I had read so many things about The Sea Ranch – but I’ve never been. It is a fascinating piece of Hong Kong history and I’m still hoping that one day I can walk over from Mui Wo or take a ferry from Cheung Chau, but so far all I’ve seen of the Sea Ranch, are the white houses at the beach that you can notice from the Macau ferry.
The Sea Ranch was developed some time in the late 1970s as a five-star resort with 20 blocks/200 units for executives who wanted to have a getaway from their busy lives. It featured swish seaview apartments, an exclusive club boasting top-notch restaurants and featuring a cocktail lounge, sports complex, sauna, nursery, library – and a man-made beach. Prices varied between 250,000 HKD and $550,000 HKD for one- to three-bedroom flats, with additional management fees to cover ferry services to Central and Cheung Chau, security and maintenance.
By 1983, Hutchison was 7 million HKD in debt over the project and threatening to suspend services. It had to write off the sum, selling the holding company, Holiday Resorts, to apartment owners for $1. Some of the residents – under the name Incorporated Owners (IO) – split from the Holiday Resorts management committee in 1996 after disagreements and litigation. Holiday Resorts kept the club house, but shut it down in 2002.
There are still a few residents living there, who must bring in all their supplies by boat as no shops or restaurants exist at the resort. Power is provided by generators, and there is no Internet. Apartments can be bought for slightly less than 3 million HKD but the management fees are quite high (3,200 HKD in 2014), as sewage costs, security staff, gardeners and the ‘free ferry’ are expensive to maintain.
It seems that there is now renewed interest, with several units undergoing refurbishment – but the clubhouse buildings remain in a state of disrepair.
You can find out more by watching this documentary that has been published by a group of HKU students.