A Scenic Cycle Route in Taitung City

Our initial plan had been to cycle the Taitung Mountain Ocean Bikeway, but it seems that this hasn’t been possible for a number of years – a previously existing bridge has gone, and some of the tracks are now fenced off as part of Taitung Forest Park – but the proprietor of our hotel seemed to think that there are plans to rebuild the bridge, so perhaps it will become possible again sometime in the future. Anyway, with that in mind, we decided to do the part of the bikeway which follows the old railway line, and then see where our interest took us from there. In the end, lunch dragged us over to Beinan and from there we did a big loop over the massive Beinan River and back around the southern tip of the military airbase. For most visitors, I think the railway line portion of the journey would be enough by itself, and for more serious cyclists, I think there are probably far more juicy rides to get stuck into, so I’ll give detailed instructions for the first part, then a few photos of the longer route that we did along with a GPX track in case you think it looks interesting.

Distance: 23km – a lot less if you only cover the remaining section of the official bikeway.

Time: I think it took us about 2½ hours including time stopped for lunch.

Difficulty: 1/10 if you only do the shorter section up as far as the old bridge and back, and only a little more if you do the whole loop. The loop includes a few slight inclines, but the shorter section is all flat.

Total ascent: A little less than 100 metres.

Water: A single small bottle should suffice, particularly in cooler weather. You’re never far from places to stop for refreshments.

Shade: Almost none. I had one of those hats that covers your neck, but I should have also had long sleeves and maybe even gloves too. (We visited in March on a sunny day.)

Mobile network: Clear throughout.

Enjoyment: The old railway section is a dedicated cycle path, so it’s the most pleasant part to ride on, and it’s also probably the most interesting for most people. As for the rest of the larger loop, I enjoyed seeing the dramatic rock formations of Liji Badlands and some of the rural scenery along the way.

Other: It would be easy to extend this loop to take in the Beinan archaeological site if you’re interested in that.

Route type: There and back or loop depending on what you fancy.

Jump to the bottom of this post for a map and GPX file.

We rented bikes from a corner store along the coastal park for a flat rate of $100 a day. The boss asked what type of riding we were planning to do before selecting some all purpose models and made a show of spritzing them with disinfectant before passing them over to us.

To get to the start of the dedicated bikeway from the seafront you’ll first need to cycle up Datong Road, cross over Lihai Road and turn leftish onto Guangfu Road.

Some lovely artwork on a temple not that far along Guangfu Road.

Guangfu Road soon merges into Tiehua Road, and a little further along you’ll spot this painted building. It’s the first of several repurposed station buildings, and you’ll find the start of the dedicated bikeway just to the left of it in the park. In its infancy, this line was built and operated by Taitung Sugar Company, and when it opened in 1919, you would have only seen steam engines pulling their goods along the tracks.

For some unknown reason, the bikeway’s architects decided to install a ramp right at the start. Perhaps it’s an imitation of the old station architecture, or perhaps it’s just concealing something boring but essential.

A little further along, the path really does take you up and over the old platforms. A decommissioned train in orange and white livery sits in the park (a DR2700, one of 31 bought from Japan if you’re interested in such things), it’s ones of the trains which plied the tracks here until the south-link line made this tiny station obsolete.

Other features include an old water tower, air raid shelters, garages, station buildings and a unique turntable that is evidently the only one of its kind left in Taiwan. Since reaching the end of its career as an active railway, the area around the station has been given a new lease of life as Taitung Railway Art Village and you can spend a fun half an hour or more wandering around and spotting all of the creative installations.

Heading onwards, the bikeway skirts around the main entrance to Carp Hill (left photo) and passes Wu’an Temple (武安宮), before settling into its stride properly.

The rails have been left in situ beside the bikeway pretty much the whole way from the old station to where this part of the route terminates.

And given that you’re following an old railway, the riding is smooth and easy the whole way.

As you near the head end of Carp Hill, look at the base of the rock wall to spot a couple more old air defence bunkers.

Even as you head further and further away from the art park there are still murals and playful sculptures to spot along the way.

The bikeway passes through different areas, sometimes sandwiched between the backs of two rows of houses, other times snaking its way through tree lined parks.

There is another bunker peeking out from the surface of the road just before the path crosses over Taiping River. The mountain-wards skyline looked dark and brooding, a hint of the rainy weather that we’d have all the next day.

About two and a half kilometres from the old platforms in downtown Taitung we found ourselves passing through another ghost station. Malan Station (馬蘭站) was a freight station back when it was still in operation, providing transportation for the goods manufactured at the Taitung Sugar Factory, as well as petroleum for CNPC.

A stylised depiction of a hundred-pacer viper decorating a flue. Hundred-pacers are recognised as a protective and friendly spirit by some of the aboriginal tribes that have populations living in Taitung.

Other corners of the cycle path showcase elements of daily life and differing spiritual beliefs.

The final stretch of the old bikeway is by far the least traversed. Leaves litter the ground, and many wooden slats are either rotting or absent.

The further inland you go, the more agricultural the scenery becomes until suddenly the track runs out. At this point, we turned around and went in search of lunch.

This is the end of the dedicated bikeway, so if you’re just in search of a very casual ride then you can turn back and return the same way you came. If you’re just into exploring then continue on your way. I won’t give such thorough directions for the remainder of this post, since there are multiple ways you could go.

The hunt for sustenance took us over Taiping River, blue sky reflecting off the water’s surface.

Not far over the other side of the bridge, we found lunch in a little vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant may have been small, but the portions most definitely weren’t. I had a huge bowl of congee, Teresa got a vegetarian ‘oyster’ omelette and we shared some little disc-shaped potstickers that were very moreish.

Since the afternoon had barely started, it seemed a waste to take the bikes back too early, and so we headed on, crossing over Beinan River, then veering right to loop back down the far side and through the countryside. Looking upstream you can catch a glimpse of Liji Badlands, and downstream the river has been mined for rocks most of the way down to where it meets the sea.

The road climbs a bit as we rode away from the river through farmland. There was a lone ornamental tree standing up in the middle of the fields looking a little out of place.

At some point, we took a right turn and started heading back towards the city. As we drew close to the military airbase there were several of these straw sculptures adding interest to the verges. There wasn’t an obvious theme to the artwork, alongside this cute bear there was also a teapot and a fighter jet.

Close to where we had to return the bikes we passed one of Taitung’s more popular attractions/check-in locations: Taitung White House. You won’t find any plaque or information board outside this ramshackle-looking dwelling – it probably isn’t exactly the type of place that Taitung’s Tourist Board wants representing their city. Briefly, the house is the handiwork of a Mr Lee (now deceased), a military veteran from Guangxi Province in China, who – with the resourcefulness for which his generation is famed – cobbled together a four-storey family home using recycled odds and ends that he picked up from around the city, adding to it for decades. If you want a detailed history of the place, then you can read this thorough blog post on the subject.

Arriving back where we’d started, we dropped off the bikes and went for a short wander along the seafront before heading off in search of a shower and some dinner.

How to get cycle Taitung’s Mountain Ocean Bikeway
Getting to Taitung

The easiest way to get to Taitung from Taipei is via train. You can book tickets for one of the express trains using the 台灣e訂通 app. It cost us $768 per ticket one way. From the train station, you’ll need to take a bus to the city centre–or rent a scooter for the duration of your visit. We rented one from 台東翔順機車出租 and had no problems with the service.

Renting Bikes in Taitung

We had a good experience renting from 探索自行車出租店 on the seafront. We rented standard bikes for $100 a day each, but they have electric and tandems too.

Google maps address: We started our loop from Haibin Park but you could just as easily start from closer to the city centre if that’s where you’re staying.

Nearby trails:

Taitung Mountain Ocean Bikeway Map

GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.)

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If you enjoy what I write and would like to help me pay for the cost of running this site or train tickets to the next trailhead, then feel free to throw a few dollars my way. You can find me on either PayPal or Buy Me a Coffee.

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