Lantau is often named the Green Lung of Hong Kong, and with good reason. Its hiking trails and stunning beaches attract people from all over looking to bask in their green and luscious goodness.
But Lantau is more than just hiking. Here are The Islander's top 10 'slightly alternative' things to do on Lantau Island.
1. Go on a bike ride.
There are fewer more rewarding activities than going on a bike ride. Tung Chung especially has some great dedicated cycle paths that hug the coastline. If I'm alone, I'll head off to the airport and follow the ring road around the runway. Good chance for some low-level plane spotting too. Just watch out for the 'moochers' on the cycle paths!
You can rent a bike from a truck parked around the back of Fu Tung wet market - 6 Fu Tung Street. It's called Kam Way but you can't really see the name when looking for the truck. The truck looks like this.
I think it's about $50 for an hour or thereabouts.
2. Beach BBQs
The best thing about being an island is being surrounded by a load of amazing beaches. I love nothing more than beach combing driftwood, fashioning a grill out of stuff washed up, then BBQing some sausages as the sun comes down. This isn't technically legal, so building a campfire on a gazetted beach will lead you to being chased off by lifeguards and possibly fined by the police, so have some sense where you do this. Also important that you leave the beach exactly as you found it, if not cleaner. Take all your litter home with you.
3. Alternative Big Buddha Adventure
I've written about the Ngong Ping 360 cable car and surrounding area before. Check out my alternative guide here. The cable car is a lot of fun and can be a really inexpensive treat if you purchase the annual pass - $550 for a yearly unlimited ticket. We must have used ours 20+ times, making each ride about $28. Alternatively, get the No. 11 bus from the depot by the cable car escalator to Ngong Ping Village. There are some cool views of Cheung Sha beach on the way, which is Hong Kong's longest at 3km.
Ngong Ping is such a Ying and Yang place. The beautiful monastery mixed with pure capitalist consumerism creates an odd atmosphere but I love it! Be sure to explore the paths around the village for some beautiful vistas. Also, if you buy a drink from one of the little shack shops you can sit out the back and chill. There are some rocks to the left outside the village which are great to climb on, and some cool little hill tops to clamber up which offer some incredible views. As ever, don't forget to take a picnic!
4. Ferry from Tung Chung to Tai O
It's never quite big enough so be sure to get in the queue early, but it's worth it to ride the little ferry from Tung Chung (or Tuen Mun if you live out that way) to Tai O. You're allowed bikes and small freight on board too at no extra cost. The route takes you past some interesting scenery starting with the airport. You can often see the Government Flying Service helicopters hovering about ready to put out a hill fire or save a stranded hiker. The ferry then dives under the Macau - Zhuhai bridge. At 55kms, it's the longest sea crossing in the world. The bridge cost US$18.8 billion, making it a bargain at less than half the cost of Twitter. The ferry is best described as infrequent, and if you miss it there can be long queues for the coast back to Tung Chung. On weekends be sure to grab a return ticket early from the kiosk at the entrance to the pier. The ferry schedule can be found here.
Make sure to check out the old police station up on the hill to the left as you enter Tai O harbour. It's undergone a full and sympathetic restoration and is now a hotel - if you pop your head into reception you can climb into one of the holding (drunk) cells. I've not heard good things about the restaurant there, but the bedrooms are supposed to be fabulous.
5. Tai O
Yeah, I know it's not remotely alternative to visit Tai O. It is the Venice of the East after all! But there are a few cool places to visit in Tai O that most people skirt past. Firstly I always love to take the little speed boat to look for dolphins. Personally I don't use the Ngong Ping 360 tour boats, instead opting for the smaller family run boats on the other side of the bridge. Last time I was there it was $30 per head and the ride lasts about 10 minutes. You can catch a glimpse of the tip on this video. I was always skeptical of seeing a rare pink dolphin on one of these trips, and true enough the first four trips proved fruitless. However, on taking my mother out after warning her she wasn't going to see any dolphins, what should we encounter but a beautiful adult jumping over the bow of our boat, Free Willy style. Awesome stuff.
We always like to go in search of fiddler crabs, of which Tai O has many. Named after their giant claw, fiddler crabs can be found on the shoreline in the mangroves and are a treat to watch. Head up through the village towards the direction of Tung Chung for the best crab viewings.
Good food is hard to find in Tai O. It's a gastronomic wasteland, which is odd as it has such a thriving tourist industry. You'd think they'd be fighting to get hungry bums on seats. There is the usual selection of siu mai stalls and little waffle things, but finding a decent lunch is just about impossible. There is fortunately a cool little bar called the Black Pearl with seats set to the west to watch the sun set. I don't recommend the food here either as it contains more dog hair than edible ingredients, so grab a cold drink and do some people watching whilst you wait for your ferry.
Wander off through the main village and you'll eventually come across some less visited temples with sunning views looking back on Tai O.
If you're feeling energetic, take a walk out across the bridge spanning the sea. It's an Instagram favourite and also the start of a great hike to some amazing hidden beaches.
6. The Olympic Trail from Tung Chung to Mui Wo
Lantau and hiking are best of friends. Inseparable even. If you spend any time in the square outside Tung Chung MTR on a weekend morning you'll see thousands of eager hikers ready to take to the hills. I love a bit of the great outdoors, but I don't want it to take all day! The Olympic Trail from Tung Chung to Mui Wo is a great little walk for even the smallest of legs. It takes about 2.5 hours from start to finish so can be completed in the morning and arrival can be timed perfectly with lunch. For such a short walk it packs in the scenery, fauna and flora. There is a meadow at the top of the hill that is covered with Monarch butterflies in the Autumn; we've seen changeable lizards, buffalo, a snake, many sea and fresh water crabs and some beautiful birds. There is a constant sound of trickling water that accompanies you all the way around, with a hidden waterfall as you drop into Mui Wo at the end. Be aware that there are plenty of steps so it's not a good walk with a push-chair or with a bicycle.
Mui Wo is a treat for a hungry hiker, with our favourite places to replenish being:
Chinese food - Tak Chai Kee. Great little family run restaurant with lovely views out over Silvermine Bay serving large, well priced portions.
Western - The China Beach Club for much the same reasons as the above. I always go for the chicken strips with an onion salad. If you have room, the apple crumble is an absolute winner. It's not the cheapest, but it's a cool little place to while away the afternoon after a hike with a cold beer.
Western - The Kitchen as it's probably my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong. It's unassuming position on the corner of a road overlooking a gas station doesn't give any clues to the amazing food within. All their food is handmade on site. The pasta is a treat, with the tagliatelle being hand rolled, thick and delicious. The meatballs are phenomenal and the pizzas are massive and fresh. We often get a bottle of rosé and waste away the afternoon. Bliss.
If you're in Mui Wo, be sure to drop in to VIBE second hand book shop. It's owner, Gary, is great and they often have talks and little musical gigs. It's a total treasure trove of cool stuff.
7. Sand flats in Yat Tung
I'm a big fan of the marine ecosystems around the cost of Lantau. I've written about them before, and due to their relatively untouched nature, it's a great place to see what the coastlines of Hong Kong were like before people came along and ruined them all! Tung Chung Bay is very tidal so affords a great opportunity to see what's under the ocean at low-tide. Be ready to make for dry land again when the tide turns, as it comes in fast. Clam pickers can often be spotted here at the right time of year with their metal claws scraping away at the sand. A keen eye can spot horseshoe crabs that come into the shallow waters to breed and raise their young before they're strong enough to head back into the deeper seas. My favourite horseshoe crab fact is they pre-date dinosaurs by about 250 million years -YIKES!
If you're getting the MTR to Lantau island, you'll be coming in to land in Tung Chung. The area is currently in the middle of a renaissance. When I first moved here 7 years ago, there were 2 bars and a small clutch of very average restaurants. Now we have a little strip of bars and restaurants that's starting to resemble Knutsford Terrace, almost! T-Bay is a new a little square that went up with the Sheraton hotel and is festooned with bars and eateries that will come into its own once the sea-view opens up. The places in T-Bay are pricy but the ambience is good.
The Islander's top recommendations for decent and well priced food in Tung Chung are:
Green Elements - Shop A, 2536 Ha Ling Pei, Tung Chung
Really tasty vegetarian food and realistically priced beer including craft.
Aroma - No.97 Ma Wan Chung Village, Tung Chung - 6859 0277
I wouldn't go in here to eat as it has the same atmosphere as an airport lounge, but the food is amazing and they offer free delivery in Tung Chung.
Hidden Heat - Tat Tung Rd Park - by the cable car terminal, Tung Chung
A delightful new Sichuan restaurant offering hotpot/ BBQ and classic dishes. They have an amazing value lunch set at $68. Well worth checking out.
Come Thai House - 2 Wong Nai Uk Village, Tung Chung
This place is top on the list of nice places to visit in the cooler months. The decor makes you feel like you're actually in Thailand and, thankfully, so does the food. I recommend coming here in the evening for the full ambience, perhaps after a day playing on the mud flats.
I'm a big fan of the picnic. It's like outdoor tapas. It's a great way to combine exercise with eating too - pack a frisbee, some skates, a skateboard, some paper aeroplanes and a skipping rope and you've got yourself an afternoon of entertainment. Obviously you can't forget the food.
We tend to pack:
Olives marinated in paprika and garlic - do this the night before for best results
some sort of crisp (chip, for you yanks)
boiled eggs (sometimes Deviled)
if we're going all out - a pasta salad
wine (red or white depending on the season)
The best picnicking spots are:
The Promenade in Tung Chung - newly opened next to The Sheraton hotel, it's a great little hangout with toilets, a grassy area, a weird little skate park and, to top it off, fishing is allowed.
C2 park in Tung Chung - It has all the necessary amenities like toilets but with an added playground for the little ones if they get bored. If you're that way inclines, there is also a skate park which we LOVE!
Pui O Beach - It's the most picturesque beach on Lantau (that's accessible) has newly refurbished toilets and changing rooms, and also has the benefit of The Treasure Island bar/ restaurant in case you forget to pack any food. There are also some small shops on the way in that sell snacks and drinks (non and alcoholic) should you wish to buy stuff when you get there.
10. Plane Watching
There are huge benefits to living next to an airport. Being home 40 minutes after you land is one of them. Watching planes landing right over your head is another. One of our favourite past times is to cycle out to the end of the runway - having checked the wind direction to make sure the planes are actually landing that way - pack a picnic and watch the big birds come in. You feel like you can reach up and touch some of them. There is a nice grassy spot to set up a blanket and the sun sets in this direction too so it's a lovely place to come at the end of the day for a super chilled evening with friends or loved ones. Be warned there aren't any toilets so either hold it, or pee in the sea like God intended; just watch out for the fishermen!
It's about a 6.5km bike ride from Caribbean Coast, slightly less from the MTR. An Uber would cost about $60 or you can take the 33 bus.
Have I missed your favourite activity? Let me know on www.facebook.com/groups/theislanderhk
DON'T forget to check the DEALS page for money off offers on restaurants and activities on Lantau Island.