Weizhou (涠洲岛; Wéizhōu Dǎo) is China's biggest and youngest volcanic island. It is located 21 nautical miles south of Beihai city in the Gulf of Tonkin, an arm of the South China Sea. With about 6km from north to south and 5km from east to west, the island covers a land area of about 25km².
Weizhou Island is declared as national park. The admission fee is ¥98 (¥65 in winter's off-season) and must be paid while entering the island at the harbour (XiJiao MaTou). The entrance ticket covers the whole island and is valid for the entire stay.
Formed by volcanic eruptions about 7,000 years ago Weizhou Island has a unique geological and geomorphologic landscape. The sea around Weizhou is rich in corals and other aquatic animals. Its subtropical monsoon climate with an average annual temperature of 22.6°C and an annual average rainfall of about 1380mm causes moderate summers and mild winters.
Except for Chinese national holidays Weizhou Island is not heavily touristed. Chinese tourists come here on daily trips and over weekends, but rarely stay longer. The island offers various scenic spots, a Gothic-style catholic cathedral, good and inexpensive seafood and wide beautiful beaches. It is ideal for relaxing and having a rest. Even the nightlife on Weizhou is less revelry than having a good time in one of its bars located in South Bay (NanWan) or a nice BBQ while enjoying the summer breeze from the sea.
If you travel with foreign bank cards, bring enough cash for your entire stay on the island. The only ATM on the island (in NanWan) will accept Chinese bank cards only and the local bank branch does not exchange foreign money either.
When planning a trip to Weizhou the weather forecast should be checked in advance. During heavy sea Weizhou Island can neither be reached nor left due to no ferries driving.
English is not widespread on Weizhou. As English is a school subject younger local people and children will be pleased to have a little English chat with foreign visitors. The dialect on Weizhou differs greatly from northern China's Mandarin. However, there are quite a lot of people who speak Mandarin, too.
Ferries to Weizhou depart daily from Beihai scheduled at 8:30AM, 11:15AM, 4:00PM and 5:30PM. First class ¥180/trip (advisable if you don't want to sit too close to your vomiting co-travellers). Second class ¥120/trip. In tourist season there may be more ferries, and during heavy sea, none.
The island has an impressive fleet of motor tricycles (¥5-20 per trip). The tricycle drivers rarely speak English. For exploring the island on one's own, motor scooters (¥120/day), e-bikes (¥80/day) and bicyles (from ¥20/day for city bikes up to ¥60/day for mountain bikes) can be rented as well. The deposit for renting is between ¥200 and ¥300. The renting prices may rise during Chinese national holidays.
Be aware that you need to own a Chinese driver's license to drive motor scooters on your own.
Weizhou Island offers a wide range of seafood, cheap and sweet little bananas and adornment made of shells and pearls. The biggest food, fruits and seafood market is located in Weizhou's South Bay (NanWan). A smaller market is located in Shengtang Village in front of the Catholic Cathedral. Small shops spread all around the island offer snacks, beverages and Chinese convenience products.
Smaller eateries and bigger restaurants are scattered all over the island. Weizhou is famous for its good and cheap seafood and its bananas. Seafood can be bought at South Bay's seafood market. Local eateries will prepare it for about ¥15-¥20 a dish. Other restaurants have their own selection of living sea animals that can be choosen by their guests and will be prepared in time. The seafood prices vary depending on the rareness of the seafood, the catch of the day and the weather conditions. Cheap (seafood) BBQ is available in daytime at West Beach (Shiluokou) and in the late evening at the dockside of South Bay's seafood market. Groups can also book goat BBQ.
In daytime, cold beverages are available in small shops all over the island. The most bars on Weizhou are located in its South Bay.
Ferries from Weizhou to Beihai leave daily from the harbour (XiJiao MaTou) at 9:45AM, ..., 2:30PM, 4:30PM. First class ¥180/trip. Second class ¥120/trip. In tourist season there may be more ferries (but usually there are not), during heavy sea none. Especially during high season, it might be difficult for foreigners to get a return ticket, as the ticket pre-sale agencies have difficulties with foreign passports and the tickets are sold out very quickly. If you need to leave but didn't get a ticket, simply go to the ferry terminal before the earliest departure of the day, approach the policemen who check the tickets and explain to them that you couldn't get a ticket. They will either let you pass immediately or they will put you in an extra queue so you can go aboard after all the passengers having a ticket took a seat. Either way you will most likely have to sit on the floor and you will have to pay ¥120 on arrival in Beihai.