Founded as the Kowloon Ferry, the Star Ferry has been transporting passengers from the mainland to Hong Kong Island and back for over a hundred years. Over that time the view has changed, but the romance has not.
Until the early 1970s it was the only way to make the journey. Today, in another sense, it’s still the only way to make the journey. That is, if you want to travel in style and see everything Victoria Harbor offers.
Though there are now tunnel enclosed roads and train tracks, the Star Ferry continues to offer visitors and locals alike a quick, but delightfully scenic ride. The trip takes only about 10 minutes across the water from Hong Kong Island’s Central district to Tsim Sha Tsui (the main tourist area in Kowloon) and other areas nearby.
The beginning of the journey is auspicious. Take in the 90-year-old Victoria Clock Tower standing near the ultra-modern Cultural Center on Tsim Sha Tsui. Spend a few minutes examining some of the aging red rickshaws that have been preserved at the dock.
Then travel down the ramp to board one of the colorful ferry boats; different colors for different destinations. If you’re lucky you’ll be on the Celestial Star, built in 1956 and still going strong.
Along the way, riders can see the glorious Hong Kong skyline, magnificent by day or night. The distinctive, narrow Bank of China building and the Victorian era Legislative Council Building are in full view across the harbor.
The Stock Exchange building is in front of you along with the Shanghai Bank, with its notable geometric shape. Watch for the dome of the Space Museum or the outline of Harbor City, Hong Kong’s huge indoor shopping center.
Take the trip again at night and enjoy the same view seen an entirely different way. The night skyline of Hong Kong is a rival even to the glorious Manhattan scene it resembles. Be sure to ride on the top of the double-decker boat to get the best effect.
The upper deck is considered a first class ticket, and costs all of about 10 cents more. You’ll be glad of the air-conditioned compartments during Hong Kong’s hot and often humid summers. (The cost of the ride is currently $2.20 HK, about 28 cents US.)
If you enjoy the ocean spray and want to get the experience of the humming engines, choose the lower deck and save a few pennies. (Price: $1.70HK, or 22 cents US.)
Even though the service carries over 70,000 passengers a day, the ferry leaves every few minutes so you’ll never have to wait long.
For a ride that’s more tour than transport, try the one that takes a circular route to all the ferry’s destinations. That trip still takes only about an hour.
Nathan Road, the major shopping destination for many of Hong Kong’s visitors, is only a short distance from one of the ferry’s terminals for those traveling from the island to Kowloon.
At the terminal there are buses that travel throughout Kowloon and the New Territories, but the taxis are an adventure you won’t want to miss. A bit more money, but just think of the fare as the cost of a combined transport and Disneyland ride through Hong Kong’s streets.