Cheung Chau is one of Hong Kong’s many outlying islands, and though it is just a half hour ferry ride from Central, it remains its own little world. This barbell-shaped isle has sweeping bays, fishing villages, beaches, hiking trails, and some unique attractions. You’ll first notice that it is very low-rise, with most buildings being just three storeys high, making it a welcome respite from the concrete jungle. There are also no cars, which explains the thousands of bicycles parked up by the ferry pier, and the many ‘village dogs’ which happily roam around.
What to see and do on Cheung Chau
Most of the ‘action’ is happening around the waterfront by the ferry pier, and wandering the tiny streets and alleys by the ferry pier reveals a glimpse of traditional village life. The bustling praya (promenade) is full of mom-and-pop shops, dried-seafood stalls, tiny cafes and noodle shops, and vendors selling souvenirs of the Bun Festival—you’ll see the iconic white buns with a red stamp on everything from key chains to pillows.
As this is an island easily explored on foot, simply follow the circular Cheung Chau Family Walk around the island to see its sights. First head south to Cheung Po Tsai’s Cave, once the hideout of a notorious Chinese pirate in the 18th century. Though the cave no longer contains treasures, it’s fun scrambling over the boulders.
Over on the east coast you’ll traverse the Mini Great Wall, a gorgeous coastal path dotted with interesting rock formations, such as Human Head Rock, and the Chi Ma Hang Viewpoint. A bit further is Kwun Yam Wan Beach, and the ancient Rock Carvings (now fenced off, unfortunately).
Once you reach Tung Wan Beach, you’re almost done the southern half of the island, and you could either continue to the northern half, or call it a day and relax at a restaurant by the waterfront. If you do finish the entire loop, you’ll see the views from the North Lookout Pavilion, and a small footpath leading to the secluded Tung Wan Tsai or ‘Coral Beach’. Then it’s really time to return to town.
Cheung Chau is no doubt a sleepy place, but every year thousands of people descend on the island to witness one particular event—the Bun Festival. Taking place around the ornate Pak Tai Temple, the festival has traditional costumes, drumming, lion dances, and music, but the star of the show is the 14-metre tall Bun Tower. Contestants have three minutes to scramble to the top of the bamboo towers, which are covered with 9,000 buns, and collect the best buns in their bag. It’s an incredible spectacle and it gets very crowded, with long waits for the ferries back to Central, so if you have time, stay the night on the island instead.
Cheung Chau also is home to one of Hong Kong’s Dragon Boat Festivals, and though it may not be as big as the races in Stanley or Sha Tin, this little island is a great place to really hear the beat of the drum and see the fierce battle of the oars.
What to eat and drink on Cheung Chau
All along the waterfront by the ferry pier are lots of restaurants, many with an emphasis on seafood—this is a fishing village, after all. You have many to choose from, with New Baccarat Seafood and So Bor Kee being two of the most popular, about a five-minute walk from the ferry.
Cheung Chau is also famous for fishballs—typically skewered—and they make a tasty snack on-the-go if you haven’t got time to sit down.
If you are doing the Cheung Chau Family Walk, take a break at the Cheung Chau Windsurfing Centre, which has a lovely open-air cafe overlooking the sea, serving hot food and cold beers.
There may not be a lot of Western influence on Cheung Chau, but you can find some international cuisine. Morocco’s, which is near the pier, has a range of Indian and Thai curries, but if you prefer some good old-fashioned fish and chips, settle down at The Pink Pig.
For a cup of coffee and something sweet, try the treats at Rainbow Cafe or Katie Dessert. Authentic sushi can be found at Hometown Teahouse, a small local favorite run by a Japanese lady who has made Cheung Chau her home.
Where to stay on Cheung Chau
There’s only one ‘proper’ hotel on this little island—the Warwick Hotel, perched at the end of the cove on Tung Wan Beach, with balconies overlooking the bay, and facilities such as a spa and swimming pool.
Guesthouses, however, are aplenty here, and very affordable, if you don’t mind simpler accommodation. B&B Cheung Chau, which is just a few steps to Tung Wan Beach, is a renovated village house with cosy rooms and a funky cafe on the ground floor, providing guests with free breakfast. Miami Resort and Jolly Guest House both offer simple but clean rooms, and are a very good option on a budget, though Miami Resort is closer to Tung Wan Beach.
If you want to sleep under the stars in Hong Kong, this is your chance—and it’ll sure make an interesting travel story. At Sai Yuen Farm you can choose from four different types of camping accommodation: Teepees, African Safari Tents, Mongolian Gers, and a Star-gazing Geodesic Dome. And did we mention the goats?