The city of Hong Kong is renowned worldwide for being a glitzy cosmopolitan hub and financial center with a myriad of tempting attractions that can keep visitors entertained for weeks.
From casinos to rooftop bars, skyscrapers and shopping malls, not to mention world class cuisine, the metropolis has something to offer everyone.
However, its location on an archipelago and the land surrounding it that has yet to be annexed into the urban sprawl, means that there is a vast number of destinations that are worlds away from the city’s chaotic pace of life.
In the space of a few hours you can find yourself exploring sandy beaches, tiny fishing villages and sparsely populated islands, all offering a unique taste of China outside of Hong Kong.
Let’s have a look at the best day trips from Hong Kong:
1. Cheung Chau
In just 40-minutes by ferry, you can reach the island of Cheung Chau, a destination that combines the buzzing activity of its busy harbour with the quiet tranquillity of its beaches, all within easy reach of each other.
Highlights include ancient temples such as the Mini Great Wall, along with Cheung Po Tsai Cave, which can both be explored in a couple of hours.
Then head to one of the beloved open-air seafood restaurants where you’ll find dish after mouthwatering dish at reasonable prices.
If you want a day in the sun, pay a visit to Kwun Yam Wan Beach, or if you want to experience the island like a local, take a stroll through the pier, where the trawlers, junk boats and houseboats clamouring for room make for an exhilarating visit.
Available tour: Hong Kong: Cruise Tour to Cheung Chau by Chinese Junk Boat
A mere hour away by ferry from Hong Kong, you’ll find one of its most popular day trips: Macau.
This former Portuguese enclave is positively overflowing with colonial charm and history whilst simultaneously offering the temptation of being the world’s biggest gambling center.
Culture and history buffs will not be disappointed; some must-see sites include the Ruins of St.
Paul’s Church, Guia Hill, A-Ma Temple and the gorgeously quant village of Coloane.
If you want a break from cultural sites, you can distract yourself with the mouthwatering delights of Macanese food: a fusion between Portuguese and Cantonese cooking, or if you’re feeling lucky you can also try your hand in one of the glittering casinos lining the main strip.
Recommended tour: Macau World Heritage Excursion With Lunch at Macau Tower
3. Sai Kung
Reminiscent of tropical coastlines on the other side of the world, Sai Kung is Hong Kong’s prime destination for sun seekers, surfers and seafood lovers because of its beautiful beaches and bays.
This verdant oasis can be found in the northeastern New Territories and takes about an hour to reach from Central Hong Kong by MTR or boat.
Here you’ll be able to hike to beaches like Tai Long Wan and Sharp Island, where the sandy shores and lush interiors offer excellent hiking opportunities and places to relax.
Sai Kung Town is well worth a visit too, particularly its intriguing floating seafood market and plethora of fascinating shops and restaurants.
A veritable retail wonderland full of quirky attractions and delicious eateries, Shenzen boasts some of the best shopping in the region and people flock across the Chinese border to make the most of lower prices here.
As a gateway to mainland China, it’s a thriving metropolis with inexpensive delights such as day spas, the eccentric Dafen Oil Painting Village, or the souvenir-laden Windows of the World Amusement Park.
For a lunch experience elbow to elbow with the locals, head over to Xiangmihu Holiday Village, where you can enjoy some delicious barbecue dishes and cold beers.
Finally, don’t leave without paying a visit to Dongmen Pedestrian Street: a huge market perfect for adventurous travellers where you can purchase pretty much anything imaginable.
The large outlying island of Lantau is the largest that can be reached from Hong Kong and is a beautiful, vast expanse of gently rising forested mountains, small villages and pristine beaches, perfect for a day trip to unwind and relax.
Some of the numerous cultural sites that are simply unmissable include the Wisdom Path and a visit to the Tian Tan Buddha; perched at the top of almost 300 steps ascending the mountainside.
As is common with many of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, you’re also guaranteed to find some truly world class seafood around the coastal villages of Lantau.
6. Mai Po Marshes
If you want to take a break from Hong Kong’s crowds and don’t feel like going to another beach, then a trip to Mai Po Marshes is the perfect way to escape for a day and get up close and personal with nature.
The Marshes are run by the esteemed World Wildlife Fund organisation and entry requires a free permit that takes a few weeks to be processed.
Once inside, however, you’ll discover one of Asia’s most spectacular nature reserves; home to over 55,000 migrating birds and a plethora of mammals, insects and reptiles.
Spend your day wandering the beautiful forests and marshlands catching glimpses of some of the intriguing wildlife.
7. Shui Hau Beach
For a truly rural coastal experience and an escape from the hectic and crowded city, take a day trip to the beautifully secluded Shui Hau Beach.
The soft, white sands are back dropped by kite surfers zipping around the waves, and the lack of facilities in the area means it is a truly calm spot.
Also popular here is clamming, due to the huge clam populations found here, you can even try your hand yourself by renting the tools from the Fung Wong Bungalow Center.
Situated in the Pearl River Delta, Zhuhai is just over an hour away from Hong Kong and is comprised of over 100 islands that are accessible by ferries.
The result is a plethora of gorgeous beaches, where you can go diving in the crystal-clear waters of Dong’ao Island, or devour incredible seafood at Hebao Island.
Besides the palm trees and beaches, Zhuhai is also known for its nightlife, with places like Lotus Road and Gangbei famous for streets lined with nightclubs and stalls selling cocktails late into the night.
The city of Guangzhou is the third largest in China, and as such, has something to suit every taste.
For a big city experience that’s a breath of fresh air from Hong Kong, Guangzhou offers a rich colonial history with both French and British influences that can be seen on the beautiful Shamian Island.
The European architecture and landmarks found here, surrounded by a Chinese metropolis, makes for a novel and fascinating experience.
Art lovers, on the other hand, will be enchanted by Xiaozhou Village, an art haven full of old buildings, canals and captivating street art.
The city of Shunde is well and truly a hidden gem in China’s cultural landscape that not many people have heard of but is well worth a visit.
The city is peppered with heritage sites and natural attractions, each more beautiful than the last, like the Baoling Temple or the Taiping Mountain.
The fact that a lot of the cultural sites are situated in areas of great natural beauty makes Shunde an incredibly pleasant place to explore.
Shunfengshang Park, for example, is a network of canals, ornate bridges, forests and temples that in itself is a fantastic day trip.
11. Lamma Island
The third largest island in Hong Kong has long been a tempting escape for people who don’t want to travel far but want a different pace of life to the one found in the city.
The sandy shores of Lamma Island offer exactly that, with beaches like Hung Shing Yeh attracting city dwellers all year round to relax in the sun.
With a casual, traveller-friendly atmosphere, Lamma is a great place to hike.
Wander through Main Street soaking in the sights, or simply hunt down some excellent food; the waterfront seafood restaurants in Sok Kwu Wan are particularly popular.
12. Tai O
Having often been referred to as “The Venice of Hong Kong”, the tiny fishing village of Tai O is renowned for being the sole remaining stilt settlement left in Hong Kong, and as a result, is not only a worthwhile day trip but a breathtakingly beautiful one.
Here, you’ll find deliciously tempting, locally-made shrimp paste, as well as world-class seafood, and an age-old community of Tanka “boat people”, who still live and thrive here and give a fascinating insight into the life of the residents of times past.
Nature lovers will also be treated to a glimpse of the area’s famous pink dolphins, both revered and protected throughout Tai O.
Suggested tour: Tsing Ma Bridge, Tai O Village and Monastery Tour
13. Ngong Ping
The highland area of Ngong Ping can be found on the western side of Lantau Island and is an excellent day trip both for those with religious interests and those who simply want to marvel at the area.
It’s best known for the iconic statue of the Tian Tan Buddha; an enormous 34 meters in height and visible for miles.
Easily reachable by cable car from Tung Chung, the Buddha attracts many visitors every year, who also usually visit the neighbouring Po Lin Monastery.
What better way to experience the real China than to pay a visit to its capital, which houses some of its most important cultural treasures.
You’ll need to start your day early and catch an 8:00am flight if you want to have a good few hours in the city, but the destination is worth the journey.
Once in Beijing, you can visit The Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs and a host of other national gems depicting China’s fascinating past.
15. New Territories
Adjacent to the Kowloon Hills and the border of mainland China, you’ll find the suburban area known as the New Territories, a veritable cultural hotbed and melting pot of traditional customs and modern attitudes.
Popular sites include the Kat Hing Wai Walled Village, surrounded by a moat and still inhabited by the original descendants of the Deng clan who built it.
Also well worth a visit is the beautiful Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree and the opulent Che Kung Temple.