Guide to Star Ferry Hong Kong | Hong Kong Pass

Take a ride one of Hong Kong’s most beloved ferries across Victoria Harbour and discover the history of this Hong Kong icon with our guide to the Star Ferry.

Venturing across Victoria Harbour is a must if you are looking to get the most out of Hong Kong. What better way to do it than on the Star Ferry, Hong Kong’s iconic ferry that is an attraction in its own right. Get the lowdown on the Star Ferry Hong Kong here.

Star Ferry Hong Kong: History

Originally set up as the Kowloon Ferry Company in 1888, the service ferried passengers from Hong Kong Island to the Kowloon peninsula for ten years before it became known as what we call it today, the Star Ferry Company.

The name change came about after owner Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala, an Indian merchant, had acquired four boats in the first 10 years of the company all with “star” in their titles. There was the Morning Star, Evening Star, Rising Star and Guiding Star and all could fit 100 passengers each, a marked increase in efficiency on the use of sampans (small boats that could only carry a handful of passengers) to cross the harbour.

Since then the ferries have brought thousands of passengers a day to and from Hong Kong Island to the Kowloon Peninsula.

Star Ferry Hong Kong: Top Facts

  • It carries a lot of passengers
    As one of the main ferries to carry passengers across the harbour, the Star Ferry company is said to transport 70,000 passengers back and forth each and every day. That whopping figure amounts to 26 million passengers every single year. That enormous number is over three times the population of New York alone.
  • It’s oldest active ferry in Hong Kong
    Starting in 1888 and being active ever since has meant that the Star Ferry in Hong Kong is over 130 years old, making it the oldest active ferry in the city. Before the company was set up, Grant Smith brought a ferry from the UK to run as a predecessor at irregular times but after the company’s inception Smith’s ferry wasn’t to last.
  • The prices have caused riots
    In 1966, a 25% price hike (which equalled 5 cents at the time) became a political powder keg after one 27-year-old student was arrested for protesting the decision. His arrest sparked the beginning of the 1966 Hong Kong Riots that saw over 1,800 people arrested in the civil unrest. Dozens were injured in the three days of rioting and one person died as the price hike saw people express their disappointment with the British colonial rule.
  • You can relive the 1920s on the Shining Star
    With the launch of the Shining Star, you can travel back in time to the 1920s as you hop aboard this recreated vintage boat. Created to mimic the boats of yesteryear, the Shining Star is one of the fleets most interesting boats and fitted with café and air conditioning means you can still enjoy the modern amenities of its fellow ferries.
  • It was used as a wartime vessel
    Under the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in World War II, Star Ferry vessels were used for new purposes. Both the Golden Star and Meridian Star were utilised for the transportation of prisoners of war.
    The Golden Star was bombed in 1943 and sunk in Canton River after American bombers successfully hit the boat. Its sister boat the Electric Star was also sunk in harbour. After the war had ended, both boats were retrieved from the depths and returned to service after some needed repairs.
  • The mooring technique is still the same
    Since the ferry was created all those years ago, the technique to moor the boats has stayed exactly the same. One sailor aboard will toss a rope on the harbour which would be caught by another sailor with a billhook. The boat would then be brought in and moored as it is tied down.
  • The Star Ferry made it to Hollywood
    In the 1960 film, The World of Suzie Wong, the Star Ferry is the place where the films two main characters meet. The film was a milestone as Suzie Wong was played by Hong Kong actress Nancy Kwan, which went a long way in the acceptance of Asian actors in Hollywood.

Guide to the Star Ferry cruise

The Star Ferry is one of the best ways to traverse Victoria Harbour and thanks to The Hong Kong Pass you can jump aboard the Star Ferry Harbour Tour for free. Usually costing $105, the tour lasts for an hour and will show you some of Hong Kong’s most famous buildings from water.

You can jump aboard at Tsim Sha Tsui or Central piers, but remember you must show your Hong Kong Pass at any of the Big Bus Tours information centres to collect your harbour ticket. Once you have this you must head to the Star Ferry Harbour Tour counter, leaving at least 15 minutes to spare before your departure time. Services run for Tsim Sha Tsui pier in Kowloon from 10:20am to 8:45pm and the Central pier from 1:45am to 8:05pm.

During the one-hour tour, the Star Ferry will take you along Victoria harbour, passing by the city's famous waterfront landmarks and iconic buildings while recorded commentary provides interesting facts about Hong Kong's harbourfront. With both indoor and outdoor decks available, there's plenty of opportunity to get those picture-perfect vacation snaps.