Yes, downtown snarl-ups are a way of life, but Hong Kong’s visually arresting cityscape is as spectacular at a snail’s pace as it is when viewed from a speeding automobile. And beyond the high-rise towers, the territory opens up into an incredible drivers’ playground, where smooth, empty highways switchback across subtropical forests and misty hilltops before swooping down to golden beaches.
With some of these fabulous scenic routes beyond even the reach of Hong Kong’s famously efficient public transport system, the only way to enjoy them is by car.
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After all, unlike the drivers taking part in the October 9 ePrix race, not everyone can enjoy the thrill of racing an automobile on a street circuit through the heart of Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront area.
Tai Tam Road to Shek O Road
This narrow stretch of Tai Tam Road leads into the lush mountains of Shek O.
The road to Shek O, a tiny beach town on the southeastern leg of Hong Kong Island, is just a short distance away from the city’s hustle.
Starting on Tai Tam Road, the route passes over the imposing Tai Tam Tuk dam — completed in 1917 — and leads into Shek O Road’s lush hills and beautiful coastal views.
“The scenery here is beautiful,” says Desmund, the proud owner of a McLaren 12C Spider, who knows the road’s curves by heart. “It’s almost un-Hong-Kong-like.”
Desmund should know. He was part of the Sunday Morning Drive Club, a group of supercar owners who regularly hit the road together, savoring traffic-free 7 a.m. rides across Hong Kong. Their drives usually end with breakfast at a street side village cafe: a bite of buttered toast with milk tea, Cantonese-style.
The breakfast stop is crucial, says Desmund. It gives their liberating drives a sweet destination.
Luk Keng to Bride’s Pool
Home to a few villages and scenic sites for waterside picnics, Luk Keng is a popular area for drivers.
Luk Keng sits near Hong Kong’s frontier with mainland China, offering views of Shenzhen, the huge, sprawling metropolis just beyond the border. This route through HK’s northeastern New Territories connects to Tai Mei Tuk, a site just off the road that offers barbecue and picnic areas by the picturesque Plover Cove Reservoir.
A series of waterfalls and pools known as Bride’s Pool can be reached by a hiking trail that leads, in just under a kilometer, to the bottom of a valley.
We checked out this stretch of road with veteran taxi driver Chu Chun Ting, who counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates among famous people he’s chauffeured.
The athletic driver’s been behind the wheel for over 20 years and enjoys his encounters with all kinds of customers. If you hop into his car in an elaborate cosplay costume or a beautifying face mask — both have happened, he says — chances are he’ll take a selfie with you.
The area is another favorite spot for the supercar fraternity as well. There’s a decades-old Cantonese eatery along Luk Keng Road just steps away from a marsh that’s a popular stop for Sunday drivers. This stretch is also busy with cyclists.
South Perimeter Road
Even Hong Kongers could be forgiven for not knowing about the South Perimeter Road.
Car lover Edmund Kwok discovered it, tucked at the edge of land reclaimed off Lantau Island to build Hong Kong International Airport, when he was looking for a private spot to do some plane spotting. On this borderland, the ongoing construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge can be viewed up close, its concrete mouth cleanly cut down the middle.
“When I was little my father often took us for a drive to Kai Tak Airport,” Kwok says, name checking Hong Kong’s notorious old runway built alarmingly close to housing blocks.
“There was a place where you could stop by the roadside and watch the planes. Naturally when I became a father I started looking for such a place at the new airport.”
The aviation enthusiast first spotted this gem on a map. Since then, he’s visited the boulder-lined pavement facing the South China Sea many times during father-and-son trips in his Porsche 993 Cabriolet.
“With the hood down we get a vivid experience of the planes applying full throttle and taking off,” he says.
With little traffic, straight stretches and corners, this coast-hugging road offers sports cars a nice drive.
This vast area is famed for its breathtaking trails, plunge pools and barbecue areas. But it’s hard to take advantage of its many offerings without a car.
Taxi veteran Chu shudders when talking about city traffic, but is most impressed by the drive from Sai Kung’s Pak Tam Chung to High Island Reservoir East Dam.
“As you approach Pak Tam Chung, lines of rich vegetation start to replace village houses,” says Chu. “Outside cars need a permit to reach the East Dam via Pak Tam Chung, so there’re fewer cars and you can drive slowly to absorb the scenery from both sides of the reservoir… it forms a perfect composition.”
Hoi Ha Wan, a dazzling marine reserve and coral sanctuary just north of Sai Kung Country Park, offers a unique stop for snorkeling, kayaking and a visit to the village.
The pleasant drive leading to it adds a little flavor. But, like Tai Mo Shan (featured below), speed freaks and motorcyclists favor Sai Kung for its lack of traffic rather than scenery.
Tai Mo Shan Road
Tai Mo Shan is the highest mountain in Hong Kong and China’s second tallest coastal peak.
A popular hiking destination with tough trails, the peak’s twists and turns make for a fun and breezy ascent by car. The top vantage points offer panoramic views of the New Territories, with its sprawling, subtropical hills and dense urban pockets. It’s also the chilliest point in Hong Kong, attracting “frost chasers” who drive all the way up for the rare sightings when a cold spell hits.
How to rent your own wheels
Out-of-towners in search of the Hong Kong high-end motoring experience can rent their own ride at one of several luxury car companies.