These islands near Singapore are all less than an hour away from the city (some are literally just minutes away), meaning you can easily swap the concrete jungle for an actual one, along with miles of soft sand. They offer a convenient getaway from the big city when you just want to escape it all, but still be within touching distance of a Starbucks and 7-Eleven.
From large, developed islands where locals happily spend an entire long weekend (and you’ll need your passport), to tiny, almost deserted tropical islands just a short 20-minute ferry hop from Singapore, here are our favourite islands near Singapore.
Time from Singapore: 5-10 minutes
How to get there: Take the MRT to Harbourfront station then change to the Sentosa Express from the 3rd floor in VivoCity mall.
What to do: Ride the coasters at Universal Studios, see the fish at Underwater World, eat, drink and play on the sand at Tanjong Beach Club.
You don’t have to be Robinson Crusoe to explore Sentosa. This island is so close to the mainland you can even walk across the footbridge (for free or $1 depending on the time) – or just take the Sentosa Express that connects to the MRT. Head to Universal Studios or one of the many other big-name attractions here and you’ll probably feel like you’ve not escaped the mainland and its commercialisation at all. However, there are some pretty impressive beaches to be explored at Tanjong and Siloso. Hit up Tanjong for its beach bars, or try Siloso if you’re with the family and want to play beach activities such as football and volleyball.
Bintan Island (Indonesia)
Time from Singapore: 50 minutes
How to get there: Take a ferry from Tanah Merah or Harbourfront ferry terminal in Singapore. A round trip costs about $30-$50.
What to do: Take a ‘staycation’ in one of the many resorts, hire a car and drive around the island checking at all the seaside enclaves, chill out on the beach, go elephant watching, temple hop.
Part of Riau Archipelago, this is the second closest Indonesian island to Singapore, behind the similarly-named Batam Island just next door. Bintan is less than an hour away from Singapore by ferry, and the developed island is best known for its excellent lineup of white sand beaches and range of water-sport activities. Day or weekend trippers should definitely check out the famous Banyan Tree Temple or take a stroll around Tanjung Pinang, the island’s quaint and friendly capital.
St. John’s Island
Time from Singapore: 20 minutes
How to get there: Ferry from the World Trade Centre or Marina South Pier (around S$18, twice daily with additional service on the week and public holidays).
What to do: swim in the lagoon, take a picnic on the beach, explore the winding jungle tracks on foot or bike.
This is one of Singapore’s most popular outer-lying islands (other than Sentosa, of course). There are a few decent beaches for swimming, changing rooms, toilets, picnic spots and shops. You can also rent a bungalow for a night on the island and make the most of the tranquillity when all the tourists go home. St John’s is also well known for its lagoons, which are cut off from the sea by spits of sand around the perimeter of the island, so bring a lilo and sunblock.
Time from Singapore: 25 minutes
How to get there: Ferry from World Trade Centre or Marina South Pier to St. John’s Island (around S$18, twice daily with additional service on the weekend and public holidays). Then walk across the purposely built concrete walkway for free.
What to do: As little as possible – relax on the beach or take a dip if you’re feeling particularly energetic.
Some say that Lazarus Island has the most idyllic beach in the whole of Singapore – yet many visitors to the more developed St John’s Islands don’t bother making the short excursion over the bridge to check it out. For those that do, there’s not much here, but the long stretch of unspoilt white sand, fringed nicely by palm trees and tropical jungle in the background all make it worth the walk.
Time from Singapore: 5 minutes
How to get there: Take a small boat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal (around $2 for one-way).
What to do there: Explore the wetlands on foot or by bike, picnics on the beach, birdwatching.
Aside from Sentosa, the most popular destination for day-trippers that isn’t on Singapore’s main island is Pulau Ubin. This small strip of land is sandwiched between Singapore and Malaysia, and is best-known for its wetlands area that makes a great playground for adventure seekers. As well as the abundance of greenery, there are also some nice bike trails – and the beaches here are pretty nice too.