Despite the slow creep of floodlit housing estates to the east and west, the south of Hong Kong Island (or “Southside” as everyone calls it) retains more than enough rugged coastline, wooded upland and sequestered beach to startle anyone whose preconception of Hong Kong was wholly urban. Traffic from the city passes through the Aberdeen Tunnel and enters a bright and shiny landscape of golf clubs, marinas and opulent homes. There is good swimming at Repulse and Deep Water bays, and even, at Big Wave Bay, some acceptable surf. Over at Stanley, stallholders set out their coral beads and antique opium pipes, while at isolated Shek O, media types and young commuters snap up beachfront village houses. The Dragon’s Back ridge, plunging down the southeast corner, offers some of the island’s best walking, with views of the South China Sea.

The Defence of Hong Kong

The British made sure that Hong Kong was well defended from the sea, but it was always vulnerable to attack from the north. During World War II, the island fell to a Japanese attack via the mainland. Hundreds of civilians were interned in Stanley prison, and the well-kept cemetery nearby is the resting place of many who died either trying to defend Hong Kong or during the occupation.

Sights in the South

  1. Aberdeen Harbour

    Residential blocks crowd Aberdeen’s small, lovely harbour, which is still filled with high-prowed wooden fishing boats despite the fact that overfishing and pollution have decimated the Hong Kong fishing industry. Ignore the ugly town centre and instead photograph the tyre-festooned sampans, or walk to the busy wholesale fish market at the western end of the harbour and watch the catches being loaded onto trucks and vans.

    Aberdeen Harbour
  2. Floating Restaurants

    Also in Aberdeen Harbour are two giant floating restaurants, which are popular but garish, production-line eateries. The most famous, The Jumbo, is said to have served more than 30 million people. Prices are not especially attractive, nor are the culinary achievements. Free ferries shuttle between these restaurants, and pushy sampan handlers also lie in wait for meandering tourists. Take one of these boats if you want to get a good view of the harbour, boats and boatyards. However, when you want to eat, take a ferry from Aberdeen to Lamma Island’s many seafood restaurants instead .

    Floating Restaurants
  3. Ocean Park

    This long-established theme park responded to the arrival of Disneyland on Lantau Island with a major refurbishment and a corresponding surge in popularity. There’s enough to keep children and adults alike busy for a whole day. More than 30 permanent rides and animal attractions range from rollercoasters to giant pandas and great aquatic displays, such as Atoll Reef, which recreates the habitats and sealife of a coral reef .

    Ocean Park

    Giant panda, Ocean Park
  4. Deep Water Bay

    There’s an almost Mediterranean air to the lovely beach and waterfront of Deep Water Bay, a popular place for beach lovers and the well-to-do who settle in the Bay’s upmarket housing. The smallish beach is protected by lifeguards and a sharknet, and the water is usually clean. As with most beaches in Hong Kong, it gets crowded in fine weather.

  5. Repulse Bay

    Another popular destination, Repulse Bay’s beach is clean and well-tended, if sometimes over-crowded with thousands of visitors. Eating and drinking choices range from small cafés on the beach to the Verandah, a classy restaurant run by the same group as the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. Try afternoon tea here. The Hong Kong Life Guards Club at the far southern end of the beach is also worth a look for its scores of statues of gods and fabulous beasts.

    Repulse Bay
  6. Shek O

    Remote and undeveloped, the village of Shek O is worth the relatively lengthy train and bus ride necessary to reach it. The serenity is upset only at weekends by droves of sun worshippers heading for its lovely beach. A short walk to the small headland leads to striking rock formations, pounding waves and cooling South China Sea breezes. Surfing and body boarding are often viable on Big Wave Bay, a short walk or taxi ride north. Head to the Black Sheep, a lovely bar and Mediterranean-style restaurant, for a post-ramble beer and a bite to eat.

    House by the sea, Shek O
  7. The Dragon’s Back

    This 4-mile (6-km) walk looks daunting on the map, but the route along the gently ascending ridge of the Dragon’s Back will not mean too much huffing and puffing for the reasonably fit. The reward is unbeatable views down to the craggy coastline of the D’Aguilar Peninsula, Big Wave Bay and genteel Shek O. At a gentle pace the walk should take about three hours, enough time to build up a good appetite when you arrive in Shek O. Take plenty of water.

  8. Stanley

    A former fishing village, Stanley was one of the largest towns on the island before the British arrived and placed a fort on its strategic peninsula. Relics from both eras remain, but Stanley’s many excellent seafront restaurants and its extensive market are justifiably the main draws for visitors .

  9. Ap Lei Chau

    Supposedly the most densely populated island in the world, Ap Lei Chau (or Duck Island), opposite the Aberdeen waterfront, is crowded with new high-rise developments. Bargain hunters may find a visit to the discount outlets at the southern end of the island worthwhile (see Designer Outlets in Ap Lei Chau). Close to the ferry pier are some small family businesses, boatyards and temples that have survived the modern developments.

  10. Chinese Cemetery

    Stretching away on the hill above Aberdeen, the Chinese Cemetery is a great place for photographs, both of the cemetery itself and of the harbour beneath. Negotiating the steep, seemingly endless steps is quite an undertaking, though, especially on a hot day.

    Chinese Cemetery
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