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Hong Kong is made up of 263 Islands which probably surprises most people to learn. Visitors tend to see our two main city areas of high rise buildings, restaurants, and shopping, and depart again before they discover that we have beaches here, huge national parks, peace and serenity, waterfalls and waterways, carless villages and sparsely populated houses with gardens.
Inconvenient transportation meant that development of some of these islands came relatively late compared to other parts of Hong Kong, and many islands are still undeveloped. Some are sparsely populated and remain largely rural, although significant traditional villages and towns exist on the islands of Lantau, Peng Chau, Lamma, and Cheung Chau.
Today, there are a number of wonderful island towns and villages where you can live, that offer a different type of lifestyle to that of the busier Hong Kong Island and Kowloon side. Most of these Islands have a good mix of local and ex pat residents, made up of families, couples and singles. Some islands have a rich history dating back to China’s early trading days with stories of piracy and treasures, but mostly they have just been quiet fishing villages with the same families fishing the waters around Hong Kong for the past few centuries.
For some, the islands are attractive not just for the quieter lifestyle, but that the dwellings generally are so much larger and much more reasonably priced and affordable for both renting and purchasing. The local village houses can be two or three stories high with up to 2100 sq ft saleable area and you might get a large parcel of land or garden to go with it. With no cars, and mostly bicycles as a way to get around, the air is generally a lot fresher and residents say they become a lot fitter by living here.
In all of these cases, the transport de jour is by ferry. Most of these depart and return to Central Piers on Hong Kong Island. With 10 piers, all offer residents and visitors a ferry schedule that accommodates the busier working hours in the day and weekends. Some islands have fast ferries some have older and slower ferries and a few have a choice of either. Pets can travel without any problems and for families with school age children, most of the international schools have buses to pick the children up from the piers.
Only 30 minutes away from Central lies Peng Chau, one of Hong Kong’s most adorable outer islands and somewhere well off the beaten tourist track. With scenic treks, ancient relics, traditional temples, strong community vibes and no cars in sight, this is one very convenient and often overlooked islands to live. With one main street that includes a large well stocked supermarket you’ll find two of the best thai restaurants in the region. There has been recent development of townhouses and low rise apartment blocks on the water front with sensational views. Peng Chau has a really nice sandy beach and its worthwhile to buy a dingy for evening jaunts around the island or a spot of fishing.
Cheung Chau – Pier No. 5
The fast ferry takes 40 minutes and the slower ferry takes around 1 hour. This is one of the oldest inhabited Islands with a rich history and is most famous for being the home of notorious pirate Cheung Po-Tsai who hid his treasure in caves on the island until he was captured and ironically given the job of heading the Navy’s fleet of 600 ships to stamp out piracy in the area. Today it is more known for its annual Bun festival, fish balls and great beaches. The township has all modern conveniences with supermarkets and fast food outlets, along with incredible specialty shops. The Island can get quite busy on weekends, and there are less ex-pats living here, but those that do say they would not trade places with any other location and enjoy the local buzz and community spirit. People travel around the island by bicycle or on foot.
Time to slow down the pace. Lamma Island, although only a 30-minute ferry ride from Central, is a world away from the chaos of Hong Kong Island. Well known for its seafood restaurants, clustered around the bay as you alight the ferry, Lamma offers a relaxed, quiet and friendly environment in which to set up home. Housing is relatively cheap compared to that in the city, and houses generally offer more space, both indoor and outdoor. With no cars and no high-rises, Lamma offers a real alternative to big-city living. A popular spot for day-trippers on the weekends, there is a wide range of cuisine on the island, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars. There are supermarkets and shops selling everything you need. With nice beaches and a number of hiking trails, Lamma is a great place to live for people who love the outdoor lifestyle. There is a large population of ex pats and their families living here.
This tiny village is also on Lamma Island, although it is located on the opposite side to the main Lamma Village. Lo So Shing has it’s own ferry service and leaves from a special designated area of the Pier. Most people don’t know this area so well, although there is a hiking trail that links both sides. Less tourists and day trippers come to this side of the Island, unless it to eat at the famous Rainbow Restaurant (which itself has a small ferry to take diners to and from Central). When you step off the ferry you are confronted with a handful of live seafood restaurants to pick your meal from the tanks along side, as is the case in main Lamma village. Much smaller, there are a few very basic shops, and english language is barely understood. If you choose to live on this little slice of heaven, be prepared to transport most things like groceries and supplies. There is a sealed path to one of Hong Kongs best beaches of the same name, which is approximately a 20 minute walk from the ferry. The ferry takes around 30 minutes to Central and be prepared for the last ferry scheduled for the day/night.
Lantau Island - Whilst not strictly a ferry access only Island as are the previous mentioned, Lantau is connected by bridges, rail and bus links as well as ferries.
With its beaches, hiking trails, casual beachside restaurants and friendly village life, the Lantau coast offers the best of islands living with its relaxed outdoor lifestyle. From Mui Wo, along the coast to Pui O, Cheung Sha, Tong Fuk and beyond to Discovery Bay, Lantau residents enjoy a close-knit community atmosphere, while enjoying the bigger housing options and open spaces that the area affords. Accessible by road (via Tung Chung) or direct ferry between Hong Kong Island and Mui Wo, the Lantau area offers lifestyle, with the convenience of still being relatively close to the city. Discovery Bay has attracteds the vast ex pat family community with houses, townhouses and apartment blocks. Housing an international primary school, as well as a number of kindergartens and pre-schools, children are well catered for, and for the adults, there are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes all along the coast. If you enjoy getting out amongst nature, you’re in the right spot. Lantau is the start point for many of the island’s hikes, offering everything from a leisurely stroll in the hills, to the ultimate challenge for the die-hard hikers looking to conquer the mighty Lantau Trail.
Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay) - Pier No. 6
Discovery Bay – Pier No. 3
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