Surface plasmon (SP)-enhanced light emission mechanism has been investigated for the Ag-coated ZnO/Al2O3 core/shell nanorods (NRs). Structural characterizations showed that the ZnO NRs were covered by conformal Al2O3 layer and coated by Ag nanoparticles (NPs). The optical studies by photoluminescence (PL) showed abnormal variation of PL intensity with increasing the thickness of Al2O3. For the Ag NPs-coated ZnO NRs without Al2O3 shell layer, the PL emission quenched due to direct transfer of the photo-excited electrical carriers from ZnO NRs to Ag NPs. With thin Al2O3 layers less than 15 nm, the PL intensity increased with increasing the thickness of Al2O3 layers due to weakening of the Förster-type energy transfer while strong SP-mediated PL emission enhancement. For thicker Al2O3 layers than 15 nm, however, the PL intensity decreased with increasing the thickness of Al2O3 layers due to weakening of SP-mediated PL emission enhancement.