With Macau to the south and Hong Kong just across the water to the northeast, you could be forgiven for overlooking Zhuhai, located on the banks of the Pearl River estuary in China’s Guangdong province. However, the city and area also known as the “Chinese Riviera” is a premier destination in its own right, with scenic landscapes and numerous near-shore islands connected by bridges and causeways.
April grew up in Zhuhai and we were fortunate enough to get her take on visiting the city, recommendations to new visitors, and the local spots she enjoys best. Keep reading for her top things to do in Zhuhai, China, as well as a one-day itinerary and recommended restaurants.
Years Lived in Zhuhai:
I love to watch movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos. I also love to read, write, and hang out with friends.
One place that I often visit is Lover’s Road, a beautiful street along the Zhuhai shoreline. It’s quite lengthy, but a stroll along the street is an amazing experience. There are small coconut trees planted alongside the road, and during daytime, you will be able to see seagulls flying overhead. I love walking there to take in the view and, most importantly, to visit the seaside park next to the road. The park is another one of my favorite places. It’s a perfect spot to have a picnic with your best friends. You can often see locals flying kites, walking their dogs, and playing the guitar, so the atmosphere is very pleasant. On a sunny day, it’s the most wonderful thing to sit on the grass and drink a few cans of beer, and afterwards, to enjoy a delicious meal at the nearby mall.
And at night, it’s a great place to view the lights of the city skyline.
The Islands of Zhuhai
There are so many wonderful places to check out in Zhuhai, but if you only have a two-day weekend, I would definitely recommend visiting one of the near-shore islands. There are around a hundred islands that are part of the city of Zhuhai. The island that my family and I visit most often is called Dongao Island.
It takes around one hour by boat to get there since it is completely separated from the mainland. One thing that I love about this island is how local and relatively unknown it is to tourists. Since there aren’t very many tourists visiting this island, the culture and atmosphere are very unique to the area.
You can taste fish freshly-caught by fishermen, some of which are very rare on the mainland. Also, like the other islands around Zhuhai, there are various activities you can enjoy on the beach. I love riding the scooters that you can find available for rent. Last, but not least, the sunrise is always the best when viewed from the islands.
“Since there aren’t very many tourists visiting this island, the culture and atmosphere are very unique to the area.”
“Pick Your Own” Farms at Hengqin Island
Growing up, my family enjoyed visiting Hengqin Island in the southern part of the city. While this area is dominated by agriculture and fisheries, we enjoyed visiting the various farms where a small fee (around 10 U.S. dollars) allows you to pick all of the fruits and vegetables you want on the property. There are beans, eggplants, strawberries, bananas, and much more. After harvesting your chosen produce, you can either bring the fresh veggies home, or you can cook them right there at the stations set up for that purpose next to the farm.
Many farms in Hengqin typically provide areas where people can sit, cook, and enjoy the food they just picked. They always have great views of the surrounding area, and with farm chickens and ducks walking around, they will give you a very local experience. You can enjoy the entertainment of simply spending some time in a local farm.
New Yuanming Palace (圆明新园)
In addition to being famous for its islands and seaside views, my city has a park called New Yuanming Palace, which includes a reconstructed building in the style of the Imperial Palace in Beijing. The entire structure is a revivification of the Old Summer Palace from the Qing and Ming dynasties, and I recommend a visit if you have any interest in Chinese history or culture.
What I recommend the most, however, are the shows held on the grounds at night. The first performance is called “The Qing Dynasty” and uses traditional song and dance to tell how the last dynasty in China was built. The second show immediately following is called “The Naval Battle” and is performed on the lake in the park. It’s a splendid performance with creative use of lighting and many different tricks on stage. The best thing of all is that visiting New Yuanming Palace is free!
Hill’s Cocktail Bar
Speaking of local spots on my Zhuhai short list, I have to include one of my favorite bars in the city: Hill’s Cocktail. I love this place because the location and ambiance of the bar is perfect for a date night or just hanging out with your best friends. It’s situated on the top floor of a hotel right next to the beach. At night, you can feel the breezes coming from the ocean, to be enjoyed along with an amazing night view of the city. The drinks there are pretty good – just remember to sit outside for the best view.
Only have a day in Zhuhai? Here’s an itinerary I might schedule for a friend visiting my hometown:
The first thing I would recommend to start the day is an authentic Cantonese breakfast: dim sum! There are dim sum restaurants everywhere in the city; any local restaurant will give you a good dim sum tasting experience.
After breakfast, the best way to spend the majority of the day is by driving to Lover’s Road and enjoying a nice view of the beach and the seaside area of the city. There is a very famous tourist spot near Lover’s Road called the Fisher Girl Statue. There is a myth behind the statue about a fisherman’s wife waiting for her husband who went fishing one day. After a long time went by without seeing her husband, she transformed into a statue.
After walking Lover’s Road, I would take you to one of the best steak restaurants in the city: Habbis Steak House. It is very close to the seaside park by Lover’s Road and it serves great western food.
In the afternoon, I would bring you to Zhuhai Opera House, the newly-built, shell-shaped theater in the city, to watch a movie. The opera house is magnificent and lies on a separate island connected to the mainland. At night, there are often neon light shows to enjoy at the opera house. Even better, a night spent at the theater is a great way to end the day because there is also an underground mall built behind the theater where we could grab some great food or desserts. If you are a fan of Japanese matcha, there is a great dessert place in the mall that only sells matcha flavored desserts.
Planning a Longer Trip / Macau
Compared to other cities such as New York and Tokyo, my hometown is a lot smaller, in both area and population. Hence, you may not find as much entertainment to occupy your time as with the big city. What I recommend, if you are interested in spending time (more than a few days) traveling around the area of my hometown, is to find lodging in Zhuhai and then:
- spend one or two days in the city
- spend perhaps two more days on one of the nearby islands
- then consider visiting Macao for the remaining time you have
The reason I recommend staying in Zhuhai is that the hotel prices in my city are much cheaper, and since traveling to Macao is very convenient from there, you might want to consider using Zhuhai as your “base” to explore the area.
If you are not familiar with Macau, it is mostly famous for its many grand casinos. Macau is known as the Las Vegas of Asia. There are casinos in Macao that have Las Vegas counterparts such as The Parisian Macao and Wynn Macau. However, due to Macau’s special history related to its long-time colonization by Portugal, it offers a beautiful blend of western and Chinese cultures. This interesting combination can be seen everywhere in Macau, apparent in buildings/architecture, local food, and the language.
Where to Stay in Zhuhai
I suggest staying somewhere in the district of Xiangzhou, the main district where most of the fun things to do in the city can be found. More specifically, finding accommodation somewhere around the Jida district would be ideal because it is close to Lover’s Road. Any hotel that has a good review should be suitable. In my city, Airbnb isn’t a big thing so I would still advise staying in a hotel.
Here’s a link to various accommodations on booking.com. On the sidebar, you can filter by district (try choosing “Zhuhai Jida”), landmarks, and more.
April’s Restaurant Pick: Haidilao Hotpot
Haidilao Hotpot (it’s a chain restaurant – many cities in China have one, but I really love it)
1066 Fenghuang Nan street, Yangming Plaza floor 8, room L8001
What makes this place great or special?
The service is beyond the roof. They will provide you with things that you don’t even know you need at the moment, but that you will find very useful – for example, hairbands for women with longer hair since hot pot can make your hair very smelly! The hot pot sauce is amazing, too. They are also open 24 hours a day, so you can eat your hot pot until sunrise.
What should I order there?
Just order the hot pot which is the only option there. Everything is good there. I’m vegetarian, so don’t worry if you’re one, too!
1 Photo credit: Zhengshihetun. Used with permission.