Be it sight-seeing, cultural exploration or leisure activities, the destinations on Taiwan's coastal rail line have it all. Here are the two best routes to explore Taiwan’s coastal regions.
Train passing through the fields in Fuli, Hualien.
Historical route: Fulong
Fulong is only about one hour's train ride away from Taipei, making it an easy day trip for departures from the capital. One of the biggest attractions is the Old Caoling Tunnel that features local history and culture.
Old Caoling Tunnel
The best way to explore the tunnel is by bike. Immediately after you reach Fulong Train Station, you will find many shops that rent out bikes for only NT$100 to NT$150. Lunchbox vendors and convenience stores are scattered on both sides of the station, so you can stock up on your food and drinks before your biking adventure.
It’s easy to get to the Old Caoling tunnel - just follow the signs on the road (or the crowd) to reach the entrance.
The Old Caoling Tunnel is the first railway tunnel to be converted into a bicycle path in northern Taiwan.
The tunnel – stretching 2,167 metres – was built in 1924 during the Japanese occupation as part of a railway project to connect Yilan and the greater Taipei area. But the single-track old tunnel stopped serving its purpose in 1986, when a new tunnel was constructed to replace it. Luckily for visitors and even more so for train enthusiasts, the Old Caoling Tunnel was turned into a tourist biking trail after being abandoned for almost two decades.
Though the old tracks were removed and replaced with paving, the original form of the tunnel has been well-preserved. To evoke a nostalgic feel, the tunnel is lit up by retro-style oil lampshades, and tracks are painted on the path.
Tracks are painted inside the old tunnel.
Because the old tunnel is right beside the new one, visitors inside the old tunnel can hear the hum and feel the vibration of a train passing through its new counterpart, creating a unique experience that particularly excites train fans.
New and old tunnels run alongside each other.
About 15 minutes by bike, you will reach the end of the tunnel, where an amazing view of the Yilan coastline awaits you. This is one of the most beautiful coastal views in Taiwan. Look afar and you will also spot Turtle Island offshore, where the legend of General Gui and Princess Lanyang is told.
The Old Caoling Tunnel is open from 8:30am to 5:00pm. If you wish to explore the tunnel on foot, pick a weekday. Because of busy bike traffic, no walking is allowed inside the tunnel on weekends and holidays.
Explore Yilan Coastline on a bike
Rather than return to Fulong Station through the tunnel, you can continue your bike journey to explore the easternmost tip of Taiwan. The biking trail extends further from here and is the gateway to Yilan county, linking up Longmen, Yanliao and the Fulong Coast.
Ride the wind and enjoy a laid-back day in this vacation town! Fulong is a well-established seaside destination and attracts many ocean lovers, surfers, sun-bathers and campers. Make sure you pack enough food and drinks for the road trip.
Scenic route: Hualien
Another popular route on the rail coastline is from Taipei to Hualian. Prepare to spend a couple of days in this city, because you will have plenty of things to do!
Famous for its deep canyons, rapid rivers, steep cliffs and natural marble landscape, Taroko Gorge National Park is one of the most popular tourist sites in Taiwan.
At this nature reserve, you can choose from a variety of activities, all the while getting the best view of the park.
Some options - a bike ride through the Tunnel of Nine Turns, to get an overview of the canyon from Lushui Trail, walk through the water-splashing Water Curtain Cave, or paddle a canoe in the Pacific Ocean.
If your stamina permits, try the Zhuilu Old Trail along the cliff. The dangerous-looking cliff may present a big challenge to some tourists, but for those who are not fainthearted, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the breath-taking gorge on the mountain top.
A little worn out from the trek? Remove your gear and jump into the Wenshan Hot Spring to recharge yourself!
Zhuilu Old Trail.
Qixingtan Beach is a must-visit destination in Hualian.
To get the best out of it, start your journey on a bike and head out for the Coastal Bikeway, which is touted as one of the best biking infrastructure of Taiwan. Fresh air, magnificent views of the mountains and the ocean of Beibin Park and Hualian Fishing Harbour will greet you along the way!
Qixingtan Biking Trail.
Only about 15 kilometres from the city centre, you will reach Qixingtan Beach. This is where the blue sky meets the vast Pacific Ocean. Different from other beaches in Taiwan, Qixingtan Beach is covered with white pebbles instead of sand. On a clear day, you’ll see the sheer Qingshui Cliff in the distance that looks like rugged boulders plummeting into the ocean.
Produced in partnership with Taiwan Tourism Board.