Most Singapore holidays are predominantly focused around shopping, entertainment and the ethnic districts of the city centre, but the island offers so much more with a little exploration. Its compact size and excellent transport across the island make getting around a breeze and pretty much everywhere can be reached within a couple of hours.
Despite being one of the world’s most densely populated metropolises, Singapore has a wealth of peaceful natural habitats to explore and a number of ‘off the beaten track’ offshore islands to discover.
You can even go international on a day trip from Singapore with a fun day out in southern Malaysia or one of several tropical Indonesian islands, both just an hour or so away. Get out and about on a day trip and see for yourself the rich diversity of Singapore. You are definitely guaranteed a few surprises.
Heading in the opposite direction from Singapore will lead you to the thousands of tiny islands that make up Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago. Ferries from Singapore leave from Tanah Merah terminal to Pulau Bintan, a picture postcard tropical island getaway.
Once there you can explore the historic capital of Tanjung Pinang; a sleepy town with a strong Chinese influence and a couple of intriguing museums. It also has one of the most colourful traditional markets in the region and is a must for lovers of exotic spices and handicrafts.
Lazing in the sun or enjoying water sports are the main preoccupations here and Bintan Island’s coastline features miles of white sandy bays and mangrove forests to explore. If you get the chance it is best to try and avoid the weekends as it can become swamped with holidaying Singaporeans and the idyllic feel can be lost.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Singapore is one of only two cities in the world with extensive primary rainforest and this sprawling nature reserve is full of challenging trails for the real adventurer. You can go mountain biking or hiking through dense undergrowth while spotting mischievous long tailed macaque monkeys, the occasional monitor lizard and spectacular birdlife. It is a welcome change of scenery and easily reached by bus or MRT at Bukit Gombak station.
Spend a full day enjoying the delights of west Singapore at picturesque Jurong. This seemingly tranquil suburb offers up a feast of things to see and do and promises nonstop excitement for all ages. Start your day at the Jurong Bird Park (website: www.birdpark.com.sg) the largest of its kind in Asia.
School age kids will find interactive displays and activities captivating at both the Singapore Discovery Centre (website: www.sdc.com.sg) and Science Museum.
Snow City (website: www.snowcity.com.sg) is right in the heart of town and a great way to finish your day is careering down an artificial ski slope in an inflatable tube or learn how to snowboard.
Laidback and rustic, Pulau Ubin is an offshore island lying off the east coast and easily reached by a 15-minute bumboat ride from Changi Pier. This is how ‘mainland’ Singapore must have looked 50 years ago and life here is very low key and simple. You can easily explore on foot or by bicycle, glimpsing historic old farmhouses, temples and rolling hills. Wild boar, lizards and goats roam free and it is easy to walk for an hour or two without seeing another soul. Most of the coastline is lined with dense mangrove swamp, although there is a pleasant one kilometre boardwalk with seafood cafés.
Escape Theme Park
A more down to earth alternative to glitzy Sentosa Island, this sprawling amusement park is a real kid pleaser with a great variety of thrilling rides. Families will spend hours splashing around on death defying water slides, go karts, bumper boats and traditional carousels. There is a host of roller coasters suitable for all ages and younger visitors especially will be captivated by the enchanting street entertainment. (Open: 10:00-20:00 (Saturday, Sunday, public & school holidays); Admission: adult/SGD$18, children (aged 3-12)/SGD$9, family package (2 adults+2 children)/SGD$43, Senior citizen (aged 55 and above)/free; 1 Pasir Ris Close, tel: +65 6581 9112).
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Take a glimpse of how the other half lives across the causeway in the bustling Malay city of Johor Bahru. Beloved of weekending Singaporeans for its bargain shopping, it is a lively, sometimes chaotic place with a real frontier town atmosphere. Soaring Islamic minarets punctuate the skyline, however it is almost as culturally diverse as Singapore. Shopping is not quite the religion it is in Singapore but offers far better value in general, so stock up on traditional Malay gifts such as batik garments or jewellery. Johor Bahru can be reached via the causeway at Woodland MRT station and don’t forget to bring your passport!