Dong'ao Island lies about 17 nautical miles south of the Zhuhai's downtown from where it can be reached in about 45 minutes. It was the first of Zhuhai's outlying islands to be developed for tourism, and is now a well established destination. This does not mean that it's been built-up however: over 80% of the island is covered in forest and its nickname is "the kingdom of plants''.
Nansha Bay, Dazhu Bay, and Xiaozhu Bay are the island's three beaches. They have a great deal to offer visitors, as all of them are blessed with white sands and cool clear blue water. Nansha Bay is perhaps the most beautiful of the three though, often referred to as "Diamond Beach". The Guanyin sculpture at Nansha Bay is rumored to give blessings of fertility to anyone who prays here, and is one of several Qing Dynasty
structures on the beach. Aside from baby-making and sight-seeing, visitors can go surfing, scuba diving, and sailing. Further inland, the scenery is no less impressive: a gentle walk along the east side of the island will reward you with a fragrant journey through flowers and across pretty streams. Several viewing sites have been set up at the path's most picturesque spots. Of course a climb higher up into the hills and to the Honey Tower is harder work but arguably provides more spectacular views of the island and surrounding water.
In 1729, a naval fortress was built on the eastern tip of Dong'ao Island, which remained in use right up until the middle of the 1800s. It was used by British troops smuggling opium into China during the Opium Wars which eventually saw China lose control of Hong Kong to the British for 150 years. Burnt rocks and rusted iron cannons sit amongst the remains of this fortress which now serves as a reminder of the islands tumultuous past.
Another hang-over from the island's military past is a series of tunnels which winds through the rocks and under the island, which were once used to transport people and information across Dong'ao. These clammy dark tunnels are now open to visitors, but should not be attempted without a guide.
Gourmands will not be disappointed in Dong'ao either. The island is home to the second largest fish farm in China, the high-quality, fresh produce from which is served up in several restaurants on the island for a very reasonable price.
Getting there: take ferryboat from Xiangzhou Beidi Port.