Southern Comfort: Beached on the South Side of Hong Kong

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Adventures with Friends, The Great Outdoors

People often ask me what I love most about Hong Kong. The answer, of course, is multifold. But one particular reason revolves around the diversity of landscapes and activities to be found even on just the main island.

Nestled in Wan Chai, Mark and I embed ourselves daily in a bustling party of the city, amidst the skyscrapers, neon signs, and commercial spaces that are most commonly associated with HK.

The stereotype (albeit still beautiful, in my opinion) of Hong Kong's cityscape

The stereotype (albeit still beautiful, in my opinion) of Hong Kong’s cityscape

We enjoy a spectacular view of the bright lights of this vibrant city, and are surrounded by other characteristic elements of HK, such as Victoria Harbour, the equestrian-and-beer-friendly Happy Valley Racecourse, the nearby mountains, and the hills that house Frank Gehry’s uber-luxury residential Opus building. Steps from our building is the Wan Chai Street Market, spilling fruits, vegetables, various (and often daunting) cuts of meat, fish, local snacks, inexpensive clothing, and pretty much every type of household item or tsotchke you can imagine, onto the narrow nearby streets.

The colorful (and sometimes a bit gritty) outdoor Wan Chai Market

The colorful (and sometimes a bit gritty) Wan Chai Street Market

A few steps further, and we’re hopping between HK’s trademark double-decker, open-air trams running along Johnston Road.

HK's famed double-decker open-air trams

HK’s famed double-decker trams

And within 15 minutes’ taxi ride (or a slightly longer bus ride) of the metropolitan hustle-and-bustle, you can be chilling on a beach on the south side of the island, facing the South China Sea – which is still astonishing to me. Granted, these are not quite the idyllic blue-green waters of other islands in the region, but they are still a surprising and refreshing respite from the concrete-and-steel center of the city (well, sort of – this is HK after all, so there is still some development even near several of the beaches).

The expanse of Stanley Main Beach stretches out, with mountains as a backdrop

The expanse of Stanley Main Beach stretches out, with mountains as a backdrop

Point being, there is natural beauty to be found here, and so close by – which is a treat, a luxury I have never experienced before.

Repulse Bay Beach is on the incrementally more refined side, in close proximity to various luxury buildings, private homes, slightly fancier restaurants and shops – but it can veer towards being a bit touristy (steer clear of the bus coaches).

I’ve long thought this might be the most regrettably named beach out there. What gives? Apparently, it finds its roots with pirates who plundered trade ships in the bay during the 19th century – and who were subsequently ‘repulsed’ by British fleets.

For the mid-autumn lunar festival, Repulse Bay Beach lights up at night – and becomes a bit less refined, but still fun. Folks take full advantage of the fact that you can drink right out in the open anywhere here in HK, and beer upon beer tends to lead to some seriously inebriated partying during this celebration.

Repulse Bay Beach lights up during the Mid-Autumn Lunar Festival

Repulse Bay Beach lights up during the Mid-Autumn Lunar Festival

East of Repulse Bay, Stanley Beach (named after the British Lord Stanley) is busy, crowded, colorful – full of tanning singles, romantic couples, families – and of course, playful pups.

Colorful but sometimes oppressive crowds on Stanley Main Beach (although the ambitious sand castle is  a nice touch!)

Colorful but sometimes oppressive crowds on Stanley Main Beach (although the ambitious sand castle is a nice touch!)


Visitors bob up and down in the calm waters of Stanley Main Beach

Visitors bob up and down in the relatively calm waters of Stanley Main Beach (save for the potential shark appearance – don’t fret, they are netted off)


While most HKers obsess with skin 'whitening', these dapper fellas are not shy about soaking up the rays and showing off their tans

While most HKers obsess with skin ‘whitening’, these dapper fellas are not shy about soaking up the rays and showing off their tans (and itsy bitsy swimming attire)


Stanley Main Beach is a haven for families (and pups!)

Stanley Main Beach is a haven for families (including pups!)


A boy and his dog...on Stanley Main Beach

A boy and his dog…on Stanley Main Beach


A refreshingly quiet, peaceful moment enjoyed on one of Stanley's smaller beach offshoots

A refreshingly quiet, peaceful moment enjoyed on Stanley’s slightly more secluded beach, St. Stephen’s

Water sports are popular here, and you won’t go long before seeing jet skis, windsurfing (which is probably a bit better in Big Wave Bay near Shek O), and a variety of boats – including dragon boats that recently competed during the Tuen Ng Festival.  And for the less adventurous (and usually much younger, and human) beach bums – the all-important inner tube reigns supreme.

Beachgoers take a spin around Stanley Main Beach

Beachgoers take a spin around Stanley Main Beach


Windsurfing is a popular draw at Stanley Main Beach

Windsurfing is a popular draw at Stanley Main Beach


Family frolic and fun (maybe a bit for some than others!) on Stanley Main Beach

Family frolic and fun (maybe a bit more for some than others!) on Stanley Main Beach


Inner tubing and making a run for it on Stanley Main Beach

Inner tubing (and making a run for it) on Stanley Main Beach


Yes - that is a dog curled up in that inner tube, along with its 'mama'!

Yes – that is a dog curled up in that inner tube, along with his ‘mama’!

If you’re sick of your day job, you may be particularly envious of Liu, whoever he (or she) may be. Liu’s is the name of a private barbecue site right on Shek O (‘Rocky Bay’) Beach, on the southeastern end of HK Island. Fork over a little $, and you’ll be offered charcoal, a minimalist seating area consisting of plastic outdoor chairs, access to basic grills – and that’s it! The rest is BYO. There are other private sites, and also plentiful public sites – but Liu’s is the best-known, with a ‘prime’ location just a short jaunt from the parking/drop-off area. A great, simple little cash cow, if ever I saw one.

This is one of the reasons that HKers love Shek O. This beach is, for better or worse, a true crowd favorite and often considered HK Island’s finest. Weekends here are expectedly chaotic – with a somewhat infuriating local traffic pattern (or lack thereof – so try to get dropped off and picked up ahead of the roundabout and parking lot). But it makes for a fun day out in the sun (when you’re lucky enough to catch some rays in fickle-summer-weather HK), with a lovely mountainous backdrop and a landscape that is ripe for rock-climbing.

It's tough to beat a beach with a mountain in the background - weekending on Shek O Beach

It’s tough to beat a beach with a mountain in the background – weekending on Shek O Beach


HK's blissfully prevalent trees line part of Shek O Beach

HK’s blissfully prevalent trees line part of Shek O Beach


Mark gets a little sand in his toes on Shek O Beach

Mark gets a little sand in his toes on Shek O Beach

Of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about relaxing and having a good time with friends and family. Whether it’s at Shek O or somewhere else, HK’s numerous beaches serve as a fun escape that will still get you home by dinnertime (or at least in time for a good night’s sleep, if you choose to stay through the evening). But remember, this is HK – and it’s hot as hell out here! Bring plenty of sunscreen – and hydration. And if you forget the latter point, there are plenty of little shops hawking refreshments nearby (may I suggest the pineapple smoothies at nearby Ming’s Café).

Jessica and Juliette enjoy some sun, sand, and BBQ on Shek O

Jessica and Juliette enjoy some sun, sand, and BBQ on Shek O


Mark and Giorgia ham it up on Shek O

Mark and Giorgia ham it up on Shek O

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Andy and Christina keep cool in the shade on scorching-hot Shek O

Andy and Christina keep cool in the shade on scorching-hot Shek O


Giorgia, Jessica, and Juliette enjoy some playtime before lunch at Liu's BBQ on Shek O

Giorgia, Jessica, and Juliette enjoy some playtime before lunch at Liu’s BBQ on Shek O


The brilliantly named Brooklyn (yeah, NYC!) scopes out his next playmates on Shek O

The brilliantly named Brooklyn (yeah, NYC!) scopes out his next playmates on Shek O


Ahh - the bliss of a first kiss (ok, Juliette did shriek slightly afterward, but it was a soft and friendly smooch!)

Ahh – the bliss of a first kiss (ok, Juliette did shriek slightly afterward, but it was a soft and friendly smooch!)


And this is how World Cuppers begin...

A future World Cup star is born…

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Happy sunning!

And for those less beach-inclined, there is also a different side to southern HK (stay tuned for Part 2).

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For more information on some of HK’s beaches, click here and here

For more information on Repulse Bay Beach, click here

For more information on Stanley Beach and watersports, click here

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Posted by

Globetrotter based in Hong Kong, travel and street photographer, Getty Images contributor, award-winning blogger of WanderFong.com - seeking true beauty in travel and life!

6 thoughts on “Southern Comfort: Beached on the South Side of Hong Kong”

    • Thank you! It’s a trip that we can be so close to the beaches here in HK 🙂 Too hot to stay out there for very long these days, but it’s lovely to have access when we want it!

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  1. Aww ! Loved this post! When I visited hk the first few times we stayed in wan chai too- at our family’s place. It was small (like only one person can stand in the hallway at a time) but cozy and felt like home. I enjoyed exploring the market too-I always buy dried fruits there.

    You truly captured the hustle and bustle of the city and the relaxation of its scenic beaches. Another great post! Waahh I want to return….

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    • Oh, thank you so much! I adore that HK has so much to offer. Never a moment for boredom here – whether one wants to be active or relaxing!

      I always buy dried fruit and snacks at the market, too 🙂 And all my fresh fruit, too

      You should re-visit soon!

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  2. oliviergilloire says:

    Nice post 🙂 this is where i live (stanley).

    We also like Clear Water Bay, the landscape is magnificent.

    And the harder to reach but so beautiful Tai Long Wan series of beaches, 40min speedboat trip from Sai Kung or a short hike of 40min from the end of the road.

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    • Thanks, Olivier! Lucky you to have Stanley as your home 🙂 Yes, I must also get to Clear Water Bay, and also Tai Long Wan. The places that are harder to reach are almost always worth the extra effort!

      Like

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