Where to Watch the Dragon Boat Festival

Hong Kong’s Dragon Boat Festival might have roots in ancient Chinese folklore, but today it’s better known for the colourful, lively race days held across the region. Traditionally held on the fifth day of the fifth month according to the lunar calendar (18 June in 2018), the annual event sees Hongkongers flock to beaches and waterfronts to watch teams battle it out to the rapid beating of drums. An international event showcasing the world’s greatest dragon boat paddlers takes place over the weekend of 22-24 June. Should you be in the Fragrant Harbour during the festivities, here are our suggestions on where to watch all the action. On your marks, get set…go!

Photography courtesy of OSTILL

Stanley Bay: Party on the beach

Although dragon boat races are held across the Hong Kong – in watery areas as diverse as Sha Tin, Lantau Island and Aberdeen – Stanley Bay on the south of Hong Kong Island is the perennial favourite for its day-long race agenda and party atmosphere. Head there early if you want to nab a spot on the beach; linger late to join the teams celebrating at one of the many bars and restaurants along the promenade (though be warned, it gets a tad raucous as the evening wears on). Take a hat, sun block and plenty of water – you’ll thank us later.

Victoria Harbour: Fun for all the family

The spectacular three-day CCB (Asia) Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races sees teams from across the world competing in the women’s, men’s and mixed categories. Beyond the demonstrations of sporting prowess is a buzzy, carnival atmosphere aided by ample supplies of beer, food and entertainment, plus activities for all ages.

Aberdeen Harbour: Laidback and local

Offering a more traditional take on the event, Aberdeen Harbour is host to races viewed dockside, or from the specially constructed bamboo spectator stands. You can buy a ticket on the day and there are plenty of food and drink stalls offering refreshments. Good for a more low-key and local experience.

Hire a Junk: Up close and personal

If you prefer to get close to the action (and have plenty of friends in tow), hiring a junk is a marvellous way to see the races. Hong Kong Yachting has 25 individual junks and yachts for rental, with all-inclusive catering or boat-only deals. Vessels Jungle Jane and Tarzan host 45 or 55 people respectively, and have a range of attractions on board from king-size sunbeds and bean bags to inflatable slides. Your biggest challenge is keeping an eye on the races.

For a more budget-friendly option, no-frills Jubilee boasts a large selection of junks of all shapes and sizes, with on-board open bars and the choice of Chinese or Western menus. Throw in karaoke, a sound system or even mahjong games and anchors aweigh…

Hike Violet Hill and The Twins: A view from above

Hong Kong Island’s infamous three-peak hike is not for the faint of heart or the fitness challenged, but should you fancy a glute-busting work out, the steep descent from The Twins affords fantastic, bird’s-eye views of the dragon boat racing in Stanley Bay. Not only do you see (and hear) the entire race from above, it’s ideal if you want to avoid the hordes on the beach.