The Southern District (南區) is the southern part of Hong Kong island.
The southern side of Hong Kong Island was for many years on the wrong side of the hills. In the early colonial period, when modern air-conditioning was no more than a dream, the south-facing slopes on the island were too sunny for many, and had the added disadvantage of bearing the brunt of torrential rain and the typhoons that sweep in off the South China sea. Today, the southern shore of Hong Kong island is a strong rival to The Peak as one of Hong Kong's most exclusive residential areas. Here you will find extravagant homes with spectacular views over the sea. Visitors to Hong Kong should come south for the excellent beach resorts, theme park and some very good dinning opportunities. On a sunny day, the south-side is a welcome escape from city life and ought to be a compulsory part of your agenda when travelling in Hong Kong.
Aberdeen is a town of approximately 60,000 people on the south side of Hong Kong Island. The town's most famous feature is Aberdeen Harbour, which lies between Aberdeen and the island Ap Lei Chau. The original Chinese settlement on this harbour was named Hong Kong, and when British seafarers landed here in the 19th century they mistook the name of the village for the name of the entire island. The settlement was subsequently renamed Aberdeen after George Hamilton Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen (Scotland) and the then-current British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. Keen videogamers may recognise Aberdeen as the setting for the Sega Dreamcast game Shenmue II. Scenes from the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon were shot in Aberdeen Harbour.
Stanley (赤柱) is a very pleasant town and one Hong Kong's most exclusive neighbourhoods, favoured by Western expatriates and Chinese military generals alike.
Repulse Bay (淺水灣) is another exclusive town with a fine beach.
Shek O Village is a tiny day trip centre right on the edge of Hong Kong island itself. It feature beautiful scenery, a sandy beach and plenty of restaurants.
The Southern side of Hong Kong is served by the South Island Line of the MTR. Passengers can board the South Island Line at Admiralty Station if coming from Central. The South Island Line stops at Lei Tung and South Horizons Stations on Ap Lei Chau and at the Wong Chuk Hang Station near Aberdeen. Ocean Park is also served by a dedicated MTR station.
From Hong kong Central you can take one of a number of frequent buses (including 6, 6A or 6X) from the bus station at Exchange Square (next to Central MTR station). The faster buses pass through the Aberdeen tunnel through the middle of the island, although it may be worth to take a slower bus and take in the fantastic views over the top of Hong Kong island.
If you are travelling in a group then a taxi is not an unreasonable proposition and will cost around $120 to most places from Central.
If traveling to Shek O, then the Eastern MTR station of Shau Kei Wan has a bus terminus that will take you there in half an hour.
By car, you can also get in via Aberdeen Tunnel or on the east side, Tai Tam Road.
The south east coast of Hong Kong island offers visitors some attractive coastal and mountain scenery. It is simply interesting to travel around the two peninsulas found either side of Tai Tam Bay that dangle into the South China sea. This part of Hong Kong does have its own unique charm that is hard to describe; for some visitors it has a Mediterranean feel, whilst others will be reminded of parts of the Californian coast. In reality, it is affluent Hong Kong - drenched in money and bathed in sunshine.
- 1 Murray House, Stanley Main Street, Stanley. One of Hong Kong's oldest colonial buildings. It was built as officer's barracks in Central then dismantled brick-by-brick in 1982. After a protracted dispute over the building's final location, it was reconstructed beside the Stanley promenade in 2001. During the building's two decades in storage markings made to the bricks to aid in the reconstruction leached off, leading to a complex reconstruction effort that resulted in several large stone pillars being left over once the reconstruction was complete. The leftover pillars are now installed beside the building as an art installation.
- 2 Hong Kong Correctional Services Museum, Tung Tau Wan Road, Stanley. Tu-Su 10:00 to 17:00 except on public holidays. The museum has been extensively renovated with 10 galleries including a mock gallows, two replicas of prison cells and more than 600 separate exhibits including historical documents, photographs and artifacts from the history of Hong Kong's prison system. An annex also displays examples of products made by prisoners at the nearby Stanley Prison. Free.
- Tin Hau Temple. One of several temples in Hong Kong dedicated to Tin Hau (aka Mazu), Goddess of the Sea. The Stanley Tin Hau Temple was built in 1767.
- Stanley Ma Hang Park. 07:00 to 20:00. Opened in January 2011. This 50,000-m² park is set into the cliffside near Murray House. It features boardwalks, a butterfly garden, a fitness deck, bird watching platforms, an educational trail and the cliffside Pak Tai Temple. Free.
- Dragon Boat Racing. Takes place in Stanley in May every year during the Tuen Ng festival (端午節).
- Pok Fu Lam Country Park.
- 3 Aberdeen Country Park.
In contrast to the hard shopping and eating elsewhere in Hong Kong, the southern District offers the chance to relax. There are plenty of beaches with traditional Hong Kong style barbeques and local supermarkets cater for demand by selling all the paraphernalia and food needed for such a feast. There is Wakeboarding in Tai Tam, Repulse Bay and Stanley. There is Surfing at Big Wave Bay for around $50 per day.
- 1 Repulse Bay Beach. Biggest and most popular beach and is suitable for families with small children.
- 2 Middle Bay beach. Popular with gay men and is a 20-minute walk along the coast from Repulse Bay.
- 3 South Bay beach. Never too busy, even on weekends, but you will need to take a taxi from Repulse Bay.
- 4 Stanley Main Beach (lies on the other side of the peninsula to the promenade, but is about five minutes' walk from the Stanley Markets). A popular beach for wind-surfing, and hosts annual dragon boat races. Facilities include a café, changing rooms and showers, shark nets, public toilets and a barbeque area.
- 5 St Stephens Beach (about a 10-minute walk down Wong Ma Kok Road). Much quieter and more secluded beach that Stanley Main Beach, but still includes a beach café, changing rooms, public toilets and showers. A barbeque area is available up the hill from the beach, and is accessible via stairs.
- 6 Shek O Beach (石澳) (Number 9 bus from Shai Kei Wan MTR.). Attracts a young Chinese crowd, especially older teenagers and young adults. On a Sunday there is also a bus service from Exchange Square bus station in Central.
- 7 Big Wave Bay (number 9 bus from Shau Kei Wan stops here after Shek O). Popular surf and swimming beach with restaurants and bars.
- 8 Hike the Dragon's Back (take the number 9 bus from Shau Kei Wan MTR Station, to just after the small roundabout at Tai Tam Gap - the actual bus stop is called "To Tei Wan". Walk up the steps by the "Shek-O Country Park" sign and turn right along the Hong Kong Trail). A 2-3 hour hiking trail with spectacular views of the south of Hong Kong Island. The ridge has little shade and you should take a lot of water and protection in summer. The path then drops into forests and creeks, before emerging at Big Wave Bay, where you can swim, eat, drink and return on the same number 9 bus.
- 9 Ocean Park (香港海洋公園) (take a bus from the terminus in Admiralty; or, minibus number 40 makes an intermediate stop a couple of minutes away from the entrance if coming from Stanley or Causeway Bay, and it's slightly cheaper than the bus). M-F 9AM-7PM, Sa-Su 9AM-9PM. A huge Disney-like (in both the good and bad sense) oceanarium. Marine biodiversity in the Atoll Reef and Shark Tank, and thrill rides will satisfy children and adults alike. It is popular with locals as well as tourists from mainland China. It has beautiful views from the cable car over the ocean and hills. The cablecar is an icon and an essential link between the two parts of the park. The view of the South China Sea from the cable car is always terrific. It would be fair to say that many local people would choose Ocean Park if they had to pick a single theme park to attend. For many, the chance to see Hong Kong's pandas would be a deciding factor. There are also large festivals each year, including summer, Halloween and Christmas. You can find out if there are tickets available on any given day from their website. Adults $206, children (up to 11) $103, under 3 free.
Due to the lack of MTR stations, there isn't a great deal of shopping on the south side of Hong Kong island. Aberdeen still has some factory shops.
- 1 Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing St, Ap Lei Chau. Daily 10AM-7PM. A former industrial building converted to a large 20-story factory outlet, selling fashion, home decor and antiques. Brands include Costume National, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Kookai, Jimm Choo, Armani, Vivienne Westwood and others.
- 2 Stanley Market (赤柱市集) (Stanley New Street and Stanley Market Road). 10:30AM to 6:30PM. Head to Stanley Market and prepare to haggle. This is the one-stop place to buy your holiday gifts and souvenirs, albeit at higher tourist adjusted prices. There is a wide selection of ornaments, pictures, artwork and clothes to browse around. You will find a selection of both Chinese-style goods (such as ink and brushes for Chinese calligraphy) and also many western brand clothes.
- Space Warehouse, 2/F Marina Square, East Commercial Block, Ap Lei Chau, ☏ . Brands such as Prada and Helmut Lang.
- Stanley Plaza. The multi-story Stanley Plaza shopping centre, which links the Stanley bus stop to the main promenade.
The restaurants in this area tend to be far more relaxed and open air than in the rest of Hong Kong.
- 1 Chinese and Thailand Seafood Restaurant, 303 Shek O Village, ☏ . Food here is reasonable and it offers probably the best meal in the village.
- 2 Jumbo Floating Restaurant (珍寶王國), Shum Wan Pier Drive, Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen (take bus 70 or 75 to Aberdeen from Exchange Square in Hong Kong Central), ☏ . A bit more expensive than similar restaurants elsewhere. Part of the "Jumbo Kingdom" leisure complex built in the middle of the Aberdeen Harbour with a floating palace appearance. You can take the restaurant's sampan from the waterfront to the restaurant, have a look around and then take it back again without eating there. The "Top Deck" is a separately managed restaurant focusing on Western style seafood in a super chilled out setting. Sip champagne and chill out on their chic lounge chairs while overlooking the yachts coming in and out of the exclusive Marina Club. Weekend brunches and tea are kid friendly with a play area.
- Stanley Main Street If you are looking for formal dinning you could try Stanley where there are a choice of restaurants along the sea front. Here you will find a wide range of styles including, Western, Indian and Asian. Although the quality of the food and service varies, you should find something that will appeal.
- 3 Spices Restaurant (香辣軒), G/F The Arcade, 109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay, ☏ . Serves pan-Asian food with style. Excellent location, only a few minutes walk from the beach. You can choose to dine outside on the patio and enjoy superb views over Repulse Bay. $150-300.
- 4 The Verandah (露台餐廳), 109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay, ☏ . Posh colonial-style Western dinning recreated in a modern building overlooking Repulse Bay. $300-500.
- 5 The Boathouse, 88 Stanley Main St, ☏ . A reasonably inexpensive restaurant on the Stanley promenade that features dining upstairs and a more relaxed bar on the ground floor.
- Saffron Bakery (Stanley Plaza (below Taste Supermarket), walk from stanley market to the Plaza (level 1)), ☏ . 08:30-20:00. Serves organic coffee, bakery products and salads. Also great selection of candy from the US. From $20.
In Stanley the only nightlife is along the waterfront on Stanley Main Street.
- 1 The Smugglers Inn, 90A Stanley Main St, ☏ . 10:00 - 02:00. Located on the sea front, this is a British-style pub that serves a range of beers and traditional English pub food. It is along the Stanley promenade, and offers a great view of the ocean while relaxing with a drink.
There is not too much reason to look for a hotel specifically in the Southern District, since most places can be visited inside a day from Hong Kong Central. Also the lack of MTR stations make it a poor base to explore the rest of Hong Kong. Nevertheless, there are a few options:
- 1 Caritas Oswald International House, 20 Tin Wan Street, Tin Wan, ☏ . Also located in Tin Wan. It is a budget-priced hotel close to local markets and convenience stores.
- 2 L Hotel Island South, 55 Wong Chuk Hang Rd, Aberdeen, ☏ . A hotel in Aberdeen. It opened in 2010. From around $600.
- 3 Abeo, 100 Shek Pai Wan Rd, Aberdeen, ☏ , fax: , ✉ Operationfirstname.lastname@example.org. Doubles from around $800.
- 4 Bridal Tea House, 150 Aberdeen Main Rd, Aberdeen. Doubles from around $800.
- 5 Mojo Nomad Aberdeen Harbour, 100 Shek Pai Wan Road, Aberdeen (5 min from Ocean Park/Cyberport by taxi, 15 min Causeway Bay by taxi, 20 min Central by taxi), ☏ . Check-in: flexible, check-out: flexible. Wacky hostel with co-working spaces, mini-movie theatre, fully-stocked kitchen, dormitory beds and hotel style rooms. Part of the Ovolo hotel group. Doubles from around $800, dorm beds $250.
- 6 Le Meridien Cyberport (香港數碼港艾美酒店), 100 Cyberport Rd, South District (南區數碼港道100號), ☏ , fax: . Rooms with internet against surcharge. No breakfast. Business centre, fitness room and outdoor pool available. Western and Japanese restaurant as well as a bar. Doubles from around $2,000.
There are a few Outlying Islands reachable from the Southern District:
- Take a ferry from Aberdeen to Lamma island
- Take a ferry from Stanley to the Po Toi islands