Our step-by-step guide to taking the boat to Pulau Ubin, plus what to do on the rustic little island (which is filled with nature trails and wild boars!)
Looking to get stuck into a Singapore day trip with a difference? It’s worth making the trip to Pulau Ubin, one of Singapore’s best island locations located just off the east coast of Singapore. It’s home to Singapore’s last authentic kampong (village) and one of the most unique cultural experiences you can enjoy beyond the city. The bumboat ride is fun, the cycling is awesome and there’s plenty to see on the little island – plus, the whole shebang is affordable. Always a plus!
The adventure begins at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Each ferry will depart as soon as 12 passengers cross the ferryman’s palm with silver ($3 one way, and $2 extra if you are bringing your bike)! If you’d rather not wait, the ferryman will take your group with a fee of $30. The littlies, regardless of age, will definitely enjoy the 10-minute wooden bumboat ride to Pulau Ubin!
Upon arrival, the Pulau Ubin Taxi Kiosk is on the left of the jetty. For families with younger kids, you can book a minibus taxi – marked with the distinctive ‘PU’ licence plate – to take you around the island. For the weekend warrior, there are tandem bikes available too. Rent your bicycles (the best way to get around the island, we think!) from Ubin Town.
Looking exactly the part of a 1960s Singaporean kampong, the small village is a wonderful mishmash of old wooden buildings with restaurants, bicycle rental stores and the odd provision shop. After renting your bikes (training wheels included for the younger kids), it’s time to explore the island!
Named ‘Island Granite’, Pulau Ubin had many quarries, which used to supply granite to the local construction industry. Though now abandoned, the scenic spots make really great photo stops! In fact, the hill and water combination of the quarries are reminiscent of traditional Chinese brush paintings (to us, at least).
Pulau Ubin is also a haven for nature lovers, and rightly so. The main attraction is Chek Jawa, located on the southeastern tip of the island: a pristine six-in-one ecosystem (mangrove, sandy beach, coastal forest, sand flats, mud flats and coral rubble) teeming with wildlife. There are two main boardwalks (coastal and mangrove), a lookout jetty, and the 21-metre high Jejawi observation tower. Remember to check out House No. 1, situated behind the Information Counter and, on the way to the viewing jetty, a Tudor-style cottage with the only remaining fireplace in Singapore!
Head back to Ubin town for lunch (or early dinner, depending on what time you arrived) via the one-way road system from Chek Jawa. Note that the terrain on the way back would probably require some bike-pushing (which might mean more work for parents). After your meal, return to Singapore with the same type of bumboat, which should fill up a lot faster!
How to ace Pulau Ubin with kids
Georgina, mum to Minnie, Willa and Ted
When my well-travelled friend, her husband and their three kids visited Singapore recently I wanted to show them a different side to the place (not just the bright, shiny version). An intrepid day trip to Pulau Ubin more than fit the brief. With four adults and five kids under seven, we filled our own wooden bumboat. The trip alone was a major highlight for the kids – hanging their heads out the windows and breathing in the sea breeze. On arrival, we were buoyed by the old Singapore village vibe and headed straight to the bike hire. There are bikes galore – we managed to find one to suit everyone (including an adult bike with a baby seat and retro dinky bikes for older kids). Like everything on the island, the bikes are timeworn, but this only added to their charm. We laughed our way around Pulau Ubin along tree-lined paths and across streams. A major hit with the kids was our stop off at Butterfly Hill. Post-ride, we enjoyed a refreshing drink at a local seafood restaurant. The kids played on the beach and had an unsanctioned, but much-enjoyed, dip. By this time everyone was showing signs of fatigue, so we headed back home (and waited less than five minutes to board the ferry). The beauty of an excursion to this family-friendly island is that it’s easy, quick and super affordable (so there’s no pressure to stay all day to make it value for money). We’ll be back for sure…
If the littlies are really looking to bask in the nature of Pulau Ubin, consider camping outdoors at Jelutong or Maman Beach where you can pitch your tent for the night. Permits are not needed, but you’re advised to let the officers at Pulau Ubin Police Post know you’re there. They will also provide a quick brief on the all important dos ‘n’ don’ts of camp life on the island. Prepare to be a tad stinky by the time you return though: there are toilet facilities around the campsites, but no showers! We’re pretty sure the kiddos won’t care… and what it lacks in washing facilities, it makes up for with a peaceful kampong-style life.
Top tips: Do bring plenty of water, snacks and insect repellent. Also, ensure you have sufficient cash, and respect the wildlife! The wild boars and monkeys all over the island would appreciate it.
Tracy, mum to Jack, Angelica and Rafferty
We are always looking for days out that aren’t going to break the bank, but will still appease our age range of kids (we have a 16-, 10- and six-year-old), so Pulau Ubin certainly fits the bill. We recently took ourselves over to this gorgeous patch of green for a rustic adventure, and once we were all kitted out with hire bikes (including a small mountain bike complete with stabilisers for our daughter), we headed off to the Cheka Jawa Wetlands. The ride was around four kilometres on both paved roads and stony tracks, and we loved the many David Attenborough-esque moments we had en route spotting woodpeckers, wild boar, monkeys, snakes and giant monitor lizards. The final part of the route was a no-bike zone, but just a short hike to the boardwalks around the wetlands and coastal areas. This is also where you’ll find the information centre (located in a mock-Tudor house known as House No 1, which is well worth a look around), toilets (with TP, soap and running water!) and drink machines.
The boardwalk is an easy stroll for young and old alike (and you don’t have to bike or hike to get there: taxi vans offer transport at $2 a pop, which makes the area accessible to all). The kids loved the high viewing platform, which gave us a bird’s-eye view of Singapore and Malaysia. This was also where we noticed the massive storm rolling in…
We got soaked on the way back to the jetty, so although we saw the beautiful quarry at a glance through the blur of rain, we didn’t get to check this area out on this visit, but will definitely head back soon for more outdoor fun.
Top tips: Take rain macs… and ziplock bags for your phone! Oh, and ladies: wear waterproof mascara and don’t wear white! The storms come in quick and there is little shelter along the trails.
Photography (top image): Tracy Tristram
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