Header images courtesy of @amyjiaqigong and @photographerhongkong (via Instagram)
Originally published by Rory Mackay. Last updated by Jen Paolini.
Finding a good cycling route in Hong Kong can be challenging, but the trail from Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk along Tolo Harbour is one place that offers everything a cyclist could ever want from a pedalling excursion. From where to go and what to expect, let’s go on a journey along one of Hong Kong’s most stunning cycling routes, from start to finish.
Offering scenic coastlines for cyclists and nature lovers, the Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk trail follows Tolo Harbour as it pries its way into the innermost parts of the eastern New Territories. Home to dedicated bicycle paths, breathtaking views, and peaceful lakeside villages, the neighbouring towns and villages from Tai Wai all the way up to Tai Mei Tuk are ideal for cyclists to explore. The trail is mostly flat with a few occasional inclines, but nothing too strenuous or difficult to overcome—perfect for families with small children.
Distance: 21 kilometres approx.
Total time: 5 hours approx.
Starting at Tai Wai, getting there is easy—simply jump on the MTR East Rail line and hop off at Tai Wai Station (Exit A). Once you’re there, you will find multiple rental shops that offer a huge variety of bicycles for rent, from road and mountain bikes to surrey bikes. Typically, your rental costs should not exceed $120 or so for the whole day.
It might be useful to try and find a shop that has outlets in both Tai Wai and Tai Mei Tuk so you have the option to make a one-way trip, should you decide that you’ve had enough of cycling for the day once you arrive at Tai Mei Tuk. Make note that some shops do not offer safety helmets, so you may wish to come prepared in that department.
Once you are all geared up, it’s time to let the fun begin! Start by pedalling northwards through Sha Tin, while keeping the Shing Mun River on your right. If you are there on the weekend, you will notice the recreational atmosphere in the area. While the cycling trail is almost entirely flat and physically separated from the roads, you will still need to keep an eye out for other cyclists when it gets a bit busy on weekends. Be aware as the paths—especially around Sha Tin and Shing Mun River—may be filled with joggers as well.
If you prefer a more peaceful experience, visit during the weekdays when you will often find the cycle paths at your complete disposal. This cycling route is also perfect for families as it avoids any road crossings, and all hazards are clearly pointed out on signposts. If four-wheeler surrey bikes can navigate it, so can you!
After notching up the first five kilometres, having passed the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sha Tin Racecourse (you can’t miss it—the smell the manure and hay hangs heavy in the air), you’ll reach the end of Shing Mun River as it runs into the Tolo Harbour, opening up a stunning scenic view right before you. This seaside route, which runs through Science Park along Pak Shek Kok Promenade, is well-serviced with restaurants, public toilets, and drink kiosks for those who need to make a quick pit stop en-route.
About six kilometres later, you’ll reach the end of the Tolo Harbour trail, with the Tai Wong Yeh Temple on your right marking where you’ll continue your ride. Continue along the bike lane and head towards Tai Po. Here, you can either choose to cycle through the Tai Po Industrial Estate or Tai Po Waterfront Park; both routes will take you through to the road to Ting Kok Road, which leads to Tai Mei Tuk.
We prefer the route via Yuen Shin Road, which gradually turns into Ting Kok Road and takes you through the Tai Po Industrial Estate, past the production facilities of household brands like Lee Kum Kee, Maxim’s, and Amoy. The ride along Tai Po Waterfront Park will give you coastline views, but you’ll eventually have to cycle through the Tai Po Industrial Estate anyway to hop back onto Ting Kok Road.
As you pedal along Ting Kok Road, you’ll pass idyllic villages and villas and see the eight peaks of Pat Sin Leng rise in the distance. The cycling path stays flat and even throughout this road, though you may come across caravans of bulky and slow-moving surrey bikes. We suggest carefully overtaking them rather than getting stuck behind. Continue to hug the coastline for another 30 minutes and you’ll soon reach Tai Mei Tuk village. With Pat Sin Leng on the left and a vast expanse of water peppered with small sailing crafts on the right, the panoramic views in this section of the route will make your cycling adventure up north well worth the trip.
At the end of your day trip, if you’ve arranged to hand off your rental bicycle to a shop in Tai Mei Tuk and would like to leave the village without riding back to Tai Wai, take 75K bus or 20C minibus to Tai Po Market Station MTR.
On your way to Tai Mei Tuk, if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll spot an emerging figure in the distance, seemingly rising up out of the mountains. That’s the bronze Guanyin statue of Tsz Shan Monastery, a large Buddhist temple located in Tung Tsz. A behemoth boasting 76 meters in height, the Guanyin is the second-highest in the world. Coupled with the monastery’s serene greenery, low buildings, and wide pathways, it appears to loom even taller.
As a Chinese Buddhist monastery established for the teaching of the Buddha, Tsz Shan Monastery is a sanctuary for the purpose of spiritual purification. Public visitors are welcome, but they must register for a visit through the Monastery’s Online Registration System at least two weeks in advance, so some planning ahead is required. The number of visitors is also restricted, so tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. You’ll be grateful for their strict policies regarding visitations; there’s nothing quite like taking a stroll through the monastery and feeling the tranquillity and rejuvenating atmosphere that only a quiet place by the hillside can bring.
Tsz Shan Monastery, 88 Universal Gate Road, Tai Po
If you haven’t yet returned your bike or still have more than enough energy to keep going, you could continue your cycling journey down the Plover Cove Reservoir dam. Hugged on both sides by seemingly endless bodies of water, the flat trail is a manageable two kilometres, but there is no shade at all, so be sure to double up on sunscreen during sunny days. Runners, dog-owners, and families with children are usually strolling along the stretch, as well as amateur cyclists looking for a place to practice, but there’s more than enough space to cycle around them and enjoy the ride across the reservoir. You can even do a little bit of exploring on the beaches of Pak Sha Tau island, or journey further in to find the start (or end) of one of Hong Kong’s most difficult hikes, the Plover Cove Reservoir Country Trail clocking in at 18 kilometres.
One of Hong Kong’s most beloved day trip destinations, getting to Bride’s Pool near Tai Mei Tuk is a breeze and suitable for families with children as well. It’s one of the many scenic places in Hong Kong that doesn’t look like Hong Kong at all, and you can spend the better part of a day exploring the cascading pools and surrounding wildlife.
You would never guess that this majestic fall got its name from a Chinese folk tale: Legend has it that a bride was being carried in a sedan chair by four porters on her way to meet her groom in stormy weather. As they passed the pool, one of the porters slipped and the bride fell into the pool and drowned. Therefore, the pool was named Bride’s Pool in memory of the bride’s tragic fate. Fortunately, there’s nothing gruesome about it on the surface—in fact, its glistening waters tell quite the opposite story.
You can take a taxi from Tai Mei Tuk up to Bride’s Pool, or challenge yourself to a one-hour hike from the village. From Bride’s Pool Road, it’s only a few minutes Bride’s Pool Nature Trail before you hit the waterfall. If you haven’t already returned your rental bike at a shop in Tai Mei Tuk, you could cycle up there as well, but do note you’ll need to bring your own bike lock to chain up your bike so it’s safe while you’re off exploring the rock pools.
This short and cheerful hike is perfect for the little ones—it only takes an hour to do and the rewards are plentiful. Start off from Bradbury Jockey Club Youth Hostel and make your way around the family-friendly loop, passing through four scenic points that boast views across the reservoir and dam towards Ma On Shan as well as the imposing Pat Sing Leng mountains and their commanding peaks.
You don’t have to make it all the way to Tai Mei Tuk if the ride’s getting a bit too long for your liking—there’s also plenty to explore at Tai Po Waterfront Park. Fun fact: The Spiral Lookout Tower is located where the British troops landed when the British took over the New Territories—scale it for a stunning view that encompasses the park and Tolo Harbour. From the insect house and model boat pool to the herbs garden and seaside promenade, you could spend hours lazing around and taking in the kite-flying activities in the area. If you time your visit to coincide with the annual Dragon Boat Festival, this is the perfect spot to catch the Tai Po Dragon Boat Race, which is held in the sea off the park.
Tai Po Waterfront Park, Dai Fat Street, Tai Po
You’ve reached Tai Mei Tuk and now you’re hankering for a bite. Luckily, there are options around, some accessible to you whilst you’re on your way into the village as well. Mr Cardigan is one of our favourite countryside cafés in Hong Kong, an oasis of cacti and succulents just off to the side of the main cycling trail. Located at the mouth of Ting Kok village, it’s a mere 10-minute bike ride from Tai Mei Tuk and you’ll definitely spot it as you’re cycling by—the lush foliage is hard to miss. Do note that Mr Cardigan is only open on weekends.
Mr Cardigan, Shan Liu Road, Ting Kok, Tai Po
For another coffee option, there’s Kaffee House in Lo Tsz Tin village, just a two-minute ride away from Tai Mei Tuk, but you’ll have to venture deep into the maze of residential houses to find it. Cakes, pastries, and herbal teas are on the menu as well for an afternoon pick-me-up after your adventure, and their most popular sweet treat is the Baked Japan Apple Cake ($70). We’re quite partial to the Italy Lemon Cheesecake ($70), a tart slice of heaven.
Kaffee House, 24 Lo Tsz Tin Tsuen, Tai Po | (+852) 2330 0233
Like a side of window shopping with your coffee? Pimary & Co. is right next door to Kaffee House, hawking eco-conscious lifestyle products and household goods as well as decent brews and small bites—just in case you wanted more options for your post-cycling caffeine dose. Menus and daily specials are hand-scribbled on a flat stone—how novel—and paper notecards, doing away with plastic menus and the like. The minimalist aesthetic is right up our alley, and you’ll find yourself snapping away to document their clean lines and earthy colour palette for a bit of #homeinspo for your own abode.
Pimary & Co., 25 Lo Tsz Tin Tsuen, Tai Po
This plant-based bakery may be off the beaten path for most, but the tasty and filling bread and pizzas they make are 100 percent worth the trek. Run by a native Latvian father-daughter duo, the breads you’ll find at Mayse are a welcome departure from French and Italian bread that we’re used to, as they’re made with love following traditional Latvian recipes and slow-fermented for upwards to 40 hours to ensure that the resulting loaves are exactly like how they’re baked and eaten back home in Latvia.
Mayse offers an outstanding selection of homemade rye sourdough, with the likes of Cranberry & Walnut Wheat Sourdough ($50), Raisin & Cinnamon Wheat Sourdough ($50), Challah Wheat Sourdough ($50), and Truffle & Garlic Ciabatta ($50). All offer a depth of flavour unparalleled by most bakeries, even with all plant-based ingredients.
Mayse Artisan Bakery, G/F, 64 Tai Mei Tuk, Tai Po