starry sky with milky way in queensland

You’ll find plenty of secluded stargazing at Lake Moogerah in Australia. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Before (Way Before) Sunrise: What to Do in the Off Hours in Asia and Australia

Watch the golden rays of sunrise from an ancient ruin or stargaze after midnight on a small, remote island — activities that happen in the wee hours give you plenty of quiet space to soak in your surroundings.

Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, from Asia to Australia, there’s much to explore in your hometowns during these off-peak hours. Just remember to check for closures or travel restrictions before setting off.

Jeju Island, South Korea

stairs and boardwalk at jeju island
Explore Jeju Island in the off hours. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dubbed the “Hawaii of South Korea,” oval-shaped Jeju Island’s lush, wildflower-covered mountains radiate from Hallasan National Park, and its tall volcanic pillars line white sand shores that beckon hikers and beachgoers by day. But much of the island’s beauty can also be experienced at night.

Pack a headlamp and flashlight, and go on a midnight hike to a volcanic cone, or oreum. Head to Gunsan Oreum, where a walking path from the main parking lot leads quickly to the peak, and the reward is a panorama of the hilly island and its surrounding seas bathed in starlight. A lazier option: Drive along Yongduam Coastal Road for a nighttime view of craggy rocks and lapping waters illuminated by lights from nearby houses.

Penang, Malaysia

penang at sunrise
Penang at sunrise is a magical hour. (Photo: Getty Images)

Escape the capital, George Town, and drive to Penang’s remote southwest coast, Balik Pulau. The name means “back to the island,” and swaths of farmland speckled with coconut trees evoke a Penang of yesteryear.

Hike up Pulau Betong Durian Orchard in Kampung Bakar Kapur to watch the sunrise. It’s an easy 700-meter ascent in the morning’s cool air to reach mammoth durian trees along with a view of mountain peaks and the Malacca Strait in the distance.

Purchase durian to go from a vendor at the foothill, and then rent a bicycle and cycle through the shaded rice terraces and prawn fisheries from Pulau Betong to Pantai Malindo (Malindo Beach). The route takes about two hours, finishing just in time for a bowl of assam laksa (rice noodles in fish broth) at Café Ko Cha Bi.

Brisbane, Australia

moogerah lake
Lake Moogerah offers respite from Brisbane in the off-peak hours. (Photo: Getty Images)

The great outdoors is never too far from any city Down Under, and a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane takes you to Moreton Island for a stargazing picnic.

Pack food, binoculars and a flashlight — services for passengers and vehicles run daily from Holt Street Wharf to the ferry terminal on Moreton Island near the Tangalooma Wrecks. Arrive early and follow one of the many trails to a quiet spot to stare up at the pitch-black sky littered with white stars.

Another secluded stargazing area is Lake Moogerah, a 90-minute drive from Brisbane. Set up post at one of the picnic areas or drive around the lake to find a spot with clear views of the sky.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Qijin island
Take an early morning stroll through Qijin Island. (Photo: Getty Images)

Once an important trade port, Taiwan’s southernmost city has shed its industrial past, but traces of its seafaring era are found on quiet Qijin Island. Board an early morning ferry from Gushan Pier, a few minutes walk from Sizihwan metro station, to Qijin (sometimes spelled Cijin).

Long and narrow, Qijin is technically an islet and has three main thoroughfares: Qijin 1st, 2nd and 3rd roads. The ferry docks at Qijin Ferry Station, a stone’s throw from Qijin Beach. As the sun rises, watch fishermen haul in the catch of the day over matte-white sand; then rent a bicycle by the ferry terminal and cycle along Qijin 2nd Road to the intersection of Zhongzhou 2nd Road. Shuck an oyster or have a plate of sashimi for breakfast at Seafood Seashore or one of the many other seafood restaurants.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

banteay temple angkor cambodia
Visit the temples at Angkor, including Banteay Kdei. (Photo: Getty Images)

Part of the Grand Circuit that connects Siem Reap’s temples, lesser-known but equally impressive structures such as Ta Som and Banteay Kdei form the perfect backdrop for a sunrise jaunt — just be sure to purchase a temple pass for entry on the road to Angkor Wat.

Skip the queue at Angkor Wat, though, and visit Ta Som, a 12th-century Bayon-style temple and the furthest temple in the Grand Circuit, where a centuries-old fig tree wraps its roots around a stone gopura, or tower.

Completed in the early 13th century to serve as a monastery, nearby Banteay Kdei’s ruins form steppingstones that have become entwined with tree roots and lead to stone animal carvings that guard gopuras.