Whether your mood springs from youthful exuberance, infant inquisitiveness, the joy of family, or nostalgia for yesteryear, the sand and sea bring something out in us all. Martin Lerigo revisits his top five Lantau beaches.
We are fortunate indeed to have wonderful beaches here on Lantau, from big open bays replete with lifeguard towers and Coca-Cola stalls, to small, hidden gems tucked beneath rugged cliffs. Serene, foreboding, dappled with sunlight, scoured by rain, bearing the brunt of the ocean’s anger, never to be tamed, always stirring our emotions, world-class beaches touch something in our souls, beckoning back memories of happy holidays, moonlit walks and romantic promenades.
Many Lantau families have the beach as their back door, and treasure their privilege with a passion. Living here, you can be in a meeting amongst the skyscrapers at 9am and on a remote beach sipping sangria by midday. This contrast is one of Hong Kong’s great draws. Our beautiful country parks, with their mountains and beaches, are like protective packaging to the noise and din of our urban conurbations, some of the world’s densest areas of population.
Here are five of the best Lantau beaches you might like to visit, or revisit. Not too far off the beaten track, they are perfect for a dip, for a game of beach cricket, or a quiet, contemplative stroll on your own.
Silvermine Bay Beach
Take the bus or ferry to Mui Wo and stroll along the promenade, which was widened recently to provide enough room for both cyclists and pedestrians. From here, you’ll see the beach – a perfect crescent of sand nestling in the shadow of Ling Fa Shan peak and the spectacular Mui Wo basin.
Full lifeguard services are provided from April to October and Silvermine Bay Beach is deemed family-friendly, with relatively shallow drift and little by way of difficult currents. While there are plenty of dining options in Mui Wo, The China Beach Club provides a picturesque stop at which to enjoy a few sundowners with friends.
Pui O Beach
Take the bus to Pui O, alighting at the bus stop adjacent to Lantau International School. From here, follow the beach road south and take a right at the stall selling buckets and spades. You’ll be greeted by a long bay with good, though dark, sand. Pui O is a beach of two halves, one end well cultivated with barbecue pits and a campsite, the other carefree and wild, with trees and mangroves down to the waterline.
Pui O has a near-unique herd of water buffalo that lives on the wetland plains just behind the beach. Oftentimes, on a sunny day, they will stroll down to the sands after sunset to cool off in the sea. You’ll also spot gaggles of clam pickers at low tide, collecting the local delicacy which is often served up for dinner from the campsite stoves behind.
Overall, Pui O is a very safe beach and full lifeguarding services are provided in season. If you are looking to get out on the water, Treasure Island facilitates stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), kayaking and more, including a host of surf and adventure camps for kids. Mavericks, a cool and funky beach restaurant, is the perfect place to soak up the view, while back on the main road, The Water Buffalo offers hearty British dishes, plus real ales on hand pump.
Lower Cheung Sha Beach
Popular with day trippers and junk groups alike, Lower Cheung Sha Beach is a Hong Kong institution. Taking the bus to Cheung Sha, you’ll need to ask the driver where to get off if you’re not familiar with South Lantau.
Quiet in winter, this beach can get pretty full in the height of summer. Long Coast Seasports provides plenty of options for water sports, with SUP, wind surfing and kayaking amongst the most popular. This beach now has four restaurants to pick from and a local grocery store offering organic produce.
The sand here is good, lighter and more powdery than Pui O, making it a favourite with kids, who build castles and fortresses that battle with the incoming tides. While full lifeguarding services are provided from April to October, be aware of some difficult currents at the western end of the beach.
Upper Cheung Sha Beach
Upper Cheung Sha Beach is just a short walk from Lower Cheung Sha Beach over an afforested knoll, bedecked with customary Chinese pagodas. Wild in nature, it’s remote by Hong Kong standards and often windswept in winter. Walking here, you feel like you’re a million miles from city life. A resident herd of cows often sits on the sands at sundown, a serene addition to an already idyllic backdrop.
Nearly a mile in length, Upper Cheung Sha Beach has a long and thin profile, which produces a steep draw with some strong currents. Swimming can be difficult for children and care is advised. There are lifeguards at the far western end of the beach, which is safe for kids.
Shui Hau Beach
This is a gem of a beach, wild, compact and bijoux, and you can have it to yourself out of season. Take the bus to Shui Hau and look out for the signposts at the western edge of the village pointing south to the sea. The beach lies on part of the Lantau Trail, so the yellow way-markers, with silhouettes of two hikers, will also take you in the right direction.
There are no facilities here save a roughly hewn area for camping, so you’ll have to bring whatever you need for the duration of your stay. The beach mainly attracts hikers and campers, being out of reach for most day trippers and casual tourists. It’s also home to the Kiteboarding Association of Hong Kong and a great place for beginners to test their mettle. Large, frondy trees dot the waterline and the sand is silky and white. Enjoy the splendour of the setting, nestled in a rocky inlet, with the glorious Lantau Peak rising behind.
Water quality off Lantau beaches
The waters surrounding Lantau are often murky but, thanks to tidal currents, this does not necessarily mean they are dirty. According to the Hong Kong Government rating system, which rates water quality off beaches as good, fair, poor or very poor, all of Lantau’s beaches are either good or fair, putting them on par or ahead of others in Hong Kong. For weekly updates on the water quality off beaches throughout Hong Kong, visit www.beachwq.gov.hk/en/map.aspx.
The amount of litter that arrives courtesy of the sea is notorious in Hong Kong and, for Lantau beaches, there are times of the year when beach cleaners are kept fully occupied removing the detritus that comes ashore with every tide. Well managed in the main, they do suffer from time to time from the litter people leave behind, so do your bit to keep them pristine. To get involved in a local beach-clean up, visit www.facebook.com/ecomarine.hk, or email [email protected]
For so long, the green jewel of Lantau managed to hunker in the peripheral vision of hawk-eyed developers, but decisions made in recent months have wrenched apart any notion that its beauty will be left untouched. The likelihood of unsympathetic exploitation has come starkly into view. The latest government plans set forth a litany of projects aimed at attracting, retaining and entertaining large-scale tourism. To express your concern, email [email protected].
Images: Jason Pagliari and Terry Chow, courtesy of kotpolski.wordpress.com and islandtoislandblog.com