Here’s our guide to island hopping around the Singapore Southern Islands.
Sentosa might be the most well-known out of the bunch, but Singapore’s Southern Islands consists of seven other islands — St John’s Island, Lazarus Island, Kusu Island, Sisters’ Islands, Pulau Hantu, Pulau Tekukor and Pulau Seringat.
Of these seven islands, only St John’s Island, Lazarus Island, Kusu Island, Sisters’ Islands are accessible via public ferries.
If you’re bored of your usual Tanjong Beach Club, consider heading down to the other Southern Islands instead for a day filled with uninhibited nature! 🌅
How to get to the Southern Islands
The ferry to the three islands leaves from Marina South Pier Ferry Terminal and takes about 20 minutes to St John’s Island (connected by land to Lazarus Island), and 45 minutes to Kusu Island.
Note: Sister’s Island is closed till October 2021 for jetty repair and maintenance works.
*Pro-tip: To visit all three islands in one day, we’d recommend visiting Kusu Island first because you’ll be done in an hour or so. Then you can spend the rest of your day at St John’s and Lazarus Islands.
Ferry schedule from the Marina South Pier Ferry Terminal
How to get there: Take the North-South line to Marina South Pier MRT station (Exit B). Head up the escalator and Marina South Pier Ferry Terminal is to your right.
Weekday: Take the 10AM ferry to Kusu Island > Catch the 12:30PM ferry to St John’s Island > Walk to Lazarus Island > Be at St John’s Island ferry terminal by 5:30PM for the last ferry back to Marina South Pier
Weekend: Take the 11AM ferry to Kusu Island > Catch the 1:30PM ferry to St John’s Island > Walk to Lazarus Island > Be at St John’s Island ferry terminal by 6PM for the last ferry back to Marina South Pier
St John’s Island
Once home to over 100 felines, St John’s Island is known by many to be Singapore’s Cat Island. What many people don’t know is its not so purr-fect past.
Fun fact: St. John’s Island was once a quarantine centre for sufferers of diseases such as beriberi and leprosy in the late 1800s. Later on, it transformed into a prison detention centre for illegal immigrants, political detainees and ringleaders of secret societies. Eventually, around the mid-1900s, it became a rehabilitation centre for opium addicts.
Today, St John’s Island serves as a tranquil island day trip destination for most of us.
Things To Do On St John’s Island:
1) Walk Alongside Nature
In St John’s Island, you’ll find gigantic trees tower over you like buildings, providing ample shade, making it perfect for you to go on a tranquil walk.
Due to sterilisation and rehoming efforts, the island is no longer filled with cats everywhere. You’d be lucky to spot the remaining handful of them still around St John’s and Lazarus Islands.
*Pro-tip: Bring along some cat treats so you can feed (and pat) the cats!
2) Go Snorkelling
The Southern Islands boast clear waters and marine life unlike any other beaches on mainland Singapore, making it an ideal spot for snorkelling.
If you don’t own a snorkel set or snorkelling experience, this snorkel and island exploration tour includes snorkelling equipment, an experienced guide and a scrumptious BBQ lunch.
Snorkelling Experience and Island Exploration in the Southern Island
Tour timings: 8:30AM – 4:30PM (Sat – Sun)
Meeting point: Marina South Pier Ferry Terminal, 31 Marina Coastal Dr, Singapore 018988
3) Have A Weekend Getaway
Did you know St John’s Island is the only southern island you can stay overnight at? For a 2D1N staycation amidst nature, you can pitch your own tent or book a stay at the St. John’s Island Lodges.
Note: Due to Covid-19, campsites and St. John’s Island Lodges are currently closed as a precautionary measure.
If there’s only one island in Singapore I could recommend visiting, it’d be Lazarus Island. This idyllic island might just be the closest to feeling like you’re on a getaway outside the hustle and bustle of Singapore.
In the heart of the island lies a clean and serene beach so mesmerising, you won’t want to leave.
A causeway connects St John’s Island to Lazarus Island, and the journey on foot takes ~20 minutes. Alternatively, there’s a pop-up bicycle rental available on the island for $30 to explore both islands.
Note: There aren’t any toilets and trash bins on Lazarus Island. The nearest ones available are at St John’s Island so do head to the toilet beforehand and bring along a bag to clean up your trash.
Things To Do On Lazarus Island:
1) Laze on Pristine White Beaches
With white soft sand and clear waters, Lazarus beach is easily the most pristine beach you’ll experience in Singapore. You can go for a swim, snorkel or just lounge and read a book on the shore.
*Pro-tip: We recommend renting a beach tent as there are barely any shelters at Lazarus Island.
2) Have An IG-Worthy Picnic
An island getaway wouldn’t be complete without the quintessential al fresco dining. With Lazarus Island as your backdrop, your picnic is bound to be picture-perfect.
All you need for an IG-worthy picnic is an aesthetically-pleasing mat, a variety of dishes for a pop of colour and of course, a camera.
*Pro-tip: Bring along your own food as there are no food and drink stalls on the Southern Islands
3) Chill Out On A Yacht
Another way to experience the azure waters of Lazarus Island sans the crowd is to rent a yacht! The yacht rental includes gear for snorkelling and paddleboarding, ensuring a memorable fun-filled day.
Alternatively, opt for a Southern Islands tour, where you can learn more about the fascinating history of the Southern Islands.
Southern Islands Speedboat Tour
Opening hours: 5:45PM – 7:45PM (Wed)
Meeting point: ONE15 Marina (Outside Wok15), 11 Cove Drive Sentosa Cove, #01-01 Singapore 098497
Southern Islands Yacht Tour
Cost: From ~S$83/pax
Tour timings: 11AM – 2PM Or 4PM – 7PM
Meeting point: 2 Keppel Bay Vista, Singapore 098382
If you didn’t know, ‘kusu’ stands for ‘tortoise’ in Hokkien. It is said that a giant tortoise had turned itself into an island to save two shipwrecked sailors, hence the name ‘Kusu Island’.
Many are quick to write Kusu Island off as boring but I’d beg to differ.
With a mix of holy shrines, colourful temples and live tortoises, this island is a must-see for culture and history buffs. In fact, thousands of devotees flock here during the lunar month for the annual Kusu Pilgrimage.
Things To Do On Kusu Island:
1) Visit The Temple and Keramat
Fun fact: The temples and keramats at Kusu Island are almost a decade old!
When you’re here, make sure to visit the wishing well near the temple or ascend 152 steps to pray for wealth and good health at the keramat.
Photo credit: Singapore Land Authority
Note: The Keramat at Kusu Island is temporarily closed due to slope work.
2) Check Out The Tortoise Shelter
Kusu Island wouldn’t be the same without its tortoises! Spend some time at the tortoise shelter and marvel at just how adorable these little creatures are. Just make sure not to get too close or feed them anything.
3) Go Fishing
The Southern Islands have always been a hot spot among fishing enthusiasts. Kusu Island in particular is known to be a good spot to catch groupers and silver moonies so if you’ve got a rod at home, make sure to bring it along with you!
Photo credit: National Parks Board
The Sisters’ Islands is by far the most untouched of the three. Legend tells of a tragic tale between two sisters who were torn apart by the pirates and drowned. The next day, two islands appeared at the spot where the two sisters had drowned, hence the name ‘Sisters’ Islands’.
Sisters’ Islands comprises of two islands, Small Sister’s Island and Big Sister’s Island. Only Big Sister’s Island is accessible to the public.
Note: Big Sister’s Island is closed for enhancement works till end March 2024
Things To Do On Big Sister’s Island:
1) Venture Out For A Kayak Paddle
The secludedness and unbridled nature of Big Sister’s Island make it a great place for kayaking. The waters around the islands are clear and home to some of Singapore’s richest reefs, so you might even spot some fishes from your kayak.
2) Go On An Intertidal Walk
Photo credit: @han.photographer via Instagram
Home to a variety of Singapore’s native marine biodiversity, it’s a must to do an intertidal walk when you’re at Big Sister’s Island. During low tide, all sorts of marine life will be visible on the beach, so keep your eyes peeled.
Depending on your luck, you might even encounter hermit crabs, starfishes and even seahorses!
Experience Marine Fauna and Flora with an Intertidal Tour
Cost: S$100/pax incl. private charter boat(s) to/from the island
Tour timings: Varies
Meeting point: Marina South Pier Ferry Terminal, 31 Marina Coastal Dr, Singapore 018988
3) Admire The Scene By The Breakwaters
There’s nothing more tranquil than the sounds of waves crashing onto the breakwater. Near the beach, there’s a breakwater that you can head out to and spend a few serene moments to appreciate the unbridled nature around us.
Note: Do be careful as the pathway to the breakwater can get slippery.
FAQs about Singapore Southern Islands
– How do I book tickets for the ferry?
You can purchase them online beforehand.
– Can you purchase food on the islands?
There are no food or drink stalls on the island itself, but you can purchase them from the vendors at Marina South Pier before you head out.
– Is there internet connection on the Southern Islands?
Yes, but the network service is poor at St John’s and Lazarus islands.
– What should I bring for a daytrip?
– Food and drinking water
– Mosquito repellent
– Picnic mat
– Hat, sunglasses, umbrella
– Swimming attire, towel
– Can I stay overnight?
The general public can stay overnight at the campsite or at St John’s Island Lodge. Due to Covid-19, however, all bookings for overnight stays are currently suspended as a precautionary measure.
Appreciating Singapore’s Southern Islands
The Southern Islands offer a great respite from our usual bustling city and let us in on a side of Singapore that’s unlike any other. As one of the last few unspoilt places in Singapore, let’s make sure it stays that way by doing our part and leaving the islands as pristine as they are.
What’s your favourite thing to do at each Southern Island? Share with us in the comments! 🙂