Hong Kong's islands have been and to some extent continue to be Hong Kong's hinterland, home to rustic fishing villages battered by the occasional typhoon, monasteries run by hardscrabble monks and little else. However, the last decade or so have seen some some changes. With the exception of Lantau, the islands are car-free, so expect plenty of bicycles and a chance to escape the noise, aggression and air pollution associated with the modern motor car.
Cheung Chau (長洲) still has a traditional community based on an active fishing fleet and many thriving seafood restaurants. It has a number of reasonable hiking trails and some usable beaches. If you only have time to visit one island, then you might consider Cheung Chau.
Lantau Island (大嶼山) is the largest island and has evolved to be an island of contrasting landscapes. On the north shore isolated villages overlook the airport, while the southern and western coastline have some of the most attractive beaches. Lantau is accessible by MTR but this link to the modern world has done little to spoil the island's reputation as one of the least developed places in Hong Kong. On the south side of Lantau is Discovery Bay (愉景灣) a modern development that has all the sterile charm of a British New Town that caters to wealthy families living in a luxury, car-free, bubble. DB, as it is called, offers a good selection of western bars and restaurants in a high quality environment. Arguably, this place feels culturally detached from the rest of Hong Kong and offers very little to interest the intrepid tourist seeking a more authentic Chinese experience. There is also some outlet shopping to be done at Tung Chung (accessible by MTR) at Citygate Outlets.
Peng Chau offers an unpretentious and less hectic experience than other islands.
Peng Chau (坪洲) has a reputation for being dull and lacking in tourist attractions. Yet, if you go there expecting to see very little, you maybe pleasantly surprised. Good seafood restaurants here are cheaper than the other islands and you get the feeling you are off the 'beaten-track' of mass tourism. Perhaps it is the place to go at the end of your holiday when you are weary of the fast-pace of the big city and just want to slow down, have a drink and chat with friends. From Peng Chau you can easily take the dilapidated ferry over to the Trappist monastery on Lantau island and walk, for a couple of hours, along the hilly footpath to Mui Wo. From Mui Wo you can take another ferry back to Hong Kong island. It is located 8 km to the west of Hong Kong Island. The size of the island is 1km square. Peng Chau, as the name suggests, is mostly flat land.
Lamma Island (南丫島) has become increasingly popular with Western hippies who have created their own small residential community in Yung Shue Wan (榕樹灣). On both sides of the island you will find attractive bars, restaurants and cafes, making it a popular destination for local Chinese people out on a day trip. It may upset the Western visitor to see such a beautiful island teeming with rubbish and being grubby, given sensitivities regarding pollution and waste disposal. There are piles of rubbish along the walk from Yung Shue Wan to the various beaches which do detract from the view. It is well worth visiting, nonetheless, but be advised, it isn't an island paradise. No cars are on the island, so be careful of buggies when you walk.
Hung Shing Ye Wan on Lamma Island is about 20 minutes walk from the Pier at Yung Shue Wan and offers a family friendly beach for a splash and paddle.
Po Toi islands (蒲苔群島) are around 3km south of Hong Kong island. The Po Toi Islands are about six small island where only Po Toi Island is inhabited. However, during the fishing season there may be around six thousand people living around the islands. The most famous seafood on Po Toi are octopus and "Ma You" Fish (馬鮪魚). Go to Po Toi Island to see the famous rock formations and eat good seafood. You are advised to reserve tables at the restaurant first. Ming Kee Sea-food Restaurant 2849 7038.
Soko islands (索罟群島) are found in the southwest of the Hong Kong SAR. They comprise seven small islands and nine sets of reefs. Today, these islands are uninhabited but in the distant past they were home to many people.
Tap Mun (塔門), also known as Grass Island, is in the North East of the territory. It has about 100 residents, mostly fishermen. Its main attraction is its isolation and quality seafood restaurant that was made famous by the patronage of Hong Kong's last governor, Chris Patten.
Tung Lung Chau (東龍洲) which means east dragon island in Cantonese, is found off Clearwater Bay. It has another name, "Nam Tong island"(南堂島).
Tung Ping Chau (東平洲) is found in the North East of Hong Kong, in Mirs Bay (大鵬灣). Today, Tung Ping Chau does not have many residents, however, it used to be a very important island during the war between Japan and China. Then it was an important underground transport route between China and Hong Kong. It was also used by the British military and others who were fighting against Japan. In its heyday, there were 10 villages, providing accommodation for about two thousand people living on the island.
Waglan island, (橫瀾島) near Po Toi, is famous for its lighthouse.
Kwo Chau islands (果洲群島)] are located to the east of Hong Kong island. There are three main islands and 29 small islands. The Kwo Chau Islands look like a bowl of fruit from the air and so this is how they got their name. Likewise, the three main islands look like nine pins from the sky, hence the name. Individually, they are known as East Ninepin Island (Tung Kwo Chau), South Ninepin Island (Nam Kwo Chau) and North Ninepin Island (Pak Kwo Chau). On the islands the dual processes of weathering and erosion have combined to sculpt some fascinating coastal scenery.
Travelling to the Outlying Islands is much simpler and easier that many visitors might suppose. Most tourists and local residents use the frequent and inexpensive ferry services to travel to their preferred island. The exceptions to this rule are the smaller and more remote islands where you will need to either hire a boat to take you there or investigate the less frequent and more informal boat services that can, sometimes, be hard to find. However, most Hong Kong people never concern themselves with the smaller islands, so simply head for the Central ferry terminals (alongside the Star Ferry) and make your choice. Having an Octopus card will speed you through the gates because some ferry services only accept payment using coins or Octopus.
See the main Hong Kong article on how to get and use the Octopus Card.
Some services impose a 50% surcharge for travel on Sundays and public holidays. So, it's usually cheaper and less crowded to visit during the week or on Saturdays. Paying more for a premium seat on a ferry is usually a disappointing experience.
Ferries for all major islands of interest depart from the Outlying Islands pier in Central, to the west of the Star Ferry terminal. The largest operators are New World First Ferry  and the Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Company . Some ferries come in slow (or "ordinary") and fast versions. The slow ferry is generally available every other departure, so if the fast ferry comes every thirty minutes, the slow ferry will come every hour. When time tables show an asterisk beside a departure time, it usually means that a slow ferry is available in addition to the fast ferry.
Cheung Chau Pier 5, every 30-60 minutes. Fares range from $13.20 to $20.70 on the ordinary ferry on Mondays to Saturdays. Sundays and public holidays the fare rises to $19.40 to HK$30.40. The fast ferry costs $25.80 on Mondays to Saturdays, and $37.20 on Sundays and public holidays.
Lamma (Sok Kwu Wan) Pier 4, every 35-120 minutes. Mondays to Saturdays adult fare is $21 and on Sundays and public holidays $29.8. Child (Aged under 12 years) $10.50 or $14.9. Elderly (Aged 65 years or above) / Disabled $10.50 or $14.9. Child aged under three years (accompanied). No charge.
Lamma (Yung Shue Wan) Pier 4, every 20-60 minutes
Mondays to Saturdays adult fare $17.10 and on Sundays and public holidays $23.70
Child (Aged under 12 years) $8.60 or $11.90
Elderly (Aged 65 years or above) / Disabled $8.60 or $11.90
Child under 3 years (accompanied) No charge. See HKKF 
There is also a local ferry service [ from Aberdeen to Lamma Island (Mo Tat and Sok Kwu Wan).
Tap Man: Ferry from Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung  or from Ma Liu Shui Pier near Chinese University.
Po Toi: The Chuen Kee Ferry departs once a day leaving from Aberdeen, via Stanley. There is also a kaido from Aberdeen every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Peng Chau: Public ferry from Pier 6 in Central.
Tung Lung Chau: Ferries from Lei Yue Mun pier in Kowloon, and from Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong Island. +852 2560-9929 for more information.
Soko islands: there is no public transport to the Soko islands, you will need to hire a sampan from the harbour at Cheung Chau.
Tung Ping Chau: Limited service from Ma Liu Shui pier taking 90 minutes.
Waglan Island: Permission is needed first from the Marine Department.
Kwo Chau islands: It is a uninhabited island. You have to join a tour or try and rent a small boat (kaido) from Sai Kung.
Cheung Chau (長洲) has no cars except for some small vehicles used by the emergency services. There is a walking tour available around the island with scenic views and temples; look for the tourist map near the ferry pier. It is best to visit in good weather, if it rains, there's nowhere to wait it out because nearly everything is outside. Famous for its Bun Festival  in early May, this is a festival where people climb up a tower which is covered with buns. Previously it had been abolished because a young man fell off the tower in 1978. However, thanks to the people who live in Cheung Chau, who campaigned for many years, the government allowed this festival to restart in 1995. The Bun festival lasts for five days and the climax is on the third day when participants dress up as historical characters and ride on floats. When children act on the floats, they appear in the air because of their dress. On the last day, at midnight, buns from the tower will be given to the community, bringing them good luck throughout the year. People believe that the more they get, the luckier they are.
Besides Bun Festival, another big festival is the birthday of Tin Hau. Tin Hau is the queen of the heaven. The birthday of Tin Hau is in the Chinese calendar on March 23rd. However, people in Cheung Chau usually celebrate it on the 18th, because in the past, there were no street lights on the island and people couldn't see when they were on their way to the temple during the night time,
but a few days earlier meant they could use the moon light to walk to the temple. Now it has become a tradition to celebrate it earlier. During the celebrations, you may see floats, acrobats, lion dancing and effigies of mythical animals.
Besides particpating in the festivals, tourist can visit different sites, for example the temples and caves.
Tin Hau Temple Tin Hau, the queen of heaven is the god who receives the most respect from many who live on Cheung Chau, especially those who are fishermen. Tin Hau is revered as the god who protects fisherman. Tin Hau has been respected for many years, and so there are four Tin Hau Temples on the island.
The Cave and Rocks There is a very famous cave on Cheung Chau which is called Cheung Bo Zai Ton. This cave is named after a local pirate and is located at Sai Bay (西灣). The cave is associated with the fictional story of the priate, Cheung Bo Zai, who supposedly hid his treasure in this cave. Along the same coastline are a number of rocks with different shapes and it is a local tradition to imagine what they resemble.
On Cheung Chau, visitors should also look out for the memorial stone which commemorates a Hong Kong windsurfing athlete, Lee Lai Sa (李麗珊), who won a gold Olympic medal.
Lamma Island (南丫島 Nàahmā dóu) is worth seeing for a glimpse of an alternative Hong Kong. Be sure to check out the Western settlement of Yung Shue Wan, the row of seafood restaurants in So Kwu Wan, the small agricultural village of Mo Tat, and the very small Tung O village whose residents appear to always play mahjong. It is an interesting day trip to take the ferry to Yung Shue Wan followed by an easy walk to So Kwu Wan to tuck into some delicous seafood before hopping onto the ferry. Another lovely walk is the walk to Hung Shing Ye Beach (Wan), for a safe, enclosed beach with a lifeguard tower and a lovely (albeit past piles of rubbish at times) view of the local life, the landscape and little houses and temporary shops.
Ramshackle Houses in Bushland, Lamma Island Family Walk
Peng Chau (坪洲 Pìhng Jāu) has eight temples, including a Tin Hau temple dating back to 1792 which houses a whale rib. Outside the Tin Hau Temple there is a stone monument warning about pirates. Finger Hill has views of Disneyland and the Tsing Ma Bridge. Peng Chau still retains 60% of its natural seashore. Around the coast there is a diversity of marine life, including Chinese White dolphins.
Po Toi (蒲台) is famous for its rock formations, such as Tortoise Rock, Buddha's Palm Cliff and Monk Rock. There are also some prehistoric carvings.
Tortoise Rock. Po Toi Island
Soko Islands (索罟群島) are known for the 'rock forest' that surrounds the islands. Tai A Chau also used to have a Vietnamese refugee camp.
Tap Mun (塔門) has a Tin Hau temple built between 1662 and 1721, housing a bronze bell made in 1737, and a very large swordfish bone.
Tung Lung Chau (東龍洲) has historic stone carvings (700 years old) and the remains of a fort (demolished in 1810). There are also sea caves around the coast.
Tung Ping Chau (東平洲) has a 250 year old temple and deserted villages. The island is famous for its beautiful schist rock formations, that have different colours because of the calcium and magnesium in the schist.
Waglan Island (橫瀾島) is famous for its lighthouse built in 1893.
Ninepin islands (果洲群島) are known for the cliffs and caves around the islands.
Please see the Lantau article for information on Hong Kong Disneyland, and other things to Do on Lantau.
Windsurfing and sunbathing are the prime drawcards on the beaches of Cheung Chau.
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is a popular annual event. Ferries are very crowded on the day though, so expect long queues if you intend to go.
Walk from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wa on Lamma - This walk takes about an hour and is well sign posted. It passes a beach (Hung Shing Ye Wan) which offers calm water swimming facilities within a shark free net and great views of the power station. The walk also provides great views of the island. After the walk, you can dine at the seafood restaurants adjacent to the ferry terminal. Although the walk is not difficult, it has a few steep sections and in summer with high temperature and humidity it can feel strenuous.
Lamma and Cheung Chau are well known for a large number of seafood restaurants. The decor of the restaurants are generally basic but clean and should never be seen as an indication of the quality of the food which is usually high.
Lamma Island has excellent seafood restaurants, but don't expect to pay lower prices than Hong Kong Island. Lamma is, in fact, quite expensive compared to dining in the suburbs of Kowloon.
There is a strip of seafood restaurants in Sok Kwu Wan. Expect to pay around $100-150 per head for the set meals, which will include fried clams, lobster, crab, prawns as well as fried vegetables, rice and drinks. A steamed fish will cost around $100 depending on the weight.
Bay, Mo Tat Wan (20 min walk from Sok Kwu Wan). Restaurant and bar, which specialises in Western style seafood.
Peach Garden. Smaller family owned seafood restaurant.
Rainbow Restaurant - The first, last and one in between are Rainbow restaurants with great food. A small lobster cost $140 and a small Salt and Pepper Squid cost $80. They also offer a free ferry service for customers which is a great way to see the harbour.
Other restaurants of note include:
Han Lok Yuen, near Hung Shing Yeh beach. Recommended for their speciality, pigeon. Unfortunately they are closed at the moment.
The Bookworm Cafe, Yung Shue Wan. Great ambiance and tasty vegetarian food, it also provides free internet access.
Pizza Milano, Yung Shue Wan. Munch on a slice at this Italian eatery.
Lamma Grill, Shop 18E Tai Yuen Village, about half way between Yung Shue Wan and Hung Shing Ye Wan. American Diner style food and soft drinks.
Peng Chau 1 40 Wing On St, Peng Chau. +852 2983-1183. Perfect for a relaxing day out on the most authentic of Hong Kong's outlying islands. Peng Chau is close to Discovery Bay and easily reached by fast ferry from Central Pier 6. Run by two English people, Peng Chau 1 serves great pizzas, pasta dishes and other international cuisine at reasonable prices. Good for vegetarians too. It is usually crowded with junk and day-trippers from Discovery Bay. Book to avoid disappointment, especially at weekends.
Aside from a few pubs on Lamma, the nightlife in the islands is pretty quiet. Island drinking usually amounts to no more than either a few bottles of cheap Chinese beer, or endless cups of jasmine tea.
For the more determined drinker, on Lantau, there is the China Bear in Mui Wo, and in Discovery Bay there are several bars such as Mcsorley's Ale House and the Beer Bay which are all good for nursing a drink or two. In Tung Chung, near the airport, there is the Aviator bar and restaurant which is a good night out for some.
Accommodation on these islands is fairly limited compared to Kowloon and Hong Kong island and consists mainly of guest houses (a few of which call themselves hotels).
On Lantau, there is the Silvermine Beach Hotel. This is a 2-3 star hotel, in the relaxing town of Mui Wo. There are also many small guest houses, with advertisements for them at the ferry pier on Mui Wo. On weekdays they are cheap but at weekends and on holidays the prices go up.
On Cheung Chau, there is the Warwick Hotel. Similar to the Silvermine Beach in facilities.
Lamma island has several small hotels, guest houses and hostels.
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