Think of Hong Kong and images of cheek-by-jowl skyscrapers and streets bursting at the seams with people come to mind. But if you venture beyond the city, you’ll find that it has several country parks — 24, in fact, which cover about 40% of its total area, along with protected areas in the territory. These country parks have everything for a full day out — hiking trails of various difficulty levels, barbecue pits, beaches, waterfalls, and wartime relics. Here’s our round-up of the best country parks in the 852.
Tai Mo Shan Country Park — Tsuen Wan
This is one of the most visited parks in the SAR as it is home to the Tai Mo Shan — the highest peak in the city at 957 metres above sea level — from which it gets its name. Apart from this inactive volcano that dates back to the Jurassic period, the park has sweeping views of the New Territories, diverse fauna in the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, and even gets frost in winter.
The hiking trails here range from the relatively easy Family Walk to the precipitous trek to the Hong Kong Observatory’s weather radar station. If you’re at this park during spring, don’t forget to check out the cherry tree blossoms.
Sai Kung East Country Park — Sai Kung
Spanning an area of 4,494 hectares that covers east Sai Kung Peninsula and High Island, this park has it all — beaches, hiking trails, and hills. Apart from having the distinction of being home to the largest number of bays and coves in Hong Kong, it also has one of the 852’s best surfing spots: Tai Long Wan.
Those who like challenging hikes can take on the steep climb up Sharp Peak, and those who want a restful spot can stop by at Sheung Luk Stream, one of the tallest waterfalls in the SAR.
If you head to High Island, check out the famous hexagonal rock formations that are one of the First 100 International Union of Geological Sciences Geological Heritage Sites.
One of the territory’s first country parks, Kam Shan is famed for its macaque population, which is why it has the nickname Monkey Hill. It is also home to wartime relics like the 18-mile the Gin Drinker’s Line, Smugglers’ Pass, and the Shing Mun Redoubt system of tunnels, pillboxes, and artillery posts — which are dotted along hiking trails like the MacLehose Trail. If you’re looking for family day out, there are barbecue and picnic areas you can hang out at.
Lantau South Country Park — Lantau
This is Hong Kong’s largest park at 5,646 hectares and is spread over a major part of the southern part of Lantau Island. The highlights of this park are Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak, which both fall along the Lantau Trail. You can traverse dense jungle, mountain peaks, and rugged trails, as well as go camping, fishing and swimming. Biking enthusiasts can go for a spin on the Mui Wo Mountain Bike Practice Ground, as well as explore forests and go bird-spotting.
Tai Lam Country Park — Yuen Long
If you’re looking to spot butterflies, then this sprawling park is the place to go. Tai Lam Country Park provides a home for 127 butterfly species, nine of which are classed are very rare. It is known for its seven reservoirs, the largest of which is Tai Lam Chung. There are 12 trails within the boundaries of the park, including the popular Section 9 and Section 10 of the MacLehose Trail. Tai Tong Sweet Gum Woods, which is within this park, is one of the best spots in Hong Kong to see autumn leaves.
Plover Cove Country Park — Tai Po
This New Territories park has scenic spots like the famous Bride’s Pool, a waterfall that gets its name from a folk tale about a bride and her tragic demise. Marvel at some of Hong Kong’s oldest rock formations like Cham Keng Chau, Lung Lok Shui, and Kang Lau Shek or enjoy a relaxed hike on the Tai Mei Tuk Family Walk. Visitors to the park may even be lucky enough to spot wild animals such as porcupines, Chinese pangolins, and Chinese Leopard Cats.
Aberdeen Country Park — Aberdeen
This is one of the best all-purpose parks in the territory, as it comes with picnic and barbecue areas, disabled access, a tai chi terrace, and children’s play areas. This park provides breathtaking views of the southern part of Hong Kong Island from atop the dam of the Aberdeen Upper Reservoir. There are also vantage points like Peak Road and Guildford Road on Victoria Peak that give visitors panoramic vistas of the northern side of the island.
Tai Tam Country Park — Tai Tam
Head to the largest country park on Hong Kong Island, and you can see as many as four reservoirs, known as the Tai Tam Group. The park, which extends from Jardine’s Lookout in the north to Stanley Gap Road, also has World War II relics like such as an anti-aircraft gun platform, magazines, and pillboxes.
It also has four peaks that are all higher than 400 metres — Violet Hill, Jardine’s Lookout, Mount Butler, and Mount Parker — which are distinctive on the island’s landscape.
Shing Mun Country Park — Sha Tin
The major attraction in this park is Shun Mun Reservoir, as well as its diverse flora and fauna. The 7.5-kilometre Shing Mung Reservoir Walk loops around the reservoir and takes about three hours to complete. The park also has an arboretum, which houses more than 300 tree varieties. Another highlight of the area is the Shing Mun Redoubt, an extensive tunnel and defence line used during World War II.
Ma On Shan Country Park — Ma On Shan
Take in sweeping vistas of Kowloon and even visit the grave of Madam Young, Dr Sun Yat Sen’s mother. Planning a camping trip? Pitch a tent at Ngong Ping or Shui Long Wo. Fancy a hike? Head to Ma On Shan Country Trail, Kei Ling Ha Tree Walk, parts of the MacLehose Trail, or the Wilson Trail. The park also has peaks such as Pyramid Hill, Tate’s Cairn, Kowloon Peak, and Ma On Shan itself for you to conquer.
Shek O Country Park — Shek O
The Dragon’s Back, the rolling hills between Wan Cham Shan and Shek O Peak, is the biggest attraction of this park. If you want some fun in the sand, then pack your bathers and SPF for a trip to Shek O Beach, one of the most popular public beaches in the city. There are barbecue and picnic spots, as well as a wide range of flora and fauna to explore here.
Lion Rock Country Park — Sha Tin
The hike up to the peak that gives this park its name is notoriously difficult, but once there, you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of the Sha Tin township. Another attraction is Amah Rock, which is shaped like a woman carrying her baby piggyback and is inspired by yet another folk legend. If you’re into bird-watching, make your way to Eagle’s Nest and see if you’re lucky enough to spot black kites.
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