I love Hong Kong for so many reasons. From the food, to the markets, the wonderful people and colorful street life. But one of the very best things about Hong Kong is the ease of escaping. There are so many ways you can get out of the city. In less than an hour you can be wandering around fishing harbors, hiking along trails and swimming at clean beaches. If you are heading to Hong Kong I recommend taking at least a day away from the city to explore one of these places. The nature and islands of Hong Kong are just as much part of the country as the sprawling city itself. Here are 5 of my favourite places to escape to!

Lamma Island Fishing Harbour

Lamma Island Fishing Harbour

1. Lamma Island

My favourite escape from Hong Kong’s centre, Lamma Island is a hippie haven full of swimmable beaches, vegetarian restaurants and wide open hiking trails. Head here and you’ll find it hard to believe you are still in Hong Kong; yet somehow, it’s only a short ferry back to the city. Lamma is completely car-free, and locals ride bikes along the narrow paths while shopkeepers sell the island’s fresh produce in the market.

Most ferries from Central arrive at the Yung Shue Wan Village pier; it’s the largest village on the island and along the main street you’ll find a host of adorable cafes perfect for brunch, shops selling vinyl records and second hand books, and a small organic supermarket. Most of the restaurants have balconies overlooking the harbour. On a sunny day the water shimmers turquoise, boats gently bob in the current and seagulls chirp overhead. I doubt this was the Hong Kong you were imagining!

Lo So Shing Beach, and a viewpoint on the islands 4km hike, Lamma Island.

As well as eating and relaxing, Lamma Island has a lovely host of activities to keep you occupied on a day trip. The popular 4km hike across the island is one of the best options. Starting at the Yung Shue Wan Village, the path snakes down to the Hung Shing Yeh Beach, a white sand beach apparently brimming with sunbathers and swimmers in the summer. From then you swerve up and down the islands hills to view points until you reach Sok Kwu Wan Village where another ferry will take you straight back to Hong Kong Central. Along the way you’ll pass local artist shops, tiny temples and you can take a slight detour to the beautiful Lo So Shing Beach. If you’re in Hong Kong on a sunny day, there’s no better way to escape the city than a trip to Lamma Island.

How to get there: Take a ferry from Central Pier #4 to Sok Wu Wan on Lamma Island. The journey takes 30 – 40 minutes.

A view from Dragon’s Back Trail

2. Hiking in the hills

What’s often not known about Hong Kong is that is was built on very hilly terrain. The whole city is full of hills and viewpoints and hiking trails. All over Hong Kong Island, the New Territories, Kowloon and the outer islands you’ll find wonderful hiking trails which will take you far away from the city into green lush hills, past craggy coast lines and to some stunning beaches and view points. Hiking is a favourite weekend activity for Hong Kong locals, and public transport to the start and end of trails is often well thought out because of it.

One of the most popular hiking trails is Dragon’s Back Trail. The trail has some stunning vistas and ends up at the white sand Shek O beach, which is perfect for a cooling swim after a hot summer hike.

How to get there: Many of Hong Kong’s hiking trails are accessible by bus, subway or taxi. The Hong Kong tourism website has great information on the hikes and how to access them – click here for more!

Lantau Island Cable Cars in the fog

3. Lantau Island

If you want to combine laid back island life with some of Hong Kong’s top sites, then Lantau Island is a great choice. The island is accessible on the subway line, making it super easy to get to from anywhere in Hong Kong or Kowloon. It’s a popular spot being home of the Big Buddha, and the Ngong Ping 360 cable car which will take you there. But there’s so much more to Lantau than that.

Next to the Big Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery, which houses three giant bronze Buddha statues – but the most interesting part is seeing locals swirl incense. The views around are also stunning. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to try some of the local sweet treats at the Monastery’s vegetarian canteen.

The Big Buddha and a view at Tai O Village, Lantau Island.

From the Big Buddha, it’s easy to catch a bus to Tai O Village, a heritage village where houses are still built on sticks and local fish and fresh produce is sold in the market. Although tourism has taken over fishing here as the main trade, there’s still a sense of authenticity and the hustle and bustle in the market really takes you back in time. There are lots of lovely shops and cafes along the main street, as well as trails leading up to the hills opening up to viewpoints over the ocean (and apparently spots to see the famous Hong Kong pink dolphin). From Tai O, you can catch a bus back to the subway stop which will take you straight back to Hong Kong Central.

How to get there: Getting to Lantau Island couldn’t be easier! Take the Tung Chung line to Tung Chung Station and you are on Lantau Island. From there you can head to the bus station where buses travel around the island to Tai O Village or up to the big Buddha.

Locals in Macau

4. Macau

Fancy changing country for a day? Well Macau is the easiest way to do it, a one hour ferry ride away without the visa complications of heading to China. Macau is known for its casinos, but it’s the Portuguese heritage that I found really intriguing about the place. The main street is lined with Portuguese tart bakeries and the architecture is like taking a day trip to Europe.

The highlight is the gorgeous ruin of St. Paul’s Church, the remains of a 17th century complex. Otherwise, try some tasty Portuguese cuisine, walk up and down the Largo Do Senado and go church hopping!

How to get there: Take the MTR to Sheung Wan station and take exit D which will lead you to the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry terminal in the Shun Tak Centre. The ferry takes around 55 minutes. Don’t forget your passport!

Cheung Chau Island Fishing Harbour

5. Cheung Chau Island

If you’re looking for a bustling fishing village and very picturesque harbour, take the ferry out to Cheung Chau Island, only 30 minutes from Hong Kong Central. Cheung Chau is tiny but bursting with sights, smells and interesting people. Visit on a sunny weekend and the high street is filled with market stalls and the islands beaches are packed with locals. It’s got a very authentic atmosphere and the fishing harbour is one of the most picturesque sights to see in Hong Kong.

There are also several hiking trails on the island, as well as hidden temples, and it’s particularly famous for seafood. If you happen to be visiting Hong Kong at the time of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, a visit to the island is really a must, as the tiny streets burst with parades and people queue for what are apparently the best pork buns in Hong Kong.

How to get there: Take the ferry from Central pier #5 that goes direct to Cheung Chau. The slow ferry takes 55 minutes and the fast ferry takes only 35 minutes.

Have you ever been to Hong Kong? What’s your favourite escape from the city?