Header image courtesy of @shel_shutterism (via Instagram)
Like major arteries of life, rivers breathe vitality and motion into the land they course through. Not the constant buzz found in Hong Kong’s neon-lit streets and dense urban sprawl, but a kind of calm and rejuvenating energy that only nature’s very own offerings can provide. If you are yearning for a break from the cramped skylines, how about venturing out to one of these natural flowing waterways for a rejuvenating stroll? From gushing mountain streams to long and lazy channels, we have rounded up some of the most beautiful rivers in Hong Kong to discover!
Sheung Yue River is undoubtedly one of the most photographed spots on the Sheung Shui to Yuen Long cycling track and a bucket-list destination for anyone exploring the bucolic backwaters of northeastern New Territories. Lending an aesthetic backdrop to a slew of villages and farmlands, the serpentine river flows from the pristine headwaters of Lam Tsuen Country Park, making its way down Pak Heung, Kwu Tong, and Ho Sheung, before finally emptying into Ng Tung River.
In the early 1990s, the river emerged as a recurring nuisance for local communities due to serious flooding issues in the downstream sections. Since undergoing major straightening and widening operations in the early 2000s, the fluctuating moods of the river have been mostly under control, and residents and visitors are now able to fully relish the peaceful ambience and scenery that the river brings.
Just a few decades ago, the Shing Mun River was nothing but a reeking sewage canal, polluted to the point of ecological crisis. However, after years of painstaking restoration work, the seven-kilometre central waterway of Sha Tin has been nursed back to full health and transformed into one of the district’s most prized attractions—complete with riverside greenery and picturesque stone bridges.
Boasting a convenient location just a short walk away from New Town Plaza, the serene site is a magnet for those looking to escape the bustling district centre and indulge in a bit of exercise and fresh air. Sports enthusiasts will find themselves in good company of other fellow runners, cyclers, and even rowers!
Emanating from the watery torrents of Tai Mo Shan and weaving its way through central New Territories to Tolo Harbour, the Lam Tsuen River has served as the steady lifeblood for Lam Tsuen Valley and its surrounding village settlements for centuries. More than just a source of water, there are a plethora of delightful twists and turns along the winding watercourse. If you fancy a hike to go with your river escapade, brave the depths of Tai Mo Shan and explore the spectacular Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls near the upper reaches of the river.
Alternatively, unleash your inner photographer and fill up your camera roll with incredible shots of the glassy, mirror-like waters in the lower sections of the river. If you want to satisfy your Instagram needs, there is even a tile-roofed bridge near the river mouth at Tai Po Market that looks straight out of ancient China!
Immerse yourself in the provincial life of Lantau Island and discover a world of thriving wildlife based around the Tung Chung River. Extending from Tung Chung Bay to Shek Mun Kap—a quiet village on the southern outskirts of Tung Chung—the 4.3-kilometre watercourse is one of the only large natural rivers in Hong Kong that have not been extensively channelised or man-managed, retaining much of its natural appearance and ecological richness.
In its waters reside over 20 species of freshwater fish, including the extremely rare Beijiang thick-lipped bard and sucker-belly loach. As you amble along the pretty boulder-strewn banks, lookout for mangrove trees, horseshoe crabs, and wetland birds as well.
From century-old walled villages to alluvial flat plains, there are plenty of beautiful features making up the quaint landscape of northeastern Yuen Long, but the thread that strings them all together is the Kam Tin River. Set against expansive patches of wetlands, this wide and mighty river channel is photo-worthy any time of the day, but its sunset views are what truly sell. At dusk, the molten sun drips golden warmth onto the water’s calm surface, painting an impossibly mesmerising picture.
And the best way to enjoy the arresting scenery? On the small wooden boat that sails back and forth between southern Nam Sang Wai and Shan Pui Tsuen village! Paddled by local boatmen, the river-crossing ferry is the last of its kind in Hong Kong and an enthralling experience in itself.
A vital branch of the Shenzhen River, the Ng Tung River finds its source in the innermost depths of Pat Sin Leng, connecting to a vast network of its own tributaries that cover Fanling and Sheung Shui. The upper reaches of the river is prized for its lush environment and fertile soil, which provide a sanctuary for not only a diverse population of dragonflies, amphibians, and cattle, but also outdoorsy types looking for peace of mind and an appreciation for nature. Joggers and cyclers will find themselves drawn to the channelised downstream sections, where the broad and open river cuts prettily through the suburban sprawl of Sheung Shui.