Among the 18 administrative districts in the territory, the Islands District has the largest area but it is the least populated. The district consists of some twenty large and small islands lying to the south and southwest of Hong Kong. Much of these outlying islands' natural landscape and scenery has remained largely unaffected by urbanization. The scenic variety within its borders enables the Islands District to be described as one of the most picturesque "countryside" districts in Hong Kong.
Most of the coastal areas across the district (such as Cheung Chau, Tai O and Po Toi) used to be fishermen's enclaves. Though some of them have developed into dormitory towns, fishing and its related ancillaries, such as boatyards, fish-farms, net-making, shrimp paste manufacture and fish-curing are still important lines of business in those areas.
Given its predominant rural character, the district provides a wealth of Chinese traditions and festivals that give colors to the local communities and insight into old Chinese customs.
The district is also treasured in terms of its archaeological finds. An abundance of relics found in archaeological sites over Lantau, Lamma and Cheung Chau have opened up views into the distant past of Hong Kong as a coastal settlement.
Over the years, the Islands District Council has been continuously promoting tourism in the district. It has published a number of well-written booklets about places of interest in the district, including one on the district's historical significance and community traditions. Members of the Council also offer valuable advice on issues ranging from the preservation of the district's historical monuments to the development of tourism-related facilities.
Every year, the district's country trails, beaches, historical monuments, traditional festivals, holiday houses and seafood restaurants attract numerous local and overseas visitors. The opening of the Tian Tan Buddha (which is also called Big Buddha/Giant Buddha) at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island in 1993 has further promoted the growth of tourism.
With the commissioning of Chek Lap Kok airport in July 1998, the Islands District has become "Hong Kong's Gateway". The transport infrastructure serving the new airport (including a railway) has made the many beautiful scenic spots in the rural hinterland of Lantau Island more readily accessible to urban dwellers and overseas visitors.