Photo: Sunset on Patong beach, Phuket.

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Ao Yon, Phuket

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Those in search of a more rustic beach scene on Phuket need look no further than Ao Yon, a small bay on Phuket’s east coast set between Ao Chalong and Ao Makham on Cape Panwa.

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Life at Ao Yon. Green and serene yet not super clean.

Life at Ao Yon. Green and serene yet not super clean.

Just six kilometres away from Phuket Town yet largely unknown to tourists, Ao Yon is split into two beaches by a small rocky headland. The smaller portion, Ao Yon Noi, has a shrimp farm operation and not much else happening, though it can get busy on weekends with local families enjoying a picnicking afternoon out.

The larger part of Ao Yon is a bustling place with a pearl farm at its centre and longtail fishing boats and yachts coming and going throughout the day. Many people cruising the roads of Cape Panwa will drive right past this beach without even knowing it exists since, being at the base of a lush hill, most of it is not visible from the road.

Arrive to Ao Yon early and be treated to a spectacular sunrise.

Arrive to Ao Yon early to catch a spectacular sunrise.

Ao Yon’s tall coconut trees and white sands make it look like the postcard-perfect tropical island beach, though it’s not exactly squeaky clean due to all the boating and pearl farm activity in the bay. Shallow and sheltered, it’s a safe place for kids to swim for most of the year.

Most of Ao Yon’s beachfront is taken up with private businesses, mostly small-scale sailing operations, so you’ll need to park on the road and walk down one of the paths to get to the beach. There’s easier access from the portion of road at Ao Yon’s east end. This is where the bay’s few restaurants are found, including the Secret Cove and Ship Inn. Both of these open-air spots right on the beach serve a mix of Thai and Western dishes, while Secret Cove offers some Indian fare.

Hut with a view: Secret Cove restaurant.

Hut with a view: Secret Cove restaurant.

The bay is home to the Phuket Youth Sailing Club, where disadvantaged local kids are given sailing lessons and the chance to join weekend races with a fleet of small Optimist yachts. The club is run by Topper Sail, which also offers sailing classes for all ages, standup paddle (SUP) boards and kayak rental from its beachfront shop.

Aside from Moon Cove Villas, a private estate with three pool villas at Ao Yon’s west end, there is no accommodation directly on the beach. There are a sprinkling of resorts and places to stay within a few kilometres around Cape Panwa, many at the high end, including Cloud 19 Retreat, Radisson Plaza, the ultra exclusive Sri Panwa villas, the Regent Cape Panwa and Panwa Beach Resort (formerly a Novotel).

Kids' sailing class with Topper Sail.

Kids’ sailing class with Topper Sail.

To get to Ao Yon, take Sakdidet Road south from Phuket Town, then continue on towards the Phuket Aquarium on Route 4129. Turn right onto the small Ao Yon-Khaokhad Road, about 750 metres south of the Bel Air condominium, and drive along here for about one kilometre.

With limited activities, few will spend more than an afternoon at Ao Yon unless they’re learning to sail, but it’s a good spot for a scenic lunch break on a day of exploring Cape Panwa’s sights, which include the Phuket Aquarium and the Khao Khad lookout tower. If you’re looking for a relaxing break from Phuket’s touristy west-coast beaches, Ao Yon is not a bad place to start.

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 Read up on where to eat on Phuket.
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