The Fulong-Coaling-Sandiao Cape- bike route is one of the most biker friendly routes in Taiwan, the roughly 2 hour loop is something that the whole family can enjoy. It includes a 2KM ride through the Old Coaling Railroad Tunnel, as well as a ride along the Sandiao Cape coast on an enclosed bike path, where one can enjoy great views of the ocean, Turtle Island, wavy geological features on the coastline, and historical stone villages along the way. This bike route is highly recommended for people of all ages.
The area around Fulong was originally inhabited by the Basay indigenous tribe who has a village and hunting grounds there.
In 1626, the Spanish landed near Fulong and renamed the location Santiago (transliterated from Taiwanese as Sandiao 三貂, as in Sandiao Cape). After the Qing colonized Taiwan, many Fujianese fisherman relocated to the area and began to build the iconic stone houses you can see today.
The Old Caoling Tunnel was built in 1924 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, and is 2,167 meters long. At the time it was built, it was the longest tunnel in Taiwan.
The tunnel took 3 years to build due to delays from Malaria, remoteness of the location, and digging accidents killing 11 people and injuring over 300.
The tunnel was only one lane wide, too narrow for electric trains, and so was decommissioned in 1985 and lay waste for 22 years.
The tunnel was reopened when the Coaling Bicycle Loop was created in 2007, using the old Caoling Tunnel as its main looping point.
Also, along the northeast coast are some old fishing villages that have been around since the Qing Dynasty, including traditional stone houses. One of these historical villages called Magang (馬崗) is in threat of destruction to make way for a resort. however as Li Yongping out it "The thing that attracts modern travelers most is not 5 star hotels, but history and culture!" Save the Magang Stone Houses!
Besides these historical sites, there is amazing scenery along the bike ride, such as views of Turtle Island and long flat sections of layered rock (see below to know what I am talking about).
Bicycle Rental: 100-500 NT depending on the bike
Electric Bicycle Rental: 300-400 NT
The whole bike route is about 20 KM and takes 1-2 hours to complete.
We were going really slow with many pit stops and it took us 2 hours.
The Old Caoling Tunnel is open from 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM.
It is okay to walk through the tunnel on weekdays, but on weekends only bike traffic is allowed for safety reasons.
When to go:
May to October when the weather is nice and the water is warm.
Winter on the northeast coast is cold and windy.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA train to Fulong Station. Walk straight from the station and you will see tons of bike rental shops.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 from Qidu in Keelung through the mountains past Shifen and Shuangxi until you reach Gongliao on the coast. The beach is right in front of the train station, and there is free parking in front of Dongxing Temple. From there you can walk to the train station where there are bike rentals everywhere.
Please see below:
I have completed the Caoling Bicycle loop only once, but it was fun. 12/10 would recommend. See below for my full Gopro Video of the loop (sped up).
I have also made a video of the whole round trip backwards (below), going south along the seashore. This is my preferred route because your back is against the wind.
If you watch the video above slowly, you won't miss anything. You're welcome for the virtual tour.
But if you want some explanation of the ride, see the rest of the blog below.
The trail is pretty straight forward. You start out from Fulong train station, then make a loop around the peninsula (including going through the Caoling Tunnel).
In front of Fulong Station there are plenty of places to eat and rent bikes. Don't expect to find Youbike here.
Also be sure to try to the Fulong Bento box, which is an amazing lunch for cheap.
Very tradition Taiwanese lunch that you should try.
Once you have found a bike shop you like, go ahead and rent a bike. We rented an electric tandem bike for 400 NT per day.
You might think we are wimps but we had to carry a baby and a bunch of gear so we did it this way.
First we rode out of downtown Fulong on toward the Caoling Tunnel.
On the way, you will pass the new Caoling Tunnel which is operational and sits right next to the old Coaling Tunnel.
In front of the tunnel are some train tracks and a retired train engine that you can take pictures with.
Also you should take a picture of the tunnel entrance, but make sure you do not get hit by some little kid on a bike.
Inside the tunnel is nice and cool on a hot day. Also watch out for dripping water in here.
About halfway through the tunnel, you will cross the boundary between Yilan County and New Taipei City.
On the other side of the tunnel you will find yourself in a small village in Yilan called Shicheng (石城, literally Stone City); there are usually a few roadside food stands here, and you will also find traditional stone houses here that are over 100 years old.
At Shicheng there are some food stalls and more places to rent bikes.
Another view of the other side of the tunnel which has plenty of bicycle parking. If you don't want to bike up any hills, turn back now.
View of Turltle Island from near the entrance of Coaling Tunnel.
The beautiful wave carved sedimentary rock shores on the northeast coast of Taiwan.
More of the sedimentary lines in the rock. Note that all along the road from Caoling Tunnel to Fulong there is a closed off bike path, which means you don't have to worry about being hit by scooters or cars coming by.
The geology here is simple breathtaking.
More amazing geology.
View with Turtle Island in the background.
More amazing views.
View looking north up the coast.
More views of the coast.
Flat rocks and some abandoned fish farms.
All along the coast you will see traditional Fujianese stone houses. These houses date back to the Qing Dynasty when many Fujianese settlers colonized Taiwan. These buildings are actually quite rare on the Taiwan Mainland, although there are still plenty of them in Matsu.
More of that beautiful coastline.
More breathtaking views.
Soon you will come to the most northeast part of mainland Taiwan. More photo taking opportunities.
There is also a lighthouse here on top of the hill called Sandiaojiao Lighthouse (三貂角燈塔), also known as the Santiago Cape Lighthouse.
By this time, we were halfway there.
Another view of the hilly geography near the lighthouse.
You can ride your bike up the steep road to the left of the light house (much easier with an electric bike) or hike up the steps from the shore.
The lighthouse is a nice place to relax. Sandiaojiao Lighthouse (三貂角燈塔), also known as the Santiago Cape Lighthouse, built in 1935 by the Japanese. You cannot go inside, but you can enjoy the views from the top o the hill there and the museum inside.
You can check out our drone video of the lighthouse above. Please note this video was taken before March 31, 2020, and flying near the radar is now off limits.
You can also check out the 360 degree spherical panorama of the area above.
View of the lighthouse looking north.
View of the lighthouse with Turtle Island in the background.
Park near the lighthouse full of tourists.
"Sandiao Cape Lighthouse"
"The round white lighthouse you see before you is the Sandiao Cape Lighthouse at the easternmost extremity of Taiwan. The lighthouse was completed in 1935 and was damaged by bombing and strafing during WWII, repaired after the war ended, it began flashing its guiding light again in 1946. You can still see bullet holes from WWII machine guns in its walls. A display room inside has exhibits of lighthouse-related equipment and information. This is the only lighthouse in northern Taiwan that is open to the public."
View in front of the lighthouse.
There are some much needed bathrooms here.
Miniature model of the lighthouse.
"Protractor" and other artifacts in the lighthouse.
View looking at the radar and graveyard behind.
"Introduction of Turtle Island" (seen behind the foliage here)
"Turtle Island, named for its turtle like shape, is an inactive isolated volcanic island located about 10 km east of Toucheng Town in Yilan Coutny, It is approximately three kilometres long and about two kilometres wide, and has a total area of 2.85 square milometers. The length of its shoreline is approximately 9 kilometres. Known for its beautiful sunrise, precipitous cliff, teaming sulfur, hot spring, mountain peaks, sea eroded caves, lake, special cliff vegetation and rich marine ecological resources, this islet is an ideal outdoor classroom for the study of volcanic geology and natural ecology."
For our full blog on Turtle island, click here.
More interesting coastline near the light house.
Another view of Magang near the lighthouse.
Near Magang you can see a tall mountain called Lingjiushan (靈鷲山), atop of which is a Buddhist monastery.
The monastery is pretty impressive, and you can only get there by foot. There are some large golden statues and some great views of the area.
The monastery was started by a former ROC soldier who fought against the PRC in Burma during the 1960s. He then retired near Shuangxi and started this monastery. His religion is now international, has raised tons of money, and also owns the museum of world religions in Taipei to promote mutual understanding among religions.
See about for our video of the mountain. Note that I was getting patchy signal so it is not the most smooth.
You can also check out the 360 degree panorama of the mountain above.
View from the top of Lingjiushan looking inland.
View from Lingjiushan looking at Fulong.
Another view looking at Bitou Cape.
Another stone house that is currently being lived in. At this time we had reached Magang Village. Much of the land here is being contemplated for development of a resort, which is sad because there are so few of these houses left in Taiwan, and there are so many failed and abandoned resorts on the north coast.
Lot's of people crowding around the old stone houses. What better tourist site can you ask for!
Fisherman near Mangang.
Some people fishing at Magang Harbor.
Seashore at Magang.
The biggest hill of the whole trip in Magang Village.
The stone houses in Magang are especially historically important because their walls are much more thick than the average stone house, and they feature outer walls to protect against strong winds and typhoons. After hundreds of years of being the first place for Typhoons to strik Taiwan, they still remain mostly intact (for those that the roof has not collapsed).
Wu Family historical house. One of the only houses here that is marked and seems to be well kept.
Collapsed wall on one of the houses. Notice the brick wall around the house to protect against Typhoons.
A renovated Sanheyuan that looks lived in.
More stone houses in Magang.
Wave swept rock layers on the coast.
Rainbow steps with some people making a video.
View of Fulian Elementary School (福連國小).
A water buffalo grazes near the seashore.
An old bunker in the bushes near Fulong Beach. Appearently the ROC though Fulong Beach was a possible communist invasion point.
View of Fulong Beach from the bike trail.
A man painting a mural of Fulong on a local building.
Ling Jiou Mountain Sacred Mountain Temple (靈鷲山聖山寺) sanctuary near Fulong beach.
Narrow alleyway in Fulong Village.
Abandoned house near Fullon Resort.
Green and Orange house in Fulong.
YMCA in Fulong.
If you keep riding past the train station, you will come to Longmen Suspension bridge. The area around here is popular for camping and kyaking.
"The total distance of bikeway is about 5 kilometers, the scenery along the route is very beautiful with green grass, river, and birds. The sea wave is magnificent, you can stand there to look Bitou Cape, Scenery of Laolan Mountain, and sunrise. The natural scenery such as Pacific Ocean, Shuangxi River, Longmen Park, and Yanliao Park, you can ride a bike with your family member to enjoy the scenery here."
"Sand Dunes Ecological Summary"
"The sand dunes on northeastern Taiwan experience cold northeastern monsoon winds during winter. In the summer, temperatures are high and plants must be able to survive in hot sand. All year round there is salt mist and flying sand. To be able to survive these conditions, plants must be drought-resistant, salt resistant, wind resistant, and heat-resistant."
Another view of Longmen Suspension Bridge (龍門吊橋).
View of the riverside near Longmen park facing upriver.
View downriver toFulong Beach.
View looking the other way.
After a long tough bike ride, you should spoil yourself with some delicious fruit shaved ice (cuabing, 刨冰) that you can find at multiple shops in front of Fulong Station.
And if you have time you can also go for a nice cool dip in the ocean at Fulong Beach (go to the free part). For our full blog on Fulong Beach click here.
Be sure to go soon before the Magang stone houses are knocked down! As with many historical buildings in Taiwan, they might be gone tomorrow.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.