This small island nestled between Lamma and Lantau tops both my “places to take tourists” and “spots to hide from the world on a lazy Sunday” lists. The combination of fishermen’s village and beach town is less than an hour by boat from Central, but worlds away from Hong Kong’s sometimes overbearing bustle.
The island is best known for the annual bun festival, held in May – in which spry competitors scamper up towers of steamed buns collecting as many as possible. Unless you happen to be a massive fan of buns or queuing, I would suggest going on any other weekend! The tranquil island offers a menu of activities including water sports, bicycling and beach lounging, along with fresh seafood and cheap beer.
Like its neighbouring Lamma, there are no motorised vehicles on the island aside from a small ambulance and fire truck that run to and from the medical emergency helipad that punctuates the main beach. The island is shaped like a dumbbell, with the ferry pier on one side of the skinny middle and the beach on the other.
Ferries run about every half hour from Pier 5 in Central. You can bring along your four-legged companion but only on the ordinary ferry (not the fast one) and you must pay at the freight entrance. These are the ferry times marked with an asterisk on the First Ferry website.
WHAT TO DO
My favourite spot on the island is the Cheung Chau Windsurfing Centre, situated between the main beach and a smaller one where dogs can roam free, just next to the helipad. Here, you can rent kayaks, windsurfing rigs, stand-up paddle boards and kite-surfs. You can also get lessons in any of the above. As every piece of marketing material will tell you – this is the training site of Lee Lai Shan, Hong Kong’s first-ever Olympic Gold Medallist in women’s windsurfing. You can take lessons from her mentor, Uncle Lai, and their café’s menu boasts the fried rice that fuelled her rise.
If you’d rather stick to dry land, you can rent a bike or man-powered tuk tuk near the pier. Vendors are lined up just outside the exit to help you with any of your rental needs. If you’re on a bike, follow Sai Tai Road past the waterfront restaurants, going southwest for a seaside ride around the coast.
By foot, check out any of the mini hikes on the island. The Hong Kong government has created quirky tourist destinations like the “Mini Great Wall” (a walkway) and various rocks with placards boasting such creative names as “Human Head Rock” and “Vase Rock” (maybe if you squint).
WHERE TO EAT
It’s hard to recommend just one place to dine on the island as most of the waterfront seafood restaurants have similar menus and prices. It can get packed in the evening so snag a waterfront table early for an amazing sunset view. Settling in to a spot at that time of day also offers prime people-watching as the local fishermen dock for the day, bringing their catches to the restaurants.
Cheung Chau is also dotted with food stalls hawking ice cream, octopus balls and spiralled fried potatoes – which is basically like one long crisp on a stick!
WHERE TO STAY
I know, I know – this article says day trip. But there is a solid chance you’re not going to want to leave your new-found hideaway paradise! Stands near the pier offer cheap local guesthouse accommodation (it does the job, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for). Established hotels on the island include the Warwick and the Cheung Chau B&B if you’re looking for something a bit more up-market.
Enjoy your day-tripping to Cheung Chau girls!
If a sentence starts with “Hey, want to go try…?” – I’m usually in. Since making Hong Kong my home in 2010 I’ve fallen in love with this city and everything it and the surrounding countries have to offer. In the last few years I’ve won an amateur boxing match, raced the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker, galloped across Mongolia, run a marathon on the Great Wall of China, learned Muay Thai in Phuket, snowboarded the slopes of Niseko and scuba dove through wrecks and reefs across Southeast Asia.
I was a journalist until 2015, writing about small towns in Texas, financial derivatives in New York and high frequency trading in Asia. Now that I have a corporate job, my boss and the wonderful women at Sassy have given me the go-ahead to get my writing urges out on these pages.
Outside of my more active endeavours, I love cooking, reading and spending time with my mildly-psychotic (yet adorable) SPCA puppy, Penny.