Until recently, I lived in Beijing, and during the hot summers, I would search for a pool where I could cool off. Sure, some Beijingers swim in the Liangma river, but I only ever skated on it in the winter.
My first experience of a Beijing pool went like this. I found a public swimming pool that was recommended online, and so after a hour of getting lost I arrived with high expectations. I was met with a grimy pool, people spitting everywhere, not only in the dedicated spit boxes on the sides of the pool. The place was packed with loud kids leaping around, and the changing rooms stank of stale urine. I longed for the time when I lived in Bangkok and I could just jump on a bus and a short ferry to a Thai island for the weekend. I missed those days, and I still do.
However, what I didn’t realise was that, Dalian 大连, a beachside city in relatively close Liaoning province, not only has great beaches, but also has summer sea temperatures that are very close to what you’d find in Thailand. If you don’t believe me, see the following.
Source: seatemperature.org August 6th 2018.
The sea can also, weather dependent, have great visibility for snorkelling, and there’s a variety of fish and other marine life to enjoy.
You will not of course find the reefs and huge variations of colourful fish that you’d find in the tropics, but what you will find are often clear – and in the summer – warm waters to swim or snorkel in. There is even a PADI dive centre here, if you want to go a little deeper.
The best beaches in Dalian:
Key: 1 – Xinghai Square. 2 – Xinghai Beach. 3 – swimming spot next to Greek hostel. 4 – Yinshatan Beach. 5 – Fujiazhuang Beach.
Notice on the map that 4 and 5, and anything east of this have views unobstructed by the bridge (opened relatively recently). You’ll see nothing but outer lying islands, the horizon, and the occasional boat.
Fujiazhuang 付家庄 (5)
This is a long beach with golden sands, and sometimes a little surf. It gets busy during the summer, very quiet outside of this. Walk there along Binhai Road boardwalk from Xinghai Square 星海广场, or take bus 702 from Youhao Square 友好广场 in the centre.
Go to the far east of the beach (left as you look at the ocean) over a small headland, and you’ll get to a much quieter part of the beach (see below).
Yinshatan 银沙滩 (4)
This is a much smaller beach that is often busier with fishermen than with tourists. It is rockier than Fujiazhuang, so offers opportunity to explore the rocks as well as swim in the sea. Walk there along Binhai Road boardwalk or take bus 49 from Xinghai Square 星海广场.
Just before Yinshatan (3)
There’s a stretch of coastline known as Jinshatan 金沙滩 with clear waters, and some rocks that look like they are good for snorkelling around. Walk there along Binhai Road boardwalk and take the steps down from Binhai Road at the Greek Villa hostel.
Xinghai Park 星海公园 (2)
If you don’t want to go very far, Xinghai Park has a few beaches that get very crowded during the day, but if you go in the morning, you may only be sharing them with the regular swimmers that swim year round in Dalian. There are safety buoys on some of the beaches and it is a good idea to stay within those.
Heishijiao 黑石礁 (Black Rock Reef)
This is a good place for snorkelling, a rocky outcrop that’s popular with local retired people at low tide, who go there to collect shellfish. Even in the summer, it’s a beach that does not get so busy as it’s away from the main touristy area. Underwater visibility is usually good. Take the subway to Heishijiao 黑石礁地铁站 and the beach is a short walk. It is off the above map, to the west of Xinghai.
These are suggestions – I’m not responsible for your safety in the water. Take care when you swim, and be aware that there may be rips or other currents in the waters. If in doubt seek local advice and look for where locals are swimming. Although open-water swimming is fun, there are many more dangers than swimming in a pool but the upside is that the urine to water ratio will be minuscule. Take note though, that if there have been recent high winds at sea, there can be pollution, so look out for this, it’s quite visible and usually only confined to certain areas where it has been taken by the currents.
So, Beijingers, with Dalian just a six hour train ride from Beijing central station, or 50 minute plane over from Beijing, there’s no need to endure those crowded swimming pools, or outdoor waterparks with fake beaches. It’s no Koh Pha Ngan, but for such a short travel time, it is a good compromise.
If you want more advice on the city, for example where to sample craft beer in Dalian or find authentic Japanese food, you can follow the link.
If you know of any other good places for swimming or snorkelling in Dalian, please let me know in the comments below, and please subscribe in the top right (if using a desktop browser).
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