Looking at all the glittering highrises and marinas full of luxury yachts, it’s hard to imagine that Aberdeen was once a thriving fishing village, where Tanka people lived in floating communities on their boats.
Aberdeen, on the south west coast of Hong Kong Island, is definitely still an important fishing area, harbour, and typhoon shelter, with a strong maritime identity.
You can still catch glimpses of this old way of life, but it will require a little effort. But just a little. The Aberdeen Promenade is crawling with old ladies in wide-brimmed hats, just waiting to whisk you on board for a ride around the ‘floating village’.
A trip to Aberdeen can easily be combined with a day at Ocean Park, which is just a few minutes away by taxi or bus. And one of Hong Kong’s most iconic restaurants—Jumbo Floating Kingdom—also calls Aberdeen home. Read on to learn what to see, do and eat in Aberdeen.
What to see and do in Aberdeen
As mentioned, nearby Ocean Park is always on the top of the list. This popular theme park, which is second only to Hong Kong Disneyland, is a huge must-see attraction. There’s a cable car which whisks you across the sea, roller coasters, a massive aquarium, Giant Pandas, and thrill rides. Ocean Park has a strong marine theme, and attractions for all ages.
In Aberdeen town, you can stroll along the Aberdeen Promenade, with its bustling harbour full of sampan boats, trawlers, and fish drying in the sun. If you want to see the ‘floating village’, where some fisherfolk still live on their boats, jump on a sightseeing sampan, which are plentiful close to the Ap Lei Chau bridge. The ride takes about 30 minutes, and you’ll need to have cash to pay the old ladies who drive you around.
Aberdeen also holds one of the biggest Dragon Boat Festivals in Hong Kong. If you happen to be in town during this time, don’t miss out on a great cultural experience. Feel the beat of the drum, hear the roar of the crowds, and watch the elaborately decorated dragon boats compete for glory.
Aberdeen Country Park, in the hills overlooking Aberdeen, offers lovely hiking paths, with a scenic dam and reservoirs.
What to eat and drink in Aberdeen
Yes yes, it’s a big tourist trap, but how can you resist? No area guide of Aberdeen would be complete without one of its most famous icons—Jumbo Kingdom.
This massive floating restaurant is garish, but should be done once in your lifetime. Getting there is half the fun. You catch the Jumbo Sampan from the Aberdeen Promenade, which takes you under the Ap Lei Chau Bridge, and drops you off at Jumbo Floating Kingdom. While the locals will say that you can get better seafood at any local restaurant in Aberdeen, it’s still worth going.
If you decide against Jumbo, then you’ll find lots of cheap and cheerful spots in Aberdeen town. Aberdeen Main Road has lots of choices, from dim sum to seafood to noodles and everything in between.
Kung Fu Dim Sum has both a fun name and great food, while the Nam Kee Spring Roll Noodle Company will have comfort food with stir fry noodles and rice dishes.
For something truly unique, join up with local tour guide Humid With a Chance of Fish Balls for their ‘Typhoon Shelter Crab on a Sampan’ experience. Featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, this tour offers local seafood cooked on the ‘only floating sampan restaurant left in Hong Kong’.
Where to stay in Aberdeen
Aberdeen has a number of very reasonable hotels to suit a cheapo budget because it is considered to be a bit ‘out of town’. Getting to Aberdeen used to require a long bus ride. But since the opening of the South Island Line on Hong Kong’s MTR system, you can get from Admiralty to Ocean Park in six minutes! Budget-watching tourists should not rule out staying on the south side of Hong Kong Island, as the hotels tend to offer newer, bigger rooms, for better prices.
The best value is no doubt the Caritas Oswald Cheung International House, which has large rooms and a cafeteria which serves breakfast. It’s a short walk to the Aberdeen Promenade and waterfront.
Nearby is Mojo Nomad Aberdeen Harbour, which has a choice of bunk rooms or private rooms, which might be small but offer amazing harbour views. You’ll also enjoy the funky decor and lounge area to hang out with other travellers.
Closer to Ocean Park are two excellent modern hotels. The L’Hotel Island South has a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool, a gym, and clean, spacious rooms. And the Ovolo Southside has mini, deluxe, and family rooms to choose from.
For more of a splurge, stay at Ocean Park’s recently opened hotel, the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott. You’ll love the spa, fitness room, and expansive outdoor pool, plus the on-site bars and restaurants.