I grew up in Boston and have wonderful childhood memories of Cape Cod beaches and towns; and I spent years along the San Francisco and Sonoma coast line as well. So, beaches and the ocean are a major stress release for me.
We all know that it’s easy to get a bit restless in dry, landlocked Beijing. Fortunately, the popular beach resort town of Beidaihe, only 2 ½ hours drive straight east, is a pleasant diversion. It’s definitely not on a par with California’s Carmel, or a typical Cape Cod beach town. But Beidaihe’s ocean is as intoxicating as any ocean, their beach itself is long, the boardwalk is fun, and there are a lot of diversions for everyone, from couples to families and big groups. The seafood, unfortunately, is disappointing and apparently has always been so – but we’re at the beach so of course tried it anyway (not nearly as fresh as in Qingdao or Dalian).
We stayed 20km north, in the port city of Qinhuangdao, at the Holiday Inn. The hotel itself is very nice and is on a beach, but it’s surrounded by the industrial port, so we would much prefer to stay in Beidaihe next time (we saw a Shangri-la being built nearby, but it’s still far from the happening areas – 没有人气meiyou renqi).
Just north of Qinhuangdao is the excellent Shanhaiguan, the famous section of great wall that ends at Laolongtou (Old Dragon’s Head) going into the ocean. It’s a very interesting and dramatic section of the wall, and definitely a good excursion while staying for the weekend. The walled-in town nearby was interesting but very empty, all the street front stores redone for tourists (like Qianmen) but practically deserted (like Qianmen). We much preferred the nearby mountain park, called Jiaoshan. There are fun, very long gondola rides which take you very far to a huge lake, or you could go the other way over mountain tops.
Overall, this beach area is justly popular, for a long daytrip or more satisfying weekend stay. I assume that with all the downtown construction, the quality of restaurants and hotels will get better as well.
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