Po Toi is the southern most island in Hong Kong. And because of its location, it’s often referred to as the “South Pole of Hong Kong“. This scarcely inhabited island is best known for its peculiar rock formations, rock carvings, and seaweed.
Po Toi is an extremely popular camping location and day-trip from Hong Kong as it offers hiking trails with incredible views of the sea, and not to mention those rocks that have been voted as the most beautiful in Hong Kong in public surveys.
About Po Toi
Po Toi was first inhabited 3,500 years ago based on the ancient rock carvings on the island. Those living on the island have made their livelihood through fishing and harvesting seaweed. In fact, even today you can buy a pack of local seaweed for HK$ 10.
The island is comprised almost entirely of easily weathered granite. Over the years, the granite has taken some peculiar-looking shapes which are the main attraction on the island today.
Po Toi is also synonymous with a merchant name Mo, who made his fortune on bean curd sheet and built his mansion on the island. Unfortunately, his mansion was ransacked by pirates which made Mo abandon it.
How to get to Po Toi
Po Toi can be reached by ferry from Aberdeen or Stanley’s Blake Pier. The ferry timetable can be viewed on the website of the Transport Department and costs HK$ 50 for a return trip.
However, it is worth noting that there is only one ferry trip during weekdays. But the frequency increases on Saturdays, and then again on Sundays and public holidays. This makes visiting Po Toi on Sundays and public holidays the obvious choice.
Another piece of advice we can offer is to board the ferry from Blake Pier on Stanley, as the departures are mostly from Stanley on Sundays.
Things to do in Po Toi Island
Once you arrive on Po Toi, there are plenty of attractions you can set out to explore. Although you can be spontaneous, it does help knowing what these attractions are and how much time should you budget for them.
So, let’s talk about the hikes and trails, rock formations, the haunted house, and rock carvings. But first, are there any restaurants on Po Toi Island?
Po Toi Island Restaurants
If you arrive on Po Toi in time for lunch, you should know that there are four restaurants on the island (at least to my knowledge).
There is a small cafe located right next to the Po Toi ferry pier. The cafe has a limited menu, but includes Po Toi’s signature dish – instant noodles with fried egg and luncheon meat in seaweed soup.
And there are two other restaurants located in the main Po Toi village, which is a 3-5 min walk towards the left from the Ferry Pier. One of the restaurants is the extremely popular Ming Kee Seafood Restaurant, and the other is small Hong Kong style cafe. Both are located along the main beach in Po Toi village.
Whichever restaurant you pick, make sure you get a table with a view of the sea!
There is also one more local restaurant located at the start of Route No. 2.
Hiking on Po Toi Island
Po Toi has three maintained hiking trails, aptly named Route No. 1, Route No. 2, and Route No. 3. Each route is a circular trail, that overlaps with at least one other route. The trail in the middle overlaps with the two trails on either side.
The island’s main attractions are accessible along these hiking routes.
Route No. 1
Attractions along Route No. 1 include the Old Mansion of Family Mo (the haunted house), and Ngau Wu Teng, the highest point on Po Toi Island which has some amazing views.
Route No. 1 is the circular trail in the centre of the island.
Route No. 2
Attractions along Route No. 2 include most of the rock formations – the Palm Cliff, the Turtle Rock, the Monk Rock, the lighthouse, and the ancient rock carvings.
This route in the southernmost circular trail. It is also the shortest, and most popular hiking trail on Po Toi Island.
Route No. 3
Route No. 3 lies in the north of the island and covers a more rugged terrain. Attractions along this route include the Tin Hau Temple, and the Snail Rock (or Conch Rock).
Which island hike should you choose?
If time is a constraint, I would advise you definitely pick Route No. 2. It has the bulk of the attractions (including the rock formations), and is the shortest among the three. It should take an hour to complete Route No. 2.
However, if you have more than an hour to spare, I would recommend combining Routes 1 and 2, which is our recommended route.
Po Toi Island Hike – Our Recommended Route
Combining Routes 1 and 2 should take approximately two hours to finish. The combined trail covers some of the most scenic parts of Po Toi Island, along with most of the rock formations.
Our recommended route covers Route No. 1, followed by Route No. 2. So, in order to start the hike, we need to get to the starting point for Route No. 1.
From the Po Toi Island ferry pier, walk towards the cafe/restaurant at the end of the pier. Right besides the restaurant is a narrow alley. Walk down this alley and climb the steps that follow.
There will another flight of steps on your right soon. Don’t take those steps because they take you towards Route No. 2. Instead, go straight.
Soon thereafter, there will be another of steps on your right with a sign that states Route No. 1.
This is your starting point.
To the Mo Family Mansion
The first attraction along this route is the Mo Family Mansion. Although the steps along this trail aren’t very steep, they aren’t covered for the most part. Which means, if it’s a hot day, prepare to have the sun beating down on you.
Along the way up, there are a couple of spots from where you get good views of the Po Toi village below and the main bay on the island.
After about 800 metres of climbing, you should see a sign for Mo’s Old House. In fact, there are two signs meaning two paths to access the house. I found the path from the second sign a bit easier to access.
The “Haunted House” of Po Toi Island
This old dilapidated house once belonged to a merchant named Mo. It is believed that the some thieves or pirates plotted to kidnap Mo by bribing his servant for information. Fortunately, Mo’s servant gave them the wrong information and the house was attacked while the family was away.
After that the Mo family moved away from the island, leaving their mansion behind. Today, you can walk about the ruins of the old Mo family mansion and see its remains.
The reason why the mansion is considered haunted is because there is a peculiar shaped rock behind it called the “Coffin Rock“, which incidentally is the next stop.
To the Coffin Rock
From the house return to the main trail, and continue walking uphill for another 5 minutes. At this point, the steps end and a rocky, rugged terrain begins.
From here, you can see the Coffin Rock to your right, under the hill. You will need to bushwhack to get to the rock, if you’re interested.
To Ngau Wu Teng
Continue climbing up the rugged surface for another 100 metres till you reach the paved section of the trail.
From here, the trail curves right and heads uphill. In fact, just before it curves right is where it intersects with Route No. 3.
There are a few more steps to climb before the trail becomes flat. And it is from this flat section that the trail becomes very scenic!
As you walk along the top of the hill, the views of the South China Sea really open up. On a clear day, you can see miles into the sea. Make sure you stop along the way to take a few photos.
Soon, you’ll notice the white triangulation station ahead. This is Ngau Wu Teng, the highest point on Po Toi Island. There is a shaded pavilion next to the triangulation station.
Take a break here if you need to because the next section will take your breath away!
To Route No. 2
The next section of the hike has the most scenic views of Po Toi Island in my opinion. Just after the pavilion, the trail begins its descent. And from the views from the steps of the southern peninsula of Po Toi Island (Ngong Chong) are breathtaking!
We took our time walking down the steps because we wanted to really appreciate these views. It was a clear day, with the sun right above us, and we were in no rush.
Although the views remain as you continue walking downhill, it does get slightly less impressive from a lower altitude.
At the halfway point, the steps end at a rugged cliff overlooking the sea. Once again I was taken aback by the raw beauty of Po Toi!
You can sit on the rocks and admire the views of the sea as the wind blows against your face and the waves crash below you.
Once you’re done feeling all Zen, continue along the trail. Keep walking downhill till you reach the point where Route No. 1 merges with Route No. 2.
Route No. 2
You’ve now arrived at Route No. 2, which is essentially a circular trail on Ngong Chong, the southern peninsula of Po Toi Island. It is here that the vast majority of the granite rock formations are located, along with the lighthouse.
As you reach the end of the steps from Route No. 1, turn left. Follow the directions to the Monk Rock.
Turtle Rock & Monk Rock
The first set of peculiar shaped rocks along this route are the Monk Rock and the Turtle Rock. You’ll arrive at them just after the short climb up.
The Monk Rock (or Supine Monk Rock) is on the left, and it resembles a seated monk with a head and body. The smaller, scattered rocks around it make it seem as if those are the monk’s disciples.
On the right is the Turtle Rock (or Tortoise Rock). The rock resembles a turtle popping its head out from the side of the hill. Though I must admit, we did find it a bit hard to notice the resemblance at first. But to really see the turtle, you need to walk much further away from it.
Po Toi Lighthouse
Just ahead is Po Toi’s lighthouse, also known as Nam Kok Tsui lighthouse or Lighthouse 126.
The lighthouse was constructed and lit in 1970 and sits on top of Nam Kok Tsui, the hill. It’s most popular for being the southernmost lighthouse in Hong Kong.
After the lighthouse, the trail begins to descend and return to the starting point. But before the end, you’ll come across one of the most famous rock formations on Po Toi.
The Palm Cliff (or Palm Rock) is a 100 feet tall cliff that is a result of years of erosion. Four vertical cracks along this rock give it the appearance of a palm or hand.
After the Palm Cliff, the trail returns to the starting point completing the Ngong Chong loop. You should turn left and head towards the ferry pier. But before we end, there is one last attraction.
Ancient Rock Carving
Soon after crossing the yellow footbridge, you’ll notice a sign for the rock carvings on Po Toi. A short walk down the steps will bring you to two visible rock carvings.
These rock carvings were found in the 1960s. The carving on the right consists of more spiral designs, whereas the one on the left is more abstract.
Back to the ferry pier
Once you’re done viewing the rock carvings, you can return to the trail and head back to the ferry pier.
At one point the trail seems to come to a dead-end next to a restaurant. You’ll need to walk into the restaurant, and out the other end. Of course you can buy some dried seafood or seaweed on your way out.
Just after the restaurant, you’ll reach the steps that you’d crossed right at the start of the hike. From here, turn turn and you’ll emerge at the ferry pier.
Guide to Po Toi Island
We hope you enjoyed our guide to Po Toi Island, Hong Kong’s South Pole. In fact, the island is so far south, I didn’t have cellphone coverage for most of the hike. That doesn’t sound so bad when you realise that the island doesn’t have fresh water or electricity supply either.
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