Cross over the mountains, leave the skyscrapers behind you, and you’ll soon reach Stanley, a pretty seaside town on the south coast of Hong Kong Island. Stanley has an almost Riviera-like atmosphere, with an open promenade, a popular street market, and a number of historic colonial-era buildings.
Stanley is a great day trip because it has a small village feel, people are more laid back, and the view is definitely gorgeous.
Most people catch the 6, 6A or 6X Citybus from Exchange Square in Central (it will say ‘Stanley’ on the front of the bus), and take the scenic but mildly nauseating drive over the mountains. If you get easily carsick, you may prefer to take the MTR to Ocean Park, and then a 15-minute taxi to Stanley.
What to see and do in Stanley
The top attraction is Stanley Market, which is typically open from around 10am-6pm, but each store has its own hours. It’s easy to find from the Stanley Bus Terminus, with signs pointing you in the right direction. You will find most of the same souvenirs as at Ladies Market or Temple Street, but is way less crowded. It has a reputation for having more clothes in ‘western’ (i.e bigger) sizes, and changing rooms where you can actually try things on. You can also find better quality or original artwork, painted by resident artists.
Stanley Promenade is a lovely boardwalk along the bay, lined with lots of restaurants which set up outdoor patios and umbrellas to enjoy al fresco dining.
If you walk all the way down the promenade, you’ll come to Stanley Plaza, a shopping centre with lots of facilities, restaurants, and a cute ship-themed playground for kids.
Next door is an important relic from the colonial days. The impressive Murray House dates back to 1844, and once served as officers’ quarters. It now houses a number of restaurants, and with its breezy verandas and classical architecture, is a lovely place to enjoy the ocean view.
In front of Murray House is Blake Pier, a popular spot for admiring the bay, or dropping a fishing line. Believe it or not, both Murray House and the Blake Pier once stood in Central, until being painstakingly relocated to Stanley in 2006.
Next to Murray House is the entrance to the Stanley Ma Hang Park, with cliff side trails, a butterfly garden, and the Pak Tai Temple, believed to have been built around 1805, when Stanley was a fishing village.
Stanley has a number of beaches, the most popular being Stanley Main Beach. But if you go just a little bit more north you’ll reach Hair Pin Beach, which also has lovely swimming. Further south on the peninsula is Saint Stephen’s Beach, where you’re likely to have the place to yourself.
Every year one of the biggest Dragon Boat Festivals is held on Stanley Main Beach, with races and entertainment throughout the day, attracting some 30,000 visitors.
The Hong Kong Museum of Correctional Services is an interesting place, dedicated to the history of Hong Kong’s penal system. With 10 galleries, you can explore what life was like inside the prisons, with mock gallows and jail cells. Be sure to check out the gnarly homemade weapons and contraband.
What to eat and drink in Stanley
You have lots of choices along the Stanley Promenade, but one of the most popular is The Boathouse, an iconic three-story curved building overlooking the bay. Right next door is The Pickled Pelican, a good old fashioned pub serving up British comfort food.
Inside Stanley Plaza there are more than a dozen restaurants, ranging from Shanghainese to Cantonese and Indian, plus cozy cafes and tea shops. If you’re craving a burger, be sure to checkout Beef & Liberty.
One of the prettiest spots is King Ludwig Beerhall, located upstairs inside Murray House. With a gorgeous outdoor terrace and sweeping views of the bay, it’s a great place to rest your legs and have a cold pint, after exploring Stanley Market.
Though many of the waterfront restaurants are western, rest assured there is a lot of good local food too. In Stanley Plaza you can try Pinot Duck, a contemporary take on traditional Peking duck, or Chung’s Cuisine for some hearty stir fries.
If you venture away from the tourist spots, you’ll find lots of small local eateries. Don’t be shy to go in and ask for an English menu; they probably have one.
Where to stay in Stanley
Stanley is a lovely place to stay a night or two, if you have time and want to explore the south side of Hong Kong Island.
The Stanley Oriental Hotel is the only true hotel in town, with a beautiful spot overlooking the bay. Located right by Stanley Market, this is an excellent base for exploring the town, and enjoying the restaurants and bars.
Due to the lack of hotels, there are a number of Airbnbs available, and this is probably your best bet for spending a night.
Other options for staying on Hong Kong’s ‘southside’ would be Aberdeen and Ocean Park, both of which are quite close by.