Are you looking to explore some of Hsinchu County’s many hidden gems? This guide sets out the best day trips from Hsinchu. Plus, all my travel tips to help you fully enjoy your visit.
Hsinchu is a relatively big city on Taiwan’s Northwestern Coast. But despite its size, not many travelers venture out this far. The town is a classic example of a Taiwanese concrete jungle. And although the city itself might not be on most travelers’ must-see lists, it certainly does have its charms – the most noteworthy one being its excellent proximity to the great outdoors.
With its excellent location, Hsinchu is the perfect base to explore some of Taiwan’s hidden gems tucked away nearby. There are several remarkably scenic areas within easy reach from the city – allowing you to quickly immerse yourself in lush mountains, quiet black beaches, and dense mangrove forests.
If you have a few days to spare on your Taiwan itinerary or want to get a taste of untamed scenery, these six fun day trips from Hsinchu are just the answer!
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Day Trips from Hsinchu: Quick Overview
There are many amazing side trips to while away a few hours when exploring Hsinchu County. Here’s a quick look at which day trips from Hsinchu not to miss:
- Xinfeng Mangrove Nature Reserve
- Have a Picnic (Five Fingers Mountain)
The Best Day Trips from Hsinchu, Taiwan
During my nine years in Taiwan, I’ve called Hsinchu home and have explored the area extensively. Here are my top picks to quickly get out of the city and immerse yourself in nature. Along the way, you’ll get to explore lively small towns with plenty to do and see.
Neiwan (map) is a sleepy mountain village neatly nestled in the lush mountains of Hsinchu County. It is a popular tourist spot with plenty to keep you busy.
Enjoying a walkabout through the lively Old Street is the first thing you should do. Here you can try out some local Hakka specialties and drink up the bustling vibes. Before you head out further, be sure to drop by Theatre Street and the cute Railway Station – one of the oldest in Taiwan.
Taking gentle strolls along the Youluo River, walking across one of the five suspension bridges, and soaking in a hot spring nearby are other great things to do here.
Further afield, a visit to Frog Rock Waterfall, Lavender Cottage or D-Sky will not disappoint either.
Lavender Cottage is a quaint area featuring a beautiful garden, terrific views, and excellent lavender ice cream. Getting to D-Sky is a bit more challenging, as it takes 40 minutes to reach here. The scenic spot lies 1200m above sea level and offers remarkable views of the lower-lying valley. There is also a quaint restaurant to enjoy lunch or afternoon tea.
Insider’s tip: Taiwan is jam-packed with great things to do. These tips on visiting Taipei (and practically the rest of Taiwan) will come in handy. Also, see my detailed 2 weeks in Taiwan itinerary which maps out all the best places to visit in Taiwan and includes loads of handy tips.
Beipu (map) is a small mountain town neatly nestled among rolling hills, and towering palm trees. It’s well-known for its historic maze-like alleyways and well-preserved architecture. On weekends the streets are packed with locals wandering around the Old Street or paying respects at Ci-Tian Temple (the oldest temple in town, constructed in 1846).
Beipu is a lively place, full of atmosphere. And perhaps one of the best places in Hsinchu County to try Hakka specialties. Be sure to try the brown sugar cake, peanut candy, and lei cha – a traditional farmers tea.
After exploring the nooks and crannies in town, head to the cold springs nearby. It’s an excellent spot to cool off, especially during summer! And the perfect place for a barbeque. Although there is no charge to access the cold streams, you should know that it’s a very popular spot among locals. Therefore if you want to skip the crowds, it’s best to visit during the week.
If you’re not comfortable accessing the area on your own, I highly encourage joining a Hakka Day Trip from Taipei.
Nanzhuang (map) is a scenic mountain village in neighboring Miaoli Country. It is only a 45 minute drive from Hsinchu City making it an easy day trip. Besides its close proximity to one of the best hiking spots in Taiwan – Lion’s Head Mountain, the village also boasts several unique historical sites. Be sure not to miss Osmanthus Alley, Yongchang Temple, and the Nanzhuang Old Post Office on your visit here.
Similar to Jiufen and Fenqihu Old Streets, Nanzhuang also has a lively food street following a narrow alleyway. Thanks to the width of the alley, it can get crowded quite quickly – especially if you have claustrophobia. That said, a visit to Nanzhuang would simply not be complete without wandering through this narrow lane! Be sure to try some of the local delicacies, and buy a few quirky souvenirs.
Insider’s tip: Although most people turn around after visiting the Old Post Office, I highly recommend trekking on a bit further. At the Zhonggang River, you can enjoy magnificent views over the valley and mountains as a backdrop.
Nanliao (map) is best known for its 17km coastal trail taking you past dense mangroves and spectacular stretches of coastline. It also boasts with a lively harbor selling freshly caught fish, a bustling street market, and
Near the harbor, you can wander through the busy fish market and snack your way through the day market. Further afield, popping by the bell tower at the human-made lake, and hitting the beach are other obligatory activities. Nanliao is not the most famous beach in Taiwan, so not many people swim here. Still, it’s an excellent place to take a gentle stroll, especially at sunset.
If you’re looking for the best pizza in town, I highly recommend stopping by The Sea House Cafe. Once you’ve explored the highlights in the village, head to the coastal bikeway. There are many excellent vistas along the way, with the Mangrove Park, Xianshan Wetland, and Crab Walkway being the most scenic.
The best way to explore Nanliao is by bike. There are several bicycle shops scattered across town, where you can rent a bike. Most shops have a wide variety ranging from standard and tandem bicycles to electric bikes and quadricycles. Prices start at NT200 for 2 hours.
Emei (also known as Ermei, map) is a tiny village hidden among rolling hills covered in lush greenery. To reach this hidden gem, though, you’ll need to travel along hairpin bends winding down steep mountains filled with gentle streams, cute pagodas, and thick jungle. And, once you reach the bottom of the hill, gorgeous tea plantations await you.
Besides the tremendous scenery that you’ll enjoy on the way, Emei itself is just as impressive. The town is home to a beautiful lake which formerly served as a reservoir, a large Buddhist monastery where you can stroll around and one of the biggest Buddha-statues in Taiwan.
After gaining cultural insights at the monastery and drinking up the magnificent views over the lake, there are several other highlights worthy of your time.
Right behind the monastery, there is a narrow pathway leading you through a lush jungle. From here, cross the suspension bridge to get a bird’s-eye view over the lake. It’s a great place to take photos too.
Once you reach the other side, follow the path up the steep hill. Turn left if you want to get a closer look at the locals going about their daily business. Along the way, drop by the Old Street to shop for souvenirs or grab a bite.
After you’ve filled your belly, make your way back to the monastery, as there is a secret spot to explore nearby. Not many expats and even locals know about this hidden spot, making it ideal for escaping the crowds. To get there, you’ll need to take route #81 and travel around the lake. Then turn left on route #49 and continue straight until you find the quirky shops and cafes lining the road. It’s a relaxing area to enjoy a coffee overlooking yet another lake. If you want to have a walkabout, there are also several short trails nearby.
Know before you go
Despite its tranquil vibes and beautiful scenery, Emei can get quite crowded with hordes of tourists flocking to the monastery. Therefore I highly recommend timing your visit here. If you must visit on the weekend, try to come before the crowds set in (10-11 am) or after 2 pm when most of the tour groups start to leave. Also note, there is a dress code to enter the monastery’s grounds. Besides covering your shoulders, shorts, short skirts, and open shoes are not allowed.
Xinfeng Mangrove Nature Reserve
One of the most accessible day trips from Hsinchu is Xinfeng Mangrove Nature Reserve (map). The reserve is not very big, but it’s the perfect escape from the busy streets of Hsinchu City.
Upon arrival, keep an eye out for the narrow trailhead right next to the bus stop. From here, you can follow the wooden walkway through the lush, dense mangrove forest. Along the way, you’ll also spot locals with hand-made fishing rods eagerly trying to catch fiddler crabs, shrimps and shellfish in the muddy waters below.
It is also possible to rent a bike nearby, but know that you won’t be able to enter the mangrove trail with it as the path is hardly big enough for two people to walk side by side.
Completing the trail will only take an odd 10 minutes or so, but it’s a great place to surround yourself with nature quickly. Once you reach the trail end, continue straight to get to the beach. Here you’ll find several food trucks dishing up local snacks, such as barbecue squid and sweet pork sausages. Grab some snacks or a drink and enjoy the spectacular ocean views from one of the cute tables overlooking the beach. It is a relaxing place to watch the waves come and go and also great for some good old fashioned people watching.
Oh, and travel tip – come just before sunset for cooler temperatures and spectacular color-changing skies.
Have a Picnic in Five Fingers Mountain
Less than 30 minutes drive from Beipu Old Street is another cool spot in Hsinchu County to check out – 森窯 Have a Picnic (map).
Hidden high up in the mountains of Five Fingers Mountain (五指山), a mystical forest full of towering trees awaits you. If you’ve ever been to Alishan, then you’re in for a real treat because Have a Picnic’s mini forest is bound to remind you of all the awesome hiking trails there.
Have a Picnic is a huge picnic area set amid a beautiful forest where you can enjoy a delicious kiln-baked pizza amid forest scenery. Besides chowing down pizza, you can also slip into the nearby temples like Wuzhishan Zaojun Temple (五指山灶君堂). If that’s not for you, there are a couple of cool hiking trails nearby varying in length and difficulty. Definitely try the circular path, which takes you around the cliff. The trailhead starts near the entrance of Have a Picnic, and while it’s not a very long hike, make sure to wear sturdy shoes as the trail can be slippery. Along the way, there are two tiny cave temples and some really spectacular views.
The only downfall about visiting here is that it’s quite scary to drive there with a scooter. The road is small and twists and turns up the mountain for about 2km. If you can, come in a car because driving downhill with a scooter is not for the fainthearted! Have a Picnic is quite a popular spot to hang out on weekends, so remember to order your pizzas online to avoid disappointment. You can do so on their website here. Oh, and don’t forget a picnic blanket and bug spray!
Insider’s Tip: If the drive is too scary for you, Sky & Trees (map) is a cute little vegan cafe along Route 122, where you can enjoy an ice-cold fruit tea, freshly made waffles, and an array of veggie pasta dishes.
Day Trips From Hsinchu – Planning Tips
You can reach most of these places by public transport such as buses or trains. Regular trains and buses depart from the main stations in the city. However, the easiest way to navigate the area is by self-drive. If you haven’t picked up a rental car at Taoyuan Airport on arrival, you might want to consider renting a scooter. There are a few scooter shops near the Hsinchu train station, but it is essential to know that you need a valid driver’s license to do so. Either a local license or an international license will do.
There is only one scooter shop (I know of) willing to rent scooters to foreigners in Hsinchu – the Yamaha store on Zhonghua Road, just past the bus station. Remember to bring your valid license as well as some form of identification along. Also, know that it is highly likely that the shop will keep your ID, passport, or ARC card until you return the scooter. Make sure you have Google Maps installed on your phone before you go to navigate the area quickly.
Similarly, if you are relying on public transport, I highly recommend grabbing an Easy Card, which will allow you to tap and go on most buses and trains. You can grab an Easy Card online or at any convenience store island-wide.
As most of these places are quite rural, it’s essential to know that language might be a problem. If you do not speak Chinese, learning a few basic phrases can go a long way in making your visit more enjoyable. Alternatively, make sure you have Traditional Chinese downloaded on Google Translate for a stress-free trip. You’ll also need cellular data to access the app on the go. To save time, order a local SIM card to pick up at the airport upon arrival first.
What to Pack for Day Trips from Hsinchu
Most of these places are in mountainous areas, so I strongly advise bringing along mosquito repellant or bug spray. Taiwan’s jungles have some pretty weird bugs, and the last thing you need is to be bitten by one.
Furthermore, if you’re visiting during summer, be sure always to carry an umbrella or raincoat as the weather can be quite unpredictable. It’s also essential to put on sufficient sunscreen and wear a UV protective light jacket, especially if you are riding a bike/scooter.
Also, remember to drink lots of water. Investing in a reusable water bottle is a great way to stay hydrated and minimize your plastic footprint. Taiwan has a subtropical climate, so if you’re not used to humidity, visit during spring or autumn instead.
If you need more tips on what to bring along, my Taiwan packing list will also come in handy.
Where to stay in Hsinchu City
There are several excellent hotels to stay near the train station.
- Shin Yuan Celeb Metro Hotel is an excellent choice if you want to be right in the heart of the city. It’s a short 2-minute walk from the train station, and near some great bars and restaurants.
- If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, Fleur Lis and Lakeshore Metro Hotel are both good choices.
Have you visited any of these places near Hsinchu? And, what tips do you have for fellow travelers looking to get off the beaten path?
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