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Uniquely HK

Feature Story

Best Ferry Rides Across Victoria Harbour

Ships and boats of all sizes still criss-cross Hong Kong's iconic Victoria harbour, even if it is not quite the jostling scene it once was. You may see towering cruise ships passing towed barges laden with building materials, while pleasure junks, small fishing craft and even yachts bob on the waters. And of course, ferries still ply back and forth across the harbour.
The network of ferries bustling between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island is a ubiquitous part of the harbour scene. As recently as the late 1970s – even after the Cross-Harbour Tunnel opened in 1972 – the ferries were the main way to travel to and from the island of Hong Kong for both passengers and motor vehicles. Numerous ferry routes operated by companies large and small connected Kowloon, Hong Kong, the outlying islands and parts of New Territories. Today, they are an indelible and colourful part of Hong Kong's transport heritage.
 
The modern harbour looks tranquil and even serene, especially at night – a far cry from the whirr of marine activity in decades past.
A number of ferry routes still operate today, connecting the various parts of Hong Kong and Kowloon. For a splendid way to enjoy the city and discover some rarer views of the harbour, why not combine a relaxing ferry ride with a visit to some of the cool neighbourhoods they connect to?
 
Here are a few cool options for exploring Hong Kong and its harbour by ferry – enjoy!
 
Star Ferry 
This world-famous ferry crossing in the heart of the city needs no introduction. The iconic white and green craft have been carrying passengers across the harbour since 1888—over 130 years. Currently, Star Ferry runs two routes, from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central , and to Wanchai. The routes are short (seven and ten minutes) and awe-inspiring as you are enveloped by the majestic cityscape on both sides of the harbour. From the Wanchai ferry pier, it is a delightful stroll along the broad harbourfront promenade to Central, taking in Golden Bauhinia Square, Tamar Park and the large observation Ferris wheel along the way.
 
Sai Wan Ho to Lei Yue Mun
The Sai Wan Ho Ferry, located on the Sai Wan Ho promenade opposite the popular Soho East dining area, is both a local service and a nostalgia trip, featuring vessels from the 1970s and earlier, decorated with historic artefacts. Sai Wan Ho itself is worth visiting: the nearby Hong Kong Film Archive is home to many of Hong Kong's classic films; Tai On Building, near the Sai Wan Ho MTR Station, is an old-style commercial complex from the 1970s that houses a busy street food centre, much frequented by locals. The waterfront extends into Quarry Bay Park, a long promenade full of people jogging and strolling, and offering a spectacular view of Eastern Kowloon and the hills beyond. A retired fireboat, the Alexander Grantham, is on permanent display and always a winner with the youngsters.
Lei Yue Mun on the other side of the harbour is a quaint seaside village, known for its warren of seafood restaurants. After a walk around the waterfront and its small park, you can tuck into a hearty seafood meal, even selecting your seafood live from vendors to be cooked by any of the restaurants.
 
Sai Wan Ho to Kwun Tong
Another route from Sai Wan Ho is to Kwun Tong, a former industrial quarter rapidly transforming into a new business district, with capacious factory buildings repurposed as offices and studios, as well as new structures. Attractions include the nicely landscaped Kwun Tong waterfront promenade, hip co- working spaces, chic coffee houses, and a vibrant community of alternative art and music practitioners nestling in old factory buildings. The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is just across the water, its rooftop garden offering a panoramic view of the city, and the perfect platform from which to see giant cruise ships when they are in town. Meanwhile, nearby APM – a large shopping mall – offers pretty much something for everybody.
Note: at Kwun Tong, use the public pier at Kei Yip Street (inside typhoon shelter), not the main ferry pier used by the North Point service.
 
 
North Point  to  Whampoa
New World First Ferry, which mainly operates ferries to outlying islands, runs a service between North Point and Whampoa, in Hung Hom. A thriving residential community, Whampoa has also seen transformation, starting with its waterfront. The recently opened Kerry Hotel offers magnificent views of the harbour from its many terraces – perfect for an afternoon or evening drink. Connected to the hotel is The Dockyard – a vibrant food court serving Southeast Asian cuisines, with a live band in the evenings. To literally go shopping on a ship, visit the Whampoa, a shopping mall uncannily created as a cruise ship in the midst of the district. Aeon, the Japanese department store, is the major tenant and there are also loads of local restaurants and eateries worth exploring.
The promenade from Whampoa connects to Tsim Sha Tsui East. Consider taking a scenic two-kilometre stroll back along it for gorgeous views. Or you can walk about 15 minutes inland to visit the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and its Innovation Tower, the architectural masterpiece by famed British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.
 
North Point to Kowloon City
 
This ferry, also operated by New World First Ferry, plies the route between North Point and Kowloon City, an older and fascinating neighbourhood adjacent to the former Kai Tak Airport that is readying for broad redevelopment. Near the ferry pier, you can check out the Sung Wong Toi Garden, which contains remains of the historic relics from the Song dynasty. Close by is the expansive and quirky Cattle Depot Artist Village. Further up into Kowloon City lies a slew of Thai restaurants and outlets serving Islamic and halal food. For the intrepid, finish your visit at another historic landmark, the Kowloon City Walled Garden, site of the infamous Kowloon Walled City that was torn down only in the 1990s.
 
 
Harbour Cruises 
If you are in the mood for a leisurely cruise around our magnificent harbour, you can choose from several operators, the most famous of which is Aqua Luna. Aqua Luna operates old-style Chinese junk boats with distinctive red sails. The boats offer a variety of day and night cruises, picking up passengers from public piers in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hung Hom, Central and Wanchai. Other harbour cruise operators include Star Ferry, Dukling Junk Ride Harbour Tour, Water Tours of Hong Kong, and Harbour Cruise Bauhinia. Check with operators for service availability under anti-Covid-19 restrictions.
 

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