The south side of Hong Kong Island is among the city’s most desirable places to live, combining a great location close to the city with a more relaxed, beach-front lifestyle and some sensational accommodation. And the most desirable of all addresses on the south side is Repulse Bay.
The small town lies on the south side waterfront, about 6 km south-south-east of Central. It’s strung along a series of very pleasant beaches that face south onto open sea, first developed for tourism in the 1910s, with what would become the modern-day town first developed in the 1960s. Add a sometimes spectacular backdrop of hills behind the town – the other sides of the same ones that loom over Central and the rest of the north side of Hong Kong Island – and you have a very attractive setting for a place to live.
The Repulse Bay area also includes Middle Bay and South Bay, which run into it along the coast to the south and are equally exclusive. To the north-west, between Repulse Bay and the gritty town of Aberdeen, are the exclusive areas of Deepwater Bay, Shouson Hill and Wong Chuk Hang, while further along the coast in the opposite direction, to the south, lies the pleasant and also sought-after, but these days furiously busy, town of Stanley. The other notable feature near Repulse Bay is Middle Island, a dot just off the coast which is owned and privately operated by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and reached via a private boat service; the fact that they still retain the “Royal” 18 years after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty tells you a certain amount about the institution, but it’s a very pleasant little island with excellent facilities provided by the club, assuming you get the chance to enjoy them.
Unsurprisingly, this is first and foremost a family-oriented area. The family-friendly beaches and other abundant leisure opportunities, along with excellent local services including a plethora of high-quality schools, make this one of the better places in Hong Kong to bring up kids. It’s free from much of the street-level pollution and enforced high-rise isolation that characterises a lot of the city and can make it a challenging place to grow up, even in privileged areas.
Repulse Bay is probably the most expensive area of Hong Kong after The Peak, and is certainly home to more than its fair share of the city’s most fabulous homes. Its location, slightly away from the centre of the city, gives developers and homeowners a little more room to play with, and allows larger homes – and even, in some cases, single-occupier houses rather than apartments, a rare luxury in cramped Hong Kong. There are also some monster high-rises, albeit very nice ones, with the town’s skyline dominated by massive buildings such as The Lily and the famous ‘building with a hole’, The Repulse Bay, a luxury apartment complex that also features a range of shops and restaurants. Head inland up the hill about a kilometre and you’ll find the massive Hong Kong Parkview luxury serviced apartment and suite development. There are plenty of serviced apartment options in the town itself, too, most also at the very high end of the market and extremely sizeable, aimed at the plentiful market of expats with families who are transferred to Hong Kong on generous corporate packages. They, and wealthy locals, make up most of the people in this privileged community.
Repulse Bay isn’t big enough to have its own hospital; the nearest is the excllent Hong Kong Adventist Hospital, which sits just the other side of Wong Nai Chung Gap as the road over the hill descends into Tai Hang and Happy Valley. Not much further away is the highly regarded Matilda International Hospital on The Peak. There are several medical, dental and physiotherapy centres locally, in The Repulse Bay – and it’s not far to travel for lots of other options.
As you’d expect in an area replete with highly paid expats, international schools have quite a presence on the south side of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong International School has its High School, Middle School and administrative offices further around the coast to the east, on the border of Redhill and Tai Tam, but its Primary School is in the heart of Repulse Bay. Not too far away in Wong Chuk Hang is the highly regarded Canadian International School, while just a little further afield in Aberdeen is South Island School, a secondary school operated by Hong Kong’s English-medium, international-standard, subsidised-but-still-expensive English Schools Foundation. The nearest ESF junior school to Repulse Bay is Bradbury School on Stubbs Road, close to Happy Valley and Tai Hang. There are also several schools for younger children in Repulse Bay, including Southside Kindergarten and The Woodland Montessori Pre-School Repulse Bay.
One of Repulse Bay’s greatest advantages is its relative proximity to the centre of Hong Kong, which lies just over the ridge of hills that runs east-west along the spine of Hong Kong island. It takes about 15 minutes to get to Central by road, and so nowhere on Hong Kong Island is wildly inaccessible from here. There’s no major highway to or through the town, which is an advantage in terms of environment but obviously a disadvantage in terms of accessibility; the main coastal road that runs through the town, known at various points along its route as Beach Road, Island Road and Repulse Bay Road, is just a normal suburban road, and it can get fearsomely crowded, particularly at weekends. It leads through adjacent Middle Bay and South Bay to the south on the way towards Stanley, while to the north-west it splits in two, with one road continuing along the coast towards Shouson Hill, Wong Chuk Hang and Aberdeen, and the other forking off inland. Take the former and you can access the north of Hong Kong island via the Aberdeen Tunnel (HKD5 toll), which surfaces at Wong Chuk Hang and connects the coastal town of Aberdeen with Happy Valley, not far from the centre of the city. Take the latter and, as Repulse Bay Road, it climbs steeply and goes over the top of the hills at Wong Nai Chung Gap, from where Happy Valley and north-slope hillside Tai Hang and points onwards are easily accessible.
There’s no station on the MTR, Hong Kong’s subway system, in or anyway near Repulse Bay. However, if the endlessly proposed, amended and resubmitted South Island Line ever finally goes ahead – and if it does, it’ll be a few years till it’s finished – it will provide nearby stations at Wong Chuk Hang and Ocean Park, providing access in five minutes or so to the major MTR interchange at Admiralty, right next to Central. In the meantime, buses both mini and double-decker run very regularly along the town’s main road, heading to Stanley in one direction and Central in the other; the 6, 6A and 6X all follow this route. Most of the major property developments also have their own shuttle buses into the city – something that’s common in high-end properties across Hong Kong, especially in the more outlying areas.
Shops and Services
You won’t find much by way of nightlife in Repulse Bay, but it does have a couple of excellent restaurants, in particular The Verandah, located in The Repulse Bay. There are plentiful dining spots and watering holes just along the coast in Stanley, a few places to eat in Aberdeen along the coast in the opposite direction, and of course the limitless options of Central and the rest of the north of Hong Kong island are just a short car, bus or taxi ride away. At weekends, there’s also the atmospheric, rooftop South Bay Beach Club. For other types of culture including cinemas and the performing arts, however, you need to go to Central and beyond.
The biggest leisure attractions in and around Repulse Bay, of course, are the beaches. There are beaches in Repulse Bay, Middle Bay and South Bay, with several others just a little way along the coast in Stanley. There’s also Middle Island (see above), for those able to use it. Other private clubs not far from Repulse Bay include Aberdeen Boat Club and Aberdeen Marina Club, two of the city’s leading havens for sailing lovers in the town where many of the city’s yachts are berthed; head up the hill and there’s The American Club Hong Kong, while slightly further on over Wong Nai Chung Gap are the private Hong Kong Cricket Club and the public Hong Kong Tennis Centre. Other sports and leisure facilities are available at The Repulse Bay, and also up the hill at Hong Kong Parkview, both of which non-residents can join for a monthly fee.
Along the coast in Wong Shuk Hang is Ocean Park, a massive sea-themed amusement park popular with locals and visitors from mainland China alike. It’s a pleasantly low-key theme park for both adults and kids, though some of the policies towards animals won’t suit everyone.
For shopping, The Repulse Bay is home to a range of high-end stores, while the Dairy Farm Shopping Centre on the main road is the other main collection of shops in the town. The very popular and eclectic Stanley Market is just down the road, a drive of less than 10 minutes, and Stanley also has a full range of high-street shops. And if all else fails, the shopping utopias of northern Hong Kong Island and southern Kowloon aren’t too tough to get to.