Low Density Family Living in Hong Kong Gold CoastWhen it comes to home hunting, the New Territories is definitely not the first place that comes to mind. Mention Tuen Mun to anyone and it’s not surprising you see a perplexed look on their faces followed by the same response: What? The boondocks near Shenzhen or the city’s border?

Englishmen David Coates is not an exception. Coates and his wife arrived in Hong Kong immediately before the handover in 1997. They spent two years looking for their dream home, moving from residences on Stubbs Road on Hong Kong Island to Discovery Bay.

Coastal Appeal
But a visit to Hong Kong’s Gold Coast on the western tip of Tuen Mun one stormy day changed their minds completely: Affordable beachside living is not a distant dream. “We thought ‘this is nice’, and decided that if we liked it under the red rainstorm [warning] we must really like it!” says Coates, founder of Gold Coast Online, a community forum for the neighbourhood.

The father of a nine-year-old soon realised the resort town had more to offer than a Mediterranean vibe. To those who want their families to stay away from the city’s hustle and bustle, low-density living is a big plus. The Gold Coast Residences comprise 19 high-rises, with apartment sizes ranging from 610 to 1,700 square feet. On the luxury front, 11 low-rise beach houses with private gardens and rooftops offer housing sized between 1,900 and 3,540 square feet.

“[Houses] are well spaced out so it feels very open. It’s not like living in Mid-Levels where you look out of your window and see another block just a few yards away,” Coates says. “They offer value for money in terms of space. You get more bang for your buck.” Brokers say the entrance fee for a three-bedroom, 700-square foot apartment is about $4.3 million, or $6,100 per square foot — with an efficiency rate of 78 percent.

School’s In
Gold Coast’s rental market is on the upswing, thanks to the “Harrow effect”. Last September’s opening of the ever-aristocratic international school — which has produced eight UK prime ministers — is spurring an overwhelming interest in the Gold Coast, which is just a five-minute walk to the school.

In July, a four-bedroom, 2,833-square foot seaside villa apartment with private garden fetched a record rent of $100,000 ($35 per square foot). “Parents who live further away over the border or abroad are buying apartments here so they have a local base,” Coates observes. Developer Sino Group, which estimates rentals of serviced apartments in the Gold Coast have increased by 12 percent from a year ago, confirms his theory.

And one need not be a beach person to love the neighbourhood. Although less popular than the likes of Repulse Bay, the 545-metre Golden Beach still makes a perfect spot for some family fun. With sand imported from always-sunny Hainan (dubbed the Hawaii of China), the manmade beach has barbecue sites while the promenade is lined with tropical trees. Animal lovers can easily find dozens of places to walk their dogs, and miles of seaside jogging trails are just minutes away, says Coates, who indeed owns two dogs.

Family activities are plentiful in Gold Coast. Its clubhouse has a wealth of standard facilities such as a tennis court, billiards room and free-form pools. Residents can book a private cruise on yachts. A colourful French-themed art and craft market known as Montmartre runs at the weekends and features ceramics, cartoon paintings, ivory carvings and handmade jewellery.

Shopping isn’t much of a problem either, as the Gold Coast mall is within walking distance. The European-style, two-storey Piazza has pretty much all you need: groceries, cafés, ATMs, laundries and barbers. Seaside alfresco eateries offer multinational cuisines (German, French, Thai and Japanese), not to mention the ubiquitous McDonald’s. Still hungry for more? Hong Kong’s most famous roast goose in Sham Tseng is just a 15-minute drive away.

Out of Touch
Nevertheless, transport remains a headache for most commuters. The recent closure of a frequent shuttle bus service from Gold Coast to Central and Tsim Sha Tsui is somewhat worrying, although new services to Tsing Yi and Olympic MTR stations are supposed to make up for these cuts, but without your own wheels it could be a headache, since the only way to get around is by public transport. Central is about 40 minutes by bus.

“The service is erratic, and during rush hour it’s usually impossible to get a seat,” complains Coates, also managing director of an executive search company in Central. “One evening, it took me 50 minutes to get on a bus from Central.” Otherwise, a 15-minute bus ride takes you to Tuen Mun MTR station, the closest. For frequent flyers, however, the Gold Coast is about 35-minutes from the airport.

But Coates has no regrets about moving to Gold Coast. Recalling his short stay in Discovery Bay, “We just felt too constrained by the atmosphere there, and we hated having our lives dictated by the ferry timetable. At least in the Gold Coast you had a choice of ferry, bus or taxi, plus you could own a car,” he notes. “I like going to Stanley and Sai Kung, but get the impression that they are both a lot more expensive than here.”