Visitors seeking Thailand’s pristine southern beaches tend to skip the Surat Thani mainland in favor of the province’s blockbuster islands Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. But they’re missing out. While the most beloved islands are popular for a reason, the unique pull of Surat Thani is unseen, ravishing beauty; less mainstream tourism; and the chance to interact more organically with locals.
Both a city and a province in the south of Thailand, Surat Thani is far enough from the well-trodden path that you can dive into off-the-grid life and experience culture shock in the best way possible. And don’t worry, this under-the-radar spot offers plenty of beaches and waterfront delights – from amazonite headwaters and saline hot springs to authentic riverside markets.
Here are some of Surat Thani’s most picturesque mainland attractions – and some unique places to stay when you are there.
1. Laemsai Camping Beach, Chaiya District
Hidden some 50 kilometers north of Surat Thani’s city center, Laemsai Camping Beach is a secret known only to locals. Visit, and you’ll instantly feel its laid-back vibe – think salty sea breeze, rippling dry grass, and waves washing onto a deserted shore, with the peace interrupted only by bleating goats and sheep that roam amidst bell tents. The owner Sompob Chuampai runs this campsite which is teeming with vigilant geese, dashing hens and docile cows, plus a handful of happy employees. Sweeping the tent floors, 57-year-old kitchen supervisor Auntie Uan says, “It’s quiet here; nothing to worry about. Feel relaxed.” In short, Laemsai is the perfect place to gather your thoughts and enjoy bonfires and barbecues, with fresh grilled scallops, shrimps and crabs every day.