Updated: December 22nd, 2020
I’m letting you in on a secret. Hawaii’s Road to Hana, the Amalfi Coast of Italy, and California’s Pacific Coast Highway are not the only scenic drives that will take your breath away. The drive along Taiwan’s east coast is equally stunning and an adventure in and of itself. With mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, there are a variety activities to do along the way.
Even though I spent nine years in Taiwan, it wasn’t until I visited again a decade later that I realized how much more of the country I hadn’t explored. Taiwan not only has amazing food, the friendliest people, and fun nightlife, it also has incredible greenery. One of the most popular nature-y road trips to take is the one along the Provincial Highway 11 (台 11 線), also known as the Hualien-Taitung Coastal Highway drive.
As with any road trip, you can decide how many stops you want to make and for how long. Instead of giving you an itinerary, I’ll share all the places I saw when I visited with my family. Pick what works for you based on the time you have. For reference, our road trip lasted 3 days and 2 nights, and we left from Taichung City.
Taroko National Park 太魯閣
Taroko National Park is located in the northern section of the Central Mountain Range and spans 36 kilometers (22 miles) North to South. It is one of the nine national parks in Taiwan. Stop by the Qingshui Cliff, take a stroll along Shakadang River, or admire waterfalls along the Baiyang trail. There’s no shortage of things to do there. My family and I visited the Tunnel of Nine Turns, where caves and tunnels cover the landscape. It makes for a good hike and a rare sighting of what Mother Nature is capable of creating.
Hualien is almost synonymous with Taiwan’s east coast, so stopping by the city is a must on this drive. We split our drive into multiple days and timed it so we’d arrive there in the evening.
We picked a hotel that was walking distance to Gongzheng Baozi, an amazing spot for the city’s famous pork buns. If you have time, I recommend visiting Dongdamen Night Market and grabbing a late night snack from one of the market’s 400+ food vendors. The best part about eating at a night market is you can eat without the guilt. Growing up going to night markets, I’ve mastered the skill of walking and eating simultaneously, and by the time I’ve devoured food from 5 different food stands, I’ve also usually burned enough calories to justify my gluttony.
Lastly, I stumbled upon the cutest bookstore during my visit: readingtime (時光二手書店). I was greeted by two cats as I entered the shop, and just like the store’s name entails, it’s decorated in a way that’ll make you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. This bookstore also makes for a super cute instagram spot.
Situated at the 112-kilometer mark on Provincial Highway 11, Sanxiantai is a mixture of island, beach and architectural wonder. The attraction is known for its eight-arch bridge, and is a good place for a quick leg stretch. We went here during the day time, but it’s apparently even more beautiful during sunset.
If by any chance you are driving to or from Taichung…
Qingjing Farm 清境農場
Stop by Qingjing Farm! The place is a favorite of Taiwanese locals, and you’ll find the vast greenery super calming. There’s herds of sheep roaming around and if you’re lucky, one of them will stop to let you take a selfie with them (another Instagram opportunity hehe). The experience was especially memorable because we stayed at a Japanese-style bed and breakfast at the top of the hills: I-think Resort (愛薰閣會館).
Wanderer Tip: the road to get to I-think Resort is a bit sketchy, but the experience is well worth it.
This list of things to do offers just a glimpse of what you could do to experience the east coast of Taiwan. The various activities you can do along the way will keep everyone in your group entertained.
For more tips on making the most of your trip to Taiwan, check out my ultimate guide to dining in Taiwan. Happy traveling!