Mention Hong Kong and most visitors think of soaring skyscrapers, streets lined with glitzy malls and luxury boutiques, and almost any cuisine you can imagine served up in its thousands of restaurants and bars. It’s certainly that, but before Hong Kong flourished into a modern metropolis, it was a humble fishing village, and even today, despite land reclamation, the sea is never far away.
With more than 250 islands that make up Hong Kong, many of them uninhabited, escaping the city’s hustle and bustle is easier than you think. Venture beyond Kowloon and Hong Kong Island to one of these islands, and you'll soon encounter a more laid-back way of living, where locals greet each other by name and get together for tea, and uphold traditions you thought were long gone.
Many of the islands you will want to visit are to the south, part of Islands District, and are easily accessible from the Central Ferry Piers. These islands and their villages are surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes, including the deserted beaches of Pui O on Lantau Island, where water buffaloes roam the hills.
The islands’ beaches are also perfect for getting wet and wild with a variety of water sports, from stand-up paddle boarding to kitesurfing. Communities have cropped up around these activities, with instructors on hand to provide lessons to visitors and locals alike, before gathering for drinks and a bite to eat while soaking up the seaside atmosphere. So, get out of the urban centre and into the water, and discover a different side of Hong Kong that’s as action-packed or serene as you want it to be.
Hike the Lantau Trail to the Big Budda, instead of taking a bus or the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.
Catch a ferry or charter a junk to Po Toi for a cheap and cheerful seafood feast at Ming Kee.
Sip a cup of tea before buying fresh herbs to take home from organic farm Herboland on Lamma Island.
Take your pick of live seafood from the tank at the restaurants along Lamma Island’s waterfront at Sok Kwu Wan.
Take a surf or stand-up paddle boarding lesson on Pui O beach on Lantau Island.
Hire windsurfing equipment and head out on the water at Cheung Chau.