Last Updated: February 2, 2017
Whenever offshore islands are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is Sentosa. Everyone has been there at some point but did you know there are many other islands worth the visit?
If you’ve exhausted all possible leisurely activities and are lacking the funds for travelling abroad, why not take a day trip to some of the islands just off the coast of Singapore.
Not only are these isles rich in heritage and lush greenery, they are also easily accessible and fun to explore. Secluded and serene, these hidden sanctuaries might just be what you need to unwind and de-stress.
Here is a comprehensive list of seven offshore Islands for the budget traveller to explore:
The first on my list is St John’s Island, found just south of Sentosa. Previously known as Pulau Sakijang Bendera, the island used to operate as a quarantine station and rehabilitation centre. Now, it boasts one of the most sanitary swimming lagoons for water activities such as, diving and snorkelling. Prepare to be amazed by the marine life surrounding you as you take a dip in the pristine waters.
For those who aren’t particularly fond of getting wet, have a nice picnic before trekking through the various routes around the island to catch a glimpse of the beautiful skyline.
That’s not all, the island also offers comfortable lodging in the form of chalets and bungalows, available for rental if you wish to stay overnight. Where better to kick back and relax after a long day outside?
How to get there: Just take a two-way ferry ride from the Singapore Cruise and Ferry services at Marina South Pier.
Next up is Lazarus Island, which is, now merged with Pulau Seringat along a stretch of reclaimed beach, spanning 800 meters. With white sand and crystal clear waters, it is said to be Singapore’s best-kept beach and of course, a cheap alternative to the Maldives.
As the island is generally left undisturbed, it has a serene quality to it that you will not be able to find on any other public beach. This is precisely the kind of tranquillity that makes it the perfect destination for anyone looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
How to get there: For visitors coming from St John’s Island, it is a mere walk across a connecting paved bridge.
Just across Lazarus Island is Kusu Island. Having resembled the shape of a turtle before land reclamation, it was aptly named Kusu which, literally means “Tortoise” in Hokkien.
Today, the island has become a sanctuary for Muslim and Taoist worshippers to pay their respects. In addition to its religious heritage, there are also several tortoise related exhibitions open to the public. A guided marine tour hosted by Blue Water Volunteers also allows visitors to interact with sea creatures such as shrimps, corals and sea turtles.
Much like the other islands, it too has a scenic beach and lagoons for swimming in so it is definitely a place you can go to unwind.
How to get there: all you have to do is take a five-minute boat ride from St John Island’s jetty.
Translating to “Granite Island”, Pulau Ubin used to be home to the operation of granite quarries. Now, it has become something of an attraction and is one of the most visited islands second to Sentosa. In fact, thousands of visitors are seen flocking to the island during the weekends.
Known for its deep heritage, the island harbours a lot of history related to WWII. With rustic sites and abandoned quarries, Ubin is reminiscent of the past and is known as the last remaining kampong in Singapore.
You may rent bicycles at just $3 – $7 before cruising along the biking trails and enjoying the brilliant greens of nature. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to spot some wildlife while you’re at it.
For those who wish to stay overnight, you can either stay at Celestial Resort or choose to camp out by bringing a tent to sleep in; just remember to get a permit from the Pulau Ubin Police Post beforehand.
How to get there: Travelling there would require you to board a bumboat at Changi Point Ferry Terminal during their daily operating hours of 5.30am to 9pm. Priced at $3 per person for the boat fare, the ride will take about 15 minutes tops.
Home to one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems, Chek Jawa is located just on the eastern border of Pulau Ubin. If you’re already at Ubin, why not travel down here as your next destination? You can expect to find everything from sandbars and seagrass lagoons to mangrove swamps.
If you opt for a guided walk with Naked Hermit Crabs and Ulu Singapore, you can travel down the boardwalk, which leads towards a 20m high tower that allows you to enjoy a glorious view of the coastline. Along the way, you might even catch a glimpse of hermit crabs and star fishes washed up on the rocky shores.
For those who are interested in architecture, drop by House No.1, a Tudor cottage that has since been transformed into a visitor centre.
How to get there: Walk to Ubin jetty and scout for vans that will take you to Chek Jawa. At just $2 per person, you can hitch a ride with a few others to get to your destination.
As part of Punggol New Town, which is linked by two bridges to the mainland, Coney Island has become a popular spot for activities such as boating, fishing and water-skiing.
The island also happens to house great picnic spots that will surround you with the serenity of natural habitats such as, coastal forests and grasslands. Here, you can enjoy some grub with friends or family while admiring the wide variety of flora and fauna.
Bird enthusiasts can also take their bird-watching habits here as they have a high diversity of bird species that can’t be found elsewhere. With birds such as the Baya Weavers, Magpie-robins and Parakeets, this is truly the best location to observe these winged beauties.
How to get there: Alight at Punggol interchange and take bus 84 to Punggol Point Park/Punggol Settlement. Then, walk across the connecting walkway from Punggol Promenade Nature Walk to get to Coney Island’s entrance.
Legend has it that a pair of sisters named Minah and Linah drowned at sea during a storm and couldn’t be found anywhere after it cleared. In their place, two islands were formed and thus, the island was named Sister’s Island.
Featuring many scenic beaches, this isle has some of the richest reefs around. Snorkelling in the sea truly makes for a wonderful experience as you get to appreciate all forms of marine life including corals, giant clams and octopuses. Who knows, you might even come across a black-tip reef shark.
Here’s one for a day of fun in the water. Just be wary of the strong currents during high tide.
How to get there: Just take a ferry from Marina South Pier at the price of $18 for a two-way trip.
So, before these islands get industrialised, head on down to enjoy your mini vacation. If you get to tackle all the islands listed here, it would surely make for an experience of a lifetime. The best part is, you don’t even have to bring your passports.