Phuket natural attractions
Phuket is more than just beaches, though they are certainly well worth the trip in themselves. There are also plenty of man-made attractions which most Phuket visitors may want to see. Either in a rented car or motorbike, you should spend a day exploring the many Phuket natural attractions, taking in some stunning coastal scenery and exploring the less-travelled areas of Phuket.
Cape Panwa and viewpoint
One of the less explored parts of Phuket is Cape Panwa. While this small peninsula on the east cost south of Phuket town doesn’t have the best beaches on the island, there are some stunning views from the coastal roads and fishing villages explored by most visitors to Phuket – all you have to do is get out there and explore.
The little-visited viewpoint at Khao Khad is up a hill on Cape Panwa. Unfortunately, it’s not very well signposted and the signs that do exist are mostly in Thai. The best way to find the viewpoint is to pick it out from a distance and drive towards it! Look for a small rotunda at the top of the highest hill in the area. There are several roads leading to the viewpoint, from either side of the Cape.
The viewpoint tower is reached by a series of staircases, and the climb is worth it. There is plenty of parking space below, though you’re unlikely to see the car park full as this spot is not well-publicised. From the top there are views across Chalong Bay to the West and Phuket Town to the North, and across the east to Koh Yao – you can see Phi Phi clearly too if the air is not too hazy. The Khao Khad viewpoint is visible from the PhuketSpace apartments in Phuket Town.
Located just south-west of Rawai, Promthep Cape is to all intents and purposes a simple rocky hill with no immediate interest. However, this is the most southerly point on the island, and it’s the sunsets and views of Phuket’s southern coast that visitors are here for, and what makes it one of the busier Phuket natural attractions. A flight of steps leads from the car park to the top of Promthep Cape; from there you have an excellent view of the bay with Nai Harn Beach in the distance.
The site also has a lighthouse with an observation level with superb panoramic views during the day. This is also the ultimate spot to watch the sun setting over the water. Try to make it to Promthep for the sunset – it’s well worth the effort, as you can see here.
For a superb view of Phuket Town, the southern part of the island, and some of the offshore islands, make your way up to the top of Khao Rang Hill, in the north-west of Phuket Town. There are a few restaurants featuring spectacular views of the city, a health park for exercise enthusiasts, and a comfortable, expanse of grass for picnickers.
There are plenty of places where you and your family can enjoy a very bumpy ride on an elephant in the hills overlooking Rawai, Kata and Chalong. Elephant trekking is an experience you wont forget as you ride the elephant through lush forest with scenic views.
The elephants at most trekking companies are totally accessible to visitors – even if you have no intention of riding one through the jungle, you’re always welcome to pop in and feed them. They usually have baby elephants too. We particularly recommend Kok Chang, on the coast between Rawai and Kata.
This land reclamation project provided abundant new land, and is now used for parks and public facilities, located where Phuket Road meets the sea in Phuket Town. In the circle is the Tin Mining Monument, shaped like a large drill bit, dedicated to the memory of Captain Edward Thomas Miles, the Australian who brought the first tin dredge to Phuket in 1909.
Chalong is Phuket’s principal boat anchorage area and the island’s largest bay. Chalong Bay has a long, flat, shallow, muddy bottom; at ebb-tide, waters recede as much as one kilometer. It is very picturesque but in common with most of the east coast of the island not really a swimming beach.
Most visitors to the islands south of Phuket depart from Chalong pier, and the bay’s restaurants are well known for their seafood. Charters to various places can be arranged from there, and it is the centre of the island’s yachting businesses. The pier and a number of restaurants are located on the short road leading to the beach from Chalong Circle.
Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Center
Located near Thalang, 22 km from Phuket Town, the park covers 22.28 square kilometers of virgin forest, and a centre for study of the environment. The forest vegetation is spectacular, with huge trees supported by massive buttresses, thick with creepers and climbers of every description. One species of palm in this forest, the Governor’s Palm, is especially rare. Langurs, barking deer, mousedeer, deer, bear, wild boar, monkeys, gibbons and many exotic species of birds inhabit the forest. Khao Phra Thaeo serves also as one of Phuket’s most important water sources.
Ton Sai waterfall
Located in Khao Pra Taew forest, Ton Sai is a series of small waterfalls which becomes dramatic during the rainy season. The trees, watercourses, and pools nearby are an excellent way to escape the crowds and the heat of the day. The park headquarters and a small restaurant with an excellent view are also at Ton Sai.
Bang Pae Gibbon Sanctuary
Also in Khao Pra Taew forest, the Bang Pae Gibbon Sanctuary is well known now as the site of the Gibbon Fund, a project to return domesticated gibbons to the forest. Although you can see gibbons at the sanctuary, the volunteers keep visitors a reasonable distance from them as they don’t want the animals to become to used to people before returning to the wild. The Bang Pae Gibbon Sanctuary is always looking for volunteers and donations.
Phuket’s biggest mangrove forest covers about 800 rai in Sirinat National Park, near Ta Chatchai on Phuket’s northern tip. These mangrove saltwater swamps, with their unique eco-systems, are intimately studied by scientists searching for clues about their adaptation and evolution. Phuket natural attractions that are sometimes overlooked.
Anyone with an interest in horticulture will be fascinated by the number of unusual perennial plants you will find here. There are also a number of mangrove-dwelling animals with unique evolutionary characteristics. A nature trail has been created for visitors with signs indicating and explaining the various species. Some Phuket tour companies, such as River Rovers or Sea Kayaking Thailand offer canoe trips into the mangroves.
Patong – Chalong Road
The more adventurous 4×4 enthusiast visitor to Phuket may want to try their hand at perhaps the most challenging off-road route on the island: the dirt track running over the hills between Patong and Chalong. The going can be tough, with monstrous ruts in the track, especially after heavy rain, and frequent landslides around the top of the hill. Off-road tyres are highly recommended. Proceed with caution, and make sure your car is fully insured!