Our WeChat Moments can be somewhat reminiscent of Instagram, circa 2011, when it was simply a cross-section of everyone's day-to-day lives. There is a strange comfort (or sordid fascination) that accompanies this kind of peripheral omniscience. Since our WeChat Moments aren't filled with celebrities and meme-pages, the most photogenic lifestyles truly stand out. And for this reason we reached out to Charles Sterling and his wife Violet to get the inside scoop on a vacation destination that can only be described as "the Good Life."
Family Hike along "Lover's Island (情人岛)." The island is accessible from the shore at low tide. Image via Charles Sterling
Can you tell us a bit about the location of Double Moon Bay? How far is it from Guangzhou/Shenzhen? and what are the transportation options available for families traveling here? Where is the closest airport/high-speed train?
Double Moon Bay, as the name suggests, is a peninsula jutting out into the sea, and bounded on either side by two bays, whose shore resembles a softly curved crescent moon. Double Moon Bay is about 2.5 hours by car from Guangzhou and about 1.5 hours from Shenzhen during normal days. Though this travel time does increase significantly during national holidays. We usually drive to Double Moon Bay, however, there is a high speed rail station in nearby Huidong City. (惠东站 Huidong station) From there it is possible to hire a Didi driver to take you the remaining distance to Double Moon Bay, which is about 45 minutes from the high-speed rail station by car. The closest airport is Huizhou Pintan Airport. There are also plentiful group tour options where you can arrive by tour bus from any of the major Pearl River Delta cities direct to your hotel in Double Moon Bay. My family and I typically prefer to drive to Double Moon Bay during non-peak hours from Guangzhou. After crossing the 惠州海湾 suspension Bridge, the winding coastal road leading to Double Moon Bay is incredibly beautiful and is itself a fun drive. As a native Californian, the drive ignites a little nostalgia as it reminds me of the famous "Pacific Coast Highway" near my hometown back in the US.
Building sandcastles with my boys during the winter time. During the off-season, my family and I stick to activities such as building sandcastles, hiking, and visiting historic architecture when the ocean temperatures are too cold to comfortably swim. There are still occasionally sunny days during the wintertime when we enjoy being outside. Image via Charles Sterling
What are some of the most popular activities on the beach? What are the favorites among your kids?
The two main beaches are brimming with family activities. Besides being a good beach for swimming, there are also jetskis & ATVs for rent as well as surfing, parasailing, and wakeboarding. My children and I are avid surfers and I am grateful that the Californian surfing culture that I grew up with as a child has started to take root and blossom here in Southern China. There are several surfboard rental shops where beginners can take lessons such as Loop Surf Salon, "Chill Life" (the one in our building), and one at lovers island (情人岛的土酷).
Safety is a top concern for families with children. How does this destination ensure a safe and secure environment for visitors of all ages?
My family and I have always felt safe in Double Moon Bay. The local community are some of the most honest, kind, and hard-working people that I have ever encountered. Generally speaking the two main beaches are very safe for swimming and water activities, though as this is an ocean destination, you should always exercise caution and vigilance regarding changing weather and sea conditions. When surfing always consult with the locals first about any dangers to be aware of such as where riptides tend to form or how to avoid any rocks or other undersea obstacles. The two main beaches at Double Moon Bay, however, are generally calm and well suited for beginners surfing. Also, when visiting during peak season or national holidays, keep an eye on children and personal belongings as it is easy to lose both when there are large crowds.
My oldest son, Daniel, confidently rode the waves along the Eastern Shore of Double Moon Bay. The Dongshan Sea Resort (日出银沙盐晶酒店) is visible in the distance. Image via Charles Sterling
I understand that you guys have a vacation home there, but where did you like to stay prior to finding more permanent accommodation? Are there hotels you recommend?
It's amusing to answer this question because we have only ever stayed at one hotel, the Grand Barony Resort (双月湾君廷度假酒店) on the east shore of Double Moon Bay. We would stay there often as a single family or sometimes arrange group trips with multiple families. They have a variety of room types each equipped with a modest kitchen, making for convenient family stays that felt more like a family home than a typical hotel room. In the end, we felt so comfortable spending time there that we bought a two-bedroom unit to serve as our family vacation home. It's been a wonderful investment for my family as we continue to make many memories there and it has become an integral part of my son's childhood. As an architect, I do enjoy visiting nearby hotels to study architectural design and sample the restaurants with my family. We have visited most of the hotels in Double Moon Bay over the years and greatly appreciate the design quality and facilities of the nearby Dusit Thani and Howard Johnson Hotels (檀悦豪生度假酒店). On the west side of the bay, the newly built Thai Cloud resort (泰丽云顶度假酒店) has a unique architectural design and spectacular views overlooking the Western coast of Double Moon Bay. Also, the Dongshan Sea resort (日出银沙盐晶酒店) has a unique architectural design as well as an unforgettable viewing platform and outdoor coffee bar straddling the bluffs above the sea.
Beyond the beach, what other family-oriented attractions can visitors explore in the vicinity of Double Moon Bay? Are there any nearby amusement parks, zoos or noteworthy hikes?
Double Moon Bay has lots of attractions beyond the beach. There is a wonderful sea turtle hatchery in between the two bays. It is very popular with families and children and is accessed by a breathtaking walking path along the ocean bluffs. There is a nearby scenic lookout on top of the same mountain where you can admire the full panorama of both bays viewed from this single vantage point. There are also many nearby hiking trails. One of our favorites is Guanyin Mountain (观音山) which takes you to the top of the mountain overlooking all of Double Moon Bay. There is an interesting traditional temple on the mountain peak surrounded by a field of modern wind turbines. The visual contrast between the ancient traditional temple and the modern windmills with the two bays below is a breathtaking sight. It is a very long hike by foot but there are also motorbikes available for rent that you can take to reach the top of the mountain. There is also an outdoor activity park near Double Moon Bay called Gengshan Xiaozhai (耕山小寨) which our children and their friends love to visit. It is filled with outdoor activities and is surrounded by nature.
Although I'm sure the beach is beautiful in the summer, how is it during the excruciating Guangdong summer heat? Does this limit the amount of tourists visiting in the peak of summer? When is the busiest time of year and when do you recommend that people visit?
The summer heat does not detract from the beauty of Double Moon Bay whatsoever. Because of its position surrounded by water on three sides, a gentle sea breeze is usually not far away. Unfortunately, the heat does not deter visitors during the high season, which begins in late June after schools let out for the summer and lasts until late August when children return to school. The weather is usually excellent during this time but you will have to deal with crowds and traffic. However, most other times of the year are generally quite pleasant. In my opinion, the best time to visit Double Moon Bay is the month of May or anytime during the fall, as the weather is still warm but the destination is less crowded. However, because my family and I surf, we tend to visit year-round as even in the winter time, the water temperature, though cold, is still conducive to surfing as long as you wear a light wetsuit. Even in the wintertime, there are still many beautiful sunny days that are suitable for hiking and visiting nearby historic sites. The many small villages in the surrounding area of Double Moon Bay feature beautiful temples and historic architecture.
My family and I exploring the various tide pools and rock formations during sunset. It is possible to see many small fish & crustaceans if you look closely and quietly. Image via Charles Sterling
Local culture can enhance a family vacation experience. Are there any family-friendly cultural events, festivals, or workshops that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the region's traditions?
I think that it is important to remember that Double Moon Bay is much more than a collection of resort hotels; it is a living, breathing, traditional seaside community. My family and I tend to find the inner Harbor and historic villages much more interesting than the modern entertainment offerings of the surrounding resort hotels. It is a very special thing to visit Double Moon Bay during traditional Chinese holidays such as Chinese New Year's or the Dragon Boat Festival. Even everyday-life activities such as taking my family to pray at the local temple or buying fresh seafood at the harbor wet market can be a rich and culturally rewarding experience. In doing this, we have made many friends along the way with local people living in Double Moon Bay. My wife and I are both incredibly grateful for the endearing kindness that has been shown to us during our visits to Double Moon Bay.
Family trips often require some downtime for parents to unwind. Are there any childcare services or supervised kids' activities available, allowing parents to take a break and enjoy some adult time?
I would not be surprised if some of the larger resorts offer supervised activities for children. However, my wife and I have never sought them out. Double Moon Bay is such an excellent destination for families that in all of our visits, I have never wanted to waste a moment of time apart from my children. There are just too many experiences out there that I want us to share together as a family.
The truth is that my wife and I both fell in love with Double Moon Bay, so much so that we quite literally made it our second home. We have lived now partially in Guangzhou and partially in Double Moon Bay for several years and have become familiar with the seasons and annual cycles of this place. One observation that I would like to share is this: Double Moon Bay is already a popular and fairly well-known place; during the high season especially, there are scores of people who visit this place, but I would argue that few people really "see" Double Moon Bay. In a rush to jump from one attraction (of which there are many) to another, the deeper beauty of this place is rarely appreciated. There is a quiet beauty about Double Moon Bay if you take the time to seek it out; beauty in the ebbs and flows of the sea, the delicate sea life that reveals itself during low tide along the rocky shores and the cycles of the sea teeming with life. There is a quiet dignity to the many traditional architectures that have stood the test of time and embody the local traditions of this community. And there is a kind of beauty in the honest sincerity of the local people when you reach out to have a simple conversation and admire the sea together. Though the resorts of Double Moon Bay are themselves beautiful and full of modern comforts and amenities, I would recommend taking a little time and really seeing Double Moon Bay. There is much more here than meets the eye.
[All images via Charles Sterling]