Turtle Island

Northern Taiwan

This captivating volcanic islet, 10km off the coast of Yilan, is less than 3km long yet rises up to 398m. Once supporting a population of 750 people, the island was taken over by the military in 1977 then returned to civilian rule in 2000. These days Turtle Island is a protected marine environment and access is very limited, though you can get close on a boat cruise from Wushih Harbour.

In addition to fantastic views from the highest point, the island also has numerous quirky geological features. These include underwater hot springs, volcanic fumaroles, and a 'turtle head' that faces right or left depending on where you stand.

If you just want to circle the island or whale- and dolphin-watch, you don't need permits but you should still make a reservation. Call the Wushih Harbour Visitor Centre (03-978 9078) or visit in person; it's a short taxi ride from Toucheng station or a 15-minute walk south along the boardwalk from Wai'ao station. Expect to pay around NT$1200 for a three-hour tour cruise or more for a combination cruise involving stops on the island and dolphin- and whale-watching (May to October). Whales are seldom seen, but dolphins are common in summer.

If you wish to land on the island you must apply in advance for a special permit. Download a copy of the application form from the Northeast & Yilan Coast Scenic Administration website and fax it, along with your passport information, three to 20 days before you wish to sail. Once you get your permit, ask for a list of boat operators and make a reservation (none speak English so ask the Scenic office for help). If you're staying at Rising Sun Surf Inn in nearby Wai'ao, staff can help arrange fast permits for the island.

Stand-up paddleboarding around the island is starting to become popular. Check out www.letsgoplay.com.tw for excursion opportunities (Chinese only).