Two Ways From Harbourfront Station

What don’t we like about Singapore? The miraculously unvandalised indoor-outdoor public toilets? The seemingly endless birthday party rehearsals? The laws specifically directing us not to spit, chew gum, or point lasers at aircraft?

Certainly not those. The insidious constraints on free speech, perhaps. But one of the things we don’t not-like about Singapore the most is its fantastic system of interconnected “national parks”.

I honestly tried not to put the words

I honestly tried not to put the words “national parks” in inverted commas. In Australia, national parks are vast areas with infrastructure like goat tracks or – perhaps – infrequent signposts and composting toilets, but never architecturally-designed pedestrian overpasses with digitally-coordinated light shows.

One of our favourite weekend activities is forcing our children to walk long enough distances that they eventually get too tired to argue or whine or even stay awake, so we can sit on the couch drinking wine and writing blog posts and maybe catching up on the back catalogue of Simon Pegg. Taking inspiration jointly from Free But Fun (because this is also free – apart from the wine – and fun), and the Canadian Travel Bugs (who are running a parks theme for their Tourist In Your Own Town series), I present you with Two Ways From Harbourfront Station – an exploration of a couple of very reachable rambles through the highest and, I don’t know, boardwalkiest parts of Singapore.

Who Went? Multiple trips with two children aged 0-5, plus mum and dad.

Review: Route One to Labrador Park makes a nice, flat, round-trip along the water and through the mangroves, closing with a short ride by MRT. Good for a half-day stroll with younger children.

Route Two along the Southern Ridges to Kent Ridge is more of a linear march, with various escape points. It runs along higher ground, including a couple of bridges and canopy walks. Using early escape routes or cheating by cable car makes it suitable for almost everyone. Going the distance provides greater challenge and variation.

Highlights: Route One (Labrador Park) contains a small lighthouse, a children’s playground, the remains of a colonial fort (with canons), a boardwalk past the marina and through the mangroves, and several options for refreshment.

Route Two (Southern Ridges) goes through the trees; across a canopy walk and some rather fancy pedestrian bridges; past a converted manor house/restaurant and a terrace garden, some fitness trails, a children’s playground, a cultivated garden and a war museum; and finally finishes in the middle of “nowhere” (ie. a place with only one public bus service, which runs merely thrice an hour on Sundays but more frequently at other times). There is also a cable car at the Harbourfront end, if you want to walk less and spend more.

Challenges: Route Two is not fully stroller-friendly, although you can still get through most it if you know the way and use the cable car. Take plenty of water, hats, sun cream, and snack foods.

Price Bracket: Low, unless you add all the extras, like swanky lunch stops and cable car rides.

Itinerary One And Three Photos: Keppel Bay Boardwalk and Labrador Park

  • If you want to get really fancy, you can book a BBQ pit for S$12 along the promenade at Labrador Reserve. (If you’re not a resident of Singapore, try entering your passport number when it asks for NRIC/FIN. You never know. But please come back and tell us whether that works or not, so we know.) Book earlier if you’re going on the weekend.
  • Exit Harbourfront station and turn West (towards the cable cars).
  • At Keppel Bay Drive, turn left towards the Marina.
  • Before crossing the bridge to Keppel Island, turn right and walk along the waterfront, which turns into a board walk, until you get to Labrador Park.
  • You can follow the board walk straight around to your right past the mangroves and you’ll end up at the MRT station, or keep walking further along the waterfront to explore Labrador Park a little more first, before doubling back to take the ride home. There’s a children’s playground, the remains of the old fort with cannons and underground store tunnels (tunnels are closed off, but you can peer in), BBQs, a lighted beacon for ships, and two restaurants, one on top of the hill (with more food places in the mall across the road from the MRT).
  • Public toilets at Harbourfront, Labrador Park (one along the shore front and one near the playground), and Labrador Park MRT station.
P on the wrong side of the old store tunnel bars at Labrador Park.

P on the wrong side of the old store tunnel bars at Labrador Park.

Watching the sea traffic from the promenade at Labrador Park.

Watching the sea traffic from the promenade at Labrador Park.

Wildlife by the mangroves.

Wildlife by the mangroves.

Itinerary Two And Three Photos:  The Southern Ridges from Marang Trail to Kent Ridge Park

  • If you’re confident of making it the whole way, there’s an argument in favour of taking a taxi to the “finishing” point – the car park on Vigilante Drive – and ending with a cable car ride down to Harbourfront MRT station. (You can also go by public transport, but you have to know where to get off the bus.)
  • Make your way to the top of Mount Faber, either on foot or by cable car.
  • ESCAPE POINT ONE: a short loop can be made by walking up, taking in some views from Mt Faber, and cable-caring it home. Don’t forget to stop at the world’s best toilet, as voted by French International Website. The restaurant at the Jewel Box serves a limited menu of Singaporean food during the day, and has a carp pond and a ship’s bell to keep the kids entertained. Faber Bistro is a bit further along. It has light bites and Western-style food, and although they lack live carp they do have a small fountain.
  • Follow Faber Walk to the Henderson Waves bridge. There’s a public toilet on the far side of the bridge – not the world’s best, but not its worst, either – and some outdoor fitness equipment.
  • ESCAPE POINT TWO: if you go down to Henderson Road, which runs under Henderson Waves Bridge, you can take buses 131 or 145 back to Harbourfront MRT station.
  • Alkaff Mansion is a colonial manor house, now restaurant. We haven’t yet tried their “inside” menu or brunch (except for the special marshmallow fondu treat given to P and T by the kind staff), but the pizza in the outside cafe does the trick.
  • Climb the stairs just past Alkaff Mansion to get a view from the Garden Terrace at Telok Blangah Hill Park.
  • Walk onwards past the reservoir to the forest (canopy) walk and on to Hort Park, just across the Alexandra Arch. There’s a nice public toilet near the front of the park.
  • ESCAPE POINT THREE: there’s a bus stop on Alexandria road, on the side opposite Hort Park. If you take the 97, 100, 166, or 57, you will get straight back to Harbourfront MRT station.
  • There’s a restaurant at Hort Park, as well as a cafe-cum-garden-shop. Take a pit stop before heading onward to the children’s playground and stroll through the gardens. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the butterfly garden is closed, but check the website for updates.
  • ESCAPE POINT FOUR: if you turn right out of Hort Park, over the canal, you will find yourself on a back road which leads to Pasir Panjang MRT station. Recommended for advanced navigators.
  • Walk up the hill and climb the steps to Kent Ridge Park. Reflections at Bukit Chandu – a War Memorial Museum (small entrance fee) – is just at the top of the stairs. There is also a canopy walk to your right.
  • Turn sort of vaguely west/right along the ridge and through the park until you get to the carpark at (what will probably by that time feel like) the end of the universe. There is another public toilet here, and another fitness trail just below. Climb to the rotunda for a last look at the view before you leave the park.
  • Advanced navigators can walk more or less straight downhill towards the sea until they get within reach of Pasir Panjang MRT station (there is another children’s playground on the way). Others can follow the road out from the car park onto South Buona Vista Road and catch the number 200 bus to Haw Par Villa MRT station – or just call a taxi.
  • There is also a way to walk out via the landward-side of Kent Ridge, through the Science Park to NUS and onward through Clementi, but that would be getting way keen.
Southern Ridges canopy walk.

Southern Ridges canopy walk on route two.

The best toilet in the world, according to French International Website, which may or may not be an authority on toilets - at the Jewel Box, Mount Faber Park.

The best toilet in the world, according to French International Website, which may or may not be an authority on toilets – at the Jewel Box, Mount Faber Park.

Too stingy to buy tickets? Your children are sure to be delighted with this pretend ride in a decommissioned cable car at the top of Mount Faber.

Too stingy to buy tickets? Your children are sure to be delighted with this pretend ride in a decommissioned cable car at the top of Mount Faber.

Additional Notes:

If you want to BYO lunch, buy up at Vivocity (connected to Habourfront MRT station) before you make for the big, wide world. There is a Giant (supermarket) in the basement (generally cheaper, but they may have minimum purchase quantities for fruit and vegetables) or a Cold Storage (supermarket) on the ground level. Another good choice is the Vietnamese sandwich shop, Baguette (also on ground level UPDATE – this place is moving (a long way across town) as of November 2013!), or ask for takeaway from one of the stalls at the Kopitiam/Banquet Food Courts (basement, vivo).

If a guy at a toy stand on the ground floor at Vivo City distracts your eldest by waving an enticing thingy at him and then, when you beckon for your child to come along, deliberately draws his attention so his back is towards you and he can’t see you gesturing, do not wave even more frantically or march over there to retrieve your son. Instead, make the international signals for “(Index finger at own chest) I will be (index finger running in circles) back in (that’s ten, that’s twenty) [unspecified units of time] (thumbs up, friendly wave of appreciation, nonchalant walk in opposite direction),” and he will helpfully get your child back on track in a jiffy. (Journeys of the Fabulist: bringing you weirdly-specific travel advice since 2013.)

More about Life (And Parenting) In Singapore.

National Parks of Singapore: Two Ways from Harbourfront Station

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