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10 Best Hong Kong Outdoor Activities: Out and About in the City



Hong Kong is a big city, for sure, but it's got a great outdoors that would appeal to adults and children alike. Four-tenths of Hong Kong is officially designated country park, few parts of the city aren't in sight of water, it's dotted with parks large and small, and the outlying islands are a world away from the concrete jungle.

One of Hong Kong's most famous attractions is the Star Ferry, which putters back and forth between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Besides being highly inexpensive, it's also one of the world'd great sightseeing trips. Nothing says "outdoors" like one of Hong Kong's street markets, such as Ladies Market. And then there's Hong Kong's brace of theme parks – Disney and Ocean Park. Of course, you don't have to head to a "destination" – simply wandering the streets and alleyways is an entertainment in itself, and the city is very safe, with hardly any street crime.

One thing to note: Hong Kong gets hot in summer time – take adequate drinking water if you are venturing out to one of the more remote country parks, and don't be shy about using an umbrella to ward off the sun. It's what the locals do on a regular basis.


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Stanley Market
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board


Stanley is possibly Hong Kong's best-known market. And with good reason. It's part of a community set by the sea, with plenty of restaurants and cafes so you can pause for refreshment. The goods on sale are fabulously varied, and the traders generally cheery and not averse to bargaining. There's no charge for entry, of course, so visitors are free to wander about and enjoy the spectacle. There's a beach nearby, and Murray House, a 19th-century building which was moved here lock, stock and barrel from Central, stands by the shore. One way or another, Stanley is a great day out.


Heliservices
Photo courtesy of The Peninsula


There are four main tours with Heliservices, the only flightseeing operation in Hong Kong. The first flies around Hong Kong Island, concentrating on Victoria Harbour. The flight lasts approximately 15 minutes. Slightly longer, the Hong Kong Island Experience takes in the whole of the Island, looping down over Stanley and Aberdeen and the beaches and bays on the south of the island. Longer still, the half-hour Kowloon and Hong Kong Island Experience heads north over the mountains that separate the city from the New Territories. Finally, the Geopark Experience, of a similar length, flies east to take in Sai Kung Country Park and the Hong Kong Geopark. The tours usually employ a seven-seater MD902 Explorer, and they're piloted by expert crews. A full safety briefing is given beforehand, and safety equipment such as lifejackets are provided.


Museum of Coastal Defence
Photo courtesy of Museum of Coastal Defence


This site dates back over a century, to when Lei Yue Mun Fort was a strategic part of Hong Kong's defenses. It was the scene of fierce fighting during the Japanese invasion on 1941, and later became a regular barracks. So its current role as a military museum couldn't be more apt. This is a magnificent setting, and the exhibits are both indoors and out, above ground and below. The best way to take it all in is to follow the historical trail which leads visitors around the entire museum. This is probably Hong Kong's largest museum, so allow sufficient time for your visit.


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Wong Tai Sin Temple
Photo courtesy of Wong Tai Sin Temple


This well-known attraction was built in 1973 and is still one of the most active Buddhist temples in the city. The lush gardens, with their waterfalls, ponds and pavilions, inspire numerous photographs. Be sure to wander through the arcade, where a palm reader will tell your fortune â€" some will even do it in English. Named for a shepherd boy who was said to have mystical healing powers, this temple still has a magical feeling. Wong Tai Sin is deluged at Lunar New Year, usually late January or early February, when large swathes of the population come to worship and pray.


Happy Valley Racecourse
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board


Surrounded by high-rises, this downtown racecourse is one of the greatest stadiums on earth to enjoy a sweaty, noisy and adrenaline-pumping horse race at night. Dating back to 1844, the 55,000-seat racecourse is one of the earliest public facilities in colonial Hong Kong. Regular races take place every Wednesday and Saturday from September to June on the 30-meter-wide grass track. A 978-seat iPad-equipped betting hall is located on the second floor of platform one. Visitors can either pay HK$10 (US$1.3) to sit on the public spectator seats or HK$100-150 (US$13-19) to enter the member-only zone. There are a total of seven restaurants and bars in the complex from Cantonese dining to al fresco drinking. On the second floor of the Happy Valley Stand of the racecourse, there is a 670-square-meter museum, Hong Kong Racing Museum, tracing the past and present of the city's enduring pastime.


Sai Kung Country Park
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board


The New Territories, once home to nothing but pastoral meadowlands, are quickly becoming industrialized and commercialized. However, this park remains a bastion of natural beauty. This unspoiled seaside area of parkland features hiking trails dotted with informative visitor centers. See the area from a watery vantage point by renting a kaido (a small boat) in the town of Sai Kung, which is flanked by protected parks. Locals say eating seafood in this town is a must.The beaches at Tai Long Wan, on the eastern fringe of the park, are the most lovely in Hong Kong and well worth the hike out.


Hong Kong Disneyland
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Disneyland


Escape the city center for a family day trip to fantasy by the overly cute Disneyland Resort Line from Sunny Bay metro station. Currently the smallest of all Disneylands, the 240,000-square-meter park is compact and easily navigated (like everything else in Hong Kong). The wonderland consists of seven sections including two world exclusives: Mystic Point and Grizzly Gulch. The former is the latest addition to the park and features a haunted Victorian-style castle owned by fictional explorer Lord Henry Mystic as well as the most advance trackless ride Disneyland has built. The latter is another original story designed just for Hong Kong. Set in the American West, the sandy yellow section has a hair-raising gold mine roller coaster. The comprehensive resort also contains two large-scale hotels for ultimate Mickey fans: 600-room American-style Hollywood Hotel and 400-room Victorian-style Disneyland Hotel.


Ladies Market

Occupying three blocks of Tung Choi Street, this enclave of more than 100 stalls represents the epitome of Asia's market culture: a bit crowded, a lot noisy but totally stimulating. Rather than what its name suggests, the 1,000-meter-long market sells a wide selection of clothes, shoes and travel souvenirs, from US$5 sandals to Chinese necklace pendants to the "I Love Hong Kong" T-shirts. Although it's been running for about three decades, this government-licensed street market is still set up from scratch every day. Vendors build their stalls with canvas at noon and pull them down when the market closes around midnight. Best time to go is after 7pm when tourists and merchants are at their optimal size. Nearest metro station is Mongkok via exit E2.


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Aberdeen
Ocean Park
Photo courtesy of Ocean Park


This massive wonderland is a combination of amusement park, aquarium and zoo. It has enough activity to keep everyone in the family busy for an entire day. Built around several hills near the South China Sea, the 780,000-square-meter park is divided into two sections: The Headland and The Lowland. They are connected by a 1,400-meter-long cable car system. The Lowland houses two giant pandas, a variety of fun animal shows and Dolphin Encounter, 90 minutes of up-close-and-personal time in a pool with the friendly cetaceans. The Headland section is equipped with several thrilling ocean-side scream machines (roller coasters, water rides, etc), a vast aviary with more than 1,000 birds and Marine World, a massive aquarium with a fabulous jellyfish exhibit, a shark tunnel and a gigantic reef tank with some 2,000 fish.


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Central


Star Ferry is the loveliest attraction in Hong Kong. This 115-year-old service is one of these rare attractions that are hailed by both tourists and locals. Shuttling between Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon side, and Central and Wan Chai on Hong Kong island, these short boat rides represent a lifestyle of the past: slow, soothing and stress-free. That's exactly where the excitement and enjoyment lies. It's fascinating to see the hyper-busy city from these boats: century-old colonial buildings rub shoulders with glass-walled skyscrapers on the two jam-packed waterfronts. Even with the subway efficiently connecting Kowloon and Central, locals still choose to ride the Star Ferry now and then for that classic Hong Kong moment.


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Meet Ed Peters

Ed Peters has been based in Asia for much of his life.

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