Toucheng Township in Yilan is known for its amazing beaches, but there is much more to do here, such as visit Lanyang Museum, visit Turtle Island, enjoy seafood, traditional fishing harbors, recreational farms, hiking, cycling, surfing lessons, and much more. Here is a short guide to Toucheng, to let you know the variety of activities that you can enjoy here.
Before Chinese settlers came, the area around Toucheng was inhabited by the Ketagalan Aboriginal tribe, whose language is now extinct.
The name Toucheng literally means "first town" in Chinese, because it was the first settlement in Yilan, settled in the late 1700s. With the nearby Wushih and Touwei Harbors around the same time, it became the economic focal point of Yilan. However in the late 1800s and early 1900s Wushih Harbor and Touwei Harbor silted in, reducing their function.
With the advent of the Japanese built Yilan railway line in the mid-1900's, as well as constant floods and continually silting of the harbors, Toucheng quickly lost its importance economically and fell into decay.
After residents of Turtle Island were relocated to Daxi in Toucheng, Daxi Harbor was expanded and has become one of the largest fishing harbors in the area.
Due to its close proximity to Taipei, Toucheng has become a major tourist area and may be the most popular surfing location in Taiwan.
How to get there:
By TRA: Take the TRA to any of the stations in Toucheng,
By Car: From Taipei, take National Freeway 5 to Toucheng. Be careful to note that on Sundays there are highway controls for cars travelling from Yilan to Taipei from 3 PM to 8 PM, so avoid travelling back to Taipei at that time to beat the traffic.
See below for a map of places that are covered in this blog:
Places we will cover in this Blog:
These places are listed in roughly south to north order, which is the direction you would travel if you are driving from Taipei.
To start off, please see below for a video of our tour to Toucheng.
We were invited on a tour to Toucheng to help foreigners learn more about what there is to do in this amazing place. We have already been to Toucheng a few times, so a few of the places mentioned below were not on our tour.
It should be noted that we visited all of these places with toddler aged kids.
Let's get started!
Toucheng Old Street 頭城老街
Toucheng Old Street (officially Heping Street 和平街) is the oldest street in Yilan, dating back to the Qing Dynasty. It was once the economic center of Yilan, but it's importance was later replaced. Now it sits as a monument to the past, with few changes as compared to its former glory. It's definitely worth a stop on your trip through Yilan. For more about the old street, check out our full blog here.
Lanyang Museum 蘭陽博物館
The Lanyang Museum focuses on Toucheng's history and artifacts. If you want to learn about the history of Toucheng, this is the place to visit. It is also a beautiful building, designed in the shape of Cuestas, or slanted rocks that appear commonly along Toucheng's coastline.
A giant whale one display in the main entrance.
When we visited, we only stayed for the child play area, but there is much more to explore here if you have time.
Guishan Island (literally Turtle Mountain Island) is a turtle shaped island off the coast of Yilan in Eastern Taiwan. Once inhabited by fisherman, it is now a coast guard base, but is open for day tours. The island tour includes beautiful sea cliffs, hiking, a lake, abandoned village, military tunnels, and whale watching just offshore. Tours are offered from March to November. For more information, check out our full blog here.
Wushi Harbor Whale and Dolphin Seafood Restaurant 烏石港鯨豚海鮮餐廳
There are so many amazing seafood restaurants in Toucheng, most of them near the ocean and fishing harbors. One such restaurant of Wushi Harbor Whale and Dolphin Seafood Restaurant, which offers authentic Taiwanese seafood cuisine.
The owner was also very nice and even took a photo with us.
The food here was delicious and amazing. I highly recommend it, especially if you have a large group of people and want to share and authentic Taiwanese seafood experience. For more photos of the restaurant, please see above.
Happiness No. 36 Seafood Restaurant 幸福36海鮮餐廳
Another amazing restaurant near Wushi Harbor is Happiness No. 36 Seafood Restaurant, which sits right on the main road in front of Wai'ao Beach. The restaurant has views of the ocean, and you can find themes of Toucheng within the cuisine here.
One of the owners was also nice enough to show use around and explain the many photos of Toucheng around the restaurant.
They also had bowls shaped like Turtle Island. The reason the restaurant is called "53" is because it sounds like "Wushi" in Chinese. The 5 and 3 are also shaped to look like a fish. For more photos of the restaurant, please see above.
Above the restaurant, the owners also won a 5 star hostel, each room having amazing views of the ocean and Wai'ao Harbor.
For more photos of the hostel, please see above.
Hygeia Hostel 海吉兒民宿
Another amazing hostel in the area is Hygeia Hostel, which also sits near Wai'ao Beach. It is more like a villa, with cabins that are meant to be booked for the whole family. The architect of the Lanyang Museum is said to have taken his inspiration from a rock outside the Hygeia Hostel, a farm like escape that was once an eel farm. But that's just what I heard, there are many rocks like this in Yilan.
The above is a real photo from the upstairs bedroom, no photoshop needed.
The hostel owner was very gracious and offered us some delicious local guava. He also helped to order breakfast from a local shop and send it to us the next morning. He told me that the land was inherited from his father who was an eel farmer here, and he converted the land into a hostel, which has won many awards and was the scene for a famous Taiwanese film. He himself ran a clothing factory in Yilan, until it was sold to China. He can also help guests book itineraries, such as paragliding and visiting turtle island. If you want to do both in one day, it's called the 007 itinerary.
For more photos of this amazing hostel, see the gallery above.
Wai'ao Beach 外澳沙灘
Wai'ao Beach (aka Gangao Beach 港澳沙灘, or Wai'ao Ocean Recreation Area 外澳海水浴場) in Toucheng township of Yilan County is one of the most popular surfing destinations in Taiwan. It features a long flat sandy beach and constant waves. It is also a special beach in Taiwan because you have a constant view of another island in the distance, Turtle Island. It is definitely a great beach worth visiting. For our full blog on this beach, click here.
Check out our video above for a bird's eye view of the beach.
Jhen Tea Bar 珍韻茶站
Jhen Tea Bar is a newly opened tea shop and café in front of Toucheng TRA station. We met one of the owners, Brian. They also give surf lessons. This custom board was by a local craftsman who is also growing his business. As more people take surfing lessons, they can come help to grow this emerging sport in Taiwan.
View of the tea bar from the front entrance of the station. The tea bar sits next to the famous Drifter's Pizza Pub, not mentioned in this blog.
For more photos of the tea bar and treats on its menu, see the photo gallery above.
Super George Surf 喬治衝浪
I was lucky enough to take a surfing lesson at Super George Surf. It was about 3000 NT for a three hour lesson, and well worth it. When I decided to live permanently in Taiwan, I told my mom that I would go surfing every day at the beach. But after five years here, I only went surfing for the first time last week at Double Lion Beach in Yilan. I was surprised how tiring it is!
First, we practiced mounting the board inside on stilts. It was good practice for the real thing.
Double Lion Beach 雙獅沙灘
For our surf lesson, we went to Double Lion Beach across the street. There are less people here and awesome waves. The reason it is called Double Lion Beach is because of the two lions in front of the temple that looks over the beach.
I got up on my surfboard a few times, but it was really tiring. I plan to go surfing many more times in the future, it is a fun sport that I have been missing out on.
See above for a video of our surf lesson taken by my surf instructor.
Fishing Village Kitchen 漁村厨房
Fish Village Kitchen looks over Gengfang Harbor in Yilan. It's no regular seafood restaurant; you have to make your own food here! Here you can experience getting fresh fish from the port, preparing it, and learning about sustainable fisheries.
You have to get there early in the morning to get the full experience. The lady in charge gave us a background of the many fish species nearby and sustainable fishing.
Soon we were making our own seafood dishes using her recipies. She also stepped in to make sure we didn't ruin our own lunch.
In the end we prepared a delicious and filling meal.
She also took us to the harbor to see fresh fish be caught and sold in real time.
There is also an ice machine here that give ice to the fisherman. The Ice machine used to be under her house which ran 24/7, but long hours working in the cold was not sustainable, so now the ice operation is run by the government, however it is not open at night when the fisherman need the ice most.
Her husband also owns a fishing boat, and has hired a few Filipino's to help work on it. All the fish used is caught by her husband.
See above for more photos of our experience at Fishing Village Kitchen.
Also, the only gas stations in Taiwan that services both cars and boats is at Gengliao Harbor.
Toucheng Leisure Farm 頭城農場
Toucheng Farm is not just a farm but also a leisure area, hotel, restaurant, and activity area. Here we also fed water buffalo, learned sustainable farming, the ancient art of sweet potato baking, lime juice fermentation, and painted T-shirts. Overall it was a fun time that the whole family can enjoy.
The restaurant offers buffet style breakfast, lunch, and dinner for guests, using local and farm grown ingredients.
We were also taken on a tour with one of the farm's chefs, David. You can see a map of the farm above.
David also showed us some amazingly sweet organically grown passion fruit.
And they let us feed the water buffalo that are raised there at the farm.
We also got to feed the goats.
And we also met the sustainable artist who is responsible for much of the artwork around the farm, made from recycled materials.
We also spent time making sweet potatoes the old fashioned way, making clay stone kilns, making a fire, and then burying the potatoes in the hot earth for about an hour to cook.
We also designed our own sky lantern and lit it off into the sky.
In addition, we made our own lime juice, which has to ferment for three months before you can drink it.
And we made souvenir T-shirts by pressing paint onto local plants and stamping them on.
See above for more of our adventures at Toucheng Leisure Farm.
Daxi Fishing Port 大溪漁港
Daxi Fishing Harbor in Toucheng Township, Yilan County has one of the biggest seafood markets in the area. Originally it was smaller, but when the residents of Turtle Island were moved here, they expanded the harbor so that more boats could fit. This is where you can get some of the freshest seafood there is, every day at 2:30 PM.
Every day, there are tons of stalls selling fresh seafood in front of the harbor.
You can also see many colorful boats in the harbor, with a backdrop of Turtle Island.
There is also an indoor market with a few restaraunts inside.
For more photos of Daxi Fishing Harbor, see the gallery above.
Caoling Old Trail 草嶺古道
The Caoling Old Trail (aka Caoling Historic Trail) is a section of the Danlan Old Trail connecting Gongliao District of New Taipei to Dali District of Toucheng Township in Yilan. In the past it was an important shipping route for goods from Yilan to Tamsui. Now it is a popular and family friendly hiking route due to its convenient public transportation, slow elevation gain, grassy mountain hills, and great views of the surrounding area. For more about this place, see our blog
See above for our drone video of Caoling Old Trail.
Caoling - Fulong Bicycle Loop 草嶺-福隆環狀線
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. For our full blog, click here.
Or see above for our video of the entire bicycle loop.
Thanks for reading and let us know your favorite location in Toucheng down in the comments.
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.