Header image courtesy of @travellology (via Instagram)
When the festive season rolls around, it is first and foremost a time for loved ones, so why not let off some of that steam from staying in all the time with some hikes that are suitable for the whole family—pets included? These are trails that generally do not have too much incline or too many stairs, which means even the little ones can toddle along with some supervision—great for a day out with the whole gang and the dog!
We have previously covered routes in western New Territories, the Outlying Islands, and Sai Kung, so in this next instalment, we bring you the best family walks eastern New Territories for a day trip in the far end of Hong Kong.
Tai Mei Tuk is famously a neighbourhood where a lot of Hongkongers go to cycle, and with its flat, paved roads and nice views out to sea, it’s easy to see why. The two-kilometre dam that cuts off the cove from the sea is also the world’s first reservoir located in the ocean. From Tai Po Market MTR station, take minibus 20C to Tai Mei Tuk Bus Terminus, then follow Tai Mei Tuk Road till you reach the little roundabout near the Bradbury Jockey Club Youth Hostel.
The start of this easy family walk is beside the youth hostel and will take you past 12 columns representing the Chinese zodiac signs, as well as viewing points from which you’ll be treated to lovely views of Plover Cove Reservoir. Across the water on the far side is Ma On Shan. Measuring approximately one kilometre, the entire walk should only take about an hour to complete, looping right back to the roundabout. If your little ones have bikes or scooters, you may as well bring them here to join everyone else doing the same!
This hike is possibly one of Hong Kong’s most beginner-friendly, suitable for everyone from kids to couch potatoes. It can be completed in approximately half an hour, and is a looped trail located right beside the Ma On Shan Country Park’s barbecue site, so you can tack on a meal in the great outdoors to your day trip. The lookout point grants views over Tolo Harbour, the Shing Mun River, Ma On Shan new town, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. You’ll even pass by remnants of the old Ma On Shan Mine in the woods!
You can catch village bus NR84 from Sunshine City in Ma On Shan, which passes by the barbecue site, but these run infrequently with only six services each day, so it would be easier to take a cab. Alternatively, you can also hike up to the site from Heng On Estate which takes roughly half an hour and isn’t difficult to do.
Ma Shi Chau, interestingly meaning “Horse Manure Island” in Cantonese, sits along the Tolo Harbour between Tai Mei Tuk and Ma On Shan, and is protected as part of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark due to its 280 million year-old rocks from the Permian period—the second oldest in Hong Kong.
From Tai Po Market MTR station, take exit A3, hop onto minibus 20K at the terminus, and alight at the final stop, Sam Mun Tsai New Village. From this point on, you’ll have to walk through the village and into Ma Shi Chau. This part of the hike is well signposted and will only take about 30 minutes; there are also sections of stairs involved, but nothing too strenuous.
The Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail proper begins at the tombolo connecting to the island. It can’t be easier to follow this 1.5-kilometre trail as it wends around the southeastern shore as the trail is completely flat with rest points along the way. You could definitely stay on the path, but we’d recommend wandering out onto the shoreline every now and then to admire the little beaches and see the ancient rock formations for yourself.
To return, simply retrace your steps to Sam Mun Tsai and catch minibus 20K or bus 74K. Alternatively, you could try to catch a kaito boat from the tombolo on weekends, which will bring you to Tai Mei Tuk.
Sitting out in the waters between So Lo Pun and Crooked Island, Ap Chau or Robinson Island gained its Cantonese name—meaning “Duck Island”—because its shape when viewed from the north apparently resembles the bird lying on water. This 0.04-square kilometre island is special because it is one of Hong Kong’s smallest inhabited islands, and is composed of red breccia, a type of oxidised, reddish rock that is rare in Hong Kong, only also found in Kat O and a few other islets in Starling Inlet.
One of its most famous features is a sea arch named the Duck’s Eye. In 2018, the defunct village school was converted into the Ap Chau Story Room to promote the island’s history and the Tanka fisher people's heritage. Ap Chau is easy enough to walk around and explore, with an overarching feeling that you’re not really in modern Hong Kong any more.
From University MTR station, come out of exit B and head to the Ma Liu Shui Pier 3. This ferry service, which runs to Kat O and Ap Chau, operates only on weekends and public holidays. Do note that should you wish to visit the Ap Chau Story Room, it is only open on Sundays and public holidays.
There are several trails in the mountains of the “Eight Immortals Ridge,” but Bride’s Pool Nature Trail is possibly one of the most picturesque in the area, with a 15-metre waterfall and a plunge pool at its base waiting to be jumped into. There’s a creepy little urban legend about a woman who drowned in the pool when her sedan chair fell down en route to her wedding (hence its name), but visiting the fall in broad daylight with people gleefully swimming will drive away all fears of ghosts lurking in the waters.
It couldn’t be easier to get to because public transport will take you straight to the beginning of the trail. Head to the Public Transport Terminus from Tai Mei Tuk MTR station, and get on either bus 275R or minibus 20R, alighting at Bride’s Pool stop. The entrance to the trail is to the left of the pavilion, or down the steps to the left of the barbecue site. It doesn’t matter which one you take because the trail loops around the waterfall and will bring you back out the other entrance anyway. Staying on the trail will allow you gorgeous views of the fall from a vantage point, but we haven’t known a single person able to resist going off-trail and up close instead. Though this walk is a short one, it’s probably best to allocate lots of time to spend dipping in the pool or picnicking nearby.
It’s also possible to extend your family walk by doing the Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail before the Bride’s Pool Nature Trail. This hike will take two or three hours to complete but brings you right across the road to the entrance of Bride’s Pool so you have the waterfall awaiting you at the end—great for the more active, outdoorsy family to tackle together. To connect these routes, make your way to Plover Cove Country Park Visitor Centre instead of straight to Bride’s Pool, and locate the Spring Breeze Pavilion, which is the start of the trail.
Click here for a detailed guide to hiking to Bride’s Pool Waterfall via Pat Sin Leng.
Located as far northeast as roads in Hong Kong will take you, the surrounding area of Starling Inlet, or Sha Tau Kok Hoi, is visited by flocks of egrets and herons each year during spring and summer, and the Fung Hang Family Walk is a great place to watch these birds as they fly low to feed. From the viewing platform along the way, you can also see the nearby wetlands and the fields and villages of Kai Kuk Shue Ha and Fung Hang.
From Fanling MTR station, come out of exit C and onto minibus 56K. Alight at the final stop in Luk Keng, and walk along Bride’s Pool Road until you reach the village of Kai Kuk Shue Ha, where the beginning of the trail is located. At the split in the path, you can turn left to go towards the waterfront before retracing back to the fork and following the right path. This eventually loops back down onto Bride’s Pool Road, albeit further along than the starting point. From here, simply follow the road past Kai Kuk Shue Ha and back to the Luk Keng bus terminus.