Looking for a quick and fuss-free getaway with the kids? Go island-hopping at these destinations that offer something for the whole family.
1. St John’s Island
Situated just over 6km south of Singapore, St John’s Island is a pretty place to find peace and quiet, and some interesting history. The island is also well known for its flora and fauna.
Getting there: Take a 30-minute ferry ride from Marina South Pier. (You can buy your tickets on the spot at the pier.) The return ferry ride costs $18 for adults and $12 for children (one to 12 years). The afternoon ferry may stop off at Kusu Island on the return home.
What to do: Lay your picnic mats by the beach for a leisurely picnic while the kids build sandcastles. Walk off those calories by taking your little ones exploring in the mangroves; you’ll find an abundance of marine life, including hermit crabs and sea urchins. Book two months in advance (at the Sentosa Islander Counter. Level 3, VivoCity) to stay overnight in the bungalows or camps.
Tips: Don’t forget to take food, lots of water, books and toys – there are no kiosks or shops on the island.
2. Lazarus Island
Another of Singapore’s Southern Islands group, Lazarus is just a bridge away from St John’s Island.
Getting there: Hop on a ferry to St John’s and take the 15-minute walk across the link bridge to the island.
What to do: If you’re looking a little more peace and quiet than St John’s, which can get crowded, this is a great place to go for a picnic, to build sandcastles on the secluded beach, or take a dip in the clear water. With a laidback vibe, the island is generally untouched and offers one of the best nearby escapes to nature from Singapore.
Tips: Like on St John’s Island, there are no stores selling food and drinks here, so pack whatever is necessary. The nearest toilet is about a five-minute walk from the beach.
3. Kusu Island
Kusu Island is located less than an hour away from mainland Singapore and is especially popular with devotees who travel to the island’s renowned temple for annual pilgrimages.
Getting there: Take a 45-minute ferry ride from Marina South Pier. You will stop off at St John’s Island before reaching Kusu.
What to do: Explore the small island’s surprisingly rich culture and heritage, and visit its sacred sites including the Da Bo Gong Temple and the three Malay kramats or shrines (you’ll need to climb 152 steps to reach them!). While you’re there, pay a visit to the wishing well near the temple. Pack a picnic basket or prepare a barbecue for a relaxing afternoon meal. Keep the kids occupied and take them to see turtles at the Turtle Sanctuary or have a refreshing swim.
Tips: You might want to avoid the months of September to November as this is the busiest time for the island’s annual pilgrimage.
3. Sisters’ Islands
Boasting rich reefs and marine life, the Sisters’ Islands are part of Singapore’s first marine park. They’re also home to some long tailed macaques.
Getting there: Charter a private ferry through Singapore Island Cruise. Contact them for information and rates. Departing from Marina South Pier, you will reach the islands in around 15 minutes.
What to do: Go on a guided walk hosted by National Parks in the cool morning breeze and your kids will be able to see (and even touch some) sea creatures like starfishes, octopuses and clams. Tours are conducted twice a month and are free of charge. After a morning of learning, find a shady spot to enjoy your picnic lunch.
Tips: Wear covered shoes so you can easily navigate the beach during the tours.
4. Pulau Ubin
Popular with cyclists, this rustic island is home to some of Singapore’s last kampongs. It is located off the northeast coast, close to Changi Airport. Be sure to bring along your hat, sun cream, water and insect repellent.
Getting there: Take a 15-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. It costs $2.50 per person, though you may have to wait some time for the boat to fill with enough people.
What to do: Rent bikes for the family and take off on a self-guided tour of the island’s trails and kampongs. From mountain bikes and tandem bikes to tricycles and bikes with side carts for the kids to ride along in, you’ll be able to find one to suit your family. If you prefer your own bike, bring it along, but take note of the extra $3 fee for the bumboat ride. The terrain is generally manageable both for bike and on foot. Take a rest at a quarry and enjoy the serenity. Fuel up by picking up some drinks and old school snacks at the many shops and cafes on the main drag. Before leaving, make a trip to Chek Jawa (about 3km from the jetty) to explore its wetlands and learn about its rich marine life and biodiversity. There’s even a hardcore mountain bike course for keen cyclists.
Tips: The island has no ATMs, so be sure to bring sufficient cash!
5. Coney Island
Located off Punggol, Coney Island is one of Singapore’s newest and most popular nature destinations. The island boasts a variety of habitats, including lush forests and mangroves.
Getting there: Walk onto the island through connecting bridges at either the East entrance at Lorong Halus or the West entrance at Punggol Promenade Park Connector.
What to do: Burn off some energy at the Casuarina Exploratory where kids can hop and jump over uprooted trees and stumps. Sadly the island’s resident Brahman bull recently passed away, but you will at least have the chance to see a wide variety of bird species and plenty of interesting flora.
Tips: Wear long pants, shoes and apply insect repellent to prevent bites. Also, keep an eye on the kids – the rugged terrain may be a little tough for younger ones to navigate.
7. Pulau Hantu
Made up of two small islands, Pulau Hantu Besar and Pulau Hantu Kechil, Pulau Hantu is located south of Singapore. Literally meaning “island of ghosts”, this serene spot is known for its rich coral reefs and beautiful beaches.
Getting there: Unlike for most of the other islands, there are no daily ferry services to Pulau Hantu, but you can privately charter a boat from West Coast or Marina South Pier.
What to do: Explore the lovely beaches and lagoons on the island. Set up a picnic lunch by one of the shady beaches and cool off with a dip in the water. Check out the mangroves and try to spot some of the wide variety of marine life.
Tips: If you want to enjoy the island for a little longer, you can camp over for the night. You’ll need to get a permit from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for this.
8. Pulau Semakau
Also located south of the main island of Singapore, Pulau Semakau houses Singapore’s first offshore landfill. You may be surprised that it also boasts loads of rich flora and fauna.
Getting there: Book a tour with NEA. It includes the ferry ride as well as a guided tour of the incineration plants and landfill.
What to do: Wondering where all your trash goes? Find out more during the tour of the waste management operations and facilities on the island. While you’re there, enjoy a guided intertidal walk and check out the island’s marine animals and plants such as crabs and sea grasses.
Tips: Be sure to book your tour in advance – we recommend at least three weeks before you go.
This is an excerpt from the Kids Guide 2016-2017.