Our step-by-step guide to taking the ferry to Pulau Ubin, plus all the fun things to do with the family on this rustic island.
If there’s one thing to put on your Singapore bucket list, it’s a day trip to Pulau Ubin, aka ‘Granite Island’. Located just off the upper east coast, we reckon it’s one of Singapore’s best island locations. Why? It’s a great place to escape the metropolis bustle of the Lion City, take in a good dose of nature and enjoy lots of awesome cycling. Not only that, it involves a cheap and cheerful boat ride to get there, so you can get those all-important holiday vibes. Especially great right now, seeing as how our international plans have ground to a halt thanks to the pandemic! So how to get there and what to do? Read on for our complete guide to Pulau Ubin with kids.
Pulau Ubin with kids: the complete guide
How to get there
First off, you’ll need to head to Changi Point Ferry Terminal to catch the ferry to Pulau Ubin, which operates from 6am to 7pm. Each wooden bumboat leaves as soon as there are enough passengers to fill it. That’s usually 12 people, but when we went we were social distancing, so there were about half that. Because of the pandemic, it cost us $4 per person for one way, and there’s a small extra cost if you’re bringing your own bike with you. (Normally it’s $3 each and $2 extra if you have a bike.) In a hurry? The bumboat operator will be able to sort you out for a group fee of $30+.
The Pulau Ubin boat ride takes roughly 15 minutes, and the kids will love it! Being out on the water is a great start to your day of adventure.
When you arrive
After you jump off the bumboat and head up the steps to the jetty, it’s a short walk to reach the island. Take a left after you pass under the welcome sign. You’ll immediately find the Pulau Ubin Taxi Kiosk on your left – super handy if you have older parents with you or reallllly young tots. Here, you can book a colourful minibus taxi – marked with the distinctive ‘PU’ licence plate – to take you around if needed.
If you need a quick toilet break before you start exploring, head right to freshen up. The public toilets are in good condition, and there’s even a baby change table if you need to do a quick nappy change.
Hiring bikes on Pulau Ubin
Of course, hiring bikes on Pulau Ubin is the easiest (and best) way to travel around the island and get the most out of your day. Left of the jetty and a bit further on from the Taxi Stand you’ll find Ubin Town. It’s pretty small so there’s no chance of getting lost, and there are several places to hire all sorts of bikes for your family’s needs. They’re not brand new, but we thought the mountain bikes on Pulau Ubin were great and made light work of all the gravel paths. They cost us $15 each but we reckon there are deals to be had… and we didn’t look out for them admittedly!
There are also tandem bikes available, bicycles with baskets on if you prefer to look a bit more dainty, and kids’ seats and bikes too. The small village also has several restaurants that are hawker-ish in style, plus the odd provision shop. Once you’ve got your wheels, it’s time to explore the island!
Exploring: Things to do in Pulau Ubin
1. Chek Jawa Wetlands
For many visitors, the main attraction is Chek Jawa Wetlands. In fact, if you don’t have long here and only have time for one thing, make this your destination. Situated in the southeastern tip of the island, it’s a pristine ecosystem that’s teeming with wildlife. Getting here by bike, you’ll encounter a steep gravel hill to cycle up. If you’ve got kids on the back of your bike, be prepared to put in serious grunt work! Otherwise, heed the signs and dismount and push for extra safety.
Once you arrive, you won’t be able to take your bike into the wetlands area, so lock it up at the bike stands just outside. Then off you go! There are two main boardwalks (coastal and mangrove), a lookout jetty, and the 21-metre high Jejawi observation tower.
2. House No.1 (the Tudor house)
Before you head into the wetlands, remember to check out the Tudor-style cottage, or House No. 1 (its postal address in Ubin). It’s the visitor centre that has been converted from the house that was built back in the ’30s, and it’s on the way to the viewing jetty. There are lots of informative signs inside (and there are also good working loos outside too if you need a pee break!) to get a good insight into island life.
3. Sensory Trail
This easy walk takes about one hour to complete and takes you through the backyards of the Pulau Ubin village homes. You’ll see fruit trees such as papaya, banana, rambutan and breadfruit, as well as the different vegetables, spices and herbs that the villagers used to plant. It’s an excellent way to learn more about the rustic and natural character of the island.
4. Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple
You’ll find this temple near Pekan Quarry. It was built to serve and provide convenient access for residents and was where all festivities would take place, according to the lunar calendar. (That includes the Hungry Ghost Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, among others.) During these times, hawkers would set up stalls, villagers would catch up with each other and traditional opera was performed.
5. Ketam Quarry
This was the last granite quarry to be closed on Pulau Ubin. You’ll find it to the left of the island, and it’s hugged by Ketam Mountain Bike Park. (It’s great if you have teens or tweens who are hardcore bikers!) Ketam Quarry is now water-filled and tranquil, and is a good spot to have a quick rest. You’re also not far from the German Girl Shrine, so be sure to head there too.
Top tips for a family day out at Pulau Ubin
1. Time your trip
Bumboats run from as early as 6am to 7pm. If you’re planning to leave later than 6pm, you’ll need to make prior arrangements with the bumboat operators. If there are no boats available at Pulau Ubin jetty for your return trip, call the NParks hotline at 1800-471 7300 for assistance.
2. Take cash!
This is rustic, remember? You’ll need it for the boat, bikes, food and drinks vending machines.
3. Dress appropriately.
Activewear is a good shout as you’ll likely get hot and sweaty, and probably a bit muddy too if it’s rained recently.
4. Remember to bring these with you
Take mosquito repellent! An absolute must. Sunscreen is also needed, and don’t forget snacks for kids and your reusable water bottles. Yes, you can buy bottled drinks there, but try to reduce your carbon footprint and take your own.
5. Don’t forget your brolly!
There are lots of trees to help protect you from the sun… but they’re not effective in rain showers! Consider bringing ponchos or umbrellas so you don’t get saturated in a downpour.
6. Backpacks recommended
Us practical mums also suggest backpacks are your best form of bag option – especially if you’re cycling.
For more information on everything to do with Pulau Ubin, check out the NParks microsite.
Have the best day out, folks!