St John’s, Lazarus and Kusu Islands are a great way to spend a day away from the crowds and hustle and bustle of busy Singapore life. These three islands are part of the Southern Islands and are located about 6.5 km south of Singapore’s main island. They are not crowded, have the nicest beaches in Singapore and are a perfect place for a picnic. However, these secluded islands won’t stay that way for long. Singapore has plans to develop these islands for tourism. So go now while they’re still a tranquil getaway.
To visit these islands, make your way to Marina South Pier, which has its own stop on the North-South (Red) line. From there, you can only buy a ticket to island hop from Singapore Island Cruise. The price is SGD $18 round-trip for adults and $12 for children. While you are at the Marina South Pier, be sure to stock up on water if you didn’t bring enough. If you didn’t pack a lunch, you can buy convenience store items to eat at the Marina South Pier. There is no food for sale on St John’s or Lazarus Islands.
The easiest days to visit the islands are Sundays and Public Holidays because there are more ferry timings on these days. You can look at their schedule here. You may have to wait for two or three ferries before you can board. The first stop on the round-trip is St. John’s Island. From there you can cross a causeway to Lazarus Island. When you reboard the ferry, you will be taken to Kusu Island before returning to the Marina South Pier.
St John’s Island
Upon arrival at St John’s Island, my husband took a look around at the guard towers and neat chain link fenced area toward the center of the island and asked if the island used to be a prison. In fact, in the past century St John’s Island has in turn been a quarantine station, a place to hold political detainees, and a treatment center for opium addicts. But my local-born husband didn’t know anything about the place, and he’s far from alone in that. More and more people are visiting these islands each year, and the older generation has always known about them, but to be sure, they are still a quiet retreat.
As you head towards Lazarus Island (left of the jetty, if you are facing the island from the sea), you will pass by mangroves with their unique ecosystem. There is a very large shady area on this portion of the island if you need to get out of the sun. If you’d like to stay the night at St John’s Island, you can rent the Holiday Bungalow that sleeps 10. More information about this unique accommodation can be found here.
The causeway to Lazarus Island.
Cross the causeway to Lazarus Island. The causeway is a popular spot for photo takers and fishermen alike.
Once you arrive at Lazarus Island, you’ll start to see private boats, kayaks, and body boarders playing on the water. Follow the curved path to more beaches. The best beach on the island, in my opinion, is to the right after the curving path. It’s a small little stretch of beach, but there’s really not a lot of beach on this island nation.
Kusu Island is a very different island from the other two. The name means “Tortoise Island” and there are many folk legends about the island. One of the legends involves two holy men, one Chinese and one Arab, traveling to Kusu Island together to pray and fast. The Chinese holy man fell ill, but the prayers of the Arab holy man restored his health. Today a Chinese temple and a Malay shrine stand as two of the main attractions on the island.
This temple is dedicated to the Merchant God and to the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. Beside the temple is a small kitchen where you can buy water, canned drinks and fried rice. Every year during the 9th month of the Chinese calendar, thousands of devotees make a pilgrimage to Kusu island to pray for wealth, prosperity and happiness. During that time, the ferry does not run for the general public.
Continuing on the path, you’ll encounter a hill. Climb up, up, up 152 steps to reach the Malay shrine. Another legend of Kusu Island is of Syed Abdul Rahman, an Arab who took his wife and daughter in a sampan from Singapore in search of peace. The story goes that his boat capsized and a tortoise saved the family, bringing them to safety on the island. This shrine is dedicated to the family.
A final legend about Kusu Island is that the island was formed by a giant tortoise to save two drowning fishermen. Real and sculpted turtles and tortoises are found all around the island, including at the Chinese temple. There are also families of macaques and a variety of birds to be seen here.
If you’d like to visit St John’s, Lazarus, and Kusu Islands
- Buy ferry tickets at Marina South Pier, which has its own stop on the North-South, or Red, Line.
- Round-trip ferry tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for children.
- Be sure to bring water, food, and sun-block.
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