The idyllic island life can be just a stone’s throw from the high-rise buildings and hectic city life of Singapore. These islands – mostly accessible with a quick ferry ride from the mainland – can offer a day’s adventure and discovery, or simply an opportunity to get off the grid and relax. Here’s what the islands have in store for different types of visitors, and how to get there.
For history hunters
About 5.6 km off the southern coast of Singapore lies Kusu Island, or “tortoise island” in Chinese. Legend has it that a magical tortoise turned itself into an island to save two shipwrecked sailors, a Malay and the other, a Chinese. Hence, this quaint little island is home to three Malay Keramat (shrines) and two Chinese temples. There is also a wishing well with three bells in it; you can throw coins at the three bells and try to hit them. Legend has it that if you hit all three, your wishes will come true!
The island also houses a tortoise sanctuary, where you’ll be able to spot a variety of tortoises lazing about. Touching them is strictly forbidden, so do take note of that.
How to get there: Take a ferry from Marina South Pier. A round trip for adults and children costs $15 and $12 respectively. Find the ferry schedule here.
For cultural explorers
A quaint little paradise situated by Singapore’s north-eastern coastal area, Pulau Ubin is known for being a cultural capsule that has preserved hints of a simpler way of life. Aside from being home to Singapore’s last remaining kampung, Pulau Ubin has myriad biking and camping trails interspersed with coastal forests, sandy beaches and mangrove swamps. This is in addition to a flourishing ecosystem that encompasses the likes of fiddler crabs, red jungle fowls and mudskippers.
You can find something here to surprise even the most intrepid adventurer , with cycling routes like its Ketam Mountain Bike Trail and Chek Jawa Wetlands. To top it all off, a gorgeous view awaits you at the Pekan Quarry, which houses a placid lake that contrasts beautifully with the glorious sun set before it.
How to get there: Take a bumboat to Pulau Ubin from Changi Point Ferry Terminal from 6am to 7pm. Each trip (10-15 mins) costs $4 per person ($6 if you bring your own bicycle). You will need to make prior arrangements if you intend to leave the island after 6pm. Find more information here.
For marine life enthusiasts
St John’s Island
Despite its serene landscape, this island has played pivotal roles in many of Singapore’s many definitive eras. First introduced as the home of a signal station, it was also once a quarantine island, housed detention barracks, a drug rehabilitation hub and even a refugee camp. Now with a newly opened retail kiosk, you can easily rent a bicycle and explore its landscape via one of its varied cycling pathways. Be sure to also look out for its wild inhabitants, as visitors have spotted the likes of eagles and monkeys along the way.
No one should leave St John’s Island without visiting the public gallery at the Marine Outreach and Education Centre. Find out more about our local biodiversity and marine ecology at this insightful exhibition, and learn why we should all proactively preserve and treasure our natural habitats.
How to get there: Take a ferry from Marina South Pier. A round trip for adults and children costs $15 and $12 respectively. Look up the ferry schedule here.
Looking for more adventures? Book discovery tours and activities through Klook, where SAFRA members enjoy $15 off all activities with a minimum $200 spend.
For cycling fans
This tranquil island is probably the easiest to access on this list, with no ferries involved. Coney Island has a rustic charm, and it feels like you are stepping into a forest in Narnia. This island is completely uninhabited, with the exception of the wildlife, of course. Do make sure you have an extra bottle of water or two on hand, and some snacks. The island is home to lush flora and fauna and stunning beaches. Coney Island is perfect for those who love to go on hikes or biking, and taking in the beauty of nature at their own pace.
How to get there: You can drive directly to Punggol Settlement to park there, or you can park outside Coney Island’s exits. For those taking public transport, take the train to Punggol MRT Station and head to the bus interchange (via exit C). Thereafter, take bus 84 towards Punggol Point Park. Punggol Settlement is just a short distance away and all you have to do is to follow the signs along Punggol Promenade Nature Walk towards Coney Island’s west entrance.
For beach lovers
Lazarus Island is hailed as the quietest beach in Singapore with clean white sand, crystalline waters and a family of adorable felines! This place makes it perfect for you to suntan and chill, away from the usual overcrowded beaches at Sentosa.
Enhance your visit with a stay in your very own Tiny home. Furnished with air conditioning, a kitchen, WiFi and more, it is essentially your very own private and cosy vacation home away from home.
Until 30 June 2025, SAFRA members enjoy 20% off published rates at Tiny Away Escape. More information can be found at safra.sg/tiny-away-escape-@-lazarus-island
How to get there: Take a ferry from Marina South Pier and get off at St John’s Island. Lazarus Island is a short walk from there. A round trip costs $15 and $12 for Adults and Children respectively. More details available here.
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Photos: SPH Media Trust