Just to the south of Hualien is a crossroads, giving a choice of two routes south to Taitung running either side of the Coastal Mountain Range. Provincial Highway 11 hugs the Pacific through the heart of the East Coast National Scenic Area (東部海岸國家風景區; dōngbù hǎiàn guójiā fēngjǐngqū), prime aboriginal territory, scattered with idyllic fishing villages, rice paddies, herds of water buffalo and some of the best surf breaks in Taiwan. Buses ply the highway, and with careful planning (and pick-ups from your accommodation) you can visit the main spots on public transport, but to make the most of the area you need your own transport. If you’re visiting in late summer and hope to witness some of the many aboriginal festivals held each July and August, private transport is essential – indeed, one of the joys of coming at this time is whipping from one festival to another on a scooter, soaking up the boundless seascapes along the way.

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