Hong Kong’s Top Five – Islands

Hong Kong’s Top Five – Island Adventures
D J Clark in Hong Kong

Most outsiders think of Hong Kong as congested streets with high rise buildings, but the region includes some 263 islands over 500 m2. The most famous, Lamma, Lantau, Cheng Chau have their charms but there are so many more to explore and escape the heart of the city. Great walks, beautiful beaches and deserted villages are their for the discovering.

Below is my pick of the five best islands to visit. They all have ferry services though not all regular, but most take a bit of getting to so allow a full day for the trip.

Peng Chau

Many of the best island escapes in Hong Kong only offer irregular ferry services often limited to the weekend, but Peng Chau is easy to get to with boats leaving from central every hour or so. Often skipped for its larger neighbor Cheng Chau, Peng Chau has a more local feel and on the day I visited very few tourists to compete with.

Coming off the ferry I turned left along the fishing port, past some small temples slowly making my way onto the paths out of the town. The coastal path takes you past secluded beaches to the North Eastern tip that looks back to the city.

The island curls up like a horse shoe around the main beach which I enjoyed for a short while before concluding it was still too cold to swim and crossed the short stretch to the main town. You could spend several hours wandering the small alleys with a mix of shops selling local fares, food and some higher end establishments, but I pushed through to the south side. There’s a modern promenade that you can turn off and into the farms in the hills above until you reach the highest point on the island. A great place to look back over where you have been for the day and look out for a ferry coming into port to take you home.

How to get there

There are regular ferries from central piers or if you are on an island hop it is also one of the islands in the inter-island ferry service. More information at http://www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/public_transport/ferries/service_details/

 

Po Toi

If getting away from the crowds is your objective it does not get much more remote than Po Toi. Known as the South Pole of Hong Kong, this small island is formed by weathered granite, throwing up some interesting rock formations. I headed south from the pier making my way along well-kept paths that sweep along the coast to the southern most point.

Returning to the one small village and the ferry pier I made a detour up coffin rock, a 200 meter steep climb in the heat of the day but worth it for the change in terrain and amazing array of butterflies. The limited ferry schedule to the island makes it both remote and a hurried affair. On Tuesdays and Thursdays you get just 3 hours before the return, if you miss it it’s a two day wait for the next one. Going on the weekends gives you a little more time. If you make it up the hill you are rewarded with a beautiful ridge walk with seascape vistas on both sides.

There is a handful of restaurants in the one village serving some great fresh seafood and if time allows a visit to the Tin Hau temple.

How to get there

There are irregular ferries from Aberdeen and Stanley. When writing there was a ferry on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from Aberdeen. The weekend ferries also stopped in Stanley. You can check here http://www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/public_transport/ferries/service_details/

Sharp Island

This volcanic wonder is one of Hong Kong’s most popular getaway islands with two public beaches and a long ridge walk with some of the best sea views you’ll find anywhere in the city. Walking along the promenade at Sai Kung pier you’ll find a number of operators offering Kaito’s over to the island. You should not have to wait more than 10 minutes before one can take you across the short stretch of water to Kiu Tsui beach. Head south and check the tide to see if it possible to walk over to Kiu Tau islet. The natural sand levy will appear at low tide. For me it was too high so I carried on up and over the spectacular ridge to Hap Mun bay. You should allow at least an hour to get there.

From Hap Mun bay you can take a Kaito back to Sai Kung or, as I did, return the way I came back over the ridge. Arriving back at Kiu Tau the water had receded enough to pick my way over to the islet. Formed from a volcanic eruption around 140 million years ago this geological wonder has some fascinating rocks and of course the chance of a selfie of you walking on water.

How to get there

Take a bus to Sai Kung pier and then walk along the pier where you will see stalls where people tell trips over to Sharp island and other places.

 

Grass Island

Also known as grass island Tap Mun takes a little getting to. The ferry from Wong Shek pier is the most reliable if you can get there and takes little time to reach the ferry pier in Yung Shu village. I went left off the pier through the village. It’s a lively place with a good mix of the old and the new, and a few places to eat the catch of the day. Pushing around the headland the landscape opens up to sweeping sea views and grazing pastures.

Once I got around the southern tip of the island I made my way up past the football field to the tallest peak in the south of the island. There’s a pavilion on top to take a breath and enjoy the views before making your way along the mud path to the north of the island. Here you will likely loose most of the tourists and get a chance to enjoy a myriad of small paths that run along the larger part of the island.

How to get there
Take a bus to Sai Kung pier and make your way over to the bus station where you can take a bus to Yung Shu village. From there take the ferry to Tap Mun. You can check the schedule at http://www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/public_transport/ferries/service_details/

Yim Tin Tsai

This island has much to explore but is only accessible by a ferry service on the weekend. Hire a boat from Sai Kung on the weekday and you escape the crowds and should get this small island more or less to yourself. From the pier I walked up to the church and museum (both closed on weekdays) and into the village. The ruins of the 19th century Hakka settlement are mainly untouched and bear the signs of the Catholic evangelization that happened later in the communities history. It’s a great place for photographers.

Once you make it through the village head up to the pavilions that give you views over Sai Kung and beyond. It’s a relatively short and easy walk with plenty of things to explore along the way. Coming back down towards the pier you pass through mangroves and salt plains. There’s lots of wildlife too so keep those cameras at the ready.

How to get there
Take a bus to Sai Kung pier and either ask one of the stalls for a private boat over to the island or on the weekend take the ferry. The ferry schedule is here http://www.oasistrek.com/yim_tin_tsai_timetable_e.php