With green hills to the back, sandy beaches in front and views across the South China Sea, the southern coast offers some of the most desirable residences in the city. Those who can afford it have been building homes here since colonial times, giving the area a fascinating history to complement its vibrant modern incarnation.
The fort town of Stanley on the southeastern peninsula is famous for its bustling market. Residents come here for branded clothes at knockdown prices. It doesn't mean they're fake either, as some are factory rejects or production overruns. The bars and restaurants that line the waterfront Main Street are packed every weekend with day trippers. Murray House, a Victorian-era building, houses a museum, and places to eat and drink. Stanley Plaza has a supermarket and an excellent bakery.
The British administered the colony from Stanley after annexing Hong Kong in 1842, and Stanley Fort was the British army's barracks, close to where British and Canadian troops fought Japanese invaders before surrendering on Christmas Day, 1941. The People's Liberation Army now occupies the fort, but the nearby military cemetery is open to visitors.
Commuting from anywhere on the south of the island can be a challenge as the main route to Central - the Aberdeen Tunnel - is jammed most rush hours. The more scenic route over the top of Wong Nai Chung is pleasurable.
Behind Stanley on the east coast is Tai Tam, surrounding a beautiful reservoir and with trails for walking. Hikers can explore much of the hilly terrain sloping down to the south. Along the south coast westwards is Repulse Bay, the site of luxury flats towering above the sandy beach below, probably the island's most popular. The old Repulse Bay Hotel offers high-end restaurants, shops and a spa, with a seven-day-a -week medical centre and a paediatric service.
HISTORY AT HAND
A terrace of eight rundown homes that comprise Pat Kan Uk date back to the second world war. After Japan retreated, they were built to house displaced families.
In the swim
The public pool at Po Yue Fong offers possibly the best children's swimming venue in the city, with slides, fountains, water guns and rocking miniature whales.
Built in 1773, the Hung Shing Temple on Main Street, Ap Lei Chau, is the oldest in the area and preserved as a Grade I historic building.
Check out the historic bridges, dams, tunnels and pumping stations that comprise the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail.
Step back in time
The colonial architecture of Repulse Bay Hotel is now home to shops and swanky restaurants. It was depicted in Eileen Chang's novel, Love in a Fallen City.
Take the free shuttle boat from the Jumbo Kingdom pier out to the floating restaurant and see some super yachts up close.