St John’s Island and Lazarus Island have worn many hats throughout the years. Originally kampongs before the 1960s and then a quarantine centre for those inflicted with Beriberi, St John’s Island and Lazarus Island are now beautiful island getaways for those who wish to unwind from the stresses of the city. Connected via a causeway, these two islands boast cool waters, white sands, and incredibly scenic views. Anyone who steps off the jetty will be immediately drawn into its serenity.
Unfortunately, unlike their sibling in the east (Pulau Ubin), St John’s and Lazarus aren’t too popular with the locals. Whenever I mention any of the Southern Islands, I’m met with quizzical looks, or a, “Wah — we can go there?” Yes, yes we can! So if you’re not sure how to get there or what exactly we could do there, here’s an itinerary you might wish to use for a day at St John’s and Lazarus Islands.
Things To Bring
As a light packer and someone who’s often spontaneous, I’m usually ready to go with a tiny bag of snacks and some sneakers. However, I’m constantly reminded by my friends and family that it’s always better to be safe than sorry (I’d always regret my lack of sunscreen by the time I get there). St John’s and Lazarus Islands do not have shops for you to buy drinks and snacks from. So if you’re stuck there till the next boat arrives without any water source, you’re pretty much doomed to thirst till your ferry ride back to the mainland, which isn’t exactly fun.
Here’s a list I created to help me pack every time I decide to go to St John’s and Lazarus. Grab a bag and start packing!
A swimsuit, extra clothes and a towel
Your phone and a power bank
What To Wear
Shorts or trek pants and a T-shirt.
I tend to walk a lot so I prefer shoes, but if you plan to spend the day at the beach, slippers would definitely be the wiser choice. Luckily, St John’s and Lazarus’ islands are pretty chill and don’t actually require any trekking to get anywhere, so you can definitely survive in your flip flops.
How To Get There
The only way to get there is via a 30-minute ferry ride from Marina South Pier. There are two ferry companies that bring visitors to the Southern Islands (St John’s and Lazarus being part of these islands) - Island Cruise and Marine South Ferries. The tickets cost about $15 per person for a two-way trip. Their schedules are pretty much set and strict, so make sure to be on time! It’s best to book a seat on the ferry as early as possible so that you’re guaranteed a spot. A good rule of thumb would be to arrive 30 minutes earlier than your boarding time so that you have time to collect your tickets and make your way to the ferry.
Now that we’ve gotten the logistics of your adventure out of the way, let’s talk about the more exciting bits: how to go about your day in the sun! Here’s one of my itineraries — it can always be shuffled and shortened as per your needs and interests, but this is definitely one way to explore the islands.
Be ready at Marina South Pier to collect the tickets, make a quick stop at the restroom and head to the nearby tuck shops to stock up on snacks before heading your way toward the ferry boarding area.
For Marina South Ferries, the earliest weekend boat to the islands is 9am. You might want to take advantage of the early ferry to spend more time on the islands. The ride’s about 30 minutes, with little phone reception. Spend this time enjoying the view from the window or taking a quick nap.
Onto St John’s! The first thing my friends and I often do is to make a beeline for the benches near the beach on St John’s to chill and relax, and maybe have some snacks.
For those who prefer tours (particularly first-timers), you might want to consider the free guided tour held by NParks every first Sunday of the month. During the guided tour, NParks volunteers introduce you to key features of the 1.6km land-based St John’s Island Trail. Registration is on a first come first serve basis, so fastest fingers first! Make sure you book your slots ahead of time.
Of course, if you’re not a guided tour type of person, go ahead and move on to the next portion of the itinerary - and maybe get a later ferry so you don’t have to wake up so early.
After the tour, head back to the benches to have your lunch. I highly recommend a potluck so that there’s a variety of food to choose from, and that everyone gets their fill.
First stop, the Sisters’ Island Marine Park Gallery. The Marine Park Gallery showcases the rich marine biodiversity of Singapore's waters and even provides an overview of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park and its dive trails. Visitors can experience an immersive 3D dive experience, a mangrove mesocosm, a viewing pool, aquariums, and many other exciting displays!
Only a 15-minute walk from the St John’s Island jetty, The Marine Park Gallery is open from 10am-4pm with entries on an hourly basis from 10am onward.
After the centre, I highly recommend walking and relaxing around Lazarus’ Island. Lazarus is connected to St John’s Island via a causeway, and the scenery surrounding the causeway is extremely beautiful. There is also a group of trees right next to the causeway which makes for gorgeous pictures. I’d highly recommend coming here for a photoshoot!
It doesn’t take that long to get to Lazarus Island, but with the photo pit stops and the time taken to admire the scenery, you’re definitely going to need some buffer time. When you get there, take your pick of their many white beaches to suntan, have a little dip, or play in the sand! Personally, I enjoy taking photos of and amongst the plants and trees while walking around enjoying the fresh air.
After an hour, head back to St John’s for a dip in the lagoon! The cool against your skin after a long day is definitely going to be worth it.
Depending on which ferry company you choose and which return timing you decide to buy tickets for, you’ll either be packing up at 3pm (which is always a little early in my books) or for about 5pm. The queues for the ferry tend to get long, so while the lagoon is a two-minute walk away from the jetty, it might be best to pack up your things, take a quick shower at the toilet about 500m away near the causeway and then head back to the jetty for your ferry!
The itinerary that I have laid out here is no doubt going to be one that is fun-packed. But whether you choose to spend your time exploring the islands, or merely lazing about each and every beach, you’re bound to find yourself unwinding from the exhaustion of the city’s day-to-day life on St John’s and Lazarus Islands.