Singapore is a metropolitan city and a melting pot of people, languages and culture. There is no lack of activity or novelty in this urban island, but city life can sometimes take its toll on the mind and body. Whether you are a tourist or a local, the islands surrounding Singapore offer both a welcome refuge from the concrete jungle and a peek into Singapore’s pre-urban past. Let’s check out some of these destinations within a two-hour boat ride from Singapore.
Pulau Ubin is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas within Singapore. Located 15 minutes away from Changi pier, Ubin is an enchanting destination that has an element of timelessness and is a must-see for any would be visitor. It stands in sharp contrast to the skyscraper filled mainland, with one of its major attractions being the 19th century wooden houses that are home to cheery, easy-going villagers.
Some of its rural charm includes unfettered forests, age old dust paths and a laid back pace of life that makes one feel liberated from the modern pressures of life. Visitors have the option of cycling off to a wetland reserve – Chek Jawa – or simply whiling away at the local eatery enjoying the tranquility of the rural landscape.
You can reach the island by catching a bumboat from the Changi ferry terminal.
St John’s Island
St John’s Island is another popular destination within Singapore. It offers an idyllic retreat for visitors who can choose among picnicking at its remarkable beach, getting a tan or even just strolling around the island to experience nature at her best.
St John’s Island also has an exquisite coral reef home to a school of dolphins that on a good day can be seen playing in the water. For individuals who seek tranquility, taking part in a nature walk conducted by the local marine institute would be a good idea.
The island can be accessed via the daily ferries leaving from Marina South Pier.
Although Batam (part of Indonesia) is known for its luxurious resorts and sprawling golf courses, it is not the reserve of well-heeled travelers. There are actually numerous locations on this island that offers budget-friendly refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life. Located 20 kilometers from Singapore’s south coast, Batam is also a gateway to Indonesia and its famous Riau Archipelago.
Visitors have the option of hiring a vehicle and setting out on an enchanting drive through the island. Some of the most notable landmarks that can be viewed during these drives include the Barelang bridge – a signature landmark in Batam and camp Sinam: now a ghost town that once hosted thousands of refugees during the Indochina war.
For those more interested in having a good time, the Melur beach renowned for its pristine conditions is the destination of choice. You can then spend the rest of the day at the Sekupang district best known for its luxurious spa and massage treatments.
The island can be accessed via BatamFast Ferry which runs a frequent 45 minute ferry service departing from Singapore’s Harbourfront Terminal.
Bintan (Tanjung Pinang)
This Indonesian island lies right next to Batam and can be best described as sleepy village with one of the finest beaches in Asia.
When visiting this island, it would be a good idea to first power-up with traditional buffet – Nasi Campur – before heading out to the coastline.
The view from the coastline is quite remarkable making a stroll on the peaceful stretches of sand one of the major highlights when visiting. The day can then be completed by a visit to the Penyangat island ruins (ancient capital of the Malay Kingdom) and a seafood meal at the Melayu square.
The island can be accessed via a 90 minute ferry ride from the Tanah Merah terminal.