Take a day trip to one of HK’s best places
Need to escape the glitz of the city, the incessant noise or the sardine-packed MTRs for a hot minute? Luckily, being in the archipelago means you’re never more than a hop, hike or ferry ride away from an island paradise (or four!). So, grab your shades, slather on the sunscreen and head straight to the charming Cheung Chau island. Its pristine golden sand beaches are known for two things – the upcoming Bun Festival (19 May – 23 May, 2018) and the wind surfing mecca it has become.
This scruffy car-free, skyscraper-free fishing village is home to more than 23,000 inhabitants and dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Step foot on it and you’ll notice a change of pace in this quaint little town connected only by ferry to the main Hong Kong island. It’s also nicknamed as the “Dumbbell Island” given the peculiar shape – large at the ends and narrow in the middle.
From Central MTR, take the IFC mall exit and stroll to the Central Pier 5. Ferries alternate between the slow or ordinary ferry, which takes about an hour to reach the Cheung Chau Island, and the fast ferry, which will zip you past the massive waves and the lulls of the cargo ships in just around 30 minutes. Grab the window seats in the fast ferry or jaunt to the open deck in the slow ride for unbeatable views of small specks of land and remarkable cliffs.
Sassy Mama Tip: If you have a love-hate relationship with seasickness, go for the slow ferry. This one is massive in capacity, more stable, smooth and not the catamaran type with twin hulls.
What To Do
The island offers a chockfull of family fun activities. Walk straight down the ferry pier, past the old Chinese Banyan tree, the love-lock assemblage, the numerous quaint cafes and department stores – buy ice cold beer or wine from Wellcome or 7-Eleven – and head to the Tung Wan beach.
Pitch a tent, let the kids make sandcastles and soak in some laid back atmosphere. The beach has coarse golden sand, the water is clear, armed with shark nets; but it does tend to get crowded on weekends. Best part? You don’t have to pack chairs or umbrellas, as there are rental places to provide what you need, when you need it.
Is secluded and serene your scene? Stroll down this beach for 15 minutes towards the Warwick Hotel and rough your parasol on the adjoining picturesque Kwun Yam Wan beach.
Wind Surfing and Other Water Sports
If there’s a mini surfer or sailor in your brood, the Kwun Yam Wan beach is unmissable. After all, here is where the Olympic gold medalist Lee Lai Shan used to train with her uncle. The family-run windsurfing club and her uncle, Lee Lai Gun, who trained her, teach water sports at the Cheung Chau Windsurfing school.
The World Ocean’s Day on 8 June is the perfect excuse to rent a paddle boat from one of the beach shops and get a lesson or two in paddling across the varied coastline of this island.
Rent bikes or, if you have the muscle to pull a three wheeler, plonk your fam at the backseat and ride through the rugged, cobbled streets of this charming old town.
From kayaks to parasols, air mattresses, swimming rings, beach toys, sun beds, locker rooms and shower facilities – the beaches on this island are BYO nothing! And for your other needs, you’ll find Wellcome, Seven Eleven, Watsons, Mannings, Japan Home Centre, 759 – all on the main road opposite the ferry dock.
The rabbit-warren of streets are lined with design boutiques that sell keepsakes, trinkets, key chains, tee-shirts and even “bun souvenirs” to mark the upcoming Bun Festival from 19 May – 23 May where tens of thousands of people will throng this old-world island to celebrate the Taoist festival of good fortune. And for mamas on the lookout for something more hip with a local spin, spot the Myarts Mart on the main Tung Wan Road. With egg tart shaped earrings and hand-drawn postcards, this pop-up store has something unique for everyone.
Things To See
There’s a lot more to the Cheung Chau vibe than the Kwun Yam Wan and the Tung Wan beaches. Come prepared to take a hike, ride a bike or just have a stroll, because you’ll want to see all the fun things this little island has to offer.
The Great Mini Wall
Hike the less wild, far tamer rip-off of the Great Wall right here in Hong Kong. The Great Mini Wall is a gentle, cemented, relaxed climb even for the kids. And you’re sure to be rewarded with the sights of interesting rock formations, pristine views of the South China Sea and Insta-worthy pictures of the quaint path on the way.
Cheung Po Tsai
Remember the Chinese pirate in the 2007 The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End movie? Played by actor Chow Yun-fat, the role was modeled on the real life story of Cheung Po Tsai, one of the most infamous pirates of the South China Sea. The Cheung Po Tsai cave on the Southern tip of the island was supposedly one of Cheung’s secret stashes. Quite honestly, the caves have a Robin Hood appeal to them but they are more of a tourist trap; there’s not a great deal to see here.
Love Lock Garden
Lock up all your love, throw away the key and don’t tell a soul. Your idea of romance? Walk down from the ferry dock to the Tung Wan beach and the Love Lock wall is hard to miss. The shop opposite to it sells locks at $40. Inscribe as you please, snap a picture, seal the deal and Instagram away!
Real talk: temples are no boredom busters for kids; but a little lesson in culture always does the soul some good. The hundreds of years old Tin Hau and the Pak Tai temples are revered among the local fishermen community and make for decent lesson in history and architecture for day-trippers.
Where To Eat
Worked up an appetite after all the hiking and the strolling? The seafood on the island won’t blow your mind but it doesn’t break the bank either. Consider gorging on fish balls, prawn fritters, shuck some oysters, down some clams, dig into the crispy, fried squid, sip wine, keep it simple and slow your roll.
If you have time to stay back till the sunset, the dim sum, drinks and the view at the Bayview Chinese Restaurant of the Warwick Hotel are a real deal!
Bayview Chinese Restaurant, Warwick Hotel, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong 2981 0081
The Outdoor Café perched on top of a hill overlooking the swells and surfs of the South China Sea is a part of the Cheung Chau Windsurfing Centre. Dishes on the menu include vegetarian samosas, spring rolls, chorizos, tapas and Hong Kong style fried chicken wings amongst others. They have an extensive wine and iced drinks menu served with spectacular panoramas of a beautiful coastline.
The Outdoor Café, No. 1 Hak Pai Road, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, 2981 8316
Morocco’s Bar, overlooking the ferry dock, has a more international menu. We especially recommend the chicken tikka and the roghan ghosht over here.
Where To Stay
Can’t bear to leave the island life behind so quickly? No sweat. There are plenty of quaint accommodations to choose from. The Warwick Hotel for a fancier 3-star night stay or the B&B Cheung Chau located right next to the Tung Wan beach for a cosy night out.