I have a few guilty pleasures that I find best to keep to myself, like the fact that from time to time I catch myself sneaking into a McDonalds to order myself a surreptitious fillet-of-fish, or that I have recently developed something of a Mum-crush on Jake Wood in this year’s series of “Strictly Come Dancing” (aka Max Branning for “EastEnders” fans). You know, the type of thing that if admitted in public, leads to pitying looks and embarrassing conversational pauses, until you find that everyone has made their excuses and you are alone, slowly devouring your way along a buffet table. Well, whilst I’m in the mood for some self-confession, I’ll add another one to the list: my favourite beach in Hong Kong is Repulse Bay Beach. No – you didn’t mishear me – and no, I didn’t get confused with Middle Bay or South Bay; I genuinely like going to Repulse Bay Main Beach. There, I said it.
Now, I know that this is a deeply unfashionable view. There are, of course, far more pristine and secluded beaches in Hong Kong. I too have marvelled at the photos of Tai Long Wan beach and its picture postcard beauty – although, quite frankly, the idea of trekking over the MacLehose Trail for an hour with a toddler dragging along behind me and bags full of buckets, spades, towels and food, always makes it look slightly less appealing. I am also aware that for those first couple hot weekends in the summer, Repulse Bay can become crowded and dirty, and for most of the summer, swimming there is a little like floating in the middle of a crazy Tracey Emin Art Installation – with random personal effects ranging from flip-flops to shower caps bobbing past (although, the sad truth is, that the rubbish slick seems to make its way to even the most remote of Hong Kong’s beaches). But, all of this being said, I really do have a soft spot for spending a family morning at the beach, especially now, when summer is over and the crowds, humidity and rubbish have disappeared. Here are five reasons why:
1. The Playground
My son likes building a sandcastle as much as the next 3-year-old boy, but variety is the spice of life, and it is good to have an easy entertainment alternative so close at hand. My son loves the playground at the back of the beach, as there is a great range of play equipment, including roundabouts, see-saws and strange futuristic climbing frames. His favourite thing of all is the small pirate ship playground, which you can find just to the east of the shower blocks.
2. The Tin Hau Temple and Kwun Yam Shrine
If you have never stumbled across the Taoist temple at the far-east edge of Repulse Bay beach, then you’ve been missing a trick. Having grown up in the north of England, where places of worship consist mainly of small, grey churches – sometimes with a stained glass window for a flash of colour – this feels wonderfully outlandish and exuberant, with brightly coloured mosaic statues of Chinese mythology deities, dragons and goldfish. Towering over them all, and keeping a careful watch on anyone in the water, are the statues of Kwun Yam, the Goddess of Mercy and Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea.
You don’t have to work too hard to encourage your child’s imagination here. My son loves spotting the dragons, crossing the Longevity Bridge (which is meant to extend your life by three days, so well worth a few trips over!) and watching tourists try (and usually fail) to throw a coin in the giant goldfish’s mouth. This also makes an ideal trip for out-of-town visitors, as you can combine the beach with a little culture, and get some great snapshots.
3. The Beach Itself
So, I suppose if you are a beach purist, you can get sniffy about the beach being artificially extended and much of the sand having being shipped in, but the happy result of this is that the sand close to the water’s edge really is soft under-foot and great for digging and running in. The water is generally calm, and there is no sharp drop-off, making it great for little ones to play, swim and paddle in. What’s more, if you go outside of the peak summer months, you’ll often find that you’ll get the beach pretty much to yourselves, even on the weekends. Well, almost. There is, of course, the occasional coach-load of tourists who come to take photographs of themselves posing by the seaside. I know that this can ruin the serenity somewhat, although I quite like the opportunity to people-watch, and I probably delight in watching the ladies walking down the beach in highly inappropriate designer heels as much as they enjoy watching me in my tatty clothes digging sandcastles. A great cultural exchange.
Oh, and I know perhaps Hong Kong can sometimes give you view-overload, but there is surely no denying that the view from the beach out onto the South China Sea and outlying islands is quite simply stunning.
4. The Pulse
One of the major downsides of Repulse Bay Beach used to be the limited dining options. Well, this is about to change with the recent opening of The Pulse shopping, dining and entertainment complex. The Pulse is bringing plenty of beachside eateries, including the new seafood and bbq restaurant Limewood, family-favourite Classified, and of course, the ever popular with tired parents, Coffee Academics. There is also a Marketplace for snacks and drinks, and even a Häagen-Dazs, if you’re in the kind of mood where a cheap ice-lolly just won’t do.
The Pulse is also bringing beachside shopping options to Repulse Bay. This includes a kid’s shopping zone called ‘peek-a-boo’, where you’ll find clothing and party stores, as well as the Brick Shop selling very cool Lego sets (and who said sand and Lego don’t mix?). As a bonus, peek-a-boo also promises daily games and classes, and regular large performances, to keep your kids amused whilst you browse the shops, as well as a nursery room and baby-stroller lending.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Well, let’s wait and see – although I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that The Pulse ends up being a welcome addition rather than changing Repulse Bay into that crazy, crowded beach that everyone thinks it is. Here’s hoping.
5. The Walk
So, if all if this isn’t enough, Repulse Bay Beach can also feature at the beginning or end of a very picturesque and pushchair-friendly stroll to or from Deep Water Bay Beach. If you are using Repulse Bay as your starting point, just go to the far west of the beach and follow the path along the coastline. My son enjoys riding his scooter along here, and even taking into account the frequent stops to throw pebbles into the sea, it normally only takes us around 30 minutes. There are some great views (my son, of course, is most taken by the sight of Ocean Park rather than any natural beauty), and if you decide that nothing in The Pulse strikes your fancy, you can always walk over to Deep Water Bay for something to eat at the relaxed, good-value Thai restaurant on top of the changing facilities.
Still not convinced that Repulse Bay Beach is for you? No worries. You enjoy your boat ride, followed by that hike, to get to that stunning beach in the middle of nowhere. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting back listening to the waves, admiring my son’s sandcastles and watching the sunset dip below the horizon.
Repulse Bay Beach, Beach Road, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong Island