Island getaways in Johor
Johor’s islands are perfect quick getaways - they’re less crowded but just as beautiful as Tioman or Pangkor Island. Or even Boracay’s beaches! Most of these islands are accessible via the Mersing Jetty by boat and/or speedboat, but keep in mind the monsoon season that affects the eastern shores between October and March. It’s a good idea to check the forecast as you plan your trip.
The pristine beaches may all look the same so we recommend following this guide - our list highlights a special feature in every island that you should definitely check out to maximise the fun!
1. Pulau Sibu - Explore shipwreck and battle remains
Pulau Sibu is a cluster of islands namely Sibu Besar, Sibu Tengah (not to be confused with Pulau Tengah), Sibu Kukus and Sibu Hujung with most of its resorts concentrated in the main island, Sibu Besar.
Go for a dive and while you admire the marine life, hunt for remnants of history left behind from a battle between Chinese junks and pirate vessels. You will find shipwrecks and ruins from the cannon fires scattered around the seabed off the coast. Thankfully, the echoes of battle have long faded and now the island hums its peaceful sounds as you sip a cocktail on the beach.
How to get there: Unlike the other islands on this list, Pulau Sibu is not accessible from Mersing Jetty. You’ll have to take a boat from Tanjung Leman jetty, which is an hour’s drive south of Mersing.
2. Pulau Tengah - Recuperate at Batu Batu Resort
Pulau Tengah, or sometimes referred to as Batu Batu Island after the boutique resort, is an uninhabited private island. You don’t have to travel far to bask in its tranquility because the island is located only 30 minutes from Mersing by boat!
Batu Batu’s villas are strategically built into the terrain to meet your fancy - perched on higher ground at the fringe of the rainforest, tucked among rocks overlooking the ocean or on Sunrise beach for direct access to white sands as you step out. Head over to The Spa for its array of massages and treatments tailored to your needs.
To fully experience the island’s richness of flora and fauna, go between June and August and you might catch the sight of leatherback turtles laying their eggs on the beach.
How to get there: It’s a 30 minutes boat ride from Mersing Jetty. Alternatively, a speedboat awaits if you book an accommodation with Batu Batu Resort.
3. Pulau Besar - Spend time with locals at kelongs
Pulau Besar, previously known as Pulau Babi Besar for the wild boars that have now dwindled, is only 30 minutes away - a perfect respite for those bearing a mild separation anxiety with the mainland.
There are about 7 to 8 small villages with over 100 dwellers, mostly fishermen. You can spend time with them at their kelongs and watch them fill their nets with bounty aided by their years of fishing experience.
Pulau Besar is known for its diving spots to catch Hawksbill turtles landing and hatching. If you’re for supporting endangered animals, get involved in the conservation project while you’re here and turn your holiday into a good cause.
How to get there: From Mersing Jetty, it costs RM25 per ticket for non-Malaysian and RM10 for Malaysians to board the ferry.
4. Pulau Tinggi - Work out with nature
We haven’t forgotten about our adventurous readers - in your next getaway, visit Pulau Tinggi to kayak around the island, trek through thick rainforest leading to a waterfall lagoon, and take a 3-hour hike up Gunung Semundu with a village guide. Your reward is a stunning view of Pulau Tinggi and the neighbouring islands.
Alternatively, less physically taxing activities include visiting the villages and observing the island’s local life. There’s a museum and a turtle hatchery for those interested in gaining knowledge of wildlife and conservation efforts. At night, join the mangrove swamp excursion to watch fireflies illuminate the island.
How to get there: While Pulau Tinggi can be reached from both Mersing and Tanjung Leman jetties, we suggest launching the speedboat from the latter - it’s closer, taking only 30 minutes by speedboat.
5. Pulau Rawa - Recline, relax, and reset
This easygoing island with its untouched white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters is perfect for a nap on a hammock and a tan by the beach. The stress-free vibes are amplified when paired with a good book.
One side of the island has soft white sand where resorts are aplenty while the other side is marred by rocky cliffs, an area less explored by island-goers. Explore the island’s coast to admire the beautiful rugged cliffs by renting a canoe or walk 270 steps up to the top of the island and enjoy an unobstructed view of the Johor coast and other nearby islands.
How to get there: A ferry ride from Mersing Jetty will take you an hour to get to Pulau Rawa. Each ticket costs RM35 each.
6. Pulau Harimau - Swim in a natural pool
While in Pulau Rawa, consider a half-day trip to Pulau Harimau — an uninhabited, resort-less island. What it lacks in lodging is compensated by the lack of human traffic without sacrificing the activities it offers, making it a quiet island gem.
Those who know of its beauty will visit the cavern with a natural pool, accessible by snorkeling from the beach. The roof of the cave, which has fallen through, allows the warm sun to enter as you swim in turquoise waters.
How to get there: You can reach Pualau Harimau from Mersing Jetty. Tickets are available at the jetty’s counter.
7. Pulau Mensirip - Fill up your diver’s logbook
If you’re looking to fill your diver’s logbook with as many diving spots as you can, pop by Pulau Mensirip. You can island hop here from Pulau Besar and swim among the diverse aquatic life like coral reef fishes. Or, you can spend some rounds cliff diving!
It’s a private island owned by the Johor Royal Family so trespassing means breaking the law - so don’t sail your own boat there, and don’t head to shore unless you’re cleared for it!
How to get there: The only way in is to join trips to Pulau Mensirip and Pulau Harimau from Pulau Rawa or Pulau Besar.
8. Pulau Pemanggil - Go deep sea fishing
Being known as one of the best fishing spots in Malaysia, Pemanggil is definitely worth the 4-hour boat ride (90 minutes by catamaran) if you’re a fishing enthusiast. You’ll find sport fishes like marlin and sailfish easily during your fishing expeditions but for dorados and mackerels, deep sea fishing during May and June is required.
Look out for Batu Buau, Pemanggil’s landmark, known to the locals as a sacred totem. There is also an isolated bay named Teluk Lancang on the north-eastern coast of the island, where you will find plenty of coconut trees growing among tropical vegetation.
How to get there: A boat ride from Mersing Jetty takes about 4 - 5 hours to reach Pulau Pemanggil. The island’s resort will also arrange boat services for you.
9 and 10. Pulau Dayang and Pulau Aur - Photograph marine life
These two islands are lumped into one because they share common famous diving spots - like Telok Jawa and Dayang Tip - since they reside close to each other. It seems the further away from the mainland you travel, the clearer the water gets - ideal for underwater photography and #nofilter IG posts.
From shallow reefs to deep rocky seabeds, the depth ranges from 7m to 67m with varying visibilities. Novice divers do not have to worry or feel intimidated because there are spots with conditions optimal for beginners to sharpen their diving skills. Nonetheless, you’ll get to be up-close with marine life that includes Manta-Rays, Whitetip Sharks, and turtles.
How to get there: It takes 5 hours from Mersing Jetty to travel to either destinations as they are islands located furthest from mainland. Stay over the respective resorts to maximise your getaway - Dayang Blue Resort for Pulau Dayang and Sebukang Bay Resort or Bluewater Holidays Resort for Pulau Aur.
Travel far from mainland without passports
As a country made up of 878 islands, Malaysia will offer respite to those in need, as long as you’re open to exploring the border’s nooks and crannies. No need to book an expensive flight out to Bali, Phuket or even Maldives. Clear waters and pristine beaches exist in many of our islands that are only a few short hours away.
However, the joy of exploring around Malaysia is reaching its furthest parts, without needing a passport - like Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang. There’s a lot of excitement in knowing that you’re standing at the edge of the country’s boundaries!