Take a day trip to one of HK’s best islands!
There are more than 260 islands in Hong Kong and being in this archipelago means you’re not more than a hop, hike or ferry ride away from an island paradise (or four!). So grab your masks and your sunnies, slather on the sunscreen and head straight to the charming Cheung Chau island. Its pristine golden sand beaches are known for two things – the windsurfing mecca it has become and the Bun Festival. Though the Bun Festival now stands cancelled, you can still gorge on the fluffy delights, witness the lion dances, deities’ procession and the bun tower exhibits.
This scruffy car-free, skyscraper-free fishing village is home to more than 23,000 inhabitants and dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 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.
Editor’s Note: The situation in Hong Kong regarding closures and distancing measures due to the coronavirus is constantly evolving. Many businesses are taking extra precautions, but please make sure you follow the latest government advice and stay home if you have recently travelled overseas, have interacted with anyone who has been away, or display any symptoms.
Getting To Cheung Chau
Ferries to Cheung Chau leave from Central Pier 5. They alternate between the slow or ordinary ferry, which takes about an hour, 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, more stable, smooth and not the catamaran-type with twin hulls.
What To Do With Kids On Cheung Chau
Hit The Beach
The island is chockfull of fun family 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 drinks and snacks from Wellcome or 7-Eleven – and head to the Tung Wan beach.
Pitch a tent, let the kids make sandcastles and soak in the 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 and find a good spot on the picturesque shoreline of the Kwun Yam Wan beach. Kick back, soak up the rays and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Wind Surfing, Kayaking 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 medallist Lee Lai Shan used to train with her uncle, Lee Lai Gun. He runs the Cheung Chau Windsurfing Centre and teaches water sports there.
Hire windsurfers, kayaks, SUPs and all the necessary equipment or get serious and sign up for lessons or even a membership. It also offers a great little waterfront cafe perfect for grabbing a bite post-paddle.
Rent bikes or, if you have the muscle to pull a three-wheeler, plonk your fam at the backseat and ride along the seafront and the cobbled streets of this charming old town. There are lots of shops offering bike rental, with prices starting around $50 per hour (and you can expect to leave a refundable deposit!). Bikes come with baskets for your bags and many will have options for kids seats and junior bikes (and even some with training wheels).
Hike The Cheung Chau Family Trail
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. This hiking trail is about a 1.2-kilometre walk from the ferry pier.
The rabbit warren of streets is lined with design boutiques that sell keepsakes, trinkets, key chains, T-shirts and even “bun souvenirs”. 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.
It’s also worth popping by Island Workbench for its gorgeous selection of Cheung-Chau-made products such as jewellery, bags, cards and accessories. Fans of upcycling will love the string bags made from recycled fishing nets. As well as its store, there is a small café just up the road which serves a selection of coffees, teas, pastries and omelettes.
Things To See On Cheung Chau
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.
Cheung Po Tsai Cave
Get the kids to use a little bit of imagination to conjure up images of what times were like when pirates were sailing the seven seas! It’s said that the notorious pirate Cheung Po Tsai used to hide his treasure stash right here on Cheung Chau so it’s worth going exploring. It gets dark inside, so remember to either bring a small handheld torch or use your phone flashlight. To get there, make a right after you get off the ferry, and walk for about 20 minutes toward Sai Wan Tin Hau Temple. When you get to the temple, walk up the hill for about 10 minutes and you will find the cave.
Love Lock Garden
Lock up all your love, throw away the key and don’t tell a soul. If that’s your idea of a romantic statement, walk down from the ferry dock to the Tung Wan beach where the Love Lock wall will be 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!
Tin Hau And Pak Tai Temples
The hundreds of years old Tin Hau and the Pak Tai temples are revered among the local fishermen community and make for a decent lesson in history and architecture for day-trippers.
Where To Eat With Kids
Worked up an appetite after all the hiking and the strolling? The seafood on the island isn’t as famous as on neighbouring Lamma, but it is well worth the trip and 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. Kids are also sure to love the variety of iconic Cheung Chau street food so feel free to ditch the restaurants and snack your way around town! After all, who can say no to some delicious mango mochi, giant frozen watermelon or refreshing fruit shakes!
Kam Wing Tai Fish Balls
This humble eatery is a celebrated pit stop on the island – it offers Hong Kong’s favourite snack on the skewers. The lip-smacking, giant fish balls and fish dumplings are a hit here from more than 40 years. Our tip is to get here early for a chewy, delicious bite of the Hakka-style snack balls because the supply starts dwindling post-lunch.
Kam Wing Tai Fish Balls, 106 San Hing St, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, 2981 3050
The Outdoor Café
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 beautiful coastline. Make a note that this one is closed on Wednesdays.
Morocco’s Bar, overlooking the ferry dock, has an international menu, but features mostly Indian and a few Thai dishes. We especially recommend the chicken tikka and the roghan ghosht over here.
Morocco’s Bar, G/F, 71 Sun Hing Praya Street, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, 2986 9767
Stop, pause, take a moment to reflect on things which matter to you, with people who are truly important in this intimate, Scandinavian-inspired café. ‘Heima’ means home in ‘Icelandic’ — the simplicity of this café, its pastel décor and the tatami-style dining replete with handpicked wall art will totally floor you. Mamas, this one-woman run bistro is the stuff of Insta-dreams. We are totally in love with their apple pies, fig cakes and cold brew coffees. It’s open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Fresh Basil Pizza
Nothing wins hungry kids over quite like pizza! It offers classic toppings on small pizzas starting at $55 and large pizzas starting at $100.
Fresh Basil Pizza, G/F, 19 Tai Hing Tai Road, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, www.fresh-basil-pizza.com
This is sure to be an all-round crowd-pleaser with a menu encompassing all-day breakfasts, sandwiches, pizzas and international fare. The café has adopted a bear theme so don’t be surprised by the multiple teddies around the place!
Rainbow Café, G/F, 63 San Hing Praya Street, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, www.facebook.com/myrainbowcafe
Kwok Kam Kee Cake Shop
You can’t leave Cheung Chau without trying a bun. While the famous Bun Festival was cancelled this year, you can still get a taste of the white fluffy dough of the ping on bao (peace bun). This shop has been supplying the buns for the festival for over 40 years so it is definitely the place to try them! There’s no English signage, so just keep your eye out for the signature white buns with the red lucky stamp on top (that and the long queues!). Buns come in sesame, red-bean and lotus-seed flavours.
Kwok Kam Kee Cake Shop, 46 Pak She Street, Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, www.facebook.com/KwokKamKee
Accommodation On Cheung Chau
Can’t bear to leave the island life behind so quickly? No sweat. There are a few 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.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on 14 May 2018 and updated on 18 May 2020.