Many Beijing families are unaware just how much sandy fun is to be had a hop, skip and a splash from the capital. Throw in some local seafood and a new way to enjoy the Great Wall and you have all the makings of a perfect summer family getaway.
We are not going to pretend that these beaches – north and south of the coastal city of Qinhuangdao, and each with its own ambiance and attractions – will come close to making your global Top 10 list. But the coastline east of Beijing offers several resorts that make for a wonderful weekend escape and deserve their place on your family’s China bucket list.
Getting there is also easy if you do not have a car, with bullet trains from Beijing Railway Station taking just over two hours to reach the seaside.
Read on for a rundown of where to go and what to see.
Just to the north of Qinhuangdao city, this beach resort is not so famous for swimming but beloved as the spot where the Great Wall meets the sea. Known as the Old Dragon Head (Laotongtou), this rebuilt stretch of wall continues right into the ocean and you can walk along the beach before climbing the wall for a fee.
There are plenty of other historic sights in this area including First Pass Under Heaven – where the Ming-dynasty Great Wall began – as well as the city walls of nearby Shanhaiguan city.
Laodao Ocean Park is the place to go for sea lion, dolphin and beluga whale performances or head to the Great Wall Museum inside Qinhuangdao’s old town.
Golden Coastline, Beidaihe
Well-known to Beijingers (Mao Zedong had a summer house here), this beach features wide stretch of yellow sand and shallow water that is good for children. The town of Beidaihe, in Hebei, has a pleasant atmosphere and the beach area offers markets and food stalls selling seafood and snacks overlooking the Bohai Sea.
If you are a fan of bird watching, then time your visit for spring or autumn when red-crowned cranes and white storks stop to rest during their migration from Siberia to southern China.
Rock formations in the area – including Tiger Stone Park and Dove Nest Park – offer fun ways to keep the kids entertained by clambering all over these unusual rocky formations.
Lianfeng Mountain nearby has hiking trails and Lotus Stone Park is another good spot for rock climbing.
There is even a safari park close to Beidaihe with African lions and Siberian tigers to look at.
And if all that isn’t enough to keep your family entertained for the weekend, then check out ‘the loneliest library in the world’ – a minimalist concrete building sitting alone on the sand.
Tianma Beach, Nandaihe
Also known as Golden Beach, this curved sandy stretch lies to the south of Beidaihe and is accessed by crossing a bridge over the Daihe River.
The water here is relatively calm and strong currents are rare. However away from the sea, this is the place to come if you are keen to mix some adrenaline-fuelled action with your sandcastles. Nandaihe features an amusement park with rides and rollercoasters as well as Xianlou Island with bungee jumping and one of the longest cableways in China that takes you over the water to the island. You can also go water skiing at Nandaihe Sea Paradise.
Feicui (Jade) Island
Further south again is Feicui Island, an isolated and under-developed peninsula that is famous for its sand dunes. There is no accommodation or public transport in this area and it is perfect for those who like to get away from the crowds and into a wilder and more natural environment.
Where to Stay
Many small and mid-range hotels and guesthouses can be found on ctrip.com. For a splurge try these:
Sheraton Qinhuangdao Beihaide,
16 Binhai Lu, Beidaihe district, Qinhuangdao. (335 428 1111)
Shangri La Hotel Qinhuangdao, 123 Hebin Lu, Haigang district, Qinhuangdao. (335 580 8888)
Get there by high speed rail
D-class trains leave Beijing Railway Station multiple times per day and take around two hours to reach Beihaide, two-and-a-half hours to reach Qinhuangdao and two hours 45 minutes to reach Shanhaiguan.■