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Beaches

Qingdao's beaches are a top attraction for many Chinese, attractive if you're coming from any one of China's many dull, gray, overcrowded cities. Just don't expect a white-sand tropical paradise. From June to September, the beaches are packed. All the main public beaches, seven in the urban area, have changing booths where you can shower for ¥3, as well as medical stations and lifeguards on duty. Watersports range from water-skiing to parasailing.

Starting from the western tip of the peninsula, the beach nearest the railway station is the Number Six Bathing Beach (Diliu Haishui Yuchang); its rocky terrain makes it the least desirable for sunbathing. The big attraction here, however, is Qingdao's former pier, Zhan Qiao (¥2; 7am-8:30pm), originally built in 1892 for the Qing army. It now juts 440m (1,300 ft.) into the bay and is popularly considered the city's symbol. At the end of the pier is the octagonal Huilan Ge (¥4), a pavilion that currently houses a small tacky aquarium with a coral exhibit.

Continuing east around the headland into the next bay past the aquarium, the 800m-long (2,624-ft.) Number One Bathing Beach (Diyi Haishui Yuchang) is one of Qingdao's longest, but the sand here is somewhat coarse and pebbly. Between April and June, this is where you'll find couples posing for wedding photos, with photographers and lighting equipment balanced precariously on the rocks and the stony piers that jut into the water. Around the next headland is the Number Two Bathing Beach (Di'er Haishui Yuchang), much nicer and more secluded than either numbers One or Six. Little wonder that this beach used to be popular with political figures like Mao Zedong and other government officials. You must pay a ¥2 entrance fee from 9am to 6pm, but at other times, it's free. In the next bay is the 400m-long (1,312-ft.) Number Three Bathing Beach (Disan Haishui Yuchang), also nice, quiet, and a bit out-of-the-way. Shi Lao Ren (Old Man Rock) is a quiet beach to the east. It's named for a rock that sits several hundred yards out from the bay and has the curved, stooped shape of an elderly man. Shi Lao Ren is far away from the business district, so things are less hectic here. It's also Qingdao's longest beach.

Far out to the west, half an hour by boat and then another half-hour by bus, is the beach of Huang Dao, cleaner and quieter than Qingdao's beaches, and until recently known only to locals -- a real find. Take the Qingdao Huang Dao Lundu (ferry) (hourly 6:30am-9pm; 30 min.; ¥10) from the local ferry terminal (Lundu Zhan) on Sichuan Lu west of the railway station, then bus no. 1 to its terminus.

Parks

Qingdao has a multitude of parks, some of them worth exploring. Zhongshan Gongyuan, Xianggang Xi Lu (free admission; 8:30am-5pm) offers some pleasant strolls and is especially pretty during April and May when the cherry trees are in bloom. Northeast of the park is the Taiping Shan Gongyuan, where visitors can take a cable car up to a TV tower at the summit. The cable-car fare is ¥40 one-way, ¥50 round-trip. At the summit you can see lovely views of the city. From there, you can hike down the way you came, take the cable car, or hike down the back of the mountain to Zhan Shan Si (Ziquan Lu 4), the largest Buddhist temple in Qingdao. Admission to the temple is ¥10; hours are from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Note that the cable-car terminus is still a 15-minute walk to Zhan Shan Si; the fare to Zhan Shan Si is ¥20 one-way, ¥30 round-trip.

Xinhao Shan Gongyuan (Signal Hill Park), at Longshan Lu, just west of the Qingdao Welcome Guest House, was the location of a German navigating signal tower in 1898. Today the tower has been replaced by someone's bad idea of postmodernist architecture -- three carbuncular mushroom-domed pink buildings meant to simulate signaling torches. Kitsch aside, the revolving viewing platform inside the main "mushroom" does afford some lovely views of Qingdao. Admission is ¥2 for the park only, ¥15 including tower entrance. Hours are from 7am to 7pm (to 6pm in winter). Qingdao Shan Gongyuan, northwest of Zhongshan Gongyuan, has the remains of an old German fort (or rather, the underground command post). Admission is ¥15; hours are from 8:30 to 4:30pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.