You don’t have to venture far off the beaten track to discover Lantau’s best beaches. Twenty-year resident Alexander Grasic shares his all-time top four.
1. Silvermine Beach
A perfect crescent of sand nestled below Ling Fa Shan peak and the spectacular Mui Wo basin, Silvermine Beach is busier than most on Lantau, largely because it’s somewhere you can enjoy the sand and sea without too much hassle.
This easily-accessible beach has newly renovated changing facilities, barbecue pits and toilets. The lifeguard hours in the summer, as with all beaches that are maintained by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), are from 9am to 6pm on weekdays, and from 8am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
When it comes to getting something to eat you are spoiled for choice, as all of Mui Wo’s restaurants are within a 10-minute walk from the beach. The China Beach Club is situated close to the northern end of the beach and overlooks Silvermine Bay. Though it is not the cheapest option, the portions and quality of the food make it worthwhile. Wah Kee Seafood at the Mui Wo Cooked Food Market offers up delicious local staples, or head to The Kitchen, just past the ferry pier, which has some of the most refreshing sandwiches and salads on the island.
It is worth mentioning, however, that the water quality at Silvermine Beach is on average rated as ‘Fair’ by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the grade below ‘Good,’ and the beach can get quite crowded on weekends. However, the water is generally calm. Considering that, all the food to sample and how easy it is to get to, Silvermine Beach is a great repeat destination for families.
While you may not get crystal clear seas, the water quality around southern Lantau is at some of the best levels in Hong Kong. The EPD consistently rates the water at many beaches as ‘Good,’ the highest rating they have, meaning the lowest quantities of E. Coli bacteria. For weekly updates on the water quality off beaches throughout Hong Kong, visit www.beachwq.gov.hk.
2. Pui O Beach
Pui O’s environs are hard to beat. The route from the bus stop on South Lantau Road takes you past the quiet Pui O village, and through fields where water buffalo are often found grazing, or simply hanging out. Once you reach the water, you are presented with an untouched beach flanked by a rocky outcrop on the Chi Ma Wan Peninsula to the southeast, and Yi Tung Shan and Sunset Peak to the northwest.
At the beach itself, you can spend your day in several ways. Parents can set up shop at Treasure Island’s terraced restaurant and watch the kids gallivant on the beach below. The group also offers beach chair, kayak and board rentals, as well as coolers and beach bags in case you prefer to pick up supplies and lug them across the soft ‘black’ sand.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from going it alone (by bringing your own board); Pui O, like Silvermine, is diligently supervised by the LCSD.
One of the most appealing aspects of Pui O is how easy it is to overnight there. In the summer, the air-conditioned cabanas offered by Treasure Island may be the more prudent, albeit more expensive option, if your priority is a good night’s sleep. However, the LCSD campsite on the other side of the beach, is at most 50 metres from the sea (tide dependant), and there you’ll be rocked to sleep by the sound of the waves smashing the shore. Two tuck shops on the route to the beach rent tents, and sell most of the equipment you need to use the campsite’s barbecue pits, except gauze.
Either way, it’s truly hard to reconcile the fact that you’re in Hong Kong with what you witness during a sunrise on Pui O.
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 beachclean up, visit www.ecomarinehongkong.org, or email ROBAR (rubbish-off-beaches-androads) at [email protected].
3. Upper Cheung Sha Beach
One of the two sister beaches divided by an unassuming headland that barely reaches the coast, Upper Cheung Sha is the longest beach on Lantau (3 kilometres), and one of the longest in Hong Kong. This beach is also maintained by the LCSD, and the lifeguard post at the western end has the regular showers, toilets and changing rooms.
While the sand is soft and powdery, there are some rocks dotted around, both in the water and on the beach itself, so be a bit careful where you set up, and where you swim. Bring lots of water and snacks if you plan to stay the day, as Upper Cheung Chau has less amenities and restaurants than its lower, busier counterpart, and there is very little shade. This beach is best enjoyed under a portable umbrella, with a cooler full of drinks, sandwiches, chips and dips.
The main draw of Upper Cheung Sha is its sheer length. Walking west from the lower beach you have the tree-lined beach to your right and to your left, the sea and various islands to Lantau’s south. In the foreground, lies the islet Cha Kwo Chau, and further behind it the Soko Islands. If you look back to Lower Cheung Sha, you see the same outcrop as you do from Pui O, as well as Shek Kwu Chau. Yes, the future home of the mega-incinerator.
Walking here, you may well have the whole place to yourself, unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to come across the resident herd of cows sitting on the sands – a serene addition to an already idyllic backdrop.
Despite a major shipping terminal and international metropolis just a few kilometres away, Lantau’s southern coast is peppered with pretty beaches. But given the prospect of the future Shek Kwu Chau incinerator and the looming East Lantau Metropolis project, you really shouldn’t wait to explore the coast. 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].
4. Tai Long Wan
By far the smallest and most remote beach on this list, Tai Long Wan, which translates as Big Wave Bay, is one of the most secluded and picturesque places in all of Hong Kong. And it’s unique in all ways but in name. There’s a Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung, one on the easternmost coast of Hong Kong Island, and not one but two on Lantau – the other one shoulders Sea Ranch and is only accessible by hike or sampan from Cheung Chau. It’s a spectacular beach, but a bit too out of the way for most.
To visit our Tai Long Wan is still quite a trek. After getting off a bus atSha Tsui at the corner of Shek Pik Reservoir, follow Wang Pui Road (and the sound of crashing waves) through Tai Long Wan village to the beach. If you’re taking it easy, or have small children in tow, it may take up to 30 minutes to reach the beach from the road.
Make a point of visiting the Buddhist temple a few metres from the shore. It is a fairly new temple, built after the one near Shek Pik Prison fell into disuse.
Once you reach the beach, chances are you will be entirely alone, on a completely deserted beach. There are no chairs, umbrellas or lifeguards on duty, and definitely no restaurants. Everything you will need for the day, you will have to bring yourself. This may seem like a drawback, but with the hectic lifestyles so many of us lead here, simple seclusion (perhaps enjoyed with a few friends or family) is a real luxury.
The lifeguard hours in the summer, on beaches that are maintained by the LCSD, are from 9am to 6pm on weekdays, and from 8am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Do not venture beyond the shark nets to swim in the open sea. When swimming in undesignated areas, or areas not supervised by lifeguards, stay close to the shore.
Always swim with a buddy, and have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear approved life jackets. Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child. Teach children to always ask permission to go near water. If someone is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.