The Clearwater Bay peninsula on the south-eastern tip of the New Territories has long been a favourite with expats seeking more square feet for their dollar and an outdoor lifestyle. Its higgledy-piggledy villages, lush green vegetation and breathtaking vistas of the clear waters below, feel like a world away from the high-rise Hong Kong we know and love.
Jogs, Dogs and Boats
It's said people move to Clearwater Bay because they are into one of three things – running, sailing or owning a dog. It's certainly true that if you are into water sports then the area is a great place for messing about on boats. The relatively calm waters and plentiful bays make it a great spot for kayaking and paddle-boarding, and for bigger boats and a lot more bucks the Clearwater Bay Country Club has a marina. The local roads have relatively little traffic and stunning views out to sea making it ideal for joggers as long as you don't mind running up and down over the near constant hills. And, it would not be an over-estimation to say that every second house had a dog or two, and then most villages have their own motley collection of scruffy strays.
There is however a lot more to the area than jogs, dogs and boats. There are horse-riding stables, the country club which boasts a glorious waterside golf course, the country park with BBQ pits and kite flying, three stunning public beaches, one of Hong Kong's best public swimming pools just down the road in Tseung Kwan O, and arguably the territories' largest playground adjacent in Po Lam. Most villages are a short walk from a hiking trail with stunning views over the local bays and beaches. One of the most popular walks is along the Clearwater Bay ridge to High Junk Peak, which is also open to mountain bikes on weekdays.
Bayside villages (including Sheung Sze Wan, Tai Po, Mau Po and Siu Hang Hau) in Lobster Bay are a popular choice with expats but there are also villages scattered all along the Clearwater Bay Road heading to the tip of the peninsula. Each village in the area has a unique feel, some are scruffy, some are greener, some are very dense, some have predominantly local inhabitants, and as a result the only way to get a feel for a village is to go there and see for yourself. Some villages are friendlier than others but it's a small place so it's easy to meet people. The Lobster Bay villages have a particularly vibrant community with events organised across the year and a Facebook page where people share information. One thing almost all villages lack is a focal point. Don't expect a village green or corner shop, generally there is not much more than houses, car parks and a bay if you're lucky. Burglaries are sadly more and more commonplace, peaking around the start of the summer holidays when people head home for the hottest months and just before Chinese New Year. The local police have recently stepped up their patrols of the area and many people have alarms.
Bang for Your Buck
Village houses in Hong Kong are uniform in size, 2,100 square foot over three floors. As a result most houses have 3-4 bedrooms, a small patio area on the ground floor and a 700 square foot roof terrace. With most costing between $45K upwards per month, it's a lot more for your dollar than property on the island. Some have gardens (watch out for snakes though!), private swimming pools and many have spectacular views out to sea, although expect to pay in excess of $100k for all three. The other option is villas, which often come with a shared swimming pool and security, although they tend to be slightly more expensive than village houses depending on the location.
Check out these property agencies that service the Clearwater Bay area:
Islanders ruling out the area for fear of a long commute need not worry. Outside of peak times driving to Central takes under half an hour and the local MTR station (Hang Hau, approximately 10 minutes from the furthest point of Clearwater Bay) is only ten stops from Admiralty. That said, given the high density of families, and public transport in the area limited to a few buses, most households do have a car, and owing to poor village planning parking is at a premium. If you're close to signing the dotted line on a property, be sure to settle parking rights first.
Back to School
Although the area is well served for kindergartens (Sunshine House, Garden House and ESF Abacus), a lot of children travel out of the area for primary and secondary. Clearwater Bay does have it's own ESF primary school but places are in high demand amongst expats and locals alike. But secondary options are not too far afield. Some of the big international schools, like Hong Kong Academy and Kellett, are moving to or expanding into the surrounding area resulting in more and more families moving to Clearwater Bay.
Food for Thought
Sai Kung town, twenty minutes drive away, offers a wealth of restaurant options (Sri Lankan, Greek, Spanish, Thai, Indian) with new eateries opening all the time, but there are also some good options closer to Clearwater Bay. Po Toi O fishing village on the peninsula itself has a couple of excellent and affordable seafood restaurants whilst Hang Hau village just down the road has become a hub for non-mall restaurants, including Italian, Thai, Sichuan and a popular steakhouse. And if the journey into Soho seems too much then Taikoo Shing at the end of the Eastern Tunnel on the island is fast becoming a culinary hotspot and is a mere five stops away on the MTR. Clearwater Bay is crying out for a pub of some kind but thankfully the bigger houses, patios and roof terraces mean that entertaining at home is very popular.
Shop 'Til You Drop
The area is also well-served with shopping options, although it is crying out for a coffee shop. Clearwater Bay has a well-stocked Fusion and Taste is ten minutes away from most villages. Slightly further afield there are numerous malls including Popcorn in neighbouring Tseung Kwan O which has all the usual luxury brands along with a cinema. Toys "R" Us has recently opened their Babies "R" Us superstore as well in Popcorn which saves the trek to Central if you need to stock up on all things baby. Mega Box, home to Ikea and an ice skating rink, is a quick 15-minute drive away and if it's more of a village scene you're after then Hang Hau village has a local butcher that supplies all the top restaurants, a bike shop, nail salon and cheap and cheerful foot massages on offer. And if you'd rather not venture out of the villages then there are a wealth of momtrepreneurs in the area selling all sorts, from kitchenwares to pyjamas to goggles.
Above all Clearwater Bay boasts a community feel that many thought they would never find in the vertical-living that dominates so much of the territory. Just as in any country the village lifestyle is not to everyone's taste but of those who make the move there from the island, very few ever move back.
Opening image credit: Thomas Brown / Flickr