The perception of Hong Kong is that it’s a concrete jungle; a place where taxis clog the skyscraper-lined streets and shopping malls are substitutes for outdoor activities. That perception has some truth to it, but with a catch, it’s only the case for Kowloon and the northern side of Hong Kong Island. On the other side of Hong Kong Island, South Island, visitors will instead find small waterfront towns, beaches, hiking trails, markets, and a rustic, rugged coastline.
For the most dramatic introduction to the south side of Hong Kong Island start your day with the Dragon’s Back Hiking Trail. Situated on the eastern end of Hong Kong Island, high above the beach town of Shek O, this hiking trail was named one of the world’s best urban hikes by Time Magazine. It’s easy to see why. The trail ascends the 284-meter tall Shek O Peak and follows a ridge, all the while offering panoramic views of the coast, Shek O, Stanley and Big Wave Bay. It even travels through a forest and past several running streams before returning to the road.
The waterside town of Stanley is the perfect place to relax after your hike and have lunch. This picturesque town is situated on a peninsula that juts south from the island and is a popular stop for day-trippers. The big attraction is the Stanley Market, which is a small open-air market that winds through the small lanes of Stanley and has tons of vendors selling beachwear and souvenirs. After exploring the market head to the waterfront promenade for a seafood lunch at one of the many restaurants.
In addition to its beach setting, Stanley also has some historical attractions. It was the first colonial capital of Hong Kong before the capital was moved to Central and it was also the site of the British Empire’s surrender to the Japanese forces during World War II on a day that would come to be known as “Black Christmas”. To learn more about Stanley’s fascinating history check out the Murray House, which is an original 19th century building that has been converted into a museum.
Another cool stop in South Hong Kong Island is the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen. This restaurant, with its bright and ostentatious neon lights, is situated on a platform in the middle of the Aberdeen Channel and is an easily recognizable symbol of Hong Kong. Check out the top floor of the floating restaurant, which is a seafood restaurant named Top Deck. Top Deck has an impressive set up with couches and tables outside, great views and a delicious seafood menu. Access to the floating restaurant is via a free ferry service from the Aberdeen waterfront.