Coconuts Staycation: Sun it on Southside

Shek O, Hong Kong
Shek O, Hong Kong
Shek O. (Photo: Laurel Chor)

Known as the “Beverly Hills of Hong Kong”, the island’s southern coastline has much to offer: meandering roads flanked by verdant hills, sandy beaches and quirky neighbourhood haunts. It’s a far cry from the office blocks and Starbucks of Central – without having to go too far…

How to get there

To get there, you could opt for one of the most scenic bus rides in the world! Catch the no. 6 double-decker from Exchange Square (for under HKD10!), grab a front-row seat on the top deck and marvel at expansive views of Happy Valley and Deep Water Bay from atop Stubbs Road, as well as the beach-dotted coastline. This bus terminates in Stanley, and usually takes about an hour.

The 6X and 260 buses also take you to the Southside from Exchange Square, but via Aberdeen Tunnel, which is much quicker but less pretty. Taxis from Central cost about HKD100.

What to do

Hike

Make the most of the fresh(er) air, and take to the hills. Tai Tam Reservoir and Country Park is a good place to start. It can be reached from Stanley, either by taxi (HKD40) or the 16X minibus, and feels about as far removed from the urban hustle as you can get.

 

Hiking along the Twins trail
Hiking along the Twins trail

The giant, jurassic fauna and the tranquil pools here make a pleasant backdrop for either a relaxed stroll along the paved path – with regular barbeque pitstops to chose from – or a more serious hike up the infamous “Twins” mountain trail which begins here. It is clearly marked, and takes you back to Stanley in about 2.5 hours.

Another option for outdoorsy types is the Dragon’s Back hike, which starts on the Shek O peninsula – a tad farther east from Tai Tam along the south coast of Hong Kong Island. This trail is also clearly marked, starting on Shek O Road near To Tei Wan village and finishing up at Big Wave Bay beach… probably close to three hours later.

Ocean Park

Behold giant pandas as they mostly lay about, enter the new Polar Adventure enclosure for up-close encounters with walruses and penguins, and exercise your bladder control on one of the many mountainside rollercoaster rides at this theme park.
 

Ocean Park
Ocean Park

Located in Aberdeen, Ocean Park is easily distinguished by the seahorse-shaped shrubbery on the side of the mountain and the cable cars dangling precariously alongside. Entry is HKD320 for adults and HKD160 for kids.

HOT TIP: Ocean Park provides free entry on your birthday, and a half-price ticket for one accompanying friend.

Tan

Hong Kong is blessed with eight months of sunshine, and is notorious for random super-hot days cropping up out of nowhere in the “greyer” months. On one of these, there’s no better place to absorb the rays than at one of the Southside’s numerous beaches. Top picks include South Bay – since it is smaller, quieter and has cleaner water than the adjacent Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay – Chung Hom Kok Beach and Shek O.

Shop
 

Although a bit of a tourist feeding frenzie, there are still bargains to be found at Stanley Market. At the far end of it you’ll find Sun & Moon Fashion, for example, where top-brand beachwear goes for as little as HKD30 a pop!
 

fashion forward bargains at Stanley Market
Fashion forward bargains at Stanley Market

The Boardwalk, Murray House, the Colonial Post Office and old Police-Station-turned-Wellcome-supermarket, meanwhile, are some of the quaint curiosities dotted among the market’s surrounding area that give it that quintessential Stanley charm. Come here for the shopping and to soak up the beachside village atmosphere that still presides.
 

Stanley Market
Stanley Market

A hop and a skip from Aberdeen, the 28-level Horizon Plaza warehouse  in Ap Lei Chau hosts factory outlet stores from Lane Crawford, MaxMara, Joyce and a number of quality furniture shops, among others. A great place to discover a stylish steal for your (otherwise) urban lifestyle.

Where to eat

Spiaggia’s
G/F, 92B Stanley Main Street, Stanley, (+852) 2813-7778
A laid-back alfresco Italian eatery located at the end of the Stanley boardwalk. There’s Prosecco on tap, a seascape view as well as fantastic lasagne (HKD138), gorgonzola risotto (HKD118) and Asian curries. Need we say more?

Lucy’s
G/F, 64 Stanley Main Street, Stanley, (+852) 2813-9055
This intimate, home-style restaurant is one of Stanley’s best kept secrets. Hidden in a nook around the corner from the ubiquitous Délifrance, this place only has a few tables and is always well-populated. It’s the quaint atmosphere and the quality of the simple, Western dishes that sustains the buzz about this well-established venue. Try the chicken breast with sumac, tomato, cucumber, bread and herb salad (HKD130) and be sure to book a table in advance!
 

Lucy's
Lucy’s
Black Sheep
G/F 330 Shek O Village, Shek O, (+852) 2809-2021
This Shek O favourite serves fresh grilled seafood and home-made pizzas in a comfortable setting. Top picks include the avocado crab cocktail (HKD110), seafood spaghetti with tomato sauce (HKD190) and, of course, the homemade pizzas (HKD150-170).

The Verandah
109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay, (+852) 2292-2822
The Repulse Bay venue where Princess Diana once famoulsy dined is the embodiment of colonial class – and the perfect choice for splashing out on a top-notch romantic dinner. Expect fine dining, with continental dishes that come at quite a price. The Sunday brunch (HKD638) is also recommended, but bookings must be made well in advance.

Where to stay

The Southside has seen a surge in top-quality hotel openings recently, with L’hotel Island South and Ovolo Southside having cropped up in Aberdeen – conveniently near the upcoming MTR station. Both these properties make for an ideal base during a staycation. Ovolo, in particular, features an industrial-chic, “made in Hong Kong” vibe that appeals to urbanites in-the-know (not to mention a rooftop bar with fabulous cocktails and expansive views of Ocean Park).
 
Cocktails at Ovolo Southside's rooftop bar
Cocktails at Ovolo Southside’s rooftop bar
Alternatively, try the popular short-stay rental website Airbnb, which can turn up some very interesting results for Hong Kong’s Southside – everything from seaside cottages in Stanley, to houseboats in Aberdeen Harbour and glamorous multi-story mansions in Repulse Bay.

Happy staycationing! 

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