Take your fam to visit one of the most incredibly beautiful and pristine places in Hong Kong, the UNESCO Geopark
A geo-what? If you haven’t heard of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark before, now is the time to add it to your must-visit list. A geopark is an area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in an effort to preserve, highlight and protect rare sites of geological importance. Hong Kong’s Geopark covers a 50 km² area and has highly unique rock features that will both wow your family and get them excited about the phenomenal outdoors that Hong Kong has to offer. Since the geopark is such a large area, we’ve compiled some family-friendly details to get you started on planning your day trip.
Hong Kong’s Geopark covers two sections of Hong Kong: Sai Kung and a part of the New Territories near the Plover Cove Reservoir and Country Park. Some islands and areas are accessible by land while others are only accessible by boat but the majority of them are easily available to book for local or private tours. We have what you need to plan a day of adventure with your family, from information about the areas, islands and rock formations available, as well as some recommendations based on which ones we feel are the most family-friendly. The Hong Kong Geopark also gives some great recommendations for tours on each area on its website.
The Sai Kung formations are the likely the most accessible for families as it is the tourist hub of the geopark. It is also the best location if you are have young children as you can still see a piece of the geopark without being too far away from amenities.
At the Sai Kung Water Park you can find the Volcano Discovery Centre. This hands-on centre is great for showing kids the history behind the rocks in the geopark and how they are formed. The centre even offers free guided tours. It’s quite tiny, however, and can get very busy at the weekends with the occasional line-up to get in (how very Hong Kong). The best time to visit is in the morning.
Volcano Discovery Centre, Sai Kung Waterfront Park, 2394-1538, www.volcanodiscoverycentre.hk.
Hours: 9:30am to 4:30pm every day
The Geopark Visitor Centre (LIONS Nature Education Centre) is also located in the Sai Kung and is a quick bus or cab ride away from the pier. It has a much larger and amazing exhibition hall that is perfect for kids. To get to the centre from Sai Kung Pier get on green minibus 1A and get off at Pak Kong and walk about 5 minutes to the centre.
Lions Nature Education Centre, Tsiu Hang, Sai Kung, 2792 2234, Website.
Exhibition Hall hours: Monday, Wednesday to Sunday & Public holidays: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm
On the Sai Kung pier, especially at the weekends, the main strip is inundated with tour boat companies that will take you to the outlying islands (including those not considered part of the geopark) near Sai Kung. Some are view-only tours while others allow you to visit and explore some of these breathtaking places. Most of the tours have signs advertising where they are going in English with very reasonable prices. Don’t be intimidated by the selection! We’ve provided you with all the details you need to narrow down your island choices and you can always ask the providers what islands they go to once you have one in mind. Additionally, if you would prefer something custom, the companies should be able to work with you to get you the tour that you’re looking for.
Getting to Sai Kung
From the Central MTR get off in Mong Kok and transfer to the Kwun Tong line. From there, get off at Choi Hung Station. Take exit C2 and get on the green 1A minibus which ends at the Sai Kung Pier.
Read more: Sai Kung: The Ultimate Neighbourhood Guide For Families
High Island is the most popular section of the geopark as it is the most accessible and closest to the Sai Kung pier. Part of this section of the geopark is attached to the High Island reservoir that was built in the 1970s, which still supplies water to Hong Kong to this day. Here you can see the enormous hexagonical rock formations that are 140 million years old. Geologists believe these formations were created when lava slowly cooled inside a caldera. There is also a beautiful sea cave that has been adapted for tourists so that they can get a safe look of the outside of it without damaging its natural beauty as well as a few informational posts about the area. From the reservoir you can also access section one of the Machlehose trail if you and your family are looking to add a hike to your day trip.
High Island Reservoir can get very busy with tourists so we recommend you take your family out in the morning before or around 10:00am before the tours arrive.
What makes this area great for families with young children is that it is only a 30-minute taxi ride away and there are bathroom facilities located here as well. Taxis regularly wait at the reservoir to take visitors back and there is a sitting area that offers shade on a sunny day while you wait. The area is also not that big which is a great way for young kids to experience the geopark without committing to too much.
Read more: Best Hikes For Families: Where To Go Hiking In Hong Kong
You can book a half day tour online with the Volcano Discovery Centre ($95/adults, $90/kids). As well as a full day tour online that includes hiking the geotrail ($140/adults, $110/kids). Be advised that the tour can fill up fast so you may have to plan a week in advance. Additionally, if you are looking to have a bit more flexibility and want to avoid a structured tour you can also get a taxi from the Sai Kung Pier. It will take around 30 minutes to get there and will cost around $120 one way.
If you and your family are fit and up for a really long excursion, you can also take bus 94 departing from Sai Kung town centre or bus 96R departing from the Diamond Hill MTR Station (weekends and public holidays only) and get off just after Pak Tam Chung. From here you can walk (or take a cab). Once you reach the junction, turn right on Sai Kung Man Tee road and take the 9-kilometre hike to reach the reservoir. Additionally, green minibus 9A is currently being trialled in the area on Sundays and public holidays only. It goes from Pak Tam Chung to the High Island Reservoir.
Only 2 kilometres from the Sai Kung Pier, you can easily spend a full day at this picturesque island with the family. Sharp Island is small, long and narrow island shaped by natural wave erosion that is surrounded by gorgeous green spaces and pristine waters. This island is an ideal place for families to see a part of the geopark. Sharp Island has a white sand beach and swimming area with lifeguards on duty, change rooms, showers, toilets and a BBQ area. There is also an additional short hike near the beach and pier side of the island that is also suitable for families.
Not only does Sharp Island have all of these great amenities, one of its special features is a tombolo. A tombolo is a natural sand levee and the one on Sharp Island is only exposed at low tide. When the tide is low at Sharp Island there is a natural formation of igneous rocks, which is a type of volcanic rock that formed millions of years ago. You can walk across the tombolo that attaches to a smaller part of the island that contains a short 1-kilometre hike. Be sure to check tidal times on the Hong Kong Observatory before heading out to the island if you would like to check out this part of the geopark.
Sharp Island is only accessible by boat but it is very easy to get to. There are many boat companies available on the weekends and on public holidays from the Sai Kung Pier that will offer a round trip to Sharp Island for $30 to $50 per person. What is great about these trips is that you can stay out at the island until the last tour boat leaves. Be sure to ask for the final pick-up time.
Sassy Mama Tips: Spend half a day at the High Island Reservoir and then follow up with Sharp Island is an inexpensive and easy adventure for families with kids of any age.
This group of islands is located about 15 kilometres from the Sai Kung Pier. The group contains the South Ninepin Island, North Ninepin Island and East Ninepin Island, along with several small rock islets all of which were created by volcanoes around 160 million years ago. As these islands are farther away and only accessible by boat, this is the type of trip that is best suited for older children. The islands are out in the open ocean and are susceptible to the weather. Tours and visits to the area should only be attempted in the summer when the weather conditions are favourable and the ocean is calm.
Some of the most famous parts of Hong Kong’s geopark are found within the Ninepin Islands, such as Jacob’s Ladder Cave, the Stone Arch, Tiger’s Mouth Cave, and Backwash Cave. The hexagonical rock columns, similar to the ones you might see on High Island, are the most spectacular out here in the Ninepin Islands as they can reach diameters of over two meters in length making for some of the largest in the geopark.
As there is so much to see and learn in the Ninepin islands, a tour is a good way to get it all in. The Volcano Discovery Centre offers tours to the Ninepin islands during the summer months, which includes a visit to the Leung Shuen Wan Tin Hau Temple (smallest Tin Hau temple in Hong Kong) and a Hakka village. Prices are $468 for adults and $460 kids, and you can book online.
Additionally, an easy Google search will give you a tonne of different tour options if you are looking for some variety. The Hong Kong Geopark lists a few other tour options on its website as well, and you can also look into hiring a private junk if that caters better to your needs.
Ung Kong Chau Group: Bluff Island (Sha Tong Hau Shan), Wang Chau and Basalt Island
These islands were born from a violent shaking of the earth around 146 million years ago causing magma to violently erupt and rise up through the earth melting rock along the way.
Bluff Island has one of the geopark’s biggest sea caves and is a popular diving spot. Wang Chau is the smallest of the Ung Kong Chau islands and is home to some impressive sea caves that demonstrate the immense power of how water and wave erosion can affect a landscape. Basalt Island follows in the other two islands footsteps with sea stacks, island reefs and wave-cut bays. Basalt Island is also home to a memorial in which a plane travelling from Shanghai to Hong Kong crashed in 1948 killing all 30 people on board.
Getting to the Ung Kong Chau Islands requires you to hire a private boat from the Sai Kung Pier. It is advisable to only visit these islands when the weather conditions are favourable. The Hong Kong Geopark website also offers further information and recommendations.
Lai Chi Chong
This area is near the north part of Sai Kung Park. The Lai Chi Chong area has some of the most complicated rock formations of the geopark. Some sections are older than others while some are younger making for an interesting mash-up of rock formations. A large area of rock is best visible during the low tide but even during high tide these distinct rocks are still visible.
You can get there from Sai Kung by taking green minibus 7 from the Sai Kung Market and getting off at Pak Sha O. From there you will need to get on the path and walk for about 3.5 kilometres to reach Lai Chi Chong (6 kilometres round trip). If you are coming from the New Territories near Shatin, there is a ferry that goes directly from Ma Liu Shui to Lai Chi Chong.
Ma Liu Shui to Lai Chi Chong Ferry: Monday to Friday $18; Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays: $28
Route timetable: details here.
The New Territories geopark areas are a bit further to travel to, and some areas require some pre-planning, so they are best for families with older children who are able to enjoy long boat rides and potentially challenging hikes. If your family is up for the journey, the New Territories holds some of the best of Hong Kong’s geopark with some truly remarkable rock formations and stellar countryside views.
You can view most of the areas (except Ma Shi Chau) by using the University MTR station as a starting point. To get to there from Central you can hop on the MTR, switch to the Kwun Tong line from Mong Kok station, then get off at Kowloon Tong and switch to the East Rail line to arrive at University Station taking exit B. Or you can take bus 101 from Central to Hung Hom station and then get on the East Rail line with the same exit. Exit B will put you within a 15-minute walking distance from the Ma Liu Shui ferry. Most of the geopark features can be seen by taking the Ma Liu Shui Ferry to Lai Chi Wo (except Tung Ping Chau). The Lai Chi Wo Geoheritage Centre is also located in Lai Chi Wo, which highlights the geopark features in the New Territories, as well as the old Hakka village that use to be there. The ferry only runs on weekends and public holidays.
Lai Chi Wo Geoheritage Centre, Lai Chi Wo Pier, 2272 2000, 2272 2022.
Hours: Every Sunday and Public Holidays, 10:00am to 4:00pm, www.geopark.gov.hk.
Editor’s Note: *Under renovation until September 16, 2018.
Ma Liu Shui to Lai Chi Wo Ferry: Go to landing number 3 to get the Lai Chi Wo ferry. The ferry ride to Lai Chi Wo is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Depart from Ma Liu Shui: 09:00am (Sunday and Public Holidays)
Depart from Lai Chi Wo: 3:30pm (Sunday and Public Holidays)
Fare: $50 single ticket; $80 return ticket (subject to operator’s announcement)
Route details: click here
Questions: 2555 9269
Double Haven (Yan Chau Tong)
This island sits above the Plover Cove Country Park and is one of the best places the New Territories has to offer. The island, which is also a designated marine park, came into existence around 180 million years ago with volcanic eruptions destroying the original rock. After the eruptions stopped the years of erosion and rising waters helped to create the stratum that exists today. Double Haven is absolutely idyllic; the waters surrounding the island are crystal clear and the weather and seas are often favourable all year round due to the island being surrounded and shielded by other outlying areas.
You can take the ferry from Ma Liu Shui to Lai Chi Wo, which will allow you to view Double Haven from the boat. Additionally, the Hong Kong Geopark has a package tour that also includes Tolo Channel (Wong Chuk Kok), Port Island-Bluff Head areas.
If you and your family want to turn this into a hiking adventure, you can take the green mini bus 20C at the minibus terminus at Tai Po Market MTR Station and get off at the Wu Kau Tang. You can also take 275R at the Tai Po Market MTR station and get off at Bride’s Pool Bus Station and walk to Wu Kau Tang. Both hiking routes overlook Double Haven but will take approximately 4 hours to do a round-trip. Additionally, if you live near Fanling, the 56K runs between the Fanling MTR and can drop you off at Luk Keng in which you can hike toward Fung Hang for a similar view. This round-trip hike will take around 5 hours.
Wong Chuk Kok Tsui and Port Island
Wong Chuk Kok Tsui holds the title of the having the oldest rock formation in Hong Kong, around 400 million years old! This formation, having been influenced by years of geological movement, looks almost vertical making for a pretty jaw-dropping spectacle. The most popular and remarkable geological feature here is what has been dubbed as the Devil’s Fist. The Devil’s Fist is a unique piece of strata that has been cut away by the waves to resemble a large fist. Please do not climb the Devil’s Fist. In order to protect the feature, tourists are encouraged not to touch or climb on the feature for fear of it being destroyed.
Port Island is the entrance to the Tolo Harbour in Tai Po and it is remarkable due to its bright rust coloured rocks and sediment. Port Island is just off to the east of Wong Chuk Kok and is the least accessible of the areas in the New Territories as you can only view it by hiring a private boat. However, if you book a private boat you can get them to take you Wong Chuk Tsui and then up to Double Haven making for a full and fun day.
While Wong Chuk Kok is not an island and is technically accessible by land, the hike to get there is extensive and extremely challenging. It takes around 7 to 14 hours (yikes!), so it is not a recommended route for families. Your options are to take the ferry offered to Lai Chi Wo and view it from the boat, book a private junk, or the Hong Kong Geopark site has some package tours that include this area (Tolo Channel) as well as the other geopark areas in the New Territories on its website.
Tung Ping Chau
While this area may hold the youngest sedimentary rocks in Hong Kong it does not make them any less impressive. The 55 million-year-old sponge cake-like formations envelope this crescent shaped island and it is a popular spot for visitors. Tung Ping Chau is easily accessible to get to by ferry, allowing you to explore the island at your leisure. The island is home to the Ping Chau Country Trail is about 6 kilometres in length and follows the entire island coast. The hike is generally flat and could be attempted by families with older children. There are general amenities and interpretation signs and some very cool abandoned villages to explore.
Take the ferry from Ma Liu Shui to Tung Ping Chau, book a private boat, or explore the tour options at the Hong Kong Geopark site.
Ma Liu Shui to Tung Ping Chau: Ferry ride is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Depart from Ma Liu Shui: Saturday 9:00am and 3:30pm; Sunday 09:00am.
Depart from Tung Ping Chau: Saturday and Sunday 5:15pm
Fare: $90 round-trip
Route details: click here
Questions: 2527 2513
Ma Shi Chau
The sedimentary rocks at Ma Shi Chau are the third oldest in Hong Kong at 280 million years old. Also located here is the short Ma Shi Chau nature trail that is roughly a 3-kilometre easy hike. Along it you can find 16 different attractions with information posts that point out all the great features in the area and, if you’re lucky, you may even find some marine fossils left behind in some of the rocks. Ma Shi Chau also has a tombolo, a natural sand levee, which you must cross in order to access the island. The Tai Po Geoheritage Centre is located nearby in Sam Mun Tsai and is another great indoor facility for kids to learn about the area. As Mai Shi Chau is relatively accessible it is a great choice for families of all ages.
Tai Po Geoheritage Centre, 120 Sam Mun Tsai Rd, Care Village, 2667 0992, TaiPoGeoheritageCenter.com.
From Central take the MTR to Tai Po Market station. You will need get off at Mong Kok to get on the Kwun Tong Line and the from there get off at Kowloon Tong to get on the East Rail line to Tai Po Market station. You could also take bus 607 from the Statue Square stop in Central to the Tai Po Market MTR station. Once at the Tai Po Market station, take bus 74K or minibus 20K to Sam Mun Tsai village then walk across the hillock in Yim Tin Tsai and reach Ma Shi Chau via the tombolo (approximately 40-minute walk).
Sassy Mama Tip: Tung Ping Chau and Ma Shi Chau are the most accessible and family-friendly of all the areas in the New Territories and could easily make for a fun day with the kids. However, if you are looking to get an overall picture of everything within the New Territories geopark, join a package tour from the Hong Kong Geopark that includes Tolo Channel (Wong Chuk Kok), Port Island-Bluff Head, Double Haven or another that includes Tolo Channel (Wong Chuk Kok), Port Island-Bluff Head, Tung Ping Chau. The tours are hassle-free and offer great information on the areas by the trained guides.