Shanghai, Shengsi Island
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A Long Weekend in Shengsi Island 嵊泗岛

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

Ticket to Shengsi Island includes the 1 hour bus ride from Shanghai Nanpu Bridge to the boat dock

The bus drops you off here, head into the building on the left for the Tourism Center and boarding gates

Follow the crowd through this long walkway towards your designated boat

The slow boat takes around 2 hours while the fast boat takes less than 1 hour

Welcome to Shengsi! Get in line to hop on the official island taxis and make sure the meter is running

Enjoying Shengsi beaches and local eats

From our balcony, view of the hotel and private beach

One of the three swimming pools in the hotel–the large pool with the water slide is only open in the summer time from July onwards

Beachin’

We grabbed a friendly taxi driver and took an evening drive around the island, stopping at various lookout points

Some gorgeous greenery at dusk

Walking down to one of the quieter beaches on the other side of the island by the Fishermen’s Village

A lighthouse on the dock next to a pretty cluster of homes

“Three monks on a beach”

One of my favourite moments during our trip–sunset on this beach was gorgeous

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

We drove up to the eastern lookout point to look at the many untouched beaches on Shengsi Island

六井潭 Liujingtan is a must-visit on Shengsi Island with some nice views and relatively easy hike

Spring time on the island

The beautiful lighthouse with a paved pathway along the cliffs

Well-paved walkways, worth the climb

A short but pretty hike by the water (I could’ve done a couple hours of this!)

We even spotted goats grazing on the cliffs

Back at the quiet beach strip in front of our hotel for some card games

Beach, bikini and beer!

Favourite food finds on Shengsi Island

Island living means plenty of beers–we also tried this fruity, blackcurrant liquor that was quite strong

We went to Stars Inn Seafood for dinner. You can pick the seafood you want and the style of cooking you want (stir fry, steamed, with chilis, garlics, etc.)

Steamed octopus–this was INCREDIBLY tender we were really impressed by it

After dinner we found an ice cream that was trendy among island locals–salted egg yolk ice cream (it’s a little strange but quite nice!)

Next morning, we found this friendly Hawaiian-shirt local selling sweet mochi cakes that were incredible! Biggest regret we didn’t buy two bags to go…

Swung by the wholesale fish market in the island city centre

Many type of fresh fish–you can buy some seafood and take it a restaurant, they’ll cook it for you for a small fee

Chikadee is a patisserie (!!) we found on the island. It’s surprising to find a french bakery on this tiny little island but definitely worth a visit if you’re like us and missing wine and pastries

Assortment of madeleines and croissants

‘Traditional’ french.. on a very local Chinese island

We had our best meal on the island at Mr. Hou’s Seafood Noodles. It is a no-frills, family-run noodle shop where the owners wake up every morning at 4am to make Chinese-style gnocchi that’s incredibly chewy and flavourful, 10/10.

Seafood noodles in a clam-based broth–not the most beautiful picture but the soup was really flavourful

The aftermath of our dinner–we all agreed it was our favourite meal over the weekend!

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

Last stop before leaving the island, make sure to visit the colourful Fishermen’s Village–they sell grilled goodies all around town (left is rice cake brushed with sweet soy and right is grilled squid)

Fishermen’s Village is famous right now for its colourful revival–slowly adding murals to the public walls and painting splashes of colours to different buildings

A goodbye to the friendly people we met on the island, including this beautiful golden retriever that’s the unofficial mascot of the town

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.

love,
eatprayjade x.

Traveling to Shengsi Island

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.

Restaurants
侯老师家的海鲜面 Mr Hou’s Seafood Noodles
嵊泗星宿海鲜餐厅 Stars Inn Seafood
Chikadee Pâtisserie

Island Must-Visits
六井潭 Liujingtan
东海渔村 Fishermen’s Village
南长涂沙滩 Beach where our hotel was located

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