There’s much more to the coastal Yilan County than Yilan City alone. The townships of Su’ao (蘇澳) and Nanfang’ao (南方澳) are both renowned for their seafood, with the two locations being home to bustling fishing harbors where you can witness fishermen selling their catch at fresh fish auctions. One attraction in the area that is not to be missed is Su’ao’s cold springs. That’s right: hot springs, but cold. Throw hiking, kayaking and relaxing on the beach into the mix, and you’ve got an itinerary well worthy of your time. Here are the best things to do around Su’ao and Nanfang’ao. (Read more: Experience the flavors of Yilan)
What to do in Su’ao and Nanfang’ao
Su’ao Cold Springs
Discovered by the Japanese army back in 1928, Su’ao is the only place in Taiwan where you can find cold springs. With an average temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius, the cold spring water is rich in carbon dioxide and carbonic acid, making them almost like big pools of soda water. In fact, due to having a pH of 5.5, the water is not only suitable for bathing, but can also be drank. Perfect for cooling down in the summer, as well as helping with your circulation, the public cold springs in Su’ao cost NT$70, while your own private pool is NT$200. (Read more: A quick guide to cold springs in Taiwan)
Learn about the history of Su’ao’s fisheries
At 春陽號, a bookstore dedicated to collecting books about local fishing history, you’ll meet owner 吳小枚, a former journalist who married into a fisherman’s family and began learning all about Su’ao’s fishing heritage. By interviewing local fishermen to get a deeper understanding of the industry’s roots, she eventually gained enough interest in the topic to open her bookstore, which is named after her father-in-law’s fishing boat. As well as selling books, the shop also holds talks and workshops concentrating on human rights issues associated with the fishing industry.
Visit a Mazu Temple
Close to the sea and with local life so reliant on fishing, it isn’t surprising to find a temple dedicated to worshipping sea goddess Mazu. Nantian Temple (南天宮) in Nanfang’ao was built in 1956 and houses both a gold and a jade statue of Mazu, as well as five statues from Meizhou. (More Mazu: The Mazu Pilgrimage Experience)
See the sea at Doufu Cape
To the east of Nanfang’ao’s fishing port is Doufu Cape (豆腐岬), named so due to a large rock resembling a piece of tofu. Here you can marvel at the Pacific Ocean, while also taking part in various water activities in the mouth of the bay, including snorkeling, kayaking and stand-up paddle board (SUP). Doufu Cape is also a wonderful place to see both the sunrise and the sunset. (See also: 5 water activities in Taiwan that are not what you think)
Hike Seven Star Peak
Seven Star Peak (七星嶺步道) is a 4,750m-long trail that starts by the entrance of Su’ao Cold Springs. With a highest point of 230m, the trail offers hikers a view of nearby Su’ao Bay, Lanyang Plain, Wuwei Port and Guishan, as well as the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Not the most strenuous of routes, Seven Star Peak makes for a leisurely hike packed with gorgeous scenery that can be enjoyed by hikers of all abilities. (You might also like: The best hiking trails in Taiwan)
What to eat in Su’ao and Nanfang’ao
Seafood, of course! When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in Su’ao and Nanfang’ao… you get the idea. There is a huge variety of tasty seafood options on offer and no better place to sample them than Nanning Fish Market (南寧魚市場). Between Su’ao’s first and second ports, head to the market to get your hands on the day’s fresh catch. Peak times are between 3 and 4pm, with fishing boats arriving to sell their wares.
Also, make sure you head to Ying Diner (阿英小吃部) in Su’ao to get stuck into some seafood brunch. Popular menu items include fish ball soup (魚丸湯), cut noodles (切仔麵), as well as a variety of fish dishes featuring fish liver (魚肝), fish skin (魚皮), fish belly (魚肚) and even fish intestines (魚腸).
Where to stay in Su’ao and Nanfang’ao
Treat yourself to a stay at the Lakeshore Hotel (煙波蘇澳四季雙泉館), near Nanfang’ao Harbor. Complete with both hot and cold springs, the hotel offers a stunning ocean view and sunrise, as well as an environmentally-friendly stay option where guests forgo in-room amenities such as toothbrushes and slippers, as well as opting out of having their bedding changed during the course of their stay.
How to get there
The easiest way to get there is by taking a train to Su’ao Station (蘇澳車站) on the TRA Yilan Line. There is also Su’aoxin Station (蘇澳新車站) on the North-link Line. You can also drive there via National Highway 5 (國道五號), while various inter-city buses run to Su’ao Bus Station and Nanfang’ao Bus Station respectively.