Sail to Dapeng Bay, Roam Pingtung’s Hakka Backcountry

Pingtung is the county at Taiwan’s southern tip. It contains almost everything that makes Taiwan an excellent destination for travelers. Although Pingtung accounts for only about 3% of Taiwan’s population and 7% of its land area, it offers striking mountain scenery, delightfully bucolic villages, hot springs, the island’s most popular beach resort, and its oldest national park. Pingtung’s greatest tourism asset, however, is its people. The county’s 794,000 residents include members of the Paiwan and Rukai Austronesian indigenous tribes, as well as descendants of Han migrants who arrived from China’s Fujian Province in the 17th to 19th centuries, and a substantial Hakka community. 

The Hakka people are one of Taiwan’s most fascinating minorities. They trace their ancestry to China, where their unique language and customs formed during a series of southward migrations between 1,600 and 400 years ago. Soon after the Qing Empire staked its claim to Taiwan in 1684, Hakka pioneers began moving to the island.  

Adept at converting wilderness into productive farmland, many of these new arrivals established themselves in the interior of modern-day Kaohsiung and Pingtung. To coordinate self-defense during various rebellions from 1721 to 1865, this chain of settlements formed a federation of sorts known as Liuk-toi (in Hakka) or Liudui (in Mandarin).  

This and many other facets of Hakka history are celebrated at the Liudui Hakka Cultural Park in Neipu Township. The park is a key member of the Pingtung Tourism Union, a newly launched destination marketing organization that aims to promote the region and simplify planning for tourists and itinerary designers. Like Taiwan’s other tourism unions, it brings together businesses, non-profit organizations, government entities, and scholars committed to a type of sustainable tourism that benefits both visitors and local stakeholders. 

Among Pingtung’s tourist magnets, the Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area is second only to Kenting National Park. As well as the eponymous bay – a 532-hectare lagoon ideal for watersports – the scenic area also includes the island of Xiaoliuqiu. Alternatively known as Little Liuqiu or Lambay, the latter is adored by visitors who seek get-away-from-it-all weekends built around seafood and snorkeling.  

The Dapeng Bay Marine Festival is Taiwan’s largest sailing regatta, and the 2024 edition is set to fill the month of April with yachting and other waterborne activities. Visitors can sign up for a 90-minute catamaran voyage or a “one-day captain” experience. On the weekend of April 13-14, more than 200 expert seafarers are expected to gather for a thrilling multi-category sailing competition. 

No festival in Taiwan is complete without delicious food. The famous seafood restaurants in Donggang – the fishing town just northwest of the bay – can be relied on to serve excellent bluefin tuna, sakura shrimp, and escolar roe (karasumi). On April 13-14 and 20-21, a special afternoon and evening market at Dapeng Bay Coastal Park Wharf will feature handicrafts and souvenirs as well as tempting delicacies. 

Whatever the season, self-driving travelers are sure to enjoy a leisurely circuit of Dapeng Bay, the hour before dusk being an especially delightful time to enjoy the view. The 11.9 km-long road around the lagoon goes over Taiwan’s only folding vehicular bridge, a sail-shaped cable-stayed structure designed so even large yachts can access the lagoon and its marina. 

The bridge is one of the area’s most photographed features. Another is Oyster Shell Islet, a carry-over from the postwar period when the lagoon was dotted with bamboo frames on which mollusks were cultivated. Because the bay’s oyster farmers dumped unwanted shells at the same spot, over the years, this accumulation turned into a kind of artificial reef that attracts and shelters fish. Most tourist boats come here, even though there is no dry land on which to stand.   

During the cooler months, birdwatchers will find themselves drawn to the six artificial wetlands which fringe the bay. Like several other locations along Taiwan’s southwestern coast, Dapeng Bay is an important wintering ground for migrating waterbirds.  

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the townships that lie a few kilometers to the east and southeast of Dapeng Bay, Xinpi and Jiadong, formed the southern tail of the Liudui Hakka alliance.  

At the very center of Jiadong, tourists can explore the sprawling mansion that many consider to be southern Taiwan’s most exquisite private residence. The 51-room single-story Hsiao Family Old House was built in stages between the 1860s and the first decade of the 20th century by a clan that did well out of winemaking and cloth dyeing. The town has many other relics, including the tranquil Yang’s Ancestral Hall. 

A little further from the ocean and much closer to the foothills of the Central Mountain Range, Wanluan Township offers not just rich Hakka culture but also the country’s oldest church. Only about 1% of Taiwan’s people are Roman Catholic, but in the lively village that surrounds Wanjin Basilica Minore, the faith has put down strong roots. The basilica, a Spanish-style edifice completed in 1870, is an elegant monument to the remarkable tenacity of the Dominican priest who purchased this land in 1863. Soon after his first church was destroyed by an earthquake, he was kidnapped by bandits. After repeatedly facing down angry mobs, he managed to establish a congregation in what was then a lawless corner of Taiwan. 

A five-minute drive from Wanjin, the community of Wugoushui is far more appealing than its name might suggest. Founded almost 300 years ago by Hakka fortune-hunters who dug irrigation channels – wugoushui means “five water-filled ditches” – it boasts several extremely photogenic antique buildings, among them tasteful private homes and shrines in which extended families worship their ancestors. For a preview of the architectural gems that impress visitors, visit the Hakka Tour / Romantic Hakka website and take a virtual tour. 

This inspiring website goes far beyond Pingtung County, covering Hakka communities in three special municipalities and six counties. Other useful travel-planning resources are listed below.   


Travelers planning to explore Pingtung County in-depth can gather additional information from the following websites:  

Pingtung Tourism Union:  (multilingual) 

Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area: (multilingual) 

Dapeng Bay Marine Festival: (Chinese only) 

Hakka Tour / Romantic Hakka: (multilingual) 

i-Pingtung Official Travel Guide: (multilingual)  

Back issues of Travel in Taiwan, a bimonthly English-language magazine sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Administration and filled with detailed articles, can be read online at For all types of travel information about the country, visit the Tourism Administration’s multilingual website,, or call the 24-hour tourist information hotline at 0800-011-765 (toll-free within Taiwan).