Victoria Harbor is situated between mainland Hong Kong (i.e., Kowloon Peninsula) and Hong Kong Island, which lies immediately south of Kowloon Peninsula. The waterway that separates Kowloon Peninsula and the nearby islands is called Victoria Channel. Named by the British in honor of Queen Victoria during the early period of the British rule of Hong Kong, Victoria Harbor is Hong Kong's main seaport. Its easy access as an extension of a peninsula that juts out into the South China Sea (other Chinese harbors lie farther inland - for example, at the end of an estuary, such as Hangzhou Harbor), combined with the great natural depth of the harbor and the channel, made Victoria Harbor a popular seaport for foreign shipping, which probably explains why the British were so keen on acquiring Hong Kong at the time, as part of the treaties that were signed with the government of the Qing Dynasty (CE 1644-1911) as a culmination of the First Opium War (1839-1842).
One of the first recreational activities in Victoria Harbor to be enjoyed by the British colonialists was water polo, introduced already in 1850. Water pole is still played in Victoria Harbor. Today, however, the harbor is more known for its shipping traffic, especially the gargantuan container ships (aka bulk carriers) such as the Emma Maersk (the world's largest), operated by the Danish-owned A. P. Moller-Maersk Group, or the Colombo Express, operated by the German-owned Hapag-Lloyd Container Line, perhaps the second-largest bulk carrier currently sailing the oceans.
But in among the gargantuan bulk carriers and the world's largest cruise liners - or superliners, as they are termed - such as the Oasis of the Seas (the world's largest), operated by the American-owned Royal Caribbean International, weave all manner of other watercraft in Victoria Harbor, from fishing trawlers to junks, barges, ferries, tug boats, motorboats, sampans and smaller boats such as even the dapai, or the old-fashioned flat-bottomed, sail-rigged, 9-meter-long longline fishing boat. It is this curious mix of the old and the new - especially with Hong Kong's skyscrapers as a backdrop - not to speak of the deep, plaintive sound of fog horns when the visibility is low, that gives Victoria Harbor its special, quaint character.
The harbour comes alive on New Year's Eve - both the Western calendar and the Chinese Lunar Calendar celebrations - when fireworks light it up, and though it may not yet rival Sydney Harbour's New Year's Eve fireworks - with Sydney Opera House in full view - the fireworks at Victoria Harbor, with Hong Kong's skyscrapers in the background, is nontheless a dazzling sight to behold. But one need not wait until such an auspicious occasion to enjoy the nighttime beauty of Victoria Harbor, for Hong Kong's skyline is lit up every night as part of the Symphony of Lights multimedia experience, which combines special lighting and audio effects with fireworks (pyrotechnics). Moreover, there are special harbor cruises from which the visitor can enjoy this nightly spectacle from the very best vantage point, taking in the magnificent Hong Kong skyline in the background.
Ferries still ply the waters between Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island. However, the main traffic between Kowloon Peninsula and the islands is via the large tunnels that run under Victoria Channel, similar to the famous Lincoln Tunnel that connects downtown Manhattan in New York City with the neighboring state of New Jersey, and which tunnel runs under the now-famous Hudson River, where US pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger III miraculously landed an Airbus A320 on January 16, 2009.
Other nearby attractions include Victoria Peak, itself a great place to look out on the harbor, and the harbor's own special site, the Avenue of Stars, located on Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, and which is Hong Kong's (China's!) equivalent to the Hollywood Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, where famous movie stars - including Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, but not (!) Gong Li, though she is surely on the Avenue of Stars - have a special star inset into the sidewalk in appreciation of their achievements.
Connoisseurs say that the best time to visit Victoria Harbor is in the autumn, which is undeniably true. However, my advice is to visit it anytime you find yourself in Hong Kong!