Rimming the south coast of a long and narrow island that’s squeezed between the Rayong River and the Gulf of Thailand, Haad Saeng Chan is the most easily reached mainland beach from Rayong town.

Though not great for swimming, it stretches for more than five kilometres with no shortage of seafood restaurants.

A big part of the Haad Saeng Chan experience is the fishing community that you’ll pass through on the way. Clustered along both sides of the Rayong River, rows of bright blue, orange and teal fishing boats are moored to docks extending from stilted houses. The scent of fish permeates the air as several fish sauce factories pump out one of Rayong’s most famous local products.

After snagging some fresh oysters and grilled fish from the roadside vendors, cross the bridge that extends south from the west end of Samutkongkha Road and a narrow lane will shoot you alongside spreads of sun-drying fish, squid and shrimp. Take any southern lane to access Riep Jai Fang Road, which cruises along the coast for the length of Haad Saeng Chan.

The beach itself is unusual thanks to dozens of stone break walls that stretch diagonally into the sea, like the two ends of a ribbon. This results in many stumpy segments of beach rather than a continuous stretch of sand — not the best for long walks. We noticed a lot of tidal garbage on the grainy tan sand. Though not recommended for sunbathing, the beach attracts locals who swim and fish off the ends of the break walls. Expect some stares if you don a bikini or speedo around here.

Haad Saeng Chan is in the vicinity of Phra Chedi Klang Nam, a centuries-old stupa placed in the middle of the Rayong River. Built in 1873 as a sort-of gateway back when the river was the main avenue into town, it can be reached by continuing straight on Samutkhongkha Road rather than crossing the bridge towards the beach. Hang a left on Soi Samut Chedi almost immediately after passing the bridge and you’ll reach the chedi after a couple of kilometres.

If you’re looking for a mainland beach that’s more suitable for swimming and lounging, head 10 kilometres east of downtown Rayong on Sukhumvit Road and follow the signs to Haad Mae Ramphueng, which can also be reached by songthaew from Rayong bus station. You could also venture further east to Haad Suan Son and Laem Mae Phim.

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