Mar 7, 2022

16 Secret & Hidden Places in Singapore that are FREE to Explore with the Family

Looking for places to visit in Singapore with the family that are a little off-the-beaten track AND secret? Take a break from the usual malls and parks and check out Singapore's hidden spots, from abandoned parks to forgotten buildings.

All you need to bring along is a sense of adventure - no wallet needed because they are all FREE to visit!

1. 'Lost Ark' at Alexandra

If you are hiking along the Rail Corridor and walk past the old estate of Tanglin Halt, you will pass Masjid Hang Jebat, one of the few old-generation kampung mosques left in Singapore. Veer off the track and make your way towards Warwick Road.

Once you are within the estate of the colonial bungalows, head towards the Alexandra forest off Warwick Road and after less than 3 minutes of walking, you will see one of the best kept secrets in Singapore - the 'Lost Ark'.

We first came across this in January last year and this was actually constructed by a resident in the estate using a huge fallen trunk and turned it into a chill deck, complete with steps, chairs and even an BBQ pit. Well, that was what we saw when we were back there then. Apparently, now all that is left is the bare wooden deck... probably caused by the deluge of visitors.

Map Directions here.

2. Wessex Estate

Built in the 1940s, the quaint Wessex estate off Portsdown Road consists of 26 blocks of walk-up apartments and 58 semi-detached houses. They are concentrated around Woking Road, Westbourne Road, Whitchurch Road, Weyhill Close and Wilton Close, all of which were named after towns and villages in England.

Take a leisure stroll around the peaceful estate and try to locate the famed abandoned water tank (map location) standing on a small hilltop. The tall concrete tank has been described to share an uncanny resemblance to an UFO but I think that is all there is to it. It is definitely a place for the gram.

Be sure to make a pitstop at Colbar cafe, which was once a canteen for the British army barracks and military complex in the Portsdown area. Although it is currently not in its orignal location (it moved because of the construction of the highway), all of its original features, decorations and fittings were reused from the original canteen itself. Food-wise, it serves up a fusion of local, Hainanese and Western food - order the chicken curry and hor fun!

Map here.

3. Boh Geh Uncle Canteen

This canteen probably can't compete with the modern kopitiams and food courts but you know what, that is perfectly fine. Boh Geh Uncle Canteen feels like a place stuck in the 80's where diners sit on minimalist plastic tables complete with mismatched stools and benches under either a zinc roof or canvas canopy. 

There are only 3 stalls here - a cai png stall, a Muslim stall selling the likes of mee siam, nasi padang and nasi lemak, and a drinks stall, helmed none other by Uncle Boh Geh himself. Don't expect to snap photos for your IG because photos and videos are not allowed within the canteen. (I'm not too sure about the external area though 😅)

Address: 398 Piccadilly Rd, Singapore 798368

Opening Hours: 6am to 1.30pm (Mon to Fri)

4. Kay Siang Bunkers

Situated along Kay Siang Road in Queenstown are the remnants of three storage bunkers in the forested area. They were presumably built in the 1940's and were used for goods and ammunition storage by the British Military, and are located alongside the now-demolished Buller Camp that housed Australian and Indian POWs during the Japanese Occupation.

Collectively known as the Kay Siang Bunkers, the first bunker can be accessed via Kay Siang Road and it's only a one-min walk into the jungle. Although a short walk, the terrain can be slippery and muddy. The first one is probably the most impressive of the lot because although only the facade is left standing, a huge chunk of it has been taken over by vines and roots - a mighty show of force by Nature!

The second bunker is just a few steps away from the first one and it's a fully intact but empty one.

And if you search online, there is almost no mention of a third bunker. But if you follow the well-trodden trail on the right of the second bunker, you will find the third one. It is actually situated nearer to Margaret Drive, opposite MINDS. The third one looks more like a house than a bunker as the area it occupies is much larger. Perhaps this was where the officers lived. Even though the roofs are all gone, the remnants of the building walls still stand.

The total hike didn't take too long, about 30min tops but some parts of the terrain can be quite challenging due to slopes and muddy paths.

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

5. Johore Battery

Johore Battery was built in the late 1930s as part of Singapore’s coastal defence system. It comprised three 15-inch guns, known as “monster guns”. Although the battery was meant to stop enemy attacks from the sea, two of its guns could be rotated to fire landward. The British destroyed the guns before the Fall of Singapore to prevent them from falling into the hands of the invading Japanese.

Today, the site has been taken over by an F&B operator which is Halal-certified. Named Duit SG (27 Cosford Road Singapore 499549), it serves a wide variety of food, from zichar to western to pizza & pasta to Indonesian dishes like Ayam Penyet. Prices are reasonable and average about $8 to $10 per mains.

But the real draw for kids is the vast open space that they get to enjoy before and after meals. There are swings and this contraption where kids can test their strength by lifting the heavy weight at one end from different parts of the bar.

There is also a mini animal farm where they get to see rabbits, birds, chickens and even tadpoles!

Somehow it doesn't really feel like Singapore; more like a kampung in Malaysia... which is good enough for now since travelling is out of the question for now. 😅

TIP: Go for dinner because the entire area is lit up come nightfall, which makes it seem even more like a pasar malam in Malaysia. It's great for the IG, I think.

Address: 27 Cosford Road Singapore 499549

Opening Hours: 11am - 11pm (Closed on Mondays)

6. Abandoned Sijori Wondergolf

(UPDATE: A reader had informed me that the area is currently closed due to construction works but I have paid it a visit on 9 March 2022 and the entrance is still accessible. To my knowledge, there are also no signs barring entry to the site. Having said that, please exercise caution when visiting especially if you are bringing along the kids.)

Sijori Wondergolf was located on Sentosa and opened in the early 2000's. It was a miniature golf park and consisted of 54 landscaped greens set in three different 18-hole courses. But it was soon closed for redevelopment works - but somehow, it remained untouched and forgotten. And until today, it is still abandoned because you can still see plenty of traces of the miniature golf putting stations throughout the place.

Situated just beside the golf course are a number of derelict buildings which are also abandoned. Like these two pavilions which give off resort vibes.

For a detailed map and directions, read my blog post HERE.

7. Keppel Reservoir & Japanese Tomb

Nestled at the slopes of Mount Faber, Keppel Hill Reservoir (othewise known as the 'abandoned reservoir' or 'forgotten reservoir') was believed to have started operating as early as 1905 and served the water needs of the Tanjong Pagar Docks nearby. Subsequently, it became a place for swimming and even was a private swimming pool at one point. But by the 1950s, it vanished from the maps and its location was not officially marked for 60 years.

Now, it is regarded as one of the best kept secrets in Singapore as the area is totally unspoilt and getting there takes a bit of trekking through vegetation (and muddy tracks), in order to get to this piece of hidden sanctuary.

To get to Keppel Hill Reservoir, there are 2 routes to take - one is straightforward and more suited for families with kids while the other is a much more challenging one with a very steep slope to climb. If you take the more challenging route, you will pass by the Seah Im Bunker as well.

Walk a bit further uphill and you will find the solitary Japanese Tomb too!

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

8. Marsiling Tunnels & Bunker

This IS the ultimate trail challenge! How does crawling through WWII tunnels and slushing through mud in underground bunkers sound?

The Marsiling bunkers and tunnels were part of a Royal Air Force fuel reserve depot built in 1942. During WWII, they were occupied and modified by the Japanese. Now, they sit abandoned... and exploring them was such an awesome experience for us!

Be prepared to get your hands and feet dirty, in addition to coming face to face with fat lizards and their numerous eggs when crawling through the tunnels! You have been warned. 😅

Difficulty Level: 5/5

Location: Click HERE

9. Seletar North Link

Head to Seletar North Link Bridge for a dose of beautiful scenery! It's uper ulu, and it’s not even located on the main island of SG. 😆

The bridge links two reclaimed islands of Punggol Barat Island and Punggol Timor Island, and they are mainly used as landing and stockpile sites for granite and sand. So to be honest, there is nothing much here except for this piece of green lung but it is worth a detour if you are near the area of Yishun Dam and Rower’s Bay Park.

10. Bt Batok Hillside Park

(UPDATE: A reader had informed me that the area is currently closed due to construction works but I have paid it a visit on 9 March 2022 and the entrance is still accessible. To my knowledge, there are also no signs barring entry to the site. Having said that, please exercise caution when visiting especially if you are bringing along the kids.)

In addition to the two large parks of Bt Batok Nature Park and Bt Batok Town Park (or Little Guilin) at Bt Batok, there used to be another nature park along Bt Batok West Ave 2. But the peculiar thing about Bt Batok Hillside Park is nobody seems to know why was the park eventually abandoned. Even stranger that there is hardly any information about the history of the park online as well.

Also formerly known as Greenwood Park, Bukit Batok Hillside Park is bounded by Bukit Batok West Ave 2 and Bukit Batok West Ave 5. The most direct way to access the abandoned park is along Bukit Batok West Ave 2 - map provided in my post HERE.

You can clearly tell it was once a park - there are remnants of stone steps, a well, fake rocks (probably for aesthetic purposes), decaying boardwalk, stone table and even the skeleton of a sheltered walkway! 

The stone steps and abandoned well are located fairly close to the main road. However, if you wish to locate the boardwalk, shelter and stone table, they are located slightly further up on the hill.

All in all, the trek should not take more than 30 minutes if you enter from the main entrance at Bukit Batok West Ave 2. Although the well is extremely easy to get to, the boadwalk takes more effort to reach so it may not be suitable for young kids.

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

11. Kampong Lorong Buangkok

Kampong Lorong Buangkok is the last surviving kampong on mainland Singapore. Located near Gerald Drive (off Yio Chu Kang Road), less than 25 families currently live there. For the children (and even some parents), I would truly imagine the place to be an eye-opener as this is not something that we are accustomed to. The houses, connected by dirt roads, are mostly made of wood with zinc roofs and are separated by vegetable patches and wild fruit-trees.

Even though the public can enter the kampung & walk along the common pathways, it is still private land after all so it is only right if you seek the village chief, Miss Sng's permission if you intend to take any IG-worthy photos or videos.

Map here.

12. 'Avatar' Trees at Bukit Brown Cemetery

Don't worry, there's nothing spooky about the trail - if you go during the daytime 😅 - but rather, a stunning landscape of greenery and super tall trees will make your hike worthwhile.

There really are no other words to describe these massive towering trees that reside in the heart of Bukit Brown Cemetery. 

And quite frankly, this is one of my current fave hiking trails so far, thanks to these huge 'Avatar' trees. I love how tranquil the entire area is and that sound of nature that travels through the forest? Just wow.

The total trail distance is about 2.2km so it is not particularly long. The initial part of the trail before reaching the trees consists of a well-trodden earth trail that may get muddier if there were rainfall prior to your visit. Other than that, it is relatively straightforward. 

Once you go past the massive trees, you will hit Bukit Brown Cemetery. From there, you can choose to continue on the Bukit Brown Heritage Trail - you can download the self-guided walking tour HERE - or head back to the starting point.

Difficulty Level: 3/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

13. Sembawang WWII Bunkers

Home to the former British naval base, history-rich Sembawang is filled with WWII structures and secrets!

During the pre-WWII period, plenty of structures including underground bunkers, air-raid shelters and storehouses were built to support the naval base in Sembawang. There is speculation that theese bunkers and air-raid shelters are probably part of a complex and yet-to-be-discovered underground network in Sembawang.

You can start off the trail by visiting the old gateway off Jalan Selimang, which was most likely the entrance to the seaside bungalow of the late Cycle & Carriage boss Chua Boon Peng. Only the gateway remains standing today, while the bungalow is gone now. 

Then head towards Sembawang Park, where you can find an old bunker hidden along Gibraltar Crescent which has been completely ‘eaten’ by banyan roots. The entrance to the bunker has already been locked though.

But the evidence of underground bunkers can be seen throughout Sembawang, as can be seen from the numerous ‘hills’ scattered around. Like the ones at Durban Road and off King's Ave, which have ventilation vents sticking out. They have already been sealed so what lies underneath is anyone’s guess.

A more interesting find is the two partially-exposed pillboxes in Bermuda Road, which had slots for machine guns. These pillboxes are built on a hill, and have slots for machine guns presumably for defence against the enemy who were coming from the sea.

Who knew Sembawang had so much history relating to WWII??? So it’s definitely a great walk around the area if your kids are military buffs! The terrain is super easy but because the bunkers are spread out pretty far from one another, getting from one place to the other requires a fair amount of walking.

Difficulty Level: 1.5/5

Trail Instructions: Click HERE

14. Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle

Thow Kwang is home to one of the last surviving dragon kilns or long yao in Singapore. The Thow Kwang dragon kiln was built in the 1940s and used to fire ceramic products. After a hiatus, the dragon kiln was brought back to life. Since 2001, potters’ activities have thrived and now there is a huge selection of pottery wares for sale there.

While the Dragon Kiln is certainly a draw, the hands-on pottery sessions will be a hit with the kids. They would love creating pots on clay-wheels during the session before burning the pots in the kiln. Sessions are typically conducted during weekends and public holidays. More details on its new page HERE.

Address: 85 Lorong Tawas (off Jalan Bahar), Singapore 639823
Opening Hours: 9am - 5pm daily

15. Kranji War Memorial

The Kranji War Memorial in Singapore honours the men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the line of duty during World War II. More than 4,400 white gravestones are erected in rows on the cemetery’s gentle slope. The Chinese Memorial, in plot 44, marks a mass grave for 69 Chinese servicemen who were killed by the Japanese when Singapore fell in February 1942. Next to the Kranji War Memorial is the Kranji Military Cemetery, with more than 1,400 burials of soldiers who died after World War II. The Singapore State Cemetery, where the country’s first and second presidents, Encik Yusof Ishak and Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares, are buried is situated nearby as well.

A solemn and peaceful resting place to honour the dead, this is not the place for young kids to be running around. Rather, it is the perfect place for older kids to be exposed to Singapore’s war history with information detailing the Japanese invasion and occupation of Singapore.

Address: 9 Woodlands Road, Singapore 738656
Opening Hours: 8am - 6.30pm daily

16. Pasir Panjang and Sime Road Pillboxes

Probably the best known pillbox in Singapore is the preserved one at the junction of Pasir Panjang and Science Park Roads. A pillbox is a concrete bunker or guard-house, and usually has small holes allowing the person inside to keep watch and to aim a machine gun. The pillbox at 262 Pasir Panjang Road is one of the few that has survived. It lies within the area that had been defended by the First Malaya Brigade, and may have been used by the Malay Regiment in its battle against the 18th Japanese Division on Pasir Panjang Ridge in February 1942.

If you are looking for more adventure, then try locating the pillbox on Sime Road. If driving, park at Sime Hill Road, on the left before the pillbox. The Sime Road Pillbox is the more interesting of the two as kids (and adults) can go inside the pillbox and have a sense of how it felt to have been in one during wartime.

Address: Pasir Panjang Pillbox (Junction of Pasir Panjang and Science Park Roads) | Sime Road Pillbox (Along Sime Road, just before SICC entrance)

Email to a friend

No comments :

Newer Post Older Post
................... Home ...................