Beijing is not near the ocean, but to get to the beaches from the capital for a weekend is not too difficult. Beijingers get there by car or by fast train, which is even more practical.
Aranya Golden Coast Beach, Qinhuangdao, Hebei, is a spectacular beach in the Aranya area. This area has a lot of cafes that serve Western food, or the fusion of Chinese and Western cuisine. The beach is clean and beautiful.
This beach has a unique seashore library, facing the East China Sea. This library is one of the most romantic spots I have ever seen. It was built in 2015 and houses a reading area, meditation space, activity area, a bar and a quiet area. From outside it looks like weathered rock. Inside, it is very cosy, quiet, with a fantastic view.
It has a generous collection of books in Chinese – including Jack Kerouac, Milan Kundera, etc. and some books in English. Concerts and other cultural events are organized there. To enter the library, you need to buy a ticket for around 20 RMB.
Close to the library is a stylish community center, which reminds one of a church. It also has a beautiful view.
We visited Aranya in September, so it was much calmer and with fewer people than in summer. We managed to get tasty coffee and some delicious sandwiches in local cafeteria. I intend to return there in summer. You can get there by car or by train to Changli. The best hotel to my knowledge is Club Med Golden Coast in Aranya.
The scenic area in Beidaihe stretches for 13 km along Bohai Bay. It is 300 km east of Beijing and is around 21 km from Aranya. It might be very crowded in summer. The main disappointment for us was that you cannot have long walks along the beach, as it is divided into private beaches of the hotels and closed off with fences.
Beidaihe city has a lot of hotels and restaurants, and a few are along the foreshore. The main street of the city leads to the beach and that is where the main restaurants are concentrated. As the resort has a lot of Russian tourists, some restaurants have a menu in Russian as well as Chinese. You will also see the names of hotels and restaurants in Russian. Western tourists are rare.
Here you can visit Laolongtou (Old Dragon’s head), the spot where the Great Wall meets the sea. You need to use your imagination, but the view is impressive.
If you want to avoid crowds, do not visit during a Chinese holiday or during high season, as you will get lost in the local crowds, and hotel room rates sky-rocket.
It is also advisable to check if any sporting events are being hosted in the city as otherwise, especially if you come by car, you cannot leave the city center until the evening.
You can get there either by car from Beijing or take a bullet train.