Chances are, most of us haven’t been to Pulau Ubin too many times, if at all. I’d been there once as a kid and the only memory of it? It was super ulu. But that’s also precisely what makes it a gem that many of us have stepped foot on once, but not yet fully explored.
Besides housing the OBS campgrounds that many students either excitedly or unwillingly attended, the island is a stunning nature enclave that gives the parks and reserves on the mainland a run for their money. Few buildings in sight, little crowds, and kampung vibes all round. Visit or revisit Ubin – and when you do, here’s what’s in store:
View the full NParks map here.
Singapore is small – and you’d think an offshore island of ours would be ultra-tiny. But Pulau Ubin is pretty decently-sized, a whole 8KM long in fact, with asphalt roads winding through, linking the many attractions.
To complete everything in a day, follow our guide below in sequence to form a full-day itinerary (13KM). Else, pick out your favourite spots and visit them individually. A guide to getting around is included below!
View the route map here.
Located close to the main jetty, the Sensory Trail is a quaint 1 hour-long trail reminiscent of wandering through someone’s backyard, albeit a humongous one. We headed there first thing in the morning, and the experience can best be described in one word: soothing.
Wander the beaten trail of the vegetable and herb garden
Vegetable, spice and herb gardens pepper the area with rows of fruit orchards. Just imagine our surprise when we spotted a mini-pineapple farm – who’d have thought any fruit other than roadside mangos could grow in Singapore?
The map at the trailhead only shows a portion of the area, but continue further up and you’ll cut through a canopy-shaded dirt path to reach a small beach and a local landmark known as Teck Seng’s Place. Head here for a more extensive map.
Distance from main jetty: 300M | 4min walk
Perched on a little hill with concrete stairs leading up, Teck Seng’s Place, also known as House 363B, used to be owned by – surprise – Mr Chew Teck Seng. The sky blue Chinese home housed 3 generations of the Chew family when they ran the Teck Seng Provision Shop on the island back in the day.
Take a quick peek through the gates when you pass by. Else, come by when there is, quite literally, an open house, on the 2nd & 4th weekend of the month, complete with tours held by NParks. The home has been kept as it once was in the past, so entering it will be like taking a glimpse back in time.
Image credit: Trevallog
Opening hours: 10AM-2PM, only on 2nd & 4th weekend of the month & public holidays
Distance from main jetty: 650M | 9min walk
Image credit: @xqlaine
Ubin is home to plenty of granite quarries which were excavated back in the 1970s to supply materials for roads on the mainland. Once a flatland, these spots are now picturesque lakes. In particular, Pekan Quarry is the most accessible of the lot, being only a 3-minute bike ride from the jetty. Relax by the lake and keep an eye out for herons that are known to nest around the area!
Note: Pekan Quarry is closed for upgrading from August 2020 until further notice
Distance from main jetty: 600M | 8min walk or 3min cycle
It may look like a scene right out of the rural countryside but the Ah Ma Drink Store is on the way to attractions like Ketam Mountain Bike Park and Puaka Hill.
Fun fact: The store used to be on lower grounds, flooding each time the tide rises. In 2018, NParks and NUS Architecture undergraduates helped to relocate it to where it is now.
Ah Ma, in her 80s, only comes down on the weekends to sell cold drinks and coconuts, but on weekdays, the seats at the riverside store are still open to all as a rest stop.
Opening hours: Varies. Opens on weekends only.
Distance from main jetty: 1.4KM | 6min cycle
Puaka Hill is perhaps the island’s best-kept secret. Standing at 74M-tall with an entrance that looks no different than the other road forks, it’s something that you might easily bypass – and many people do.
But with only a 10-minute hike up an easy trail, you’ll discover a panoramic vantage point – a reward that far surpasses the muscle work it takes to get up.
Even athletically-inclined folks won’t have trouble
Starting with a mud and dirt trail, the route gets a little rocky towards the top, so wear shoes to avoid slipping.
Bali’s Nusa Penida? The Lion King’s Pride Rock? Nope, it’s Pulau Ubin.
At the peak, it’ll be hard to believe this is only half the height of Bukit Timah. Views stretch over the horizon, and you’ll catch a sense of vertigo with an expansive granite quarry right under your feet. There’s also a serenity and stillness that’s a rare treat, considering the non-stop hustle and bustle we face on the daily.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath. Namaste here all day if I could.
Second-highest lookout point
On the way down, look out for an obscure path that takes you to a second lookout point. It’s slightly less scenic than the one above, but fewer people know about this.
Trail length: ~300M (10min)
Distance from main jetty: 1.8KM | 10min cycle
Lance Armstrong or not, head to Ketam Mountain Bike Park, where an exhilarating 10KM-long network of trails snake through the area. For adrenaline-pumped cyclists, this is a massive playground with tricky slopes and rocky challenges, split into 3 levels:
Blue Square – Grassy Knoll
Try the Grassy Knoll, a Blue Square trail, which is utterly thrilling despite its mild appearance. Expect some bumps, muddy patches and inclines that seem to come out of nowhere. My white Stan Smiths came out half brown – but it was definitely worth it.
Black Diamond trail
The Black Diamond and Double Black Diamond trails, meanwhile, will take experienced cyclists around the quarry through steep inclines and rocky lookout points. Give it a shot if you’re confident on the bike.
If not for the bike trails, visit the area for the Ketam Quarry viewpoint, a charming picnic spot situated along the waterfront. Catch your breath here, or whip out your camera – there’s tall lalang grass that’ll deliver pictures to rival the ones you’d get at Tuas lalang field.
Distance from main jetty: ~3KM | 15min cycle
Kelong dining experience
No “island-hopping” experience is complete without seafood. Serving some serious fishing village vibes, Season Live Seafood offers zi-char and seafood dishes like Fried Rice (from $4), Crispy Prawn Rolls ($10) and Sambal Mussels (from $10).
Pick a seat along the waterfront for the best views. Facing the jetty, you’ll also be able to see the bumboats ferrying passengers to the island and if you’re lucky, flocks of hornbills gliding across the sky.
We enjoyed a sweet baby coconut ($5) and told ourselves we were in Bali
Other dining options in the area include seafood restaurants Cheong Lian Yuen and Sin Lam Huat as well as Maleh Cafe, the only Halal eatery on the island.
Address: 59E Jalan Endut Senin, Singapore 508309
Opening hours: 10AM-6PM, Daily | May close earlier on weekdays
Telephone: 6542 7627
Distance from main jetty: 230M | 3min walk
Image credit: Adventures by Asian Detours
Unlike kayaking in the open sea, mangrove kayaking is much more beginner-friendly, with calm waters that you can paddle through without battling white-capped waves or going against strong currents. You’ll also be able to reach out and touch the mangrove trees and take a closer look at the wildlife that lives within.
Adventures by Asian Detours is the only kayaking tour operator on the island, and they organise 4-hour-long sessions in the mornings and noons. No worries even for the greenest of greenhorns – proper training will be provided. But note that you will get wet, so bring a change of clothes!
Price: from $89 per person
Address: 34 Pulau Ubin, Singapore
Telephone: 9772 2071
Distance from main jetty: 180M | 3min walk
Consider yourself lucky if you find Warung Pak Ahmad open, as they’re known to operate on random days. The roadside store invites guests in with a “Cold Drinks Sold Here” sign placed among flowers, as well as swings in the front garden for kids to play. A taste of true kampung life indeed.
We didn’t manage to catch the store open but still got an unconventional experience nonetheless. Out of the blue, one of the nearby houses started blasting upbeat EDM at club-level volumes for the entire cluster to enjoy. It’s one of those things you can only catch happening in Ubin – listen out for it if you’re there in the evenings!
Address: 488 Jalan Ubin, Singapore
Opening hours: NA
Distance from main jetty: 1.4KM | 6min cycle
House No.1 looks like it came straight out of the pages of a fairy tale. The best part is you can actually enter it and point out features that you’d like in your future home – like the fireplace, or country cottage-like aesthetic.
The Tudor house was originally built in the 1930s by Landon Williams, a British chief surveyor then, as a vacation home. And while some might boast a pool out the back at most, this one has its very own jetty that extends far out into the sea.
Walk down the jetty to enjoy the sea breeze
Address: House No. 1, Ubin, Singapore
Opening hours: 8.30AM-6PM, Daily
Distance from main jetty: 3.5KM | 15min cycle
Nature lovers can’t miss the Chek Jawa Wetlands boardwalk, which covers six natural ecosystems including coral rubble, a seagrass lagoon and mangroves.
There are 2 trails you can take here, the first being the Coastal Loop boardwalk, complete with pontoons and shelters. Hang around to catch low-flying planes heading towards Changi Airport, or marvel at the vast expanse of the sea with faraway mountains peeking from the horizon.
The Mangrove Loop takes you on a more intimate journey with nature where you can spot wildlife like large mudskippers and crabs in close proximity. After experiencing everything up close, head up the loop’s 7-storey high Jejawi Tower, which takes you above the canopy for a bird’s eye view of the entire area.
Trail length: Coastal Loop – 600M (8min) | Mangrove Loop – 500M (7min)
Opening hours: 8.30AM-6PM
Distance from main jetty: 3.6KM | 15min cycle
Immerse yourself in the great outdoors by spending a night in Pulau Ubin. Hear the chirping of crickets in the evenings, stargaze without light pollution and awake to roosters crowing in the morning. There are 3 campsites on the island that you can camp at including Jelutong Campsite, which is near the jetty, and Mamam Campsite in the north of the island.
Our favourite of the lot though, is the Endut Senin Campsite, which rests by a lake, with white-as-snow sand that you can pitch your tents on. A pavilion lies just metres away if you need to escape from any sudden thunderstorms, and there’s a large and clean restroom nearby, stocked with toilet paper.
Endut Senin washroom
Distance from main jetty:
Jelutong Campsite – 550M | 7min walk
Mamam Campsite – 2.3KM | 10min cycle
Endut Senin Campsite – 2.5KM | 10min cycle
*Note: Camping is not allowed during Circuit Breaker Phase 2
Singapore is chock-full of eateries but hardly do you ever come across one that’s floating in the middle of the sea.
Wave goodbye to conventional dining experiences as you head to the Smith Marine Floating Restaurant, – which is not exactly on Pulau Ubin per se, but lies in the area. Getting there is an experience in itself as you’ll have to take a 10-minute boat ride just to reach the restaurant – but having a meal away from the rest of civilisation isn’t all that’s on the plate.
Taking “catch of the day” quite literally, diners will also get to fish for their dinner ($35) at the restaurant’s sure-catch pond. Have it cooked in a method of your choice, in Cantonese, Teochew or Assam-style.
Getting there: Place a reservation at least 3 days in advance. The restaurant will help to organise a 2-way bumboat transport ($100 for up to 12 people) from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
Opening hours: 10AM-7PM, Daily
Telephone: 9792 7609 (Whatsapp only)
P.S. If you’re wondering, this is the restaurant’s address: 01’23’5″N, 103’57’42″E
To get to Pulau Ubin, take a 10-15 minute bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. There are no fixed schedules and no pre-booking required. Each boat typically departs when 12 passengers arrive at the terminal, and operators will collect cash payments of $4 per person and $2 per bike after everyone boards. Make sure to bring along loose cash!
The first ferry typically departs from Changi at 7AM and the last ferry returns from Ubin around 6PM. But this timing varies so drop the ferry terminal a call to check before heading down. We’ll also recommend playing it safe and returning to the jetty at least half an hour before the supposed last boat, as there’s no guarantee boats will be available till 6PM on the dot.
Address: 51 Lorong Bekukong, Singapore 499172
Telephone: 6542 7944
Getting to Changi Point Ferry Terminal: Take bus 109 from Pasir Ris MRT (20min) or 29 or 59 from Tampines East MRT (20min). Alternatively, those driving can park at the Changi Village Public Car Park nearby.
Cycling is arguably the best way to get around the island as it’s fast, flexible and affordable. Even for beginners, it’ll be a breeze as long as you stick to the flat and well-paved main roads.
Bikes can easily be rented from vendors near the jetty from as low as $5/day for an older bike, or up to $35/day for a mountain bike, no deposits needed. We rented a pair of decent bicycles at $8/day from Mr Xie at a shop named “25”.
Picking out a bicycle
Yes, Pulau Ubin has cars and their number plates start with “PU” instead of the usual “S”. If you’re gunning for just one attraction the fastest way is to go with one of their taxi services.
Each van seats up to 10 people and prices start from $2 per person for a short trip, or up to $35 per hour for private hire.
Walking is another alternative for those who prefer to enjoy a leisurely stroll. We met a middle-aged couple who did everything on our itinerary within a day, but by walking instead of cycling, so it’s a doable journey for sure. Just make sure you return to the jetty before the last ferry departs around 6PM!
Taking a break from our hectic lives doesn’t always require burning our hard-earned annual leave or booking a pricey plane ticket to a faraway land. Try Pulau Ubin instead, a peaceful island so removed from the rest of Singapore, you’ll feel like you’re either overseas, or somehow transported back in time to the kampung days.
Before you go, bring along:
For more outdoor adventures, also check out:
Photography by Alaric Sim.
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