The first things that surprised us about Hong Kong were the harmonious blending of lush mountains and skyscrapers and the vast amount of space reserved for country and marine parks. We never thought there would be lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation in this urban jungle of over 6 million people. Our hike to Victoria Peak the previous day had been a pleasant diversion from the chaotic and relentless maze of the city.
We were treated with magnificent views of the towering buildings across the scenic Victoria Harbor as well as lush greenery carpeting the hills and valleys along the shoulder of the Peak. The best part of this trip however, was finding the tourist information kiosk where we were given free brochures, maps and a Do It Yourself Guide to discovering the greener side of Hong Kong.
We were pleasantly surprised by Hong Kong’s abundant nature reserves – the sheer beauty of the natural environment and the diversity of its wildlife. There are so many country parks and hiking trails easily accessible from the city that we wished we had discovered this earlier when we still had more time to explore. Inspired by the promising views from the brochure we set out to explore the Dragon’s Back the next day.
We took the train from Sheung Wan station to Shau Kei Wan station and exited at A3. We bought sandwich and water from 7eleven and had take away noodles from one of the food stalls for our packed lunch before taking bus 9 to Cape Collinson.
It was fun riding in the almost empty double-decker bus while passing along some wooded hillside towards Shek O Country Park. The hiking trails are well-marked. It was an easy 2-3 hour walk all the way to the highest peak and a short bus ride to the rustic village of Shek O.
It was cold and foggy when we reached the crest of the ridge but the panoramic vistas of Tai Tam Bay, the outlying islands, and the shimmering water of South China Sea were still breathtaking. We were almost tempted to hike down the Big Wave Bay indented within a verdant cove. Its wide beach and surfers playing around with the waves were very enticing.
But we continued along the trail and finally reached the highest point along the route – Shek O Peak. We further explored a rocky outcrop just off the trail and enjoyed the view of the nearby Shek O Village and its beautiful beach, the golf course and mansions of the moneyed Hong Kongers, dazzling coastline and the distant islands.
On the way down to Shek O Road, we saw a nice picnic area and had our lunch there overlooking the high-rise residential areas of Tai Tam Bay and the numerous yachts peppering its harbor. We then took a bus towards Shek O Village and finally crashed on its beach. It was 18 degrees at that time but I found it funny wearing a fleece and a jacket on the beach for the first time. After a restful nap, we explored the village and discovered a couple of small restaurants serving local noodle soups and international cuisines.
There were also many expat kids roaming around freely and several luxury cars cruising along the narrow and quiet roads. We capped the day with a visit to the Old China Hand, one of the recommended British Pubs in our guide book where Charlie had 2 pints of the good ol beer before heading back to our hotel at Hollywood Road.
How to get there
Get off at Shau Kei Wan Exit 3; take bus 9 or taxi. Then get off at Cape Collinson bus stop (the bus will pass a wooded hillside, then a tiny roundabout. Alight at the stop just after this).
Traveling time: 1 to 1.5 hours
Length: 4.5 km
Hiking Time: 2 to 2.5 hours
Dragon’s Back was once voted as Asia’s favorite hike by Time magazine, the Dragon’s Back is the aptly-named spine of a headland on the east coast of Hong Kong Island. It offers hiking enthusiasts views of majestic hills, dazzling coastlines and distant islands-all within easy reach of the city. The highest peak in its route is Shek O Peak at 284 meters.
Find out more about Hong Kong’s natural attractions at the official Hong Kong tourism website.