Biceps are bulging, there’s a paddle every way you turn, and lycra is making a come back – that’s right, the annual Dragon Boat Festival is almost upon us. After months of intensive training, local and international teams will be battling it out on the water at various locations across the city from June 18 to 24, drawing crowds of cheering spectators to the sidelines. As always, there are several to spots to catch the action, so gather your nearest and dearest and make it a public holiday to remember.
Hong Kong Island
If you’re looking for somewhere sandy to spend the public holiday, hop on the bus to Stanley and browse the stalls, pile into the photo booth, and try your luck at the games and entertainment courtesy of Sun Life. A popular destination for spectating junk boats, Stanley is the place for Hong Kongers looking for traditional dragon boating action – accompanied by a drink or two.
For a more low-key experience, head over to Aberdeen (pictured above) where another competitive schedule of races is planned for the public holiday. If you fancy spectating from the comfort of traditional scaffolding seats, then bag yourself an admission ticket from the Aberdeen Dragon Boat Race Committee, or call (+852) 8107 3488.
If you want to go large this year, then wait a little longer and head to Central Harbourfront for the biggest dragon boating event, the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races. A dizzying array of fun and games will keep you busy throughout the day at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival. With a jam-packed schedule of international and local races, fancy dress races, and drum parades, there’s no doubt you’ll get your fill of traditional dragon boat culture.
When & Where
Stanley Main Beach – June 18, (8am – 5pm)
Aberdeen Promenade – June 18, (9am – 3.45pm)
Central Harbourfront – June 22 to 24
Read more! Find out the story behind the Dragon Boating Festival
The New Territories
For a breath of fresh air and a more local experience, take a hike northward to the New Territories. If an English commentary of the races is high on your list of priorities, then Sai Kung is the place to be. With races scheduled throughout the morning (starting from 8am) there will be plenty of action to enjoy.
Continuing to attract increasing numbers of teams, Sha Tin is now one of the biggest galas in the city. Participants will race down the Shing Mun River throughout the morning, between Banyan Bridge and Sha Yin Bridge, leaving you the entire afternoon to explore the surrounding areas. If you haven’t been to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery yet, we wholly recommend you go – it’s every Instagrammer’s dream!
When & Where
Sai Kung Promenade – June 2, (8am – 2pm)
Sha Tin Shing Mun River – June 18, (8am – 1pm)
If you fancy hopping on a ferry and making it feel like more of an actual day out, as opposed to a humid shuffle across the city, then check out the festivities on the outlying islands.
Arriving one day ahead of the Dragon Boat Festival, the 29th Discovery Bay Dragon Boat Race (pictured above) lands on our shore this June 17, offering a family friendly occasion complete with games and entertainments at both Tai Pak Beach and the plaza. With a Carnival running until 6.30pm at Discovery Bay Plaza, you’re bound to work up an appetite, so after the excitement make sure you check out the delicious selection of D’Deck restaurants.
Definitively more sport-focused than some of Hong Kong’s other Dragon Boat events, the Cheung Chau festival is a no-frills affair. Tuck into traditional treats including zongzi (rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves), at the Cheng Chau Typhoon Shelter as you watch the paddlers battle it out on the water. Check out our Island Guide to find out what else there is to see and do on Cheung Chau.
Meanwhile, over on the eastern side of the island, The Dragon Boat Water Parade in Tai O sees fishermen row their dragon boats to visit four temples — Yeung Hau, San Tsuen Tin Hau, Kwan Tai, and Hung Shing – while carrying the deity statues from these temples to their associations’ halls for worship. During the festival, the statues are put on sacred sampans and towed by the dragon boats in a parade through the waters to pacify the wandering water ghosts. Meanwhile, residents of the stilt houses along the watercourses burn paper offerings as the boats pass by. A truly fascinating cultural experience to behold.
When & Where
Discovery Bay Tai Pak Beach – June 17, (10.30am – 6.30pm)
Cheung Chau Typhoon Shelter – June 18, (10am – 4pm)
Tai O Promenade – June 18, (8am – 2pm)