Cheung Chau is perhaps the most colourful, popular, and happening of the outlying islands in Hong Kong. Its peculiar shape, of two large granite masses joined by a narrow tombolo, has earned it the nickname “dumbbell island”.
What was once an island with a small fishing village is today one of Hong Kong’s top tourist attractions. Cheung Chau offers visitors so many things to do that you could make multiple trips to discover a new part or activity on the island. Today Cheung Chau is famous for its local delicacies (including the mango mochi) and its Bun Festival. Other than that, there are plenty of natural attractions too on the island including beaches and hikes.
How to get to Cheung Chau
The only way to get to Cheung Chau is by ferry. The ferry departs from Central Ferry Pier No. 5 and has a pretty good frequency. The ferry timetable can be found on the NWFF website.
Keep in mind that the fast ferry takes around 35 minutes to reach Cheung Chau, whereas the ordinary ferry can take up to 60 minutes.
The inter-island ferry (Cheung Chau -> Chi Ma Wan -> Mui Wo -> Peng Chau) schedule can be found on this website.
Getting around the island
Once you’re on the island, there are two ways to get around – on foot or by cycle. Cheung Chau’s narrow alleys don’t allow for any cars.
Bicycles can easily be rented on the island for as low as HK$ 50 a day. Most of the rental shops are located along the main Tai Hing Tai Road, south of the ferry terminal. You’ll definitely be able to cover more ground on a cycle, but won’t be able to visit some of the attractions that require hiking. It might be a good idea to also rent locks in case you want to secure your cycle before you go hiking.
If you prefer to walk, then just keep in mind that I’d recommend that you stick to exploring the central tombolo and either the north or south side of the island. Not both. That might be too much for a single day. This gives you a reason to return to the island to discover the remaining half.
You can also take the kaito (small boat) that runs between the main ferry pier and the Sai Wan pier in the south of Cheung Chau. So, if you plan to explore the area around Cheung Po Tsai Cave, the kaito is a good option.
Things to do on Cheung Chau
Cheung Chau offers plenty of activities for first-time and returning visitors. Don’t be surprised to find the island absolutely packed with visitors over the weekends.
Aside from that, here are some of our top activities and things to do in Cheung Chau.
1. Savour local sweets and delicacies
To many locals, Cheung Chau is synonymous is delicious local snacks. The island is famous for its mochi (especially the mango mochi), frozen watermelon slices, and fishballs. In fact, just stop by any of the numerous vendors and try whatever tickles your fancy.
Just walk around the main promenade street and areas and you’ll find plenty of vendors selling their delicacies and desserts. Be prepared to stand in line for some of the more popular shops.
2. Eat at the numerous restaurants
One of the most striking features of Cheung Chau to anyone who visits the island is the sheer number of restaurants. They are everywhere!
If local seafood is what you seek, a walk along the main promenade road should do it. We can’t claim that we’ve tried all the seafood restaurants on Cheung Chau, but we usually prefer to walk down Pak She Praya Road and pick a restaurant there. One restaurant that we really liked is called So Bor Kee. There is no sign in English, so just trust Google Maps or look at their menu.
If you want something less local, there are a few other restaurants that we can recommend:
- The Pink Pig Music Bar & Restaurant
- G/F 11, Kin San Lane, Cheung Chau
- Fresh Basil Pizza
- 19 Tai Hing Tai Rd, Cheung Chau
- Pirate Bay
- 13 Tsan Tuen Rd, Cheung Chau
3. Relax on a beach
There are two sandy public beaches a short walk from the Cheung Chau ferry pier – Tung Wan Beach and Kwun Yam Wan Beach.
Tung Wan Beach is the more popular of the two beaches. This narrow, long beach is relatively commercial with plenty of restaurants and cafes next to it. The beach offers the usual amenities (showers, toilets, lifeguards). Beach umbrellas can be rented at the shops nearby.
Kwun Yam Wan Beach is a 5-minute walk south of Tung Wan Beach. It’s a much smaller and cosier beach. If you dislike crowds, then this is where you should head. Although I should warn you, given how small Kwun Yam Wan Beach is, it too can get crowded very easily.
There is a nice outdoor cafe located at the beginning of Kwun Yam Wan Beach. The restaurant also runs a rental store next door from where you can rent kayaks and surfboards.
Also, do not fly your drone near any of these two beaches. It’s strictly prohibited. There is a frequently used helipad between the two beaches.
There are also other smaller, secluded beaches on the island. One that comes to mind is Tung Wan Tsai that can be accessed from the North Lookout Pavilion.
4. Hike to the North Lookout Pavilion
If you fancy some exercise while on Cheung Chau, the short hike to the North Lookout Pavilion is highly recommended. As the highest point on the island, it naturally offers great views from its vantage point.
To start the hike from the main promenade, walk towards Pak She Praya Road. Turn right at the soccer field and basketball courts in front of Pak Tai Temple. Next to the basketball courts is the path that goes up Cheung Chau Family Walk. Follow the path and the signs for the North Lookout Pavilion. If you prefer to use Google Maps, I’ve highlighted the path for you.
Once you reach the pavilion, I would highly recommend that you continue walking on the same path that heads towards Pak Kok Tsui, a small peninsula that offers stunning views of Cheung Chau and Lamma Island (on a clear day).
If you continue down this path, you’ll reach Tung Wan Tsai Beach, a small secluded beach that hardly anyone comes to. Even if you don’t go down to the beach, the views from the steps are simply amazing.
5. Walk along the Mini Wall Trail
The Mini Wall Trail is the easier equivalent to the North Lookout Pavilion hike but on the south side. I’m not entirely sure of the origin of the name, but this short trail is part of the Cheung Chau Family Walk.
This circular, scenic coastal walk goes around the south-eastern head of the island. Along the walk, you can admire beautiful views of the sea and Lamma Island from the numerous pavilions. But the main attraction of the trail is funny shaped rocks with interesting names like the Human Head Rock and the Jade Seal Rock.
6. Explore Cheung Po Tsai Cave
Cheung Po Tsai Cave is perhaps my favourite attraction on Cheung Chau. This cave was once used by one of the most famous pirates in Hong Kong’s history, Cheung Po Tsai.
Cheung Po Tsai served as an officer of the pirate chief Cheung I-sao and later his widow. However, in 1809 his fleet was defeated by the Portuguese Naval Army. After his capture, Cheung Po Tsai joined the military and quickly rose in their ranks too.
His cave today is a major attraction in Cheung Chau. So, don’t be surprised if there is a line to get into it.
The cave is extremely narrow and dark, so make sure you carry a torch with you or your cellphone’s flashlight will do. The entrance requires visitors to climb down through a narrow opening, and there is an exit on the other side of the mound. The exit is quite well concealed by the rocks on the other side.
After visiting the Cheung Po Tsai Cave walk a little further to visit the Reclining Rock. You can also combine the Sai Wan Tin Hau Temple in this visit as it’s located a few minutes walking from the cave.
7. Visit multiple boutique shops
The narrow alleys of Cheung Chau are home to numerous boutique shops selling all types of curios and knick-knacks. Step inside these old houses that have now been converted into quaint artsy galleries and shops.
Most of the boutique shops are located along the main Tung Wan Road, and a few can be found in the narrower alleys of Cheung Chau. Go ahead, explore these alleys and walk into the shops.
8. Admire beautiful temples
There are two beautiful temples that are definitely worth visiting the next time you’re in Cheung Chau.
The first is the Pak Tai Temple that is located on the north side of the island, just off Pak She Praya Road. This temple was built in 1783 and is now listed as a Grade 1 historical building.
Pak Tai is the main deity of the temple. According to legend, Pak Tai is also known as Yuen Tin Sheung Tai (Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven).
The early settlers to Cheung Chau believed that their safety could be assured by the blessings of Pak Tai, a sea divinity, who became their patron deity. Today, people come to seek blessings from Pak Tai during the Pak Tai Festival which falls on the third day of the third lunar month.
The other temple worth visiting is the Tin Hau Temple in Sai Wan, which is quite literally on the other end of Cheung Chau. This 200-year-old temple is still surprisingly well preserved with a bronze bell dating back to the Qianlong era (1736–1796) inside the temple.
Behind the temple is a lookout pavilion that has beautiful views of the island from the south. It’s best to combine a visit to the Sai Wan Tin Hau Temple with the Cheung Po Tsai Cave, which is located right behind the temple.
9. Plan a staycation
Exit the ferry terminal and you’ll immediately be greeted by numerous kiosks promoting vacation homes and room rentals on Cheung Chau. Clearly, staycations are a big attraction on the island.
You can pick from boutique B&Bs to bigger hotels. Here are our top picks for spending a night on Cheung Chau.
- Warwick Hotel
- The biggest hotel on the island, located between Tung Wan and Kwun Yam Wan beaches. Rooms offer lovely views of the beaches. If you do end up staying there, make sure to order room service for your breakfast. You can eat a sumptuous meal overlooking the beach in the morning.
- Lychee Sunset Hotel
- A smaller, modern hotel with a lot of charm. Also centrally located, the hotel has a lovely terrace to enjoy the sunset from.
- Located along the main Tung Wan Road, this small hotel has a German restaurant on-site along with a creative workshop right opposite the Love-Lock Wall.
10. Experience the Bun Festival
The annual Bun Festival is perhaps what Cheung Chau is known for best. In fact, it features on Time Magazine’s Top 10 Quirky Local Festivals list. This three-day festival usually happens in early May and coincides with Buddha’s Birthday.
The origins of the festival date back to the 18th century when the island was wrecked by a plague and pirates. The Bun Festival celebrates the time when the image of Pak Tai was paraded through the village and drove away from the plague and pirates. However, today it is more of a celebration of Chinese culture.
During the festival there are bun towers that are erected on the island, a parade is held, and there is even a bun tower climbing competition. And the whole island turns vegetarian for two and half days.
The 2020 Bun Festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Discover Cheung Chau Island
We hope you found our guide to Cheung Chau helpful. As we mentioned, the island really has a lot to offer. We’ve been to the island on multiple occasions and still find something new to do.
There’s more to discover on the island than what we’ve mentioned. For instance, I didn’t mention the Love Lock Wall.
Again, if you have a favourite thing to do on Cheung Chau, let us know in the comments below. And as always, please feel free to share this post with anyone planning a visit to the island.