Header images courtesy of @yukanta and @szedicky (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’ve previously covered routes in western New Territories, so for our next instalment, here are the best family walks on Hong Kong’s Outlying Islands for a well-rounded day trip.
Lamma Island is one of our favourite day-trip destinations because, apart from the hiking trails, you also get a good dose of religious and heritage sites to come across, independent shops, and a glimpse into chill island life. It’s also easy enough to get to; simply hop onto the ferry at Central Pier 4. We’d recommend getting the service to Sok Kwu Wan on your way there because ferries from Yung Shue Wan run much more frequently and you won’t have to rush to finish your outing.
Once on Lamma Island, you’ll be able to find signposts signalling the way to the three-kilometre trail linking the two towns—try not to get too distracted as you wend your way through the restaurants and shops! The entire walk is paved and not very steep so it’s easy enough to do, but do note that it does get slippery after it rains. You could also choose to check out the Kamikaze Cave and do a little detour up to the Lamma Winds turbine.
You’ll also find that enterprising islanders have set up stalls selling drinks, cold fruits, and such along the way, particularly near lookout points. But no doubt your whole crew will have worked up an appetite during the three-hour walk, so grab a table at one of Yung Shue Wan’s many restaurants before catching the ferry back to Central.
Being a much smaller island, it’s possible to cross Peng Chau in just about an hour, which makes this a greater walk for smaller children and pets who may tire more easily. Hop onto the ferry at Central Pier 6 and the ride will only take half an hour on the fast service or 50 minutes on the regular service.
From the Peng Chau Market building, turn the corner onto Wing On Street, going past the shops and restaurants then onto Shing Ka Road. The start of the family walk is at the far end of this road, next to the Yuen Tung Monastery, and is clearly signposted. Loop your way around the southern part of Peng Chau on this fairly flat trail, with the only section requiring any climbing being the way up to Finger Hill. From the top, you’ll get to see panoramic views over the island and out towards Discovery Bay, Lamma Island, a section of Disneyland, and Hong Kong Island.
The trail leads down to Tung Wan Beach and continues on the other side of the beachfront. The northern part of the island is quieter and consists of mainly farmland. Don’t forget to cross the bridge over to the tiny islet of Tai Lei before making your way back along the waterfront to the ferry pier, and do eat some famous prawn toast before you leave!
The dumbbell-shaped island of Cheung Chau is always pleasant to visit for its beaches and scenic views of fishing boats bobbing in the water, and the family trail that spans its entire length provides a great way to explore in lieu of the usual lazing on beaches and poking around shops.
The most unmissable part of the entire walk is the coastal section called the Mini Great Wall, located just to the east of Kwun Yam Beach. Not so much a wall as a simple stone barrier, the main attraction here is that it passes by several oddly shaped stones that have been named by the locals. Our favourites to look out for include Eagle Rock, Human Head Rock, and Tortoise Rock—see if you can spot them all and how they resemble their namesakes!
Elsewhere along the family walk are temples, beaches, and lookout pavilions, requiring going up and down sections of stairs and paved paths to get to each point of interest. Don’t forget to also visit the Cheung Po Tsai Cave, said to have served as a hiding place for the famous pirate’s stash of treasure. You can walk through the cave to its exit on the other side, but do be warned that it’s extremely narrow and dark inside—not quite suitable for children who are claustrophobic or easily spooked!
To get to Cheung Chau, simply hop onto a ferry at Central Pier 5 for either a 35- or 60-minute ride. There is also a kaito (街渡; small, motorised ferry) service that runs from the main ferry pier in Cheung Chau to the south of the island, in case you want to get across the island quickly.
Though not formally a family walk, Ngong Ping nevertheless does provide trekking opportunities for the whole family. Also known as the Ngong Ping Fun Trail, the Tree Walk is tucked away in the hills behind the famous Big Buddha and—along with the Po Lin Monastery—the setting makes for a good day out that is both historical and cultural.
Getting to Ngong Ping itself can already be fun—the best way by far is to take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car next to Tung Chung MTR station, which CNN had once voted as one of the most amazing cable car rides in the world. Otherwise, bus 23 from Tung Chung Bus Terminus, bus 1 from Mui Wo Ferry Pier, or bus 1R from the Hung Hom Ferry Concourse will also run to Ngong Ping. The Big Buddha is located at the far end of the purpose-built Ngong Ping village and is well worth exploring in itself.
Signs at the base of the stairs leading up to the Big Buddha will point to the Wisdom Path, a 15-minute walk away in the woods. Arranged in an infinity loop, this path consists of 38 wooden pillars with the Heart Sutra inscribed on them—a peaceful and unlikely sight in the heart of these mountains which encourages a spot of calm and reflection. A trail at the end of the Wisdom Path leads further into the Ngong Ping Tree Walk, so named because there are installations along the way introducing native plants and flora growing in the fertile area, including some rarer species such as the Chinese Eurya.
Also known as Grass Island, it should come as no surprise that Tap Mun is covered in, well, grasslands. Its main trail is not officially labelled a family walk either, but Tap Mun does have a gentle circular path that goes around the idyllic island, easy enough for anyone to do. The paved route will bring you past a rocky beach, a couple of tiny restaurants, a Tin Hau temple, village houses, plenty of dried fish out in the sun, and expansive views of the South Channel and Nam Fung Wan.
In general, this is a great place for kite flying, picnicking on the grass, or simply kicking back with a book. Interestingly, the island also has a sizeable population of wild cows, which are accustomed to humans and are pretty friendly. We’re sure most kids will likely be entertained by the presence of these gentle giants. Tap Mun is reachable via kaito services from Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung, which you can get to via bus 94 from Sai Kung Bus Terminus.