Not far outside central Taipei is a coastal tourist destination that is often left off independent travelers’ itineraries. Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園) provides visitors with a combination of the calming sea, unique rock formations, and hiking.
The 1.7 km cape at the northeastern end of New Taipei is easily accessible on bus 1815, which makes stops at Taipei Main Station, City Hall bus terminal, Zhongxiao Xinsheng, Zhongxiao Fuxing, and Zhongxiao Dunhua. The ride takes about 90 minutes to Yehliu stop. From the bus stop there are signs that lead to the geopark. There are also buses from Keelung and Tamsui.
According to the park’s official website, the area’s name has three origins — a translation from the aboriginal Pinpu language, an abbreviation of the Spanish words “Punto Diablos” (devils cape), and from a Taiwanese phrase meaning “the rice was stolen by the savages” referring to locals making holes in rice sacks to steal from the traders.
Upon entering the park after purchasing a ticket for NT$80 (US$2.64), most visitors go straight toward the more well-known area that is home to Queen’s Head rock and numerous other honeycombed mushroom-shaped rock formations, which is just past the statue of Lin Tian Zhen (林添祯). This is by far the most popular section of the geopark. Earlier in the day is the best time to get there, especially for tourists who want a photo next to Queen’s Head rock as there is always a line to walk up to it. Of course, it is possible to get pictures from other angles, but the boardwalk is the closest visitors can get to the rock.
The statue of Lin Tian Zhen was commissioned by Chiang Kai-shek after he heard that the local fisherman drowned while attempting to save a student who had fallen into the water at Yehliu in 1964.
To the north of Queen’s Head rock is a hike up to Yehliu Lighthouse and the radio tower near the end of cape. The well-marked trail is less traveled, particularly in the morning, and can provide visitors with a quieter experience in the park. Along the route visitors can watch butterflies and listen to the sounds of waves crashing against the coast.
The lighthouse was built in 1967 at the top of Gueitou Mountain and is accessible along the trail that branches off from the main route along the cape. There are additional trails that take tourists closer to the coast as well.
To the southern end of Yehliu Geopark are more rock formations that include candle-shaped rocks at the edge of the ocean. There are also numerous pools that resemble potholes in this area, created by erosion from the sea. There is a short trail above this area of the park with a platform overlooking the entire geopark, which is a great spot for tourists to snap a few photos.
There are guide maps available as well as signs that inform visitors of the different names for each of the rock formations. There’s Dragon’s Head, Fairy’s Shoe, Taiwan Rock, Pineapple Bun, and even Fried Drumstick. With a group, visitors can try to identify each one throughout the park.
Even during the week, it’s best to arrive at Yehliu in the morning to avoid the crowds as most tour groups arrive shortly after lunch. Of course, the crowds are larger during holidays and weekends. There are also a few hotels available near the park, as well as more in nearby towns.
Just outside Yehliu Geopark is Yehliu Ocean World, which offers visitors marine animal performances and glimpses of local marine life. Tickets for Ocean World are NT$330 and the official website is only in Chinese.
There are plenty of seafood restaurants just outside Yehliu Geopark, but don’t count on any being exceptionally good. While the seafood is fresh, these restaurants cater to tour groups that are unlikely to leave reviews or return in the future.
Down Donggao Rd. where it meets Yu’ao Rd. is a less visited park called 龜吼駱駝峰. There is a small trail leading up the rocks, but it’s easy to miss. This area does not have safety measures like in Yehliu Geopark, so be aware of the smooth rock and the potential for larger waves.
In Yehliu Geopark visitors are reminded to remain on approved trails and to not cross the red painted lines for safety reasons. Visitors are also discouraged from touching the rock formations as human interaction can damage centuries of natural erosion that created the beauty of the region.