The beach is surrounded by a belt of basalt and stone mountains that resemble a huge comb passing through the hair of the waves.
The one kilometre-long beach is not particularly long or wide, but the water is gentle and clear. Two underground rock formations, Mui Si and Mui Lai, encroach on the sea, creating a small bay that shelters the beach from strong waves and tides.
The beach is surrounded by a belt of basalt and stone mountains that resemble a huge comb passing through the hair of the waves. On the hill grow green orchards of jackfruit, pineapple, banana and custard-apple.
While the central region is known for its harsh weather, with dry winds from the southwest and major storms from the sea, Cua Tung Beach is protected by Mother Nature, out of the wind on most days, and the bay offers safe harbour for fishing boats.
The first foreigner to set foot here during the time of French colonialism saw the area’s potential for developing resorts. At that time, Vietnam was divided into three regions and the central region was known as Annam. Ernest Albert Briere, the governor of Annam from 1891-97, was one of those who fell in love with the place, and he built a palace here in 1896 to spend his holidays on the beautiful beach.
The palace was transferred to King Duy Tan (1900-45), the 11th king of the Nguyen Dynasty, who ascended the throne at age 7 and bridled at living in confinement in palaces under the control of the French. He travelled extensively around the country, and Cua Tung was one of his stops.
King Bao Dai (1913-97), the 13th and final Vietnamese feudal king, often traveled from his capital in Hue to Cua Tung to enjoy this amazing beach.
The sea here is so shallow that a person can run about half a kilometre from the shore and the water will only be up to their chest.
Nearby Cat Son village is a short stroll along the beach. It has been famous for hundreds of years for its fish, drum-making, carpentry and mother-of-pearl inlay. Here, you can dine on cuttlefish, prawns, lobster, butterfish, mackerel, Chinese herring, and other kinds of seafood cooked in the local way.
To the south of the beach is the estuary of the Ben Hai River with Hien Luong Bridge just 10km from Cua Tung Beach. The bridge lies on the 17th parallel and formed the border between North and South Vietnam between 1954 and 1975.
This symbol of separation and loss in wartime is now one of the links between Vinh Linh and Vinh Gio districts in the province. Boarding a boat at the base of the bridge, travellers can see lush rice paddies, bamboo and casuarinas trees along the river banks. The slow rhythm of life, the whisper of the wind and the rippling of the water, all bring a feeling of peace.
About 30km offshore from the beach is Con Co Island, a 4- sq. km island with a coastline of about 8km and an average elevation of 5-30m above sea level. At the centre of the island is a 63m-high mountain which was a strategic position during the time the country was divided. Though it is isolated from the mainland by heavy winds, soldiers braved the strong waves and enemy attacks to carry food and weapons to the island.
Lush forests and fruit trees cover the island, including hardwoods with resin as red as blood. In autumn, the bang (Malabar almond) trees also turn red, making the island even more picturesque.
Since 1989, 4,000 coconut trees, symbolising the 4,000-year history of Vietnam, have been cultivated on the island. It is also the home of a small rattlesnake that is used to steep in rice wine to make medicine for treating backache and other ailments. Black and white sea cucumbers as big as a toe are found in the surrounding waters and make a good dish that also has medicinal properties.
Tours to the battlefields in the province and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) allow visitors experience the Vinh Moc Tunnels – a 2km-long network of tunnels up to 23m underground that were used to shelter residents during wartime – as well as the Old Citadel of Quang Tri, the Ta Con airstrip, the Khe Sanh – Road 9 Battlefield, and the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail.