For a great foodie day trip out of Hong Kong, few options can rival the charming ‘dumbbell shaped’ island of Cheung Chau. Only a quick 30 minutes ferry ride away, the tiny island packs in a thriving waterfront, beaches, cute villages, colorful temples, green valleys, gentle trails, and enough seafood to feed an army.
As soon as you step out of the ferry you get swallowed by the crowd that fills the Praya, Cheung Chau’s main street lined with little shops and restaurants. Despite this initial madness similar to what you’d find in Hong Kong’s busiest districts, there’s a definite holiday feel to it and you instantly feel more relaxed.
Here you have two choices: walk straight ahead across the village to quickly emerge a few minutes later on the island’s main beach, or decide to follow the waterfront to explore the other villages and get a feel of the authentic and quieter side of Cheung Chau. We opted for the latter and headed south with a row of seafood restaurants on one side and a myriad of colorful fishing boats gently dancing on the water on the other.
Cheung Chau has been a fishing village since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the busy ports along the coast are proof that it is still the main activity on the island today. Every inhabitant (over 20,000) seems to be involved in the trade as you pass fishermen unloading boats and laying some of their catch out to dry in the burning sun to later sell them at one of the many shops on the island.
Heading south you’ll pass some more quaint villages with traditional temples, some among the oldest in all of Hong Kong.
The seafood-centered activity isn’t only limited to the waterfront as every back street and corner of the island gives you a glimpse into their latest catch.
After a good 30 minutes walk you’ll reach the village of Sai Wan and its pier, sitting at the foot of a lush rocky promontory worth a little hike. A nice pavilion with sweeping views across the bay and a pique-nique area are ideal to take a little break, though the real attractions here are an ancient pirate’s cave and an unusual rock formation known as the Reclining Rock.
At this point you can follow uphill the main Peak Road West which will take you through the residential middle of the island, passing more villages, a large cemetery and crematorium, and offering some nice views before bringing you back to the main town and the pier. After all this walk you should be starving and ready to partake in the one thing to do in Cheung Chau – eating seafood! The choice of restaurants is overwhelming though just like everywhere else I would follow my instincts of picking a place where the locals eat. It’s how we ended up at New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant on the waterfront, about 5 minutes walk south of the main ferry.
It’s one of the original seafood restaurants on Cheung Chau and it is owned and run by a fishing family so you can be sure the seafood is fresh! Like in many places on the island you can pick your meal from the live fish tanks and have it prepared the way you like. We sat down in front of a real feast and vowed to come back, the seafood being reason good enough though we admittedly all fell under the spell of this endearing island, full of character, colors, and such an easy break from the city…