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Discovering Lantau: The Hong Kong Less Travelled…

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From cable cars and fishing, to rock pools and beaches… Make the most of what Lantau has to offer!

This city’s skyscraper skyline is so iconic that it can be easy to forget Hong Kong is a glorious archipelago, not just one crazy city. More than 200 islands dot the South China Sea, and Lantau is the largest. Here you can spot wild cows and water buffalo roaming free along the roadside and on the beaches, take a hike without seeing another soul, and snatch a glimpse of old, pre-industrial Hong Kong. Sounds pretty perfect to us, mama!

From the impressive Ngong Ping Cable Car and the imposing Big Buddha, to the quaint fishing village of Tai O and the vast stretches of beach at Cheung Sha (plus a myriad of walking trails in between), the island has something for everyone. If you’re looking to make a trip, here’s everything you need to plan your family day of fun!

Discover Lantau

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

Lantau has some incredible trails but the Ngong Ping cable cars offer a far more leisurely way to see some of the island – the kids will love it and it’s much kinder on little legs. Standard cabins are $255 per adult for a round trip, and $170 for children aged 3-11, but if possible opt for an upgrade. Around $80 more per person, the Crystal Cabins have a glass bottom floor, providing a birds eye view of the rich landscape.

Sit back, relax and look down as the landscape slips from urban, to marine, to undulating hills! The whole family will be mesmerised by this opportunity to see the world from that high.

When it is overcast, there is something quite thrilling about disappearing into the clouds but on a clear day the views are unbeatable (and a photographer’s dream), particularly the shots of the Tian Tan Big Buddha sitting proud in the distance. Who needs a drone when you can fly along yourself?

For a special family occasion it is well worth booking a private cabin ($3,800 Standard/$4,500 Crystal, round trip) as it allows you to skip the queues and enables free entry to some of the nearby attractions.

The ride takes 25 minutes and is a nice way to end the day, but keep in mind the last car departs Ngong Ping village at 6pm. Also keep in mind that cable cars don’t run in bad weather.

Discover Lantau

Tai O Fishing Village

Old and new collide at this tiny fishing village, particularly at weekends when it is bustling with tourists. Stilt houses sit atop the water while little fishing boats nip back and forth. Tiny stalls sell traditional tastes of Hong Kong (shrimp paste, fish balls, tofu pudding, deep fried donuts and more!).

For more of an adventure, hop on a tour boat for a closer look of life on the water. You may even get to catch to glimpse the Chinese white dolphin – though we’re sad to say the numbers are dwindling. The sunsets are stunning and there is an easy walk to a lookout point up on the headline. Book a dinner (or stay the night) at the beautifully refurbished Tai O Heritage Hotel, which was once the marine police headquarters. Special trips, including a dedicated ‘sunset tour’ and an in depth ‘insight tour’ of the fishing village, are available to add on to your cable car trip.

Discover Lantau

Mui Wo

This sleepy little town is the main hub for South Lantau with ferries and buses taking you on to other islands or deeper into the wild. Silvermine Beach is popular with day trippers, as it’s a decent stretch of sand, with barbecue pits and changing facilities as well as little shops and stalls selling British seaside classics like candy floss and popcorn. Close to the ferry terminal there are a collection of seafood restaurants, while the Silvermine Resort hosts pool parties across the summer. The hotel itself is in need of modernisation but it is ideally located. You can even rent bicycles and pedicabs to paddle along the waterfront.

Looking for a bit more of an adventure? A gentle 30 to 45 minute hike passes through the beach, traditional villages and woodlands, will take you to Silvermine Waterfalls. The trail is well marked and it’s an easy one to do with children, but keep in mind it’s not really suitable for swimming. You can reward yourself with delicious Turkish food at Bahce on the way back to the ferry.

Discover Lantau

Pui O

A short bus ride from Mui Wo and around five minutes walk from the local school, this beach is one of the island’s best. There are barbecue pits and camping options. Surf shack style restaurant Mavericks has great music and is a nice place to take a break from beach fun.

Discover Lantau

Cheung Sha

Around 3km long, this is one of the longest in Hong Kong. Most make a beeline for Lower Cheung Sha which has a collection of restaurants and surf shops. Stalwart South African diner, The Stoep has relocated but remains hugely popular while new resident The Beach House has become a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

You can take small walk behind the headland to reach Upper Cheung Sha beach, which is less busy.  Take bus number 11 from Tung Chung or the number 1 from Mui Wo.

Read more: Water Activities for Kids

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Discovery Bay

Family-friendly, car-free, and clean, Discovery Bay is a little enclave far removed from the hustle of Hong Kong island. Residents zoom around in little golf carts, children play around on hover-boards and scooters, and the beach (albeit artificial and very close to where the ferries pull in and out) is ideal for little ones. The vibe is Mediterranean meets The Truman Show, but there are lovely al fresco restaurants and a “Dine ’N’ Ride” deal where you can claim a ferry ticket for every $120 spent eating in. The Auberge Hotel is a chic spot for a staycation and the ferries run at least every half hour to and from Central.

Read more: Eat, Drink and Relax in Discovery Bay

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Big Buddha

The bronze statue of Buddha, which stands 34 metres tall and weighs 250 tonnes, is arguably Lantau’s most recognisable image. It is sat atop three storeys of steps (prime photo time, mamas!), nearby the Grand Hall of  Ten Thousand Buddhas, a place of religious teaching and meditation. Their Wisdom Path is a winding route marked with 38 wood columns, all decorated with words from famed Buddhist text, the Heart Sutra. For those wanting to know more about the faith and its origins, there’s also a multi-media show in Ngong Ping village.

Read more: Sassy Mama’s Guide to Family-friendly Tours in Hong Kong

Discover Lantau

Disneyland

A little enclave of the US of A in Hong Kong, Disneyland has been hugely popular with local families and mainland tourists since it opened in 2005. Most rides are appropriate for over 3 year olds, and there are plenty of costume characters wandering around to keep the younger ones occupied. It offers a taste of the franchise, but thrill-seekers and family’s expecting a replica of the original one will be disappointed. With a full character parade at 3.30pm, a train that navigates the park and a fireworks display most evenings, you’re sure to be kept entertained. There is even a dedicated Disney themed train line from Sunny Bay MTR. Top tip: On weekends or holidays it is best to go early to avoid crowds and queues.

Read more: 10 Survival Tips for Hong Kong Disneyland

Discover Lantau

Hiking

The Lantau trail is a 70km circular route split into 12 sections of varying difficulty. Some lead to key tourist spots or towns, some are just a beautiful walk, while others are so rarely tackled you’ll need a stick to beat through the undergrowth. For nature lovers the island offers a chance to disappear off the grid for a few hours (or more) but ensure you pick the right one for the least able person in your group as some parts are remote and inaccessible!

One of Hong Kong’s most rewarding hikes with unforgettable views is the Shek Pik Country Trail (stage nine) which starts at the Po Lin Monastry through South Lantau Country Park before finishing at Tong Fuk beach. You can walk to the start after taking the cable car or bus to Ngong Ping Village from Tung Chung.

The Ngong Ping hike is an easy 45 minute walk that beings near Wisdom Path, close to the cable car. It’s mostly downhill and you’ll get some some lovely views of Shep Pik reservoir on your way to the finish at Sham Wat road.

Read more: 10 Things To Do With Your Kids Before They Turn 10

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Mountain Climb

For the adventurous, and those with older children, the island’s peaks could well be a nice family challenge. At 934m, Lantau Peak, known locally as Phoenix Mountain, is an ideal place to see sunrise (Hong Kong weather permitting). But you’ll need to start in the early hours to get to the top in time – it takes around 3-4 hours to summit depending on your fitness level. Take the bus from Mui Wo ferry or from Tung Chung MTR and get off at Pak Kung Au for the starting point. As you’d expect from the name Sunset Peak, known locally as Great Eastern Mountain, you’ll get splendid views at dusk. This walk starts at Nam Shan going up and over Sunset Peak down to Pak Kung Au. These walks make up the Lantau Trail stage 2 and 3.

Discover Lantau

Hotels & Holiday Homes

If you want to spend a bit more time exploring then there are some lovely spots to turn your trip into a staycation. For a hint of California, the Disney Hollywood Hotel is a nice choice, with a pool and waterslide – guaranteed to please the whole clan!

For those on a budget, the YHA Ngong Ping SG Davis Youth Hostel is an excellent choice close to the key trail. They have eight bed dorms, and it’s possible to have a private room – but booking in advance is a must!

Overnight explorer packages are available here

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Camping

Pitch up your tents at Tai Long Wan campsite in Lantau South Country Park, which has toilets and barbecue facilities. It’s a rather idyllic setting but you will need to put some effort in to get there. Take the bus from Tung Chung or Mui Wo and get off at Shek Pik Reservoir, you will then need to walk for half an hour – follow Lantau Trail stage 8 towards Tai O.

For those that want activities to go with the camping experience, Long Coast Seasports at Lower Cheung Sha Beach is a good bet. They have an array of options for adventure seekers, including windsurfing, sea-kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and surfing. They can also arrange expeditions on land. Plus they have deluxe safari tents for those seeking a more luxurious experience. Treasure Island, based near Pui O beach, runs surf camps (even for kids!) and offers surfboard and kayak rental. Plus, they have a well-equipped campsite and cabanas for rent. Perfect!

Read moreUltimate Guide to the Best Outdoor Pools & Beaches in Hong Kong

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Retreats

For a real break from the city, Sommer Life Retreat is at the far end of Mui Wo’s Silvermine Beach. It boasts its own private beach and a roof terrace with stunning views. Owner Nathalie Sommer offers organic food, meditation and yoga classes, as well as life coaching.

Alternatively, Espace Elastique in Tai O is a charming B&B that is a popular base for hikers. The family-run business also has a retreat for those truly trying to get away from it all.

Read moreEmbark on a Mini Staycation at the Family-Friendly Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin, Sassy Mama’s Favourite Staycation Spots

heart-peach

Time to head to Lantau, mamas!

Featured image via Pinterest, Image 3 via Pinterest, Image 4 via Pinterest, Image 5 via Pinterest, Image 6 via Discovery Bay, Image 8 via Pinterest, Image 9 via Pinterest, Image 10 via Pinterest, Image 11 via Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, Image 12 via Pinterest, Image 13 via Pinterest, Other images via Pauline De Leon.

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