Shengsi Island near Shanghai has sun, sand and lots and lots of seafood

Update:13 Aug 2010

Come for the seafood and stay for the beach. Shengsi Island
 offers a relaxing escape from Shanghai's urban jungle.

Located within Zhoushan archipelago, the Shengsi Islands (嵊泗岛) in China's Zhejiang Province share a marine border with Shanghai to the west, Putuoshan to the South, the Pacific ocean to the east and the Yellow Sea to the north. Though a group of islands, the main one, officially called Sijiao Island, is where the majority of people head and is also known simply as Shengsi Island. It's an easy option to escape Shanghai for a few days or even a few hours.
Although not the most pristine beach to border Shanghai, the quality of the seafood on Shengsi Island is a point of local pride -- the local restaurants offer some of the freshest catches from up and down China's coast -- complementing a day at the beach perfectly.
The food

It's takes about three hours to get from downtown Shanghai to Shengsi harbor (see bottom of the page for details), so a mid-morning start will get you there in time for a late lunch.
You can choose just about any restaurant on Jinghai Lu, a well-known local restaurant street, or head to the new seafood market-cum-restaurant "town", both in Caiyuan Town on Shengsi Island.

Don't be fooled by Jinghai Lu, the fare served here is
some of the best seafood around, and worth the trek.
From fresh crabs to still-squirming white shrimp, just about any seafood can be delivered from local nets to your plate in about 15 minutes when dining on Jinghai Lu.
We first stopped at a small local restaurant on Jinghai Lu and buried ourselves in the fresh, delicious, hairy clams, a delicacy that hasn't been available in Shanghai since 1988 after thousands got sick after eating polluted clams.
When asked about the clams' safety, a Jinghai Lu restaurant owner explains, "I have had people coming to my restaurant ordering hairy clams every day for decades, many of them from Shanghai, and no one has reported to get sick so far. The calms are much cleaner now than they were back then."
Available at almost any restaurant on the strip -- the dish is a local specialty -- it isn't for the faint of stomach. But to us nothing says "day at the beach" more than this seafood dish.
After grabbing our chopsticks to dig into the clams, we also ordered the island's other specialty: seafood noodles. You pick from any of the fresh creatures displayed in the tanks, which are then cooked up for you and put into a noodle soup that absorbs all the seafood's flavors. Simple yet tasty, how beach fare should be.
The seafood 'town'

The other dining option (this is why you came, no?) is the newly opened 3.3-hectare seafood market and seafood "town." Costing the local government RMB 250 million to build, the sprawling complex overlooks Shengsi Island's best feature: the sea.
Although the space will only officially open in October, some parts are now ready and well worth a seafood lover's time.
The eight-building compound not only features local delicacies (you can get that on Jinghai Lu), but also seafood cuisines of coastal cities near Shanghai which are too much of a pain to get to for dinner.
Already open is Building 8 featuring mainly high-end seafood (think shark's fin and abalone) and is run by Cantonese chef Li Ju. Much of the produce is locally grown and organic.
Two other buildings opening at the end of the month, Building 7 and Buidling 3, will respectively feature Xiangshan seafood from Ningbo and Wenzhou seafood. Both cuisines are well known in China, but difficult to try if not in the area -- that is before this market opened. Building 3, featuring the fresh and salty Wenzhou cooking flavors, is a sprawling 12,000 square meter complex that will offer some of the best ocean views of the whole town complex.
If you're not full from lunch, find your own seafood on the beach.
Eating and looking out over the ocean just might remind you to get to the beach, as there is more to enjoy in this town than the food.
Shengsi Island beach

After a satisfying lunch most people head to Golden Sand Beach (RMB 40 entrance fee). Although Nanchangtu beach, on the other side of the island, doesn't require an entrance fee, a local beach-goer explains, "[Golden Sand Beach] has facilities and more tourists so it's safer than the beach that doesn't require an entrance fee. There are also more staff here to look after people." Fair enough.
Golden Sand Beach’s facilities are familiar to anyone who has been to Sanya, Hainan, and it offers just what a few hours at the beach require: a boardwalk (with even more seafood if you’re still hungry), jet skis, surfing and even horseback riding for the non-water inclined. There are also cliffs at the end of the beach which offer views of the ocean as well as the town, and a bit of exercise or an escape from the beach for 30 minutes.
Most people are there for one thing though: sand. And even with the mid-sized crowds, there was plenty to enjoy.
Once you exhaust the two things Shengsi does well -- sand and seafood -- it’s time to head back to Shanghai, full of seawater and some of the best seafood around… and maybe pick up a few more hairy clams on the way out. Who knows when you'll be back again.
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