watching the sea, camels, turtles, tigers and dinosaurs.
A wonderful way to explore Dalian’s coastline is Binhai Road, a 32-kilometer trail that was built in the 1970s for military purposes. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping suggested it be opened to the public. The route includes a 21-kilometer long wooden boardwalk ?the longest in China.
The road snakes along the sea and the mountains and includes 11 observation platforms and features 12 parks, squares, beaches, villages and scenic areas.
Emerald Island is a peninsula south of Qinhuangdao where the desert meets vegetation and the sea. It is one of China’s seven national marine natural reserves, and thus it has been spared from tourism development. You can camp out near the sand dunes and enjoy the scenery and wildlife, including about 68 types of birds.
Emerald Island’s best feature is its fine desert sand, which caresses bare feet and extends into the clear water. The highest sand dune reaches 44 meters. The peninsula has managed to keep modern human life at bay for the most part. Nevertheless, there’s organized sand slides on the lower dunes.