Zhoushan and Dong Ji Dao (East Pole Islands) travel guide
Tired of the chaos and pollution of Eastern China’s big cities? Dreaming of clean air, wide views, and maybe a nice beach?
A weekend trip to Zhoushan and Dong Jji Dao may be just what you need. Although you won’t find pristine waters here, the scenery and laid-back atmosphere of these islands make for a perfect getaway from Hangzhou or Shanghai’s city life.
For a territory as big as China, the PRC doesn’s have so many islands, (maybe that’s why they are creating artificial ones in the South China Sea, or maybe not).
Among these two or three thousand (we couldn’t find the exact number of islands in China anywhere), most of them are part of the Zhoushan Archipelago in Zhejiang Province.
This group of 1390 islands is just off-shore from the bustling cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Ningbo, just next to the delta of the Qiantang River and Yellow River (Yangtze).
The Zhoushan Prefecture is divided into 2 districts and 2 counties, there’s beauty everywhere, but undoubtedly the best islands are the East Pole Islands (Dong Ji Dao).
As we all know, China’s territory has everything you may dream of but beaches, every article you’re going to read about the best beaches in China is a scam.
Unfortunately, the Zhoushan Archipelago makes no exception, the proximity of those big rivers, gives the water a brown color, although I’ve heard Dong Ji Dao can have a blue sea on good days.
But don’t be upset, these Islands, especially Dongji Dao, are sure to steal your heart anyway (at least they stole ours).
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The English Crown requested as this as a concession, but at the end choose Hong Kong instead, just a fisherman village at the time.
Zhoushan is the biggest island, giving indeed the name to the entire archipelago, it’s connected to the mainland by a highway bridge, near the city of Ningbo.
It’s home to the largest city, also called Zhoushan, and host of all the main transport hubs connecting to the mainland. The area of interest is the Putuo District, at the eastern part of the island.
Here’s the old fisherman town, perched on the side of the hill, with the view of the ocean. Walking this area gives a perspective on the traditional lifestyle of Zhejiang fishermen, fish is put to dry literally everywhere, you could stomp on it if you’re distracted.
In Putuo is also the Shenjiamen Harbor, from where you can catch ferries to each one of the inhabited islands of the archipelago. Here’s also the bridge to Zhujiajian Island, the further you can get without taking a ferry.
This is the second most touristic area of Zhoushan Archipelago, after Putuoshan. There is the very wide and long sandy Nansha beach, where the International Sand Sculpture Art Plaza is situated. This is a sand sculpture park, with inaugurated for the 2016 G20 summit of Hangzhou, has sculptures representing each of the countries involved. The exhibition is nice, but it has a ridiculous entry fee of 70RMB, absurdly enough though, you can enter freely and legally after or before the ticket office opening time.
There are nice cliffs on the south part of the island and a steep pebble beach (probably fake) in Baishan Scenic Area, also there in Baishan there’s a non-sense entry fee to a small park, skip it entirely and head straight to the beach instead, which can be accessed freely (even though everything is set up in a way to make you understand otherwise).
There are many fish restaurants and accommodation on Zhjiajian Island. To get around you can try to work out your way through local buses or take a Taxi.
Putuoshan is the most visited site in Zhoushan Archipelago. It’s an island of great significance for the Buddhists, the female bodhisattva Guanyin is worshipped here, her statue being the landmark of the island. Putuoshan is one of the 5 holy Buddhist mountains of China.
When we saw the mass of tourist going there we decided to skip this place, which moreover has an outrageous entry fee of 160RMB. The island is rich in vegetation and temples, some of which are available for overnight temple-stay.
Dong Ji Dao Island and Shengsi Archipelago
We said these are the best islands in China, or at least of Zhejiang, but we didn’t sound that excited until now, did we? That’s because we saved the best for last. The Shengsi Islands are stunning, upon arriving they greet you with a completely different landscape, almost Mediterranean with its low vegetation, yellow grass, and barren rocks. It reminded me a bit of Favignana or even some part of Sardinia.
There’s a bit of confusion on the actual names of these islands, I’ll try to clarify a bit: Dongji Dao means East Pole Island, this is, in fact, the easternmost tip of China. The name refers to a group of five islands under the administration of Putuo District. The islands names are Huangxing, Qingbang, Miaozihu, Dongfushan and a fifth one, apparently not visitable, probably because of military operations. We’ve been only on Miaozihu, where the town of Dongji is, and where the ferry will first harbor.
The Island of Miozihu is pretty small, from the main fisherman village you can follow a few paths that we’ll lead you to the around the island. The most interesting things here are the traditional tombs, they are everywhere, dotting the landscape with their peculiar shapes. We were lucky to be here during the TOmb Sweeping Day (a traditional Chinese holiday held in May), so there were offers on the tombs, that were also being cleaned by the deceased’s relatives with a symbolic paper broom.
On the north side of the island, there’s a rocky promontory with a stunning view. On the south side’s foreland is the huge statue of a legendary hero, whose story you can read on the picture…, further on is also a romantic lighthouse.
How to get to Dongji Islands
There’s a daily ferry from Shenjiamen Harbor in Putuo, Zhoushan departing around 8:30 am, you’ll better buy your ticket the day before if you’re traveling during holidays, as the ferry might be full. There’s also an afternoon ferry during holidays and weekends (around 2:30 pm, but ask). The ferry takes about s hours to Donji Town. From there you can reach the other islands.
There are direct buses to Zhoushan from Hangzhou and Shanghai, they take from 150 to 240 minutes. Alternatively, you can take the fast train to Ningbo and a bus from there. The buses will bring you to the Putuo Terminal, just one kilometer away from the town, get down at the last stop if the bus makes more than one.
Where to sleep in Putuo, Zhoushan
This was a nightmare, most of the hotels in Putuo won’t accept foreigners, so it’s absolutely a must to book your stay in advance. Use Ctrip, they’ll solve any possible problem, check on their map to be sure of the hotel’s location, you’ll want to stay in Putuo or Zhejiajian Island.
Best VPNs for China
To access most of the internet in China, you’ll need a VPN app (Virtual Private Network). Most of the biggest websites are banned in China, including:
all Google products (even Gmail)
and many others
The best VPNs are Express and Astrill, we have used Express VPN for a couple of years and have never had any major problems, absolutely recommended and worth the price.
There are also numerous free VPNs but many do not work or have a limited time during the day, usually an hour.