A few hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City, the resort town of Vung Tau has been a popular beach getaway for decades. The town sits on a peninsula and is cradled by two mountains. It was a favourite spot with off-duty American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. The town’s proximity to the country’s largest city makes it a perfect escape for weekends and longer stays.
European trading ships visited Vung Tau’s bay as early as the 14th century. Vung Tau later earned fame as the site where the Vietnamese first fired cannons against invading French battleships. Australian and American servicemen used the area as a rest and recuperation zone during the Vietnam War.
Vung Tau’s beaches may not be Vietnam’s most spectacular, but they still offer plenty to see and do. An array of hotels, bars and restaurants make the most of picturesque Back Beach, while Front Beach is the place for watching sunsets. Meanwhile, the smaller Pineapple Beach offers a tranquil, rocky cove and cleaner sand.
Climb up the smaller of the two mountains, which is helpfully named Small Mountain, to see Vung Tau Lighthouse, a magnificent structure that offers panoramic views of the whole region. Look for four old French cannons that stand nearby. Further up Small Mountain you’ll find one of the tallest outdoor statues of Jesus in Asia.
On Big Mountain, visit Villa Blanche, the former holiday house of the French Governor General of Indochina. Today the elegant villa is home to a collection of Ming pottery as well as lush gardens.
Vung Tau can get busy on the weekends as people from the city flock to its beaches, but is generally much quieter during weekdays. Vung Tau is a 3-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. If you have a car, take the time to explore the scenic coastal route between Vung Tau and Phan Tiet.