I’ve been traveling around Taiwan on my scooter for three weeks and today I had the joy of traveling from Kenting (Taiwan’s southern most town) to Taitung (130km north of Kenting) via the eastern coastal road. It’s a road of exquisite natural beauty, black beaches and cliffs that plummet hundreds of feet straight to the waiting ocean.
Half national park, half beach
This trip will take you through national park for the first half, and along the beach for the second half. To begin, picture rolling mountains covered in forest as far as the eye can see, tiny townships along the road that are so small you could blink and miss them, and steep, winding roads: this is the first half of this incredible journey. For the second half picture amazing cliffside beach roads that bring you extremely close to the sea and also hundreds of meters above it.
If you do the journey I highly recommend you do it by motorbike, as this will allow you the opportunity to stop wherever you like. The journey took about 5 hours which included ample stops to stand still and take it all in.
For a detailed read about traveling only in the park, you should read my Kenting National Park post.
Taiwan’s black beaches
I didn’t even know this until I saw it, but tens of kilometers of Taiwan’s east coast is comprised of an endless black beach. The black sand comes from volcanic rock that was spewed up from the earth billions of years ago, and indeed during the formation of Taiwan.
I throughly enjoyed the journey from Kenting to Taitung. It’s a big, well maintained road, and all you need to do is follow it to your destination, there is zero checking of Google Maps on the way. The road will take you epically close to the sea, where if a wave is big enough it’ll definitely splash you – to soaring along the cliffside on a road that is sometimes literally stuck to the side of the cliff, hundreds of meters above the black beach and white foam below you.
An alien environment
While I was driving I wanted a rest so I decided to pull up at what looked like a rest stop. There was no signage, just a 10 meter long side road that lead right down to the sand. It was very windy, and being winter it wasn’t a truly inviting rest stop. It wasn’t cold, it was just grey and windy. The sea was about 200 meters away, and from me to the sea was a vast expanse of black sand.
It honestly looked scary, I could see the waves crashing just behind the hump of the vast plateau of sand. It was desolate and alien, for me it felt like the type of place where if I was in a sci-fi movie and people were watching me on this strange alien planet, they’d defiantly think I was a fool if I stepped one foot closer to the unforgiving sea.
I really wanted to step out into the middle of the beach. No tourists, no bus load of Chinese with their funny hats and cameras slung around their necks. Just me, the beach, the wind, the sea and my desire to wander in amongst it all.
Being on a black version of Mars
I started walking out onto the black sand, further and further away from the road. The wind was engulfing me and the four meter waves were forming right at the waters edge, like giant mouths taking big bites of black pebbles before dismantling into a porridge of white foam and retreating to give power to the next wave.
The fine black sand gave way to larger, palm sized pebbles at the tideline. It felt utterly alien. I wanted to get even closer, the type of close where you might have to rush back if a wave too big comes crashing in. After I got closer I turned around and did a 360 of my surroundings. I thought I was on a black version of Mars. It was fantastic being there at the edge of the wide expanse of black sand, in the battering wind, utterly by myself. I was in a different world.
If you like apocalyptic landscapes I highly recommend a random stop at the beach
This journey began in Kenting. Have a look at my posts first impressions of Kenting and Yilan to Hualien for other interesting stories about Taiwan. Also remember to look at my entire Taiwan page to learn more about the culture, traveling, and teaching ESL in Taiwan.