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A Guide to Guishan Island: What to do and How to go

Great choice for a getaway!

· 4 min read

Just off the coast of Yilan stands a small volcanic island, Guishan Island (龜山島). Guishan Island, also known as Turtle Island, gets its name from how the island resembles a turtle when viewed from certain angles. This island, currently uninhabited, is a popular destination for locals seeking a getaway from the hustle and bustle of main island of Taiwan.

Source: Shutterstock

What is Guishan Island known for?

Aside from the island looking like a turtle, Guishan Island is actually more renowned for activities around the island, rather than on the island.

In particular, most people would associate Guishan Island with whale and dolphin watching. And in recent years, yachting and SUP activities in the surrounding waters have also emerged as a very popular recreational activity amongst the young Taiwanese.

Source: Klook

The waters surrounding Guishan Island have emerged as a popular destination for SUP and yachting activities due to the Insta-worthy backdrop of the island. And it's not just that, the waters there are unique in that they look milky in colour, earning it the name 牛奶海 (milk sea).

That's not because there's nothing to do on the island itself. Rather, to preserve the ecological landscape of the island, the government had restricted the number of visitors who are allowed to the island each day. So, as compared to the activities around the island, activities on the island itself actually gets much less attention.

Whale watching and dolphin watching around Guishan Island

Whale watching and dolphin watching around Guishan Island is one of the most popular activities. Because the surrounding waters around the island are calmer, whales and dolphins often congregate there.

Due to the warmer weather, April to September are some of the best times to go whale and dolphin watching. Specifically, it will be easier to spot them from noon to early afternoon.

However, it is important to note that August to September also coincides with the peak typhoon season in Taiwan, so you might want to plan for your trips earlier in the year to reduce the risks of having your plans disrupted due to an incoming typhoon.

How to go whale watching and dolphin watching around Guishan Island

Source: NE Coast

There are many tours offering a half-day whale and dolphin watching trip around Guishan Island. Most of these tours require a certain amount of participants before they will depart, so the more people you have in your party, the higher the chances the tour will depart!

As with most whale and dolphin watching tours, the waters could be choppy. If you are prone to motion sickness or sea sickness, remember to get your medicine ready!

Yachting and SUP at Guishan Island / Milk Sea

Another very popular activity in recent years is to go yachting and stand-up paddling at the milk sea around Guishan Island.

Source: fittripyacht.com

The milky waters around the island, mixed with the dark blue waters, presents a very dreamy and attractive sight. The milky waters are due to the formation of an underground hot spring due to volcanic activities. The waters from the underground hot spring had mixed with the natural sea water, resulting in the formation of the milky colours.

The degree of milkiness varies from day to day, but it is said that the area of milkiness is gradually increasing, and the sight is the most beautiful in the early morning.

How to go yachting and stand-up paddling at Guishan Island / Milk Sea

There are many tours offering to bring you on a yacht or to go stand-up paddling at the milk sea.

However, due to weather conditions, these tours only operate from March to October every year. Some of the best times to go for these tours would be between June to July, where sea conditions are relatively more stable.

Visiting Guishan Island

Guishan Island only accepts 1,800 visitors each day, and you will need to submit an application if you plan to go onto the island.

The island itself doesn't have much attractions per-se, but you can spend some time trekking through the island and enjoying the peace and tranquility while admiring some really beautiful sceneries.

One of the highlights of the island is the 401 Highlands, which is the highest point of the island. However, the 401 highlands has a further restriction of only 100 visitors per day, and is limited to only those who visit the island in the morning. In your application to visit Guishan Island, you will need to also indicate that you want to trek up to 401 Highlands.

Source: NE Coast

While you explore the tiny island, you will also be able to find traces of how life was on the island previously. You will be able to find remnants of village walls, a school (that is now used as a base for coastal guards), as well as a military tunnel!

How to visit Guishan Island

To visit the island, there are a few things that you need to take note of:

  1. To visit the island, you will need to make an application with the Northeast and Yilan Coast Scenic Area.
  2. There are 4 time slots that you can apply for - 8.30am, 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, and each time slot is restricted to a maximum of 450 visitors. Remember to check the ferry schedules before making an application.
  3. Wednesdays are reserved for school visits, so you will not be able to visit on a Wednesday.
  4. On the day of visit, remember to bring along your passport in case of random checks by coastal guards.

Booking a ferry

To book your journey, you will need to contact the ferry operators via phone through the numbers they provided. Ferries will typically depart from Yilan Wushi Harbour. If you are unable to make a phone call to a foreign number, you could attempt contacting them via WhatsApp or LINE. (LINE is more commonly used in Taiwan.)

If you are unable to speak or read Chinese, there are also tours available that includes landing on the island and a climb up to the 401 Highlands. Note that these tours are only offered between March to October.