Hong Kong may be home to more business suits than swimsuits, but away from the hustle and bustle of Central, around 455 miles of coastline make it the perfect playground for lovers of water activities. Now that the mercury is rising and the seashore is beckoning, we’ve compiled an A-Z guide for you to make the most of your weekends on the water.
This has to be one of the most sociable clubs in Hong Kong and, unlike the frustrating waiting lists of most private clubs, it is still welcoming new members. Facilities include two waterfront clubhouses in Aberdeen and Middle Island.
I defy any Hong Kong expat not to enjoy a day of sand and surf on one of Hong Kong’s hundreds of beaches. Whether you want to be with the in-crowd at South Bay or travel further afield to a stunning spot in the New Territories, so long as you’ve come prepared then nothing beats that feeling of sand between your toes.
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Or kayaking, to be more precise. Adventure company Kayak and Hike is the brainchild of Brit Paul Etherington who, for many years, has been delighting visitors and residents with tours of the more out of reach and beautiful parts of Hong Kong’s coastline. Jump aboard his powerboat to reach the stunning caves and white beaches of the Geopark, which you can then explore by kayak or snorkel and flippers. Perfect for lovers of more active water activities
Hong Kong couldn’t claim to be one of the world’s diving hot spots, but for those deep-sea lovers amongst us, there are some wonders to behold if you like diving water activities. The Marine Park in the New Territories is closed to fishing so amazingly you can find an abundance of fish species and coral from clown fish to barracuda. The South China Diving Club organises training and guided dives throughout the year.
It’s tragic to see the amount of unnecessary waste and debris that is left and washed up on our beaches but thankfully there seems to be an increasing awareness in the community about the importance of protecting our natural resources. If you want to do your bit, log on to the Hong Kong International Coastal Clean-up Challenge‘s website for details of this year’s events.
There are 17 reservoirs in Hong Kong which are open to the public for fishing out of the breeding season every year. With a bit of luck and patience, you might snare a carp, tilapia or the rather sad sounding Edible Goldfish. Permits are cheap as fish ‘n’ chips: $24, valid for three years. Visit the website of the Water Supplies Department for further details.
Ever-surprising Hong Kong has a myriad of interesting landforms. The long and sinuous coastline is a natural geological gallery, featuring spectacular landforms and rock formations shaped by waves and weathering. The Hong Kong Geopark, opened in November 2009, comprises eight major geological sites of international stature.
Diving into the so-called “Fragrant Harbour” may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect weekend excursion, but the cross-harbour swim race has been a highlight of water activities on Hong Kong’s sporting calendar for over 100 years. Unfortunately, the activity had to be suspended in 1978 due to pollution, but recent times have seen improvements in water quality and the race relaunched and rebranded in 2011 as the New World Harbour Race, attracting over 1,000 keen water babies. If you fancy taking on the challenge of racing across 1.8km of busy shipping lanes, put a note in your diary for 6 October.
Despite the dubious quality of some of Hong Kong’s busiest waterways, further afield there lies some of the world’s best fishing grounds. The waterfront restaurants in Lamma are a seafood-lover’s delight with everything from giant grouper to abalone available at surprisingly reasonable prices. Follow your feast with a walk around Lamma’s stunning trails and it will be a day to remember. The Rainbow Seafood Restaurant, one of the biggest at Sok Kwa Wan, runs a free ferry service from Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Aberdeen (reservations required).
Modern junks are ten a penny, but if you want to really experience something of the city’s nautical past, jump aboard the last authentic Hong Kong junk, the Duk Ling. Restored in the 1980s and now operated by the Hong Kong Tourism board, the boat takes passengers on an hour-long harbour cruise. She can also be hired for private parties. One of the best water activities for those who like to take it easy.
Kitesurfing (or kiteboarding)
Lantau is the destination of choice for Hong Kong’s serious kitesurfers, where the combination of winds and shallow waters make for some exhilarating rides just 30 minutes from the city centre. The Kiteboarding Association of Hong Kong offers IKO-approved training.
If you get a touch of the green-eyed monster every time you see a mega yacht moored off Deep Wave Bay then do not despair; your own little bit of luxury can be hired for the day in the form of the Michelangelo, a super junk that comes complete with its own professional chef and an army of uniformed staff. Contact them for prices, bookings or more information.
Head to any of the beaches on Lantau and you are sure to see locals happily digging in the mud on the hunt for clams. You can join in the search for these tasty molluscs by heading to the mud flats at Shui Hau Wan and hiring clam digging tools at the Fung Wong Bungalow Centre, 44 Shui Hau Village, Lantau Island. If you want to make a weekend of it, basic rooms start at HK$300.
Between 1991 and 1995, Hong Kong waters were considered some of the most dangerous in the world thanks to a series of fatal shark attacks occurring in and around the eastern waters of Sai Kung. In the space of a four-year period, 10 people were either killed or went missing. As a result, most of the public beaches are now protected by shark nets and a helicopter sets off every time a shark sighting is reported. But don’t be alarmed, the reality is that Jaws doesn’t seem quite so interested in paying us a visit these days with fewer sightings and no reported shark attacks this century.
Hong Kong may be lacking in water parks, but its local pools offer a great alternative. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department seems well aware of the population’s desire for a quick dip when the mercury starts rising and the 41 pools across the city are clean, modern and come complete with lap pools for the more serious swimmers and slides and kiddie areas for the young ones.
When you tell people that you can see pink dolphins off the coast of Hong Kong they probably won’t believe you, but getting a sighting of these rare creatures is far easier than it sounds. Jump on the MTR to Tung Chung where a short walk will take you to the pier and the Hong Kong Dolphin Watch boat. Tours run every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and sightings are almost guaranteed; and if you don’t see a dolphin on your chosen tour, you can join again for free at a later date.
Quality of the Water
Although spending a day at the coast sounds appealing, many worry about what’s in the water before taking the plunge. Thankfully, recent years have seen improvements in treatment works and monitoring. For up-to-date facts on beach grading and water quality, visit the website of the Environmental Protection department.
Although the government’s recent closures have deprived us of many of our favourite beachside haunts, there are still opportunities to take it easy by the coast. Coco Thai in Deep Water Bay is still a favourite of many island dwellers, who flock there for its unique location and fantastic Thai cuisine. For an Ibiza-style vibe then head to newly opened Zanzibar Beach Club at Shek O where you can strut your stuff with sand between your toes on the futuristic LED dance floor.
Hong Kong is no Bondi or Maui but it’s still possible to leave your desk at five and be surfing a wave before sunset. Families favour Big Wave Bay for its manageable waves and beachside amenities. More serious surfers make the one-hour trek to beautiful Tai Lon Wan, which is classed as the city’s best surfing beach. For surf tuition and Treasure Island, a popular surf camp for kids, check out these websites.
For a family weekend with a difference, put on your war paint and make your way to Sai Yuen farm on Cheung Sha. Here you will find a tepee village, complete with gas barbecues and other facilities.
In this hectic city we all call home, it can be difficult to fit in some real family time. Treasure Island on Pui O beach in Lantau offers the perfect solution through its well-organised Family Camps. Get a group together and head over there where everything will be provided from family tents and barbecues to cycling and kayaking. If you just want to play on the beach and take it easy then you don’t even have to cook; beach bar Ooh La La offers mouth-watering Mediterranean dishes and happy memories.
Set in one of the most stunning waterside locations on Hong Kong Island, at the start of Deep Water Bay, the VRC’s unpretentiousness gives new meaning to the name “private club”. Something of a mystery to those not in the know, the Victoria Recreation Club was actually founded way back in 1849 as the Victoria Regatta Club, offering competitive rowing and swimming to some of the first colonials. Today, its two clubhouses – on the island and at Tai Mong Tsai – welcome families and watersports enthusiasts. Visit the website for membership details.
Similar to (but definitely not the same as) wakeboarding, wakesurfing is one of the newest and coolest crazes to hit Hong Kong’s waters in recent years. Surfing the wake on a board without being attached by any ropes takes skill and patience, but once mastered is more than addictive. Aberdeen-based Wakesurfection is a great place to learn this fun, new sport with experienced coaches and specially designed wake surfing safety boats.
X Marks the Spot
Looking for the most beautiful spot in the territory, including white sand beaches, bamboo groves, abandoned villages and rocky outcrops? You might just find it on Walk Hong Kong’s “Deserted Beaches” hike. Although just 20km from Kowloon, this eight-hour guided tour will make you feel like you are worlds away.
www.walkhongkong.com | 9187 8641
Hong Kong is a dream posting for any expat who loves to jump aboard a yacht. The territory has numerous sailing clubs ranging from the historical and prestigious Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in Causeway Bay to the lesser-known Hong Kong Hobie Club on To Tei Wan beach, facing Tai Tam Bay. The Leisure and Cultural Services department also offers sailing courses at its five public watersports centres.
Zzzzz’s with a difference
Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is always the perfect daytime excursion but now you can extend your stay and spend the night on your very own seabed inside the world-class Grand Aquarium. This extra-special sleepover includes a programme of night-time adventures, educational walks and delicacies from Neptune’s restaurant or the Panda Café.