The bustling city of Hong Kong never sleeps; visitors here will find this metropolis is truly a 24-hour city. However, Hong Kong has a secret — its many islands offer a quiet, peaceful country retreat from the urban madness of the centre city. Some of these islands are inhabited and offer everything the weary traveller needs to relax and refresh him or herself; others are uninhabited and best suited to the day tripper or the rustic camper.
You can access Hong Kong’s islands via ferry from Pier 7 or via private bookings. Island-hopping during your stay in Hong Kong can open up a world of heritage and natural beauty lurking just beyond the crowded world of Hong Kong Island. There are more than 260 Hong Kong islands to choose from, but these are some of the most popular.
The biggest island in Hong Kong, Lantau Island is also one of the closest to the mainland. Its main attractions include the Tian Tan Buddha, or Giant Buddha, a 34-metre high bronze statue located near the Po Lin Monastery. The Tian Tan Buddha weighs 250 metric tons and took 10 years to cast. Visitors must climb 268 steps if they hope to reach the platform on which it sits.
On Lantau Island you’ll find Silver Mine Bay Beach, where, in the 19th century, local inhabitants mined silver for decades. Remnants of the old mine can still be seen, as can several of the watchtowers the locals built to guard against pirate attacks. Nearby you’ll find Tai O Village, the “Venice of Hong Kong,” where the Tanka people live in their traditional Chinese stilt houses. The stilts protect the houses when the tidal waters over which they are built inevitably rise. In Tai O, you can book dolphin-watching tours to spy the native pink dolphins that live in waters off the coast here.
Po Toi is a much smaller island; it has an area of only 3.69 square kilometres. Check out the famous rock formations here, which include Buddha Hand Rock, the Tortoise Climbing Up the Mountain, Coffin Rock and the Supine Monk. Po Toi is also home to ancient rock carvings that are believed to date from the Bronze Age.
Perhaps Po Toi’s most famous attraction – though not one for the faint of heart — is the Deserted Mansion of Family Mo. Built in the 1930s, this allegedly haunted dwelling of an erstwhile merchant is slowly falling to bits.
Tung Lung Chau
Rock climbers come from all over the world to have a crack at Tung Lung Chau’s varied sport climbing terrains, but it’s also the home of Tung Lung Fort, which was built in the 18th century to protect the island from pirates. Legend has it that famous pirates like Cheng Lien Chang, Cheng I and Cheng Po Tsai attacked Tung Lung Fort. Abandoned in the early 19th century, it was declared a national monument in 1977 and restored between 1979 and 1982. The fort is now open to the public.
Yim Tin Tsai, Kwo Chau Islands and Tung Ping Chau
Yim Tin Tsai is home to mangrove forests and several abandoned structures, including St. Joseph’s Chapel, a Grade III historic building. There are several abandoned homes on the island, as the Ching Po School, now open as a cultural attraction. Here you can find a disused salt field, one of five former salt fields in Hong Kong.
The Kwo Chau Islands, also known as the Ninepin Group, is a group of 29 islands located off the eastern coast of Hong Kong. No one lives here, so you’ll have to charter a private boat to these islands. As you explore them, look for the hexagonal rhyolite columns, the remnants of a volcanic eruption 140 million years ago.
Tung Ping Chau, also known simply as Ping Chau, is located northeast of Hong Kong. Because it is far enough away from the mainland to escape the pollution of the Pearl River Delta, its coral reefs and coastal rock pools are teeming with life — you can even go diving here, something that’s not possible on Hong Kong’s other islands. Much of the island is slowly being reclaimed by nature, but it’s still a popular weekend destination for Hong Kong natives and tourists alike.
If you’re travelling to Hong Kong, you’re in for a treat. Hong Kong is home to many quiet island getaways. Take the time to venture forth from the mainland and take in all the Hong Kong islands have to offer.