After a recent visit to über kid-friendly Singapore, Mr T-T and I were both in agreement that Hong Kong sorely lacks rooftop play areas. After all, we share a similar climate, have large commercial roof space aplenty, and yet it seems that our Lion City neighbours have cornered the market in elevated fun while we’re left… err… high and dry.
So the recent opening of the new Foster & Partners-designed Kai Tak Cruise Terminal had us all hopping on the MTR, towels packed, as a wee birdie had promised me that, not only was there space to roam, but also some kind of water play to be had too. Kwun Tong (or thereabouts) here we come!
Situated on the site of the old Kai Tak airport (of hair-raising landing/runway sinking into the harbour fame), the new cruise terminal is designed to welcome large ships from all over the world, and once fully open, will house a huge amount of retail and F&B outlets to welcome all those hungry, thirsty and downright spendy tourists from… well, I’m sure you can guess where.
It’s probably just as well that Kai Tak will eventually house plenty of distractions for docking visitors, as it’s a fair old trek from anywhere else right now. Getting there from other districts of HK requires more commitment and time than you might like, with your best public transport options being a green minibus from Kowloon Bay MTR, a weekend-only shuttle that runs from Kwun Tong or Ngau Tau Kok MTRs, or a mythical ferry that crosses from North Point pier to Kwun Tong (we tried, and failed to find any info on this at all BUT thanks to helpful HK Mom Nicola who pointed me in the direction of the timetable here).
In reality, most will probably do what we did and jump in a cab. It’s $100 from Kowloon MTR, or $90 from Hung Hom (we tested two different routes), and is by far your easiest option. There’s extensive parking if you have access to a car, and even a handy Tesla charging station if you’re very swank. For the rest of us it’s roll on, err… 2025 when the Kowloon East MTR extension is slated for completion.
Epic journey aside, Kai Tak is worth a visit if you fancy something a bit different. We arrived a little late in the morning, and tried to get a table for lunch at The Old Hangar, a much talked-about casual dining affair that was unfortunately packed to the rafters on the day of our visit (book ahead, especially at weekends).
We opted instead for dim sum at the imposingly titled Federal Cruise Banquet Centre, a staggeringly large restaurant-cum-wedding venue, complete with cinema screens showing rather gruesome Discovery Channel documentaries while we ate. The food was perfectly fine, if not outstanding, and was nicely presented, although to be honest much of our attention was on the seven-foot-high crocodile devouring a zebra just beyond the piles of steamers, so we may not have given lunch the full recognition it deserved.
Refuelling complete, we headed upstairs to the main reason for our expedition – the 23,000 square-metre rooftop park. This vast space, complete with central lily pond has been beautifully designed, and – unusually for Hong Kong – there are extensive lawns to sit on, picnic and enjoy the sunshine surrounded by flowers and that stunning harbour view. Ah yes, the view. You’re absolutely spoiled with a full panorama of Victoria Harbour on one side, and a sweeping outlook over eastern Kowloon on the other. The design makes the most of the harbour, with plenty of seating areas and shaded canopies to enjoy, and there are long, gently curved pavements that are crying out for a bit of scooter action (I didn’t see any signs specifically banning this, however it’s always advisable to check with the venue before making a special journey).
As well as all of this space to bomb around in, the Kai Tak rooftop park offers a small water play area of the type we’d seen so often in Singapore. Young Master T-T LOVED this, and, fortunately for accompanying parents, there’s plenty of seating around the edge to allow for an extended stay. There’s also a cold drink vending machine just opposite (a coffee kiosk would really be the cherry on the cake – Pacific Coffee take note). My only complaint is that the floor surface could be better thought out, as a number of the little visitors – including ours – took a tumble on the slippery concrete tiles while hooning around. Let’s hope that a softer, non-slip surface is in the works for future development. Or that kids learn to play in a controlled and calm way. Whichever comes first, eh?
If you’re a Kowloon local, or looking for a day out with a bit of a difference, this is a fun expedition that works for kids and adults alike. Major bonus points if you manage to get there by public transport.
Opening hours: Daily, 7am-11pm. Entry is free of charge.
Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Park, 33 Shing Fung Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong
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