I hope you like seafood. Or, at the very least, the taste of sea salt spraying in your face because very little compares to the thrill of a coastal ride in Taiwan. Starting from Keelung, you have a choice to make: East or West on Route 2. Don’t try to tackle both directions in one day because tracing the outline of the island takes much longer than one might expect. Nevertheless, be sure to carve out time in your itinerary to explore both routes because they each offer a very unique ride.
Traveling East from Keelung, it takes some time before reaching the Coast Road proper. It’s not until you pass by the Taiwan Ocean University that the straddling act between the crashing waves and jagged cliffs can begin. But pay attention to the numerous curves, please, as the distracting scenery can easily send you motoring off the road and into the Pacific blue below. This would, of course, be quite unfortunate not just for obvious reasons, but also for missing northern Taiwan’s little Hong Kong- Jinguashi.
An old Japanese mining town, Jinguashi is a stunner of a locale hidden away along the coast road. After turning right on Dongding Road, look out for the Golden Waterfall- that’s right, water falling from a stream of flowing gold colors made that way from the mineral deposits scattered throughout the area. Spend some time exploring the colonial Japanese mines and camps and then finish with a quick jaunt to any high point for a standout view over the waters. The river empties out into a small bay turning the ocean an unmistakably bright golden color. Jioufen is also just up the road and its old street is a fine stop to grab some lunch or tea.
After lunch, if you haven’t already spent your entire day exploring this magnificent region, get back down to the coast road and continue on. Minutes away is Bitou, a charming town with excellent hiking jutting out into the ocean and a popular diving location for those interested in Scuba. But if you can forgo the hiking or diving, keep driving because this is where the Northeast Coast Road is at its very best. First timers will be plagued with frequent stops to photo the magnificent cliff sides, the Peculiar Rocks of Nanya and the Banzi’ao Rock Formations.
It’s usually around that time I find myself in love with Taiwan’s coastal riding. The Northeast coast has some of the best stretches of scenery and is only a few hours from Taipei. So, at this point, you can either head back home or, if there is still some sunlight in your day, set up camp at Fulong Beach. One of northern Taiwan’s best beaches, Fulong is an ideal spot to do some swimming and lounging. If you’re feeling sleepy and peckish, you can grab a lunchbox meal, famous in this beach town, and then head to the campground for a nights rest.
Generally speaking, the ride from Keelung to Fulong, when done on a sun-filled weekend, can wash away all homesickness much like the ebbing tides it follows. I have taken this route many times, each time won over by its salty brine appeal. I only wish I liked seafood…