Bordered by four of the busiest roads in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Park is a real oasis. As you stroll through this former military encampment, you'll be treated to great views of lakes, ornamental gardens, a sports complex, a bird lake (home to a flock of flamingos) and even a maze to walk through. At the southern end of the park you'll find the Jamia Masjid (otherwise known as Kowloon Mosque) – it's not open to the public, but it's an attractive structure from the outside. There's a fair amount of sculpture to admire, as well as some quiet corners to sit and relax in.
Recommended for Parks because: Everyone needs a break from Tsim Sha Tsui from time to time, and there's nowhere better than Kowloon Park.
Ed's expert tip: Kowloon Park's swimming pools – both indoor and outdoor – are open year-round.
The views from Lion Rock over Kowloon and Hong Kong are stupendous. One of Hong Kong's first three country parks, Lion Rock Country Park spans 557 hectares (1,376 acres) and shares a border with Kam Shan Country Park to the west. The park encompasses a narrow line of mountains, one of which is the 495 meter (1,624 foot) Lion Rock, a well-known landmark. Another is Mong Fu Shek (Amah Rock), named for its resemblance to a woman carrying a baby on her back. Trails wind their way throughout the park. Known for its wildlife, in particular the black-eared kite (a bird of prey) and the long tailed macaque (descendants of pet monkeys released in the 1920s – they may be cute, but don't feed them!).
Recommended for Parks because: This is a really impressive landscape, with panoramic views to north and south.
Ed's expert tip: Lion Rock is a favored destination for the city's mountaineering community.
This grand park is home to Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong at 3,139 feet. Hiking to the top is strenuous but not too challenging, and the pristine peak view is an ample reward for your efforts. Group tours are also available.This is a good place for a short stroll or a major hike. The Tai Mo Shan Hiking Practice Trail is a short circular route that takes only 30 minutes to complete. Passing through a barbecue area and woodlands, it is installed with fitness test facilities and interpretation plates to provide basic hiking and safety knowledge.
Recommended for Parks because: This is the highest point in Hong Kong – the views to China, and over the city, have no equal.
Ed's expert tip: Tai Mo Shan is the only place in Hong Kong where it has snowed – very lightly – in 1967, 1971 and 1975.
Separating Causeway Bay from Tin Hau, Victoria Park takes its name from the statue of Queen Victoria which squats rather disconsolately at its center. Many people visit this park to see the elderly masters, as well as devotees of all ages, practicing tai chi in its wide-open green spaces. This is the largest park in urban Hong Kong, and it's intriguing to watch the hundreds of people practicing their graceful moves. Victoria Park is also right next to the Noon Day Gun, and Central Library. Fairs take place here at Lunar New Year, and it's also a popular venue for demonstrations.
Recommended for Parks because: Hong Kong's colonial days are long gone, but Victoria Park is a reminder of that sterling period in history.
Ed's expert tip: Many Indonesians flock here on Sundays, giving the park a cosmopolitan air.
Despite its rather remote and difficult to reach location (or perhaps because of it!), Shek O is quite popular with hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The 701-hectare (1732 acres) park offers amazing views from trails that traverse the top of a ridge, plus a beach for those who like to spend their days right by the sea. The park also has picnic facilities and restrooms. The area around the park has remained largely undeveloped, although you will find a few small restaurants. Walking along the trail known as the Dragon's Back, which gradually descends into Shek O, is a popular weekend hike for many residents.
Recommended for Parks because: Of all Hong Kong's parks, Shek O provides some of the most dramatic scenery.
Ed's expert tip: Shek O is one of the most exclusive – and expensive – residential areas of Hong Kong, and quite a contrast to the surrounding country park.
This small, but well-designed park offers a welcome break from the concrete and glass buildings that are surrounding it. Built into the side of a small hill, top attractions include an aviary with a large selection of exotic birds, and a conservatory, which is among the most extensive in the world. It recreates various climates and includes many of the plants indigenous to each area. Also within the park's boundaries is Flagstaff House. Built in 1846, it's the oldest remaining colonial building in Hong Kong, and today is home to a fascinating tea ware museum. Contact the museum at 852 2869 0690.
Recommended for Parks because: The contrast between skyscrapers and green acres is quite stupendous.
Ed's expert tip: Victoria Park used to be a barracks – the greenies moved in when the military moved out.
This sprawling 410-acre park, set around a large reservoir, offers plenty of trails for hiking, jogging or walking, and it also has various exercise stations built along the trails to boost visitor workouts. Picnic areas provide ideal meeting points, and there is also a visitor center with a botanical garden and insect display. One of the most popular walks is Lady Clementi's Ride, named after the wife of Governor Sir Cecil Clementi who loved to stroll and ride on this country lane. Skirting along the slopes above Aberdeen Valley, the ride offers soothing woodland scenery. Along the way are a series of wooded slopes, hill streams and stone bridges.
Recommended for Parks because: This country park – so handy for residents of the south side of the Island – is known as Hong Kong's back garden.
Ed's expert tip: Aberdeen's reservoir attracts a diverse selection of wild birds.
This park was built on what was once a massive tenement block which grew up around an old fortification. The tenements were finally demolished in the 1990s. The Kowloon Walled City was famous for holding a unique distinction – it was the only district in Hong Kong that avoided British rule during the 1840 Qing Dynasty. So who ruled the walled city? No one! It was in a state of lawlessness and ruin until it was turned into an award-winning park in the 20th century. It is home to Bonsai trees, relics from the Qing Dynasty, and a popular giant chessboard.
Recommended for Parks because: From fortification to den of iniquity to inner city oasis, the Walled City's journey through history is unique.
Ed's expert tip: The remains of the South Gate, dating back up to 1,000 years, are still plainly visible.
Tai Tam Country Park sprawls over 1315 hectares (3249 acres), an amazing one-fifth of Hong Kong Island's total area. Tai Tam Valley, a verdant hollow surrounded by rocky cliffs, is a favorite destination. Also within the park's boundaries there are four reservoirs, and several war-related ruins such as forts and magazines. During WWII this was a major battlefield, one of the few places where the invading Japanese troops met with truly strong British resistance. Like much of the island, this area was almost completely deforested by the time WWII had ended, and only the stringent efforts of the HK government kept the land from completely washing away.
Recommended for Parks because: Tai Tam is the classic Hong Kong Country Park, a semi-wilderness right by the city.
Ed's expert tip: If you start from Parkview at Wong Nei Chong Gap, it's a nice downhill walk toward the seaside village of Stanley.
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.
Recommended for Parks because: Step into Sai Kung Country Park and you really can't believe you are in Hong Kong.
Ed's expert tip: If you are hiking this park, take enough food and water and there are not many refreshment points.