exploring the Southwestern coast

he Southern ridges are one of Singapore’s top-most walking and running destinations, rightly praised for their great views. Descriptions normally limit themselves to the straight-forward ridge route from Mt Faber to Kent ridge park. Sometimes the add-on of Labrador park and the Keppel Bay seashore is mentioned. But the Southwestern coastal area has more to offer, with additional extension and connection possibilities, all adding considerably to the other highlight of this popular running destination: its diversity. As with all my urban running, a core principle underlying this exploration is a focus on ways to make the most of the green spaces, altitude meters, historically, architecturally, anthropologically and otherwise interesting sights, and off-tarmac/trail possibilities. And ways to connect with what makes this city-state tick, not all of it scenic as normally understood, but fascinating and immersive.

Route specs: approx. 49.5k, and 1100 altitude meters

For those comfortable with long distances, time on their hand, and an early start, the whole route can be done in a day, leaving enough breathing space for regular stops. But it is designed to be maximally accessible by MRT, so it is easy to go for parts of the route and explore the area over the course of several outings. The description below follows one way of covering all, but it is up to you to pick your own access and exit points. Although there are more ways to divide this route into sections my headings suggest the most obvious sections and hopefully make it all look more doable, less hardcore.

The above track was made by merging several tracks I made with my handheld. If you zoom in, you’ll see that its accuracy has some limitations caused by the GPS loosing connection etc. So at detailed level it may not always be accurate but for those who want to download it be  my guest: GPS-track of the Southwestern Coastal route.

route sections

As with all route descriptions, locals will often be able to point out particular sights, diversions, back lanes, connections, trails that I have missed. Also, Singapore is a permanent building site so things tend to change and/or are temporarily impossible. Anyways: tips and suggestions are greatly appreciated! Please contact me to share. Anthing that makes it to the site will be credited to the source.

Kent Ridge MRT-NUS-Clementi Woods-Sungai Pandan Kechil-West Coast Park-NUS-Kent Ridge MRT (10.5k)

The ‘Southern Ridges’ start/end at Kent ridge park but the actual ridge continuous West. And both that Western-most  bit of hill as well as the spectacular coast to its South make for interesting exploration. So the route (description) starts at Kent ridge MRT station (circle line) and goes out West, following the near traffic free hilly and forest-lined Kent ridge Rd West. before dropping down onto and crossing the Kent ridge Crescent,  and circling (most of this can be done off-road) the new and architecturally interesting NUS school of Design and Environment building.

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A footbridge across Clementi Rd brings you into the still hilly Clementi woods. Like most parks this offers plenty opportunity to go off-road. At the end admire the way Singapore makes use of its canal infrastructure to create (even more) pedestrian/cycling green corridors: the Sungei Pandan Kachil lining the park, and your way to the West Coast park (still partly under construction). The West Coast Rd – with a brand new mall on one side and a community centre, buddhist temple and market/foodcentre on the other can be crossed by footbridge. Continue following the canal  to get to a footbridge across the West Coast highway and an entrance to the West Coast park (parkrun every Saturday morning).

The park’s Western most edge is a nice marshland board walk which brings you to an absolutely spectacular seafront, overlooking a part of Singapore Pasir Panjang harbour. Singapore is the world’s second-busiest port so this a a sight to behold.

West Coast park offers about 4k of green running, at least 3 of which you can choose to take off-tarmac. At the Eastern end of the park another footbridge brings you across the West Coast highway again and back into the National University of Singapore campus. This time we take the Prince George’s park (Rd) and a diversion onto footpaths connecting student residences, to come back to the Kent ridge Rd starting point. Returning to the kent ridge MRT station (food centre available), you’ll have done about 10.5k.

Kent Ridge MRT-Kent Ridge MTB trails & Park-Alexandra Park estate-elevated jungle boardwalk-Gillman Barracks-Labrador MRT (10.5k)

To continue, turn right into South Bueno Vista Rd, and take the stairs down from the first bus stop into the Science park below. This will give you some additional altitude meters as well as adding the possibility to have a look at Haw Par Villa – one of Singapore’s more intrigiung sights.

Haw Par Villa mrt next door is also an alternative entry/exit point for the route. The track down to Haw Par Villa isn’t indicated on the map but easy to find Take the fire engine Rd going South and take any of the two staircases going down to Pasir Panjang Rd. The track as indicated on the map follows Science Park Rd for maybe 200 meters and then cuts back up to a staircase bringing you back to South Bueno Vista Rd at the next busstop. Right across (sign ‘evacuation point’) is an access to the Kent ridge MTB trail.

My route through this bit of secondary growth is partly MTB and partly (quite overgrown) walking trails, and the above video aims to serve as a warning: best to avoid this during weekend mornings, and at any time be extremely aware of your surroundings,, keep your eyes and ears focused on any indication of bikers and get out the way, for your and their safety! Having said that, compared to the popular MTB tracks in Bukit Timah, Dairy farm and Chestnut, Kent ridge is just a couple of k’s and the downhills are very challenging so it attracts limited afficionados at the best of times. And for a trailrunner, adding this kinda  technical terrain to an otherwise totally ‘urban’ route is unresistable. The route is a figure-of-eightish try to get the most out of this unique opportunity.

For those too scared/uninterested in this, the way to cut it out of the route is at the end of the first loop, rather than turning right down South Bueno Vista Rd, turn left, as if returning to Kent Ridge mrt station, but immediately turn right into Science park drive, and after a couple of 100 meters (Just before the Thomson Reuters building) take the staircase going up on your right. It gets you to an entrance of Kent Ridge park, joining my route just before the pond.

When the route hits Kent Ridge park proper, it goes down (North) to the pond, after that back up, make sure you enjoy the terrific view of the harbour from the top, then back down again, through bit of the park not much used but great for getting some more altitude meters in when you climb back up to the ridge on the stairs that enter the park from Springwood Heights. You emerge sort of where the elevated (canopy) boardwalk starts (you may want to take time to read the explanations about WWII).

canopy w 3

From NParks

The boardwalk has great views North, including the large NParks nursery right below and the pre-war British Black & White bungalows that the route is having a closer look at next. The Southern Ridges ‘proper’ continues by entering Hortpark to emerge on Alexandra Rd and if you want to cut a couple of k’s and miss out on one of Singapore’s most underrated heritage areas, be my guest, that would be the way to go. My route tries to make the most of the traffic-free hilly roads to the North of Kent Ridge park that are an old world haven of  colonial luxery.

As an added cherry on top of the cake you’ll get one of the better views on the award-winning Interlace apartment complex, a creation by famous Dutch firm OMA.  Just before you hit Alexandra Road the SP Jan School of Management on your left is a fitting farewell to colonial heritage (if you’re in need of water/toilet: turn into Hortpark). The Alexandra Arch, one of ttwo impressive infrastructure investments that make for the core connections of the Southern Ridges, gets you across the busy road, onto a stunning jungle boardwalk. My route includes all of that boardwalk but divided into two parts. On the ‘way out’ we descend onto Lock Road through the former military Gillman barracks, now one of Singapore’s new arts clusters. Make sure to drop into one or more of the galleries/spaces to get your daily fix of modern visuals (also, water/toilet facilities and F&B for the more wealthy among us).

The route returns from the (near) traffic free Barracks terrain to Alexandra Rd,and crosses the West Coast Highway on a footbridge to the Labrador Park mrt station – a third entry/exit point.

Labrador Park MRT-Berlayer Creek-Labrador Park-Chermin Boardwalk-Harbour Front MRT (7k)

Next to the station the mangrove hugging Berlayer creek boardwalk takes you to Keppel Bay. We first explore Labrador Park before continuing on the Bukit Chermin boardwalk toward Harbour Front. The park is two-faced, a breezy waterfront with great views across to Sentosa island in the East and Pasir Panjang harbour in the West, and a jungly hill with WWII fortifications, and plenty explanation about British defensive efforts and their swift defeat by the Japanese. The route loops through the park and returns to the coastal boardwalk, passes a stunning pre-war (Black & White) villa, and then traverses the private but publicly accessible promenade of the harbour and Keppel island, before making its way back North to the West Coast Highway.

Harbour Front MRT-Sentosa circuit-Harbour Front MRT (15k)

From Harbour Front, the next mrt entry/exit point, there is the choice to do a good 14k loop on Sentosa island, the route as described below, or cut that out and go straight onto the remainder of the classic Southern Ridges (although my route adds considerable ups and downs to make it more interesting). If you do Sentosa, consider making a stop first at the food centre on the Mount Faber side of the overpass (see below), for a more local, tasty, and cheaper offer than anything available in the humongous malls and/or on the disneyland-las vegas-bahamas imitation island.

One cannot avoid one street crossing with traffic lights to get to the West Coast Highway overpass that also is a good way into harbour Front mall. Follow the signs for the ferry/cruise terminal and then take the first exit, stairs down onto the pedestrian promenade, and the boardwalk to Sentosa (free access for another year). Vivocity is the city-state’s largest mall and – especially during weekend – crazy busy, a sight to behold, an experience to savour, maybe not all enjoyable, it can get a bit agoraphobic, but anthropologically a must do for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in the ‘Singapore experience’. At least as far as self-image and tourist promo go.

The same holds true for Sentosa island. Very much over the top which ensures it has something to offer for all, whether you like the kind of theme-park attractions it offers or not. Great people watching. But beyond that, after your first traverse of the wild core entertainment area, it offers jungly, quiet hill trails (incl. the remnants of British era fortifications, a seashore-hugging trail (you most probably won’t meet anyone), and the large Siloso fort on the island’s Western hill tip (museum, free entry). A great skywalk brings you to the beach area, and whatever you may thing of this three k stretch, it makes for great off-road running and the view on Singapore’s busy shipping lane is spectacular. The route follows beach one way and the walking/cycling track back but staying on the sand both ways is the way to go.  The return to Harbourfront is via the central Merlion walk and the same core that was your entry. In case you end up here in the evening: make sure to stay for the free Crane Dance show (8PM, near the walkway off the island).

The next and last route section can be made even more interesting, but also challenging, extended by first doing a loop on the South side of Mount Faber, on some very faint and steep trails. This Keppel reservoir-Japanese tomb-Seah Im Rd Black & Whites is not for everyone and described in a seperate post. If you decide to go for it, you’ll connect to the section below two-thirds up the Marang trail, and add 2.5k and 150 altitude meters to the total route.

Harbour Front MRT-Mt Faber Park-Telok Blangah Hill park-elevated jungle boardwalk-Gillman Barracks-Labrador Park MRT (7.5k)

Return to the overpass crossing the West Coast Highway and the food centre at the other side, and make your way to the Marang trail up Mount Faber. This part of the Southern Ridges has some great views but like Kent Ridge Park proper doesn’t have any trails nor much options to go off-road. The route is therefore designed to make the most of the hill, taking in as many ups and downs as possible. While recceing this, the stairs to the lookout before Henderson Waves was closed off so for those looking for more: it can be done.

The Henderson Waves alone is worth the trouble, spectacular structure, spectacular views, with another and different perspective on Reflections at Keppel Bay, the Daniel Liebeskind award winning condo’s. Next are the Telok Blangah Hill park and finally the bit of the elevated jungle walkway you didn’t yet do to get to Lock Road/Gillman Barracks and Labrador Park mrt station again.

This concludes your exploration of the Southwestern Coast. A possible connection with the other route exploring the Southwest (exploring Southwest to Central) is to continue to the start of the elevated jungle walkway and follow the park connector lining Alexandra Road to the North (to cross Jalan Bukit Merah there is a footbridge to the right) until you come to the IKEA footbridge (around 1.5k). .

2 thoughts on “exploring the Southwestern coast

  1. Pingback: Southwestern coastal route extension: Keppel reservoir, Japanese tomb, Seah Im road Black & Whites | Pedestrian Singapore

  2. Pingback: exploring Southwest to Central | Pedestrian Singapore

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