War is a terrible thing. Go to the Museum of Coastal Defense for some detailed accounts and poignant memories of the battles over Hong Kong since the late Qing era. You’ll like this museum especially if you are interested in military history.
The museum occupies a former British fort and includes many exhibits on the various wars and the people involved. There are several British forts like this around Hong Kong, but this is the only one to be made into a museum.
Main Exhibits and Highlights
The main museum exhibits are built into the crowning part of the old fort. It was built in the years 1885–1887.
There are 9 galleries dealing with the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), the Opium War (1839–1842), the British periods (1841–1941), the Battle for Hong Kong (1941), the Japanese Occupation (1941–1945), the Volunteers (an army brigade, 1854–1995), and the Garrison of the PLA (1997–present).
You can walk down into old bunkers and see how they were structured.
Military vehicles, tanks, and 150-year-old Qing Chinese and British cannons are on display and can be touched. You’ll come to understand better Qing armaments and tactics, and understand how much better the British equipment was by the middle of the 19th century.
A nicely-made 12-or-so-minute-long English language video is shown whenever a tourist wants to watch it in the Coastal Defense Weapons Theatre, on the top floor of the two-story museum. You can understand the developments of weapons and tactics since 1800.
The museum doesn’t exhibit as much military weaponry as you might expect in a military museum.
The British won Hong Kong Island by a Qing Dynasty treaty concession in 1842. Due to the danger of French, Russian, and then Japanese colonial expansion in southern China, forts were built at Shau Kei Wan and other strategic sites to guard the sea routes to the strategic harbor.
During WWII, the Japanese captured the fort on December 19th, 1941. You can see the preserved remains of one of the bunkers that the Japanese destroyed.
The area was covered with a special canopy to protect the fort, and the museum opened in the year 2000.
The museum is in the out of the way town of Shau Kei Wan right on the northeast coast of Hong Kong Island.
Unless you take a taxi, to see the museum you’ll probably have to take a pleasant walk past stores, temples and churches. It is part of a tourist walking route called the Shau Kei Wan Walk.
To best enjoy the walk, it is suggested that you pick up a free tourist brochure called Hong Kong Walks at the Tourism Board’s booths at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry or on Victoria Peak.
Walking on the steep hill, you can see a torpedo launching post, several cannons, bunkers, and enjoy the scenery. Paved paths connect the various points. The area covers about 9 acres.
Hours: Monday to Wednesday, Friday to Sunday & public holidays: 10am - 5pm (6 pm on weekends and public holidays between 1 July and 31 August). Closed on Thursdays (except public holidays and the first two days of the Chinese New Year.
Address: 175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan.
Tram: The best scenic route from Central or anywhere to the west is to take the tram for 2.3 HKD (30 cents USD). It is a favorite of a lot of locals. You can see the view from the top deck. It takes as long as an hour from Central to the end station at Shau Kei Wan. Then follow the tourist signs.
MTR: Exit B2 of Shau Kei Wan Station (8 HKD from Central).
Taxi: address: 香港海防博物館, 香港筲箕灣東喜道175號.
Admission: HK$10 for adults, HK$5 concession. Free on Wednesday.
Time: A visit to the museum will probably occupy several hours if you really want to grasp the information presented on the various eras, battles, and the development of weaponry and tactics by the various antagonists.