You may only have a few days in the Lion City, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore outside its limits. With more than 60 outlying islands and a super-close proximity to neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore is the ideal jumping off point for a day trip or two.
Whether you’re looking for a shopping trip, cultural expedition, or an afternoon lazing on the beach, there’s an offshore or onshore excursion for you. So leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind, and read on for 5 easy escapes that offer something for everyone.
Reached via a three hour-plus journey across the border to Malaysia, the World Heritage listed Malacca is comprised of its old town on one side of the river and the new on the other. Though for most visitors, it's the history-rich old town that should be the day trip go-to.
A diverse mix of culture and stunning architecture, this colonial city has a timeline spanning some 600 years of Portuguese, Dutch, and British trading. Travellers can take in temples, museums and landmarks, including the eye-catching red Christ Church, said to be the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia, and its Red Clock Tower opposite, which is probably the most photographed structure in the town. The Malacca Straits Mosque with its 30-metre-high minaret is another highlight.
To take the time tunnel back to a pre-high rise Singapore, jump aboard a bumboat to the island of Pulau Ubin.
An easy 10-minutes from Changi Point Ferry Terminal ($3 each way) this time capsule is untouched by development and is home to the country’s last surviving kampong (Malay term for village). Offering a dose of adventure and nature in one, visitors should rent a cheap bike and hit the trails that zig-zag across the jungle-covered island taking in secluded beaches, thick mangrove swamps, old Malay cemeteries, deserted temples and old, forgotten wooden houses. While the protected Chek Jawa Wetlands on the isle’s eastern tip are a must for eco-lovers who can traverse the kilometre-long coastal boardwalk taking in the variety flora and fauna. Afterwards, hit up one of the friendly locals for a fresh coconut or beer for some post-cycling rehydration.
Undoubtedly the most famous of Singapore’s offshore islands - and by proxy day trips - Sentosa is the Singaporean equivalent of Disneyland. Home to Resort World complex which comprises both the S.E.A. Aquarium and Universal Studios theme park, alongside a casino and various shopping malls, both kids and the kid at heart will be easily entertained for a day.
But if crowds and commerciality aren’t your thing, how about a day of pampering instead? Sofitel’s Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa (accorhotels.com) is the largest Sofitel spa in the world. An adults-only pleasure zone totalling 6,000-square-metres of pure indulgence that offers a lengthy menu of spa treatments, sauna and hammam, outdoor lap pools, floating pools with waterfalls and mud pools and tropical gardens aplenty in which to recharge your Zen.
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Another of the most-visited day trip destinations, southern Malaysia’s largest city - and the second-largest in the country - is only a bridge crossing away.
Boasting a medley of attractions - cultural, retail and plenty of activities for kids - the border town and capital of the state of Johor is a real all-rounder. In terms of sightseeing, you can’t visit without ticking off the Moorish Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque (renowned as one of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia) and the Royal Mausoleum, which is the final resting place for region’s royal family. Little ones will be easily entertained by the newly-opened Legoland Malaysia complex, while the nearby Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park is home to kid-friendly favourites, such as Bob the Builder, Hello Kitty and Thomas the Tank Engine.
For retail fiends, the Johor Premium Outlets are shopping Mecca, with fashion, beauty products and electronics all for sale at a fraction of the price of mainland Singapore. While on the other side of the retail coin, visitors can pick up authentic local handicrafts, intricate Batik textiles and other Malay arts and crafts. Whatever your shopping preference, the favourable exchange rates mean you get serious bang here for your Singapore dollar.
Less beach destination, more religious landmark, Kusu Island - which translates to ‘Tortoise’ or ‘Turtle’ Island - is a tiny stretch of sand six-kilometres off Singapore’s mainland.
Reached by an easy 15-minute ferry ride ($18 for a round trip) the sacred site is steeped in mythology and was named after a tale of a giant turtle-cum-tortoise saving two men from drowning by transforming itself into an island. As such, today the spot is home to an array of temples, shrines and, of course, ponds filled with turtles and tortoises.
There are several nice beaches and swimming lagoons for day-trippers, but the most common visitors are local Singaporeans who come to worship, especially at the Da Bo Gong Temple, which is dedicated to the Chinese god of prosperity. To see the island at it’s most active visit during the annual Kusu pilgrimage in October to November when upwards of 10,000 devotees visit in search of divine health with fertility, wealth and health.
Stay A Little Longer...
If you’re in Singapore and want to extend your visit a little longer to tick off a few day trips, then check in to the city’s newest 5-star property - and the new jewel in Sofitel’s crown - Sofitel Singapore City Centre.
Overlooking the historic shophouses of Tanjong Pagar and conveniently connected to an MRT Station, the property is both perfectly situated, convenient and luxurious. Nice touches include the huge in-room bathtub and resort-feel, infinity swimming pool that dangles over the surrounding high-rises.