Chongming Island

Admission:

Free

Hours:

24 hours

If you live in Shanghai, taking a trip to Chongming Island (Chóngmíng Dǎo, 崇明岛) is a great way to get your all-things-plant-and-fresh-air-related fix. The island itself is over 1,000 sq. km and is China's second biggest island after Hainan. Getting to Chongming Island was streamlined in 2009 with the opening of the Shanghai Yangtze River Tunnel and Bridge, and it is now less than a two hour journey from doorstep to island's edge.

Once you've arrived, you have a number of options. Parks, ecological villages and wetland preserves abound, and the most difficult part of any day trip to Chongming Island is deciding what to do.

If you arrive by bus, you'll begin your day on the eastern side. Up first on the eastern itinerary is the Dongtan Wetland Preserve (Dōngtān Shīdì Gōngyuán, 东滩湿地公园), a 25 sq. km bird sanctuary and all around swell place open from 9am to 5pm daily. Relax, take a stroll and keep your eyes peeled for flocks of migratory birds (particularly from the beginning of summer through early fall when the bird population is at it's highest). Admission to the park is RMB 70 and a short cab ride from the bus station.

If you've been known to cast a line and gut your dinner, you'll be giddy to hear that Chongming Island has some of the best fishing in the region. The Yingdong Fishing Village (Yíngdōng Cūn, 瀛东村) is the easternmost point of the island, and all you'll need for fishing can be rented there. It's a mere RMB 20 to enter the village, and locals will grill your catch for you on the spot. So strap on your waders and go buck wild- it's time to catch your dinner.

At the island's southwestern tip you'll find the Xisha Wetlands (Xishā Shīdì, 西沙湿地), a RMB 60 taxi ride from the ferry port. Though the average traveler might balk at such a costly transportation expenditure, there is good news: the park itself charges no admission. Affix a bamboo stick with some bait and catch some crabs. It's time for lunch somewhere.

The other big attraction on the westside of the island is the Dongping National Forest Park (Dōngpíng Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán, 东平国家森林公园). Though the forest isn't indigenous (it's the largest man-made forest in eastern China; did you know there was more than one?), that isn't to say that it's not a tranquil place to spend an afternoon. If you're lucky, you'll spot some deer or a horse or two while strolling through the eerie, evenly spaced trees. Rent a bicycle inside the park to explore, or if you're up for a little more excitement, find one of the zip-line courses or rock climbing walls and get after it. Admission to the park is RMB 70.

And there's plenty more to do on Chongming Island. Take a weekend, relax and check out as much as you can. If you're there during hairy crab season, do yourself a favor and pig out. You won't regret it (well, you might. So don't go nuts).

Find a hotel on Chongming Island here.

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