Header image courtesy of @pinkywu20 (via Instagram)
Hong Kong offers many natural landforms. Weathered by the rain and eroded by seawater, many of these exposed rocks take on an unusual shape, twisting and bending into structures that resemble animals, human parts, and more. While many geosites elsewhere tend to require a long trip away from usual cosmopolitan conveniences, we should count ourselves lucky that, for us, a round trip to all these spots can be confined to a single day! Here is a list of the most interesting rock formations you can find in Hong Kong.
Are you brave enough to ride the rhino? This aptly named boulder is a favourite amongst locals for its resemblance of the horned creature. The various ridges, bumps, and holes along the surface definitely help in conjuring up an image of a leathery rhinoceros, whilst the upturned edge jutting out acts as the main identifier of a large curved horn.
Taking only one and a half hours to get to from the Stanley Barracks, the trail to Rhino Rock is short and quick but exhilarating. Still, don’t underestimate the amount of climbing you have to do, as you will need to have a firm grip on the sandy and rocky paths that make up the trail. Read our full guide on how to get to Rhino Rock here.
We would like to think that Mother Nature was having a “cubist” moment when she sculpted this vase-shaped rock formation—even its Chinese name of “Fa Ping Rock” (花瓶石) alludes to it. The peculiar geometric angling of the upright standing rock formation in northeast Lantau Island certainly leads to that impression, although what it really resembles has long been a point of contention. There is a small trigonometric station a little above the rock that you can climb onto for a better view, joining together Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, the New Territories, and Kowloon into an outstretched panorama.
A cool feature of the trip upwards—given that you are there at the right time and lucky enough to enjoy good weather with clear visibility— is that the sunset can be clearly seen from any point of the trail. A seven-kilometre hike that lasts around three to four hours, you can set off from the Lantau Toll Link Plaza towards Tso Wan Beach (草灣) via the trails through Tai Chuen (大轉), Yi Chuen (二轉), and Sam Chuen (三轉). Let the clouds be the flowers that you decorate your Fa Ping Rock with as you admire this naturally sculpted vase. For our instructions on how to get to Fa Peng Rock, click here.
As the smallest inhabited island, the unique breccia rocks in the Duck’s Eye area of Ap Chau (鴨洲)—literally translating to “Duck Island”—are a lesser-known natural wonder of Hong Kong. Situated in-between the islands of Kat O (吉澳) and Sha Tau Kok (沙頭角), the particular brand of breccia found around Duck’s Eye consists of large broken rock fragments cemented together by air, ice, wind, and water, which have then been oxidised red by the iron found in the rock.
The main attraction of Duck’s Eye is a two-by-ten-metre sea arch that was naturally formed. Weak points in the coastal cliff are eroded into caves, then further warped into arches, with the cuts into the middle part deepening and falling off. While you are there, why not also take a visit to the Ap Chau Story Room to find out more about the fisherman community that has settled on the island? Do note that ferries operating between Ma Liu Shui to Kat O and Ap Chau only operate on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.
The Mini Great Wall (小長城) in Cheung Chau gives you 16 (!) attractions in one place. It is both a sort of outdoor museum exhibiting a group of oddly shaped rock formations as well as stone railings lined up to form an outstretched “Great Wall.” Along this path, you will find 16 famous rock formations, each with special descriptive names christened by the local residents. After all, where else can you find a collection that counts among its jewels the Rock of the Ringing Bell, the Eagle Rock, and the Human Head Rock?
This 850-metre-long trail stretches across the back of Kwun Yam Beach (觀音灣) all the way to the fringes of Chi Ma Hang (芝麻坑), showcasing views of Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, Cyberport, and Pok Fu Lam along the way. Bring along a friend or head there with your family and see how many of the same shapes you all can see! Click here for a full guide to Cheung Chau.
If you’re looking to check out interesting rock formations without a rough hike, your best bet will be Lai Chi Chong (荔枝莊) in the northern shore of Sai Kung. Overlooking the mountains of Plover Cove Country Park, the views from the shores here are otherworldly, with the surrounding areas making you wonder how the rest of Hong Kong looked back when the rest of the land was nothing but volcanic ash rock.
The swirling bumps and twirling patterns of the folding rocks are beautiful to look at and carry complex yet fascinating geological properties. Located deep within the Sai Kung Country Park, reaching Lai Chi Chong swaps out a long walk for a car journey or minibus ride. From there, you can also easily reach other trails, including Kai Ma Tung (雞麻峒), Nam Shan Tung (南山洞), and She Shek (蛇石). Click here to find out how to get to this Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark.
This croissant-shaped behemoth of an island, clocking in at six hundred metres long and two thousand metres wide, is an epic stratum showcasing multiple kinds of rock formations. Flat, low-rise rock beds cascade across the landscape like fragments off a tortoise’s back. Subtle yet stunning, the ripple marks and dazzling colours on the lamination of the rocks are certainly a sight to behold. It is definitely worth taking a full day trip here, as there are several spots that feature differing wave-cut platforms and cliffs.
Some checkpoints to have on your itinerary are A Ma Wan (亞媽灣), Kang Lau Shek (更樓石), Lung Long Shui (龍落水), and Lan Kwo Shui (難過水). Definitely come fully prepared with water and snacks, as mobile signal is weak—or may even switch to connect with a Mainland Chinese carrier—and there are barely any food vendors. Click here for our full guide to Tung Ping Chau (東平洲).
Special landforms consisting of a red rock bed and steep cliffs are known by the Chinese as “danxia” (丹霞), and these can be found on Hong Kong’s very own Port Island, called Chek Chau (赤洲) in Cantonese. In its entirety, Port Island is composed of red-brown varieties of rock that have inhibited the landscape since one hundred to two hundred million years ago. Squint at the thick layers of folds and faults blending together and you may just see a giant red velvet cake!
Having played lookout to the British navy many years ago, there is a lot less human presence on the island nowadays. Deserted concrete foundations are all that remain of their previous occupation, and there are currently no tourist facilities that allow people to reach the island themselves, so check out a local tour if you want to see these giant red velvet rock formations in all its crimson glory. Click here to read more about Port Island.
Designated as a special area as well as part of one of the remaining UNESCO Global Geopark sites of Hong Kong, Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲) is an island that features rock formations of the Permian period from over 280 million years ago. To put this into perspective, this was before even the Jurassic period, when dinosaurs still existed! It is also connected to Yim Tin Tsai (鹽田仔), which you can reach from Ma Shi Chau by a narrow strip of land that appears during low tide. Enjoy the tombolo and tide rock features that are rarely found anywhere else in Hong Kong by trekking the one-and-half-kilometre route that stretches along the length of the island.
Resembling a massive fist punching through the surface of the earth, this famous rock formation is a favourite photographing spot for many Hongkongers. From the gorgeous white-red sandstone backdrop to a vertically structured rock bed layering, the entire view is a spectacular sight indeed. It is surreal to think of the earth’s movements from over 400 million years ago, with its rocky plates smashing against each other to form this giant rock formation that shoots up in such a peculiar way.
Unsurprisingly, the Devil’s Fist Rock is made up of some of the oldest rock strata of Hong Kong, dating back to the Devonian period. To all the daredevils out there, for the sake of safety and geological heritage conservation, please don’t attempt to climb the Devil’s Fist Rock...