When we first moved here two years ago my husband became increasingly frustrated with all the time we would spend in shopping malls. It was the easy thing to do, an air-conditioned reprieve from the oppressive heat on what felt like every corner of the island. I love shopping as much as (if not more) than the next sassy mama but after a few consecutive weekends of Great World City, Vivo City, and Ngee Ann City even I started to tire of the retail outings.
Tired of our shopping mall sojourns, my husband started looking into outdoor walks for our family and to my delight these have turned out to be wonderful outings. Equally fun for me was learning that so many of these outdoor adventures came with off the beaten path dining discoveries. Combining these mini hikes with a leisurely lunch close to the park has become a regular weekly activity for our family.
Some of our favorite outings include:
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a small drive north past Woodlands and Kranji Reservoir. There are a number of educational activities available for families but we prefer to explore on our own. There are 3 possible routes (3, 5 and 7km) so you can make it as long or short as you’d like. Throughout the year you can see everything from mangroves, crabs, water snakes, birds, spiders, and monitor lizards (not necessarily a selling point for me but I supposed it may be for the husband and kids!). The trails are also lined with “observation hides” where you can stop and relax while taking in all the sights and sounds.
Down the road is Gardenasia, a beautiful garden and event venue that has coined the term “agritainment” for their services. Their on-site restaurant Bistro is a perfect place to stop for lunch. They emphasize that getting close to nature doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice delectable cuisine and they are spot on with this. Bistro uses fresh ingredients straight from surrounding farms and they serve everything from Western to Local delights. I couldn’t stop digging into my son’s “Rainbow Fusili with Wild Mushrooms” as it must have been one of the freshest dishes I’ve ever tasted off a kids menu!
Henderson Waves, Forest Walk and Hort Park
I think my favorite place to walk in Singapore is along the intersecting trails of The Southern Ridges. The Southern Ridges is actually comprised of 10km of green hiking trails that connect Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve. We usually pick up the trail at the top of Mount Faber Park at Henderson Waves, and then connect to the Forest Walk followed by Hort Park.
Henderson Waves is quite an impressive site. Standing at 36m above Henderson Road it’s the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. What more, its wave-like structure consisting of a series of curved “ribs” is a wide open path for little ones to run without getting much in the way of fellow park enthusiasts. The “ribs” can also serve as a break from the heat, shelter from sudden rain or simply a place to sit and enjoy the beautiful skyline. Once we finish the bridge we head in the direction of Forest Walk, an elevated walkway where you walk through the forest of Telok Blangah Hill at eye level with the forest canopy. It’s a narrow walkway but very fun for little ones with all the twists and turns.
At the bottom of Forest Walk is Hort Park (also known as the gardening hub) as it features more than 100 species of flowering shrubs and trees. By this point we’re usually ready for lunch and lucky for us there’s a charming restaurant on site called Vineyard that features a French and Thai menu with a rustic feel. Our two year old is often also ready for a little rest and if he does happen to fall asleep in his stroller then there is nothing better than enjoying a well earned glass of wine (in peace!).
Discovering Labrador Park was like uncovering a hidden gem. The park sits right next to the ocean so there’s an overall serenity to the park with its rocky sea cliff, cool breezes and panoramic view of Singapore’s coast. My husband particularly enjoys the military installations, secret tunnels, and other World War II relics and my son the adventure playground.
This relaxing walk can end with a drink or snack at the stunning Eco Gourmet Café, which has a similar feel to a Bali spa retreat. The atmosphere is as beautiful as you’d expect being nestled amidst the jungle. I’ve read a number of mixed reviews about the food but we’ve been very happy with the lush setting and cold beverages.
Bukit Batok Nature Park
Bukit Batok Nature Park turned out to be the perfect length hike for my little tike. A manageable trail through a scenic forest there are plenty of breathtaking lookout points as well as a picturesque pond at the foot of a high cliff (right near the playground!). The site also has World War II significance and a memorial plaque lies at the foot of the 120 steps that lead to another vantage point. In addition to the uphill trails there is a long flat walking path that goes around the park — perfect for littlies to run around or scoot.
If you do make the trek to Bukit Batok Nature Park you’ll be happy to know that Spruce is a quick hop step and a jump up the road. Located in the old Upper Bukit Timah fire station it’s a delicious post-park pit stop.
MacRitchie Reservoir Park
We love the high-energy exercise that takes place every day along the water’s edge of MacRitchie Reservoir. Depending on the age (or the mood) of your little ones the boardwalks skirting the river make for a nice leisurely walk or you can opt for one of the many walking trails for a more intensive trek. My favorite part of the reservoir is the TreeTop Walk, a freestanding suspension bridge where you can take in the view of the forest canopy from 25m above ground. The distance from the main to entrance of the park to the TreeTop Walk is a long one (about 4.5 km) but if start your outing at Venus Drive (you can park or take a taxi here) you can cut this time in half.
A lovely place to finish the walk is Lavaedge, the modern restaurant bar that sits on the hill overlooking the reservoir. You can stop in for a cool drink and small bite or settle in for an unlimited brunch buffet ($28 for adults, $16 for kids age 3-12) while taking in the beautiful scenery. They also have a fairly extensive cocktail menu, which can also be the perfect way to end a sunset stroll.
Marie Claire Lim Moore is a Filipina-American working mum who moved from New York to Singapore two years ago. Wife of Alex and Mother of two-year-old Carlos and six-month-old Isabel, Claire also manages the Global Client business for Citibank in Asia. She enjoys juggling career and family and stays actively involved in the international community with organizations that advance the role of women in business.