Only 4 hours from Shanghai, Shengsi Island 嵊泗列岛 is perfect for a short getaway. Over a long weekend, my friends and I traveled to Shengsi in search of some quiet beaches and hiking. If you’re looking to explore a Chinese island that retains a lot of its local charms, Shengsi Island is just that. Still a little rugged and spotty with service, Shengsi is filled with friendly locals that are curious to learn about each traveler’s stories. Not to mention, excellent seafood and ‘sea-to-table’ dining.
When we were planning for our trip, we had first considered the popular Hainan Island 海南岛. Nicknamed the ‘Hawaii of China’, Hainan Island is more convenient for international travellers that prefer a resort getaway. But we felt there are too many less-traveled-to gems in China and were very tempted by pictures of Shengsi’s quiet beaches. After all, when traveling in China half the fun is not knowing what to expect.
Note that traveling to Shengsi from Shanghai requires taking a bus and then a boat. During peak season, ticket purchase a day in advance is highly recommended. Travel details are at the end of this post.
Getting to Shengsi Island
Enjoying Shengsi beaches and local eats
Our long weekend spent on Shengsi Island was relaxing and spontaneous. The first day, our boat arrived on the island just in time for golden hour. To enjoy the pink skies before sunset, we grabbed a taxi driver and asked to be taken around. Our driver was friendly and chatty, he even took it upon himself to show us lookout points we would’ve never found by ourselves!
Among them, we found the the beach by Fishermen’s Village the most stunning for sunset. As we strolled along the beach, we met a couple of young monks picking up seashells and enjoying the sunset.
Hiking the perimeter of Shengsi Island via 六井潭 Liujingtan
Favourite food finds on Shengsi Island
When it comes to food, Shengsi Island is pretty much synonymous with seafood or ‘sea-to-table.’ All kinds of seafood are available and at extremely affordable prices. In the evening, the restaurant lights slowly turn on and soon the streets are lined with boxes of fresh clams, octopus, squid, sea fish, etc.
When it comes to dining, you only need to judge a restaurant by two things: 1. How fresh is the seafood catch you see outside the restaurant? 2. Do you know any familiar faces at this restaurant? These two tips are super important! The first one guarantees your seafood quality (pro tip: get all shellfish done with the signature chilli and garlic sauce!). The second guarantees a cheaper price for your seafood. We ran into our driver from the morning and he helped us get some extra dishes curtesy of the house. There’s definitely an art to dining on small islands!
The star among them all was Mr. Hou’s Seafood Noodles. It’s a family run store where the noodles are handmade every morning and are incredible when stir-fried with a dash of soy sauce. This was an awesome late night snack and went amazing with beers. Don’t miss this!
A last visit to Fishermen’s Village
For all of its charm, Shengsi Island lacks that polished edge a lot of beach resorts and developed islands have. The hotel we stayed at was clean but still needed a lot more work on the interiors and service. Similarly, although taxi drivers now need to turn on the meter and have been more strictly regulated by island authorities since 2019, they still have the habit of arbitrary charging.
Traveling in China is an expectations game and it will take time to adjust. For every surreal moment you experience when traveling spontaneously in China, there will be significant inconveniences as well. But if you can get past the bumpy bus ride and hectic boat ride, Shengsi is nice for a weekend getaway.
Hope everyone is staying well and safe! These photos are from an old trip of mine in 2019, thought I’d take time to share some beautiful photos of traveling in China.
From Shanghai, buy a combo ticket (bus+ferry) at Nanpu Bridge Station for Shengsi Island. Take the bus and then get on the ferry for Shengsi Island. If you want to visit the moss-island Gouqi Island, you still must get to Shengsi first (Xiaocaiyuan Pier) and then get on a smaller boat from there.
侯老师家的海鲜面 Mr Hou’s Seafood Noodles
嵊泗星宿海鲜餐厅 Stars Inn Seafood
东海渔村 Fishermen’s Village
南长涂沙滩 Beach where our hotel was located