East Taiwan is fast becoming a famous route for cyclists, offering scenic coastal riding and winding valleys, with numerous highlights to experience along the journey. Our Taiwan leadership, Tot and Simon, share one such highlight, a firm favorite of theirs to visit in the country - the island gem of Sanxiantai, off the southeast coast of Taiwan - the “Magic Island” as they call it.
Just a short ride from our house in Chenggong on Taiwan’s wild East Coast lies Sanxiantai or Three Immortals Platform. Sanxiantai is a volcanic islet only a few hundred meters offshore, connected to the mainland by a footbridge, yet still manages to feel a world away. The islet is actually a former crater and gets the name Three Immortals Platform from its topography which (vaguely) resembles three hunched figures (3 of the 8 Taoist immortals). From afar, the islet entices you to brave the often windswept eight arched bridge, and from here a raised pathway guides you on a gentle circuit around the island.
When we first moved to the East Coast our kids were just 2 and 4 and needed some encouragement to make the 90-minute cycling circuit around the island, and so the legend of the Fairies of Magic Island was born! The tiny white butterflies which flutter into view amidst the pandanus were the fairies, and the island was, therefore, of course, deemed to be magic. Huge orange pandanus fruit and bizarre volcanic landforms which sometimes resemble giant petrified waves only add to the otherworldliness of this unique islet. The views along the coast of the mainland are spellbinding in almost any weather, but for those with a head for heights, it’s worth heading all the way to the island’s tip. There, a tiny lighthouse, built on a volcanic rock stack during the Japanese occupation, offers unparalleled vistas. After a ride and hike, there’s nothing better than ice cream, and Sanxiantai provides delicious mango ice cream, plus a host of locally made tropical fruit ice pops, with flavors ranging from custard apple to roselle. There’s more to Sanxiantai than just riding and hiking. In summer, you can kayak around the island, snorkel (in good conditions), and during the annual Taitung Balloon Festival, hot air balloons soar from the beach at sunrise. Our family still heads to this island regularly, made all the easier by the designated bike path which weaves through the coastal coconut groves. Four years later, while the girls now realize that the fairies are actually butterflies, none of the magic has gone from our rides to Sanxiantai. Check out the Three Immortals Platform as a featured stop on our newly re-designed Eastern Escape route, a 7-day loop which takes riders all the way from the world’s deepest gorge at Taroko along beautiful Pacific Highway 11 before crossing the Coastal Mountains and returning to Hualien through the lush East Rift Valley.