By Raymond Lowe of www.hkfastfacts.com
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Cheung Chau island is the oldest of the inhabited islands of Hong Kong; it was a thriving fishing village hundreds of years ago when Hong Kong Island was just a “barren rock”.
Today, when you hike Cheung Chau island, you will discover it is a mini-version of Hong Kong itself. There is a busy central district packed full of shops and things to eat. There is also plenty of areas of quiet green hills offering magnificent views over the sea, and varied shorelines mixing sandy beaches with impressive rocky formations.
All this, and just 35 minutes away from Central by fast ferry. It is no wonder that it has boomed as a destination for local tourism in recent years.
If you’d prefer to focus on enjoying the beautiful sites of Cheung Chau, and you’d like to leave the navigating to us (especially because this route includes a bit of bushwhacking), we’d be glad to guide you on this hike! Just click below, and we’ll get planning!
What You’ll Want to Bring
When you hike Cheung Chau Island, the main things you’ll want are water and sun protection, especially if you do this route in the summer months. A couple of snacks wouldn’t hurt either. Make sure to have a look at the suggested gear below too.
These shoes are great on trails, roads and on bicycles. They’re sturdy, good value and perfect for hiking on Cheung Chau.
It never hurts to have a rain jacket. On the off chance that the weather turns, these will keep you dry and a bit warmer.
We love these water bottles because they are insulated and reusable. Reduce your plastic waste by using these!
If you hike hike on Cheung Chau Island on a sunny day, you will want to protect yourself from the sun.
Camera and Lens
This camera and lens is super high quality. Also, this whole setup is weatherproof too, so it’ll be fine in light rain.
How to get there
From the pier take either the “fast” ferry (35 min.) or the “ordinary” ferry (55 min.) For speed take the fast ferry, but for the view, the ordinary ferry beats it hands down. An evening view of Victoria Harbour from the back of the boat is one of the best views of the city anywhere!
When you arrive on the island, don’t be put off by the McDonald’s directly across from the ferry pier. That is the only chain fast-food shop on the island and can safely be ignored. Unless that is you come on the day before the annual Bun Festival. In that case you definitely must try the “McVeggie burger” served only during that time! More about that festival later.
The island is shaped like a dumbbell with two peaks, one at each end. They are joined by a narrow and low bar of land in the middle. The village is in the low area, while the peaks are a mix of residential and rural. The main Cheung Chau beaches are on the east side of the low bar, directly across the island from the ferry pier.
Outside the ferry pier turn left for the “north end” or turn right for the “south end”. Going straight ahead through the village square will let you cross the island to the main Tung Wan beach.
Today, when we hike Cheung Chau island we’ll walk to the north end to see the fantastic views. The first stage is suitable for families including children in strollers. The second part involves steep slopes and steps on paved paths. As an aside, there is an optional final section that goes all the way to the most northern headland. But for this last part, you should have good shoes and trousers as you will be pushing through some more dense undergrowth on unpaved dirt tracks.
Summary: Historic temples, mini fire engines, boatyards, public housing, wild dogs, secluded beaches, great views of the sea and neighbouring islands and Hong Kong.
Where to Walk
If you’d like to follow along with the Google Map when you’re out on the trail, just click on this Hike Cheung Chau map link, and you’ll be good to go. You can also look at the route map below! Just follow the numbers, in order, and you’ll be following the route detailed here.
And again, if you’d prefer to simply enjoy the beauty of Cheung Chau, and not risk getting lost on the bushwhacking section of this hike, we’d be glad to guide you on this adventure. Just give a click below, and we’ll get planning!
When you hike Cheung Chau island and walk towards the north end of the island, you’ll be going through some of the most touristy parts first. Souvenir and trinket shops give way to seafront seafood restaurants with slightly pushy waiters. Walk quickly past them until you see a playground with a kids climbing frame.
Sitting at the top overseeing the sports facilities is the Pak Tai Temple, one of the more historic temples of Hong Kong dating back to 1783. Walk inside and through to the back. There you will find a peaceful little courtyard that nobody visits, so you will be alone.
During the yearly Cheung Chau Bun Festival this temple and the grounds outside are the centre of the events. Large “bun towers” are constructed out of bamboo and covered in lucky buns. On the main day of the festival, held on Buddha’s Birthday, a parade is held with kids on floats and marching bands. The whole village goes vegetarian for the 3 days before the festival. On the last night, at midnight, the tallest tower is climbed in a “bun scrambling” competition. The whole island is packed with people during this time of course. But, it is well worth seeing once in your life! If you hike Cheung Chau island at this time of year, plan on the ferry lines to and from being quite long.
From the temple make your way back to the water’s edge. Then, keep walking north. Look out for the fire station on your right. You can’t miss the big red doors. If you are lucky you’ll find the doors open and can get a peek at the mini-fire engines inside. These are used to get around the narrow village streets. The fire department also has bright red quad-bikes used for climbing the hills!
Past the fire station, there is a small industrial area with boat building and repairing and an ice factory. The island is still the home port of an active fishing community. The boatyard and industrial sized ice cubes are used by the fleet.
Stay to the right past the ice factory and go up the steep slope. This takes residents to the public housing estate, but don’t go through the gate. Instead head down again on the other side to the first of the rocky sea views. There are nice beaches, but keep going for some even more secluded choices. These are not gazetted beaches so enter the water at your own risk.
Head along the path paralleling the coast until almost the end. Signs point right onto Cheung Pak Road, and lead you to the North Lookout Pavilion. This will take about 20 minutes from the pier not counting any time you stopped along the way.
There are a few wild dogs along this road. So, when you hike Cheung Chau island take a sturdy walking stick to wave at them if they bother you, and you should be fine! Or if you haven’t got one, there is plenty of driftwood on the nearby beaches that would do fine.
If you have young children, strollers or those with limited mobility then make your way into the signposted Tai Kwai Wan Garden or walk back to one of the sandy bays.
Otherwise go on and follow the signs for the Northern Lookout Pavilion. It is all paved but quite steep in parts and with some steps. It will take another 20 minutes to reach that pavilion. There are intermittent views over the island and sea and plenty of birds, trees and shrubs to observe.
Once you reach the North Lookout Pavilion the view opens up and you can see from there to the north where you can see Hong Kong and Lamma islands.
The path then leads down to the secluded Tung Wan Tsai (東灣仔) or “Coral Beach”. Spend some time in this quiet stretch of sand. Then cross the beach to the other end of the beach from which you entered. Then climb the rather hidden steps up the hill again.
When you were are the North Lookout Pavilion you can see across to another part of Cheung Chau island with a mysterious flat white shape that looks rather like a landed UFO, and a headland extending out to the right.
You can’t visit the UFO, it is an aeroplane navigation marker that was important in the days of Kai Tak Airport, but the headland you can reach. After walking up the stairs from Coral Beach, which is a very steep climb you have a choice.
You can turn left and after 100 meters rejoin the main path to go down to your starting point.
Or if you turn right you can walk towards the headland. A green arrow pointed on a rock shows the way.
If you choose the headland then be suitably prepared as you will spend some time pushing through scratchy undergrowth so when you hike Cheung Chau island and choose this path, long trousers and shoes are a must.
The path is paved only for the first meter and after that becomes a very narrow dirt path, sometimes with roughly made steps.
Keep going and persevere when it occasionally seems to disappear, for a while it follows some water mains and drainage channels but other times you need to push through the bushes.
There are two places where the dirt track offers you a left or right choice. At the first place choose right, at the second place choose left.
Along the path there are two very faded “fire warning” signs, the first is mostly red and readable. At the second sign, which is faded to almost blank, you will be at the right point to turn off the path and go uphill.
About 2 meters after the red sign look out for ribbons tied to bushes, people leave these as marks to show the otherwise unmarked spot where you have to turn. If you have a ribbon with you then leave it to guide other people who will come after you!
Head straight up the hill beside the ribbon. There is no path, you simply have to climb the slope by pushing through the bushes. The first 5 meters is difficult but after that it is only hard.
A small concrete survey marker show that you have reached the highest point. If you are using GPS then aim for 22°13’16.4″N 114°01’59.3″E or 22.221226, 114.033146.
This is the ultimate viewpoint across the Admasta Channel to Lantau and Hong Kong towards the west and north. Turn around and look back for panoramic views of Cheung Chau.
Reverse your steps and walk back across the hill.
Once you get back onto the paved path keep going past the point where you walked up to this level from the beach, stay on the path until you are forced to take some steps down.
Go down these steps and turn left.
After another 40 meters look for a small path on the right. Take this path which eventually goes down the hillside and after a while becomes residential. Continue on this path until you reach a children’s playground on your right.
At the playground, turn left. Head down the steep steps which go past more residences until you finally come out near the Pak Tai Temple. This is the same temple you visited earlier.
Return to the village by the backstreet instead of the waterfront route in order to see more of the village as you make your way back to the village square. Or return to the waterfront for some of the restaurant choices mentioned below.
Food, food and more food
When you hike Cheung Chau island, you’ll likely work up quite an appetite. So, now would be a great time to top up with some of the delicious foods on offer on Cheung Chau. From Seafood to Curried Fish Balls to Mango Mochi there are plenty of tasty specialities. Here are some top choices.
For Chinese food including Seafood with outdoor seating try “New Baccarat Seafood“, the first of the seafood restaurants on the waterfront when you return from your northern walk.
If Dim Sum rather than dishes are your goal then also on the waterfront but almost back into the village is East Lake Restaurant. They do great dishes as well, try the steamed garlic prawns!
For a pub-feel try Morroco’s which madly combines Indian and Thai with plenty of beers to be a favourite drinking spot on the waterfront just 50 meters before you get back to the pier.
Want to try some Chinese style desserts with mangos, sago, coconut cream and more? Then go to the very well established 允升甜品 – Yunsheng Dessert (it doesn’t have an English name) in the backstreet on your right just past the crossing with Kwok Man Road. The shop doesn’t look very impressive but the crowds of diners and even queue outside shows that the food there is good.
If Creme Brulee or Baked Alaska are more your style then head on to Katie’s Dessert. At the square turn to the waterfront and head on past the public pier, the loading dock and turn left at the Pink Pig, which is itself a great place for a beer and savoury western snacks.
I hope you enjoy your visit to Cheung Chau, and we haven’t even covered the southern end and the “Pirate Cave!” Visit again to see more interesting walks and eat from the wide range of restaurants on offer.
Raymond and Winnie live in Hong Kong and have hosted many friends and family members from overseas over the years. Knowing that most visitors to HK have similar questions they decided to build a website with the important FastFacts about Hong Kong that any tourist, visitor or new arrival would need. Their site www.hkfastfacts.com is one of the oldest Hong Kong tourist guide website.