There’s no denying there are plenty of holiday hot spots around Hong Kong, but when you’ve got little ones, the holiday destination that involves the least amount of effort in getting there usually wins out. So, having tried and tested many of the child-friendly locations within the vicinity of Hong Kong, I’ve got to say, Macau still comes up trumps!
Asia’s Las Vegas it may be, but there are still plenty of child-friendly activities up for grabs without hitting the slots, and don’t forget, we’re after easy and accessible right?
First things first, there’s no plane ride, (unless you want to take the helicopter option!), which means you don’t have to waste time and precious energy making it to the airport two hours prior to departure before enduring a trip that, let’s face it, with a small person on board, can be hit and miss.
Making Macau your destination of choice means you can leave from one of two ferry docks – Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, or Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island. Arrive just half an hour before departure; and your journey is a quick 60 minutes, costs under $200 each way (varies depending on departure time), and best of all, ferries go around the clock! Yep, so even if it’s a late departure or you need to get back to the ‘Kong in a hurry, there’s no stressing about getting a flight. There’s also no prior visa required, unlike other parts of China.
Once you arrive in Macau, it’s relatively straightforward to get a shuttle bus from the ferry terminal directly to your hotel of choice… and when we’re talking hotels in the world’s newest gambling capital, there is an absolute plethora to choose from!
So where to start?
My husband works for Starwood Hotels, so for us the choice is either the Sheraton in the centre of the Cotai Strip, or the Westin perched at the very end of the strip in Coloane. And both offer their own unique attributes.
The Sheraton is just over a year old and is one of the largest hotels in the world with 3,896 rooms. Yep! Huge! With seven restaurants to choose from, two fitness centres, a kids club, a spa and three outdoor swimming pools, it’s vibrant, busy, innovative and a whole lot of fun. It has all the mod cons at your doorstep, including awesome family suites.
It’s also right next door to the Conrad, and opposite the world famous Venetian Hotel, which is the largest casino in the world! If you can’t get to Venice… ladies, this will curb your appetite (at least for the time being!). The architecture is quite mind-blowing, and for first-timers, the Grand Canal winding through the shopping centre complete with Gondola rides and (fake!) blue skies are quite an attraction. The Venetian also boasts The Manchester United Experience for parents of footy lovers, with merchandise to rival that of Old Trafford and memorabilia to boot. (Yes dads, this means fun for you too!)
Further down the road, the Westin is a little older and less extravagant, but while I personally love being in the middle of it all, my preference having been to both with a toddler in tow is the Westin, especially if you’re after a relaxing, resort-style holiday. Away from the hustle and bustle, it’s set above Hac Sa beach with stunning ocean views from each room. Coupled with its Mediterranean theme you’ll feel like you’re a world away.
Each room has a significant-sized balcony, giving extra room for the kids and a bonus for mums and dads, as it’s perfect for cheeky cocktails while the sun sets and junior’s in bed. There’s a cute playroom, a lavish pool with a special kiddies’ shallow pool and an outdoor playground, not to mention a first class golf course and driving range. With two restaurants to choose from, plus a heavenly day spa, after a couple of days here I promise you’ll well and truly feel like you’ve been on a remote island holiday.
The famous Fernando’s restaurant is just up the road if you’re after a sumptuous alfresco Portuguese feast (not to mention sangria!). Be warned that you can’t book, so get here early! Alternatively, Miramar -just next to the hotel on the beachfront – offers equally superb Portuguese cuisine.
Of course, if you want a more active holiday, there’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do in Macau. Head into the Old Town for a taste of east meets west and check out what is perhaps the most famous landmark in Macau, the ancient ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral. You can also walk around Senado Square below and soak up the history of this former Portuguese colony.
If you want a touch of Macau’s glitz and glamour, you simply cannot pass up the House of Dancing Water show. This amazing production is probably a little too long for the really little ones to sit through, but over-fives should love it just as much as you.
And if you still think you’ll need more than just a pool and a playground, here are a few other recommended child-friendly activities to investigate:
Macau Science Centre
Avenida Dr. Sun Yat Sen, Macau.
Tel: (853) 2888 0822
The Macau Science Centre has loads of kid-friendly exhibits, including the current ‘Wildest Weather in the Solar System’ 3D show at the Planetarium and a totally hands-on Children’s Science Gallery on 1/F.
Dragon’s Treasure Show
The Bubble, Level 1, City of Dreams, Cotai, Macau.
Tel: (853) 8868 6688
The Dragon’s Treasure Show at the City of Dreams is a quite magical ten-minute-long immersive multi-media show that kids will love.
Outer Harbour, Macau.
The Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, near the ferry pier is a theme park and shopping centre that contains such delights as a nightly erupting ‘volcano’ and a Middle Eastern themed fort that houses a kids’ funfair. This place gets mixed reviews so if your stay in Macau is short, you might want to save this one for a longer stay.
A Ma Temple
Rua de Sao Tiago da Barra, Macau.
Visit A Ma Temple, Macau’s oldest and most revered temple, and let the kids explore to their heart’s content.
Macau Giant Panda Pavilion
Avenida de Seac Pai Van, Coloane, Macau.
Tel: (853) 2833 7676
Get up close and personal with some cute, furry creatures at the Macau Giant Panda Pavilion. This man-made habitat is designed to mimic the pandas’ natural home as closely as possible.
So, next time you want a teeny-tiny holiday, but don’t fancy the hard work, why not jump on the ferry to Macau, just a stone’s throw away from Hong Kong… and something a little different.
Nicole was a newsreader and journalist with Sky News Australia for a decade, and has now swapped the news desk and microphone for a change table and nappy bag! Mum to baby Ava, Nicole is now enjoying casual work as a journalist, copywriter, presenter, master of ceremonies and media trainer. Check out her blog http://mintmochamusings.com/. She can be reached at [email protected]. Twitter: @nicoledwebb