As international borders open and travel plans are being made, we find wanderlust by exploring the lesser-known nooks and crannies throughout Singapore. Not sure where to start? Here are nine places that make you feel – with just a little bit of imagination – like you’re in another country. Both first-time visitors and residents eager to venture beyond the usual haunts tick these spots off their must-see lists.
1. Pulau Ubin
Just a 15-minute boat ride away from the mainland is this small but charming island where you can still experience a rustic lifestyle. Rent a bike at the main jetty and explore the island’s many natural attractions, from the coastal forests and rocky beaches to the mangrove swamps teeming with a rich diversity of aquatic life. For those who are feeling adventurous, be sure to check out the island’s hidden quarries for a sweat-inducing hike. Cool off with a fresh coconut and a sumptuous seafood feast at one of the several eateries back at the main jetty.
Feels like… Rural Malaysia
Unlike the many lighthouses in the United Kingdom that are available for overnight stays, you can’t stay here – yet. However, you can book a stay at the Raffles Marina club, which offers a much-needed respite with its relaxed resort-like atmosphere. The lighthouse continues to be a popular draw for photographers and lovebirds alike as it commands panoramic views of the surrounding breakwater and is especially scenic at sunset.
Feels like… Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Nestled within the residential neighbourhood of Bukit Batok, this disused granite quarry was spruced up in the 1980s to mimic the karst formations in Guilin, China. Fun fact: This photogenic spot was used as a filming location for several local television serials, including the wildly popular The Return of the Condor Heroes (1998) starring Christopher Lee and Fann Wong. After striking a pose in front of the rock formations, go for a gander round the nearby Bukit Batok Nature Park. This lush 36-hectare Eden is home to myriad wildlife such as long-tailed macaques, nectar bats and monitor lizards.
Feels like… Guilin, China
Little India itself is a vibrant neighbourhood worth spending an afternoon exploring, but a must-see is this impressive Hindu temple standing proud along Serangoon Road. Built by Indian migrant workers who moved to Singapore in the late 19th century, this temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali – destroyer of evil and protector of good. The temple is constructed in the style of South Indian Tamil temples typically found in Tamil Nadu and is characterised by its pyramid-style tower lined with sculptures of characters from Hindu mythology.
Feels like… Tamil Nadu, India
5. Sang Nila Utama Garden at Fort Canning
With its towering candi bentar (split gateway commonly found at the entrance of religious compounds in Java or Bali), you can be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to the Island of the Gods. This eight-hectare garden – named after the Palembang prince credited for being the founder of Singapore – is inspired by Southeast Asian gardens of the 14th century. Do also keep a lookout for the reflective pool, which brings to mind the Tirta Empul, the famous water temple close to Ubud.
Feels like… Bali, Indonesia
Located within the ritzy Sentosa Cove enclave, this riverside dining destination checks all the boxes with its relaxed ambiance, great food and plenty of space for young ones to run around. Surrounded by lush greenery and serene scenes of the yachts docked at the marina, the restaurants here offer a laidback vibe that’s hard to find in the city. There is also a wide array of cuisines to choose from, ranging from casual Thai dining to authentic Spanish tapas.
Feels like… Sydney Harbour, Australia
There’s something deeply nourishing about being out in wide, open spaces and after the year we’ve had, there’s definitely a yearning for the great outdoors. While the Bukit Timah Saddle Club isn’t quite wilderness, it still offers an expansive swathe of greenery to unwind in. Those looking to flex their equestrian skills can sign up for a public riding lesson while the rest of us can while away the afternoon at the nearby Riders Café.
Feels like… Lake District, UK
8. Hay Dairies
A favourite with families since it first opened in the 1980s, this is one of the few places in Singapore where you can enjoy a slice of pastoral life. Visitors to Hay Dairies are invited to help feed and milk the goats, as well as find out more about what goes into caring for the over 1,000 goats that live on the farm. Before you leave, don’t forget to pick up a few bottles of fresh goat’s milk – there is even chocolate flavoured milk for the little ones!
Feels like… North Island, New Zealand
9. Southern Islands
If you’re longing for a beach getaway but want to avoid the crowds at Sentosa or East Coast Park, why not book a yacht trip that will take you around the uninhabited Southern Islands? Many yacht companies offer package tours to Lazarus Island, St John’s Island as well as Sisters Island and can also customise a package based on your requests. All you need is your swimsuit and an ice box packed with your favourite booze.
Feels like… Phuket, Thailand
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.