To the north of Kowloon lie the New Territories. Previously overlooked by most expatriates, many are now moving to these parts to enjoy more open spaces close to nature, as well as lower rental costs.
Better transport links such as extended subway lines in recent years have made the commute much shorter. From the areas near the mainland border or from Sai Kung, you can get to Central in about an hour by public transport — or slightly under by private car. Districts such as Tseung Kwan O and Lohas Park (in eastern New Territories) and Tung Chung (near the airport) are now much more accessible thanks to the MTR, offering further choices to families with lower budgets.
Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay
If you love nature and being close to the sea, Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay are good options. The choices of accommodation abound, ranging from 700-square-foot apartments in a village house to luxury seaside residences. Golf and racquet sports enthusiasts will find much to enjoy here, between the Hong Kong Golf & Tennis Academy, the public Kau Sai Chau golf course, and the private Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club.
The main disadvantage of Sai Kung is its relatively remote location. It takes 20-30 minutes to drive from Sai Kung town to the nearest MTR station (at Hang Hau), and then a 30-minute MTR ride to get to Central. Minibuses leave frequently from Sai Kung town to Choi Hung and Hang Hau MTR stations, but they can be very crowded and the roads congested at peak hours. Clearwater Bay, on the southern end of the Sai Kung Peninsula, is slightly closer to the MTR; it is a popular choice for commuters to East Kowloon, who drive to the park-and-ride at Hang Hau and then take public transportation to the office. Expatriate families who live in these areas often choose to employ a full-time driver.
Hong Kong Academy and ESF’s Renaissance College (in Ma On Shan, 20 minutes away by car) are two of the international schools in the area. Nord Anglia International School also has a pre-school there.
Tseung Kwan O
Thanks to its many new large-scale housing developments, excellent transport links and international schools, Tseung Kwan O, or TKO, has become an increasingly popular destination for expats. In addition to offering easy access to the beaches and country parks of the New Territories, many leisure facilities are situated within TKO proper, including a velodrome, waterfront park, the city’s largest dog run, and what many consider to be the best swimming pool in Hong Kong.
More densely developed than neighboring Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay, TKO is well connected to the Island and Kowloon by public transportation. The clean, friendly environment with its many new developments may strike some as relatively sterile; chain stores and malls tend to dominate the retail landscape at the expense of mom-and-pops.
International schools in TKO include Shrewsbury International School, the French International School and Invictus School (kindergarten and primary). Nord Anglia International School (primary and secondary school) is in nearby Lam Tim.
Dotted with villages, Tai Po offers an abundance of spacious, affordable homes surrounded by nature and fresh air. Home to the largest farmer’s market in Hong Kong, Tai Po retains some of its character and history as a traditional market town. The Hong Kong Science Park and City University of Hong Kong are both a quick car ride away. Keep in mind, however, that commuting to Central calls for an hour long journey on the MTR, with two line changes.
There are several international schools in this area including American School Hong Kong, Malvern College, International College Hong Kong, Norwegian International School, and Japanese International School (international section).
Considering it’s the most populous district in Hong Kong, Sha Tin is a surprisingly peaceful place to reside. Bisected by the Shing Mun River, a popular training site for Hong Kong’s rowers and dragon boaters, Sha Tin offers village living, hiking trails and the SAR’s best bike paths. There are plenty of urban entertainments here as well, including the Sha Tin racecourse, performing arts at Sha Tin Town Hall, and some of the New Territories’ largest malls. International schools in Sha Tin include Sha Tin College (ESF secondary) and International Christian School.
When the East Rail extension is completed in 2022 as the final piece of the MTR’s Sha Tin to Central project, riders will be able to ride the East Rail line all the way from Sha Tin to Admiralty, on Hong Kong Island.
Sha Tin offers village living, hiking trails and the SAR’s best bike paths.
Hong Kong Gold Coast
Hong Kong Gold Coast is an upscale residential and commercial development near Tuen Mun, in western New Territories. It includes a hotel, serviced apartments and a marina. Residential units are available in various sizes for rent or purchase, from regular apartments to penthouse suites and duplexes with gardens. Facilities include a clubhouse with a pool, golf driving range and residents’ shuttle buses to Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Hong Kong International Airport. The Gold Coast Piazza is a scenic waterfront destination with shops and restaurants that are open to visitors as well as residents.
Harrow International School from the UK recently opened the first international boarding school in Hong Kong on Castle Peak Road, near Hong Kong Gold Coast.
Discovery Bay (DB) on Lantau Island is a planned suburban development of low-rise and high-rise apartments and townhouses, many on the beachfront, and some with gardens and rooftop terraces. Residents have their own shopping facilities and clubhouses with pools, gyms and tennis courts. There is also a separate golf club. Rental and purchase prices in DB are lower than those on the Island due to its considerable distance from Central. At the same time, DB’s popularity with expats means it is more expensive than more “local” parts of New Territories, like Tai Po and Sha Tin.
Private cars are not permitted, but buses provide access within the community and to MTR stations in Tung Chung and Sunny Bay. There is also a bus to the airport. Discovery Bay has its own 24-hour ferry service, which takes around 25 minutes to reach Central. Ferry fares and schedules are available on the Discovery Bay website.
Primary and secondary schools include Discovery College and Discovery Bay International School.
Like Tseung Kwan O, Tai Po and Sha Tin, Tung Chung on North Lantau Island is a “new town” — a satellite town developed by the Hong Kong government starting in the mid-1990s to address housing shortages. Consequently, Tung Chung offers modern, affordable flats, shopping malls with plenty of amenities and easy MTR access (Central is a 30-minute ride away). It is also close to Lantau’s excellent hiking trails and Disneyland, and practically next door to the airport.
The nearest international secondary schools are in Discovery Bay and southern Lantau Island, but young families with primary school-aged and younger children will find Discovery Mind Primary School, Sunshine House International Pre-School and ESF Tung Chung International Kindergarten to be conveniently situated.