If for some reason you're in Trang town and won't be making it to the islands, the mainland beaches can work as a substitute.
With mostly tan-yellow sand and cloudy water, they lack the glamour of the offshore beaches, but the scenic coastal road and lack of tourists makes for a worthwhile motorbiking excursion if you have the time.
Lined with casuarina trees along the province's northern coast, Haad Pakmeng hosts a cluster of resorts and seafood restaurants that are popular with Thai visitors. The sand here almost sparkles, and the view looks out to towering limestone karsts. A number of Pakmeng-based tour companies offer package day tours to Ko Muk's Emerald Cave, Ko Chueak and other offshore islets for some snorkelling. Hourly minibuses will get you here from Trang bus station for 50 baht, making it a good option if you're not keen on motorbiking.
Nine km south of Pakmeng, the national park headquarters welcomes you to Haad Chao Mai, a long and quiet beach that eventually yields to mangrove forest. Further south and still within the borders of the national park, but reachable only after heading inland and cutting back west, Haad Yong Ling is a pretty crescent of sand rimmed by beach pines and sheltered by a limestone cliff with a number of crevices and caves that can be explored. Just south of Haad Yong Ling stretches Haad Yao (literally: "Long Beach"), which hosts a fishing village and the pier for Ko Libong.
Note that frequent riptides have been reported off some of the national park's northern areas. The national park entrance is 200 baht for foreign adults, 100 for children.
To reach the beaches by motorbike from Trang town, head north from the train station and take Highway 4046 west for around 50 km, then follow signs towards Pakmeng and take a left onto Highway 4162, which runs straight to the beach. From there, 4162 continues straight south along the coast, crossing over canals and mangroves en route to the beaches of Hat Chao Mai National Park.
For the return trip, you might take Highway 4008 inland and hang a right after around 25 km, crossing the Kantang River, to make a stop at the Phraya Ratsadanupradit Museum in Kantang Old Town. From here you can continue straight north on Highway 403 for another 25 km back to Trang.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 23rd January, 2015.