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A by-product of Hong Kong’s water-bound geography and rich maritime history, numerous lighthouses have been built along our city’s shorelines since the latter half of the nineteenth century, standing steadfast as shining beacons of hope for seafaring folks and helping ships safely sail in and out of perilous shallows.
In more recent decades, the navigational function of these coastal landmarks has admittedly taken a backseat in favour of modern-day technologies like GPS and radar, but they still hold their value as guiding lights for smaller vessels. Not to mention, their aesthetic and historical appeal has grown to intrigue photographers and history buffs alike. Read on to discover the most interesting lighthouses in Hong Kong!
The Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse has been standing guard over the coastal waters of the eponymous peninsula since early 1875, making it the oldest surviving lighthouse in Hong Kong. Perched atop a 25-metre elevated cliff, the old beacon served the bulk of its duty in the first two decades of its existence. In 1896, the nearby Waglan Lighthouse took over the optics and the Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse halted operations for the following 80 years. It was not until 1975 that it was re-lit and automated.
In spite of its lengthy existence and decades-long hiatus, the lighthouse is remarkably well-maintained, with its smooth, conical surface, stone-embellished arched doorway, and geometric decorations crowning its iron door still fully intact and in good condition.
Following closely on the heels of the Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse, the Green Island Lighthouse commenced flashing its warning lights just offshore Kennedy Town in July 1875, making its presence known to mariners 14 nautical miles away. With rock quoins adorning the arched doorway and a tawny masonry façade, the architectural style of the 12-metre circular tower harkens back to the castles of medieval Europe.
After thirty years of operations, the old lighthouse retired its services in 1905, when a larger, 17-metre tower was built right by it to ensure higher visibility. Flaunting a different style yet equally stunning, the new structure has an all-white exterior and a domed glass lantern on top. While only the latter is currently active, both lighthouses remain standing and were collectively recognised as a declared monument in 2010.
Over the course of 120-plus years, the Waglan Lighthouse has witnessed the ebbs and flows of the South China Sea in more ways than one. Situated at a frontier location on the southeastern tip of Hong Kong, the tower was severely damaged by Allied bombing during the Second World War, but managed to emerge from its ensuing reconstructions more striking as ever, earning the title of a declared monument in 2000. The existing structure now clocks in at 16 metres tall, with an eye-catching red band painted around its circular base. Apart from providing navigational aid, the lighthouse also doubles as a weather outpost for the Hong Kong Observatory.
Not to be confused with Tung Lung Chau, Tang Lung Chau is a small island located off the southern coast of Ma Wan. Aptly named “Lantern Island” in Chinese, the tiny patch of land is largely uninhabited and covered in a lush forest, but there is one speck of white that stands out against all the green.
A declared monument constructed in 1912, Tang Lung Chau Lighthouse has been guiding western-approaching vessels to Hong Kong for close to a century, its service automated since 1980. The facility consists of an 11.8-metre, tapered skeletal tower made of steel, accompanied by an adjoining brick building that formerly served as a dwelling place for the lighthouse keeper. As there is no freshwater supply on the offshore island, the keeper would have to collect rainwater from the roof and divert it into an underground tank!
Punctuating an oft-forgotten southern corner of Lantau Island, the lonely Fan Lau Lighthouse strikes a haunting figure against the ruins of abandoned village houses, a near three-hundred-year-old military fort, and an ancient stone circle. Erected in 1936, the lighthouse is not quite as dated as many of its neighbouring relics, but is nonetheless an intriguing landmark and a window into our nautical past.
Its design is kept simple yet elegant, comprising a single-storey, box-shaped equipment building and a glass lantern that is accented with diamond-shaped window grilles, through which brilliant beams of nautical guidance emanate. Given its secluded location, getting to the lighthouse is a bit of a rough climb, but it’s still accessible as long as you are up for a bit of bushwhacking!
Small in stature it may be, but there is a reason why locals and tourists are willing to make the arduous scramble across Ap Lei Pai to see the lighthouse situated on the southern end of the uninhabited island. Set in picturesque contrast to azure waters and craggy slopes, the charming Mount Johnston Lighthouse is dressed in pristine white and bears resemblance to a rook piece from the game of chess. On the side is a small ladder that allows visitors to climb a metre up to the waist of the lighthouse to capture some panoramic sea view and ‘gram-worthy photos!
From ancient rock carvings to derelict World War II artillery batteries, the protruding headland on the eastern end of Hong Kong Island lays claim to many historic artefacts. Adding to the list is the Cape Collinson Lighthouse, which first shone its beams in 1876. Differing from its usual tower-shaped counterparts, this lighthouse is a two-storey building with an illuminating apparatus fixed on the roof. Before undergoing a major facelift in the 1960s and becoming automated, the ground floor was the living quarters for the lighthouse keeper. These days, the lighthouse is closed to the public, but one can still admire its rugged beauty from outside the fences.