[Singapore] Cross Island Day Hike from Gardens by the Bay to Woodlands Waterfront – The Wrong Coast to Coast Trail

A full day hike in Singapore, across the island from south (Gardens by the Bay) to north (Woodlands Waterfront), where Malaysia was so near, yet so far. And since there already is an actual Coast to Coast Trail, this can only be the wrong coast to coast trail.

Time for another day hike in Singapore …

I was itching for a good long hike after a year of being mostly at home. Managed to piece together this hike from the south to north, genuinely being coast to coast. It passes through some of my favourite spots in Singapore, some a little deeper within nature, a little further away from humans. Almost all of it through green spaces and park connectors, thanks to the amazing and still growing Park Connector Network. This being Singapore, urban life is never far, but this was nonetheless quite an enjoyable long walk, clocking in approximately 42.5km end to end on the map. The phone recorded 50km after the little detours for meals and breaks. I did this in December 2020 with nice weather, walking for around 12 hours (excluding meals) at a comfortable pace. Trail map and logistics at the end! For a shorter hike in Singapore, check out my other hike exploring the old disused quarries in central Singapore, which covers an area near some of today’s hike, or my other day hike in Singapore through the Southern Ridges.

Trail Sections

  1. Gardens by the Bay (4.0km)
  2. Tanjong Rhu Promenade (1.3km)
  3. Stadium Park Connector (1.1km)
  4. Kallang Riverside Park (1.0km)
  5. Kallang Park Connector (7.1km)
  6. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (3.3km)
  7. Windsor Nature Park (2.5km)
  8. Central Catchment Nature Reserve (1.7km)
  9. Rifle Range Link/ Rifle Range Road (3.0km)
  10. Pipeline Trail (1.6km)
  11. Zhenghua Nature Park (2.4km)
  12. Chestnut Nature Park (0.6km)
  13. Mandai Trail/ Central Catchment Park Connector (4.0km)
  14. Mandai Park Connector (1.2km)
  15. Ulu Sembawang Park Connector (2.0km)
  16. Woodlands (SLE) Park Connector (3.6km)
  17. Admiralty Park (1.6km)
  18. Woodlands Waterfront (0.5km)

Getting Started: Gardens by the Bay (4.0km)

My buddy and I started our day down the southern coast of this small island at Gardens by the Bay. Probably the easiest way to get to any coastline in Singapore, with Bayfront MRT on the inner edge of the park. It was just past 7, much earlier than I would have gotten up on any other day, but a beautiful time to get started. We exited Bayfront MRT station towards Gardens by the Bay, then headed towards Marina Reservoir. Followed the trail along the water, past the Flower Dome, the Cloud Forest, Satay by the Bay, then arrived at Marina Barrage. Too many pretty things to see in this spectacular park, built entirely on reclaimed land, so here are some highlights along the way.

Marina Barrage

The construction of Marina Barrage not only links up Gardens by the Bay South and Gardens by the Bay East, but by enclosing Marina Bay and Kallang Basin from the Straits of Singapore, Marina Reservoir was created. Marina Reservoir has the largest catchment area of reservoirs in Singapore. It provides Singapore with a significant source of freshwater reservoir a key means of flood control. The Marina Coastal Expressway, Singapore’s first undersea road, runs beneath the barrage.

We crossed the barrage and continued along the reservoir till the end of Gardens by the Bay. Benjamin Shears Bridge, the longest and tallest bridge in Singapore, marks the end of Gardens by the Bay and the start of Tanjong Rhu Promenade.

Tanjong Rhu Promenade (1.3km)

Beyond Benjamin Shears Bridge, the Tanjong Rhu Promenade passes through the backyards of condominiums in the Tanjong Rhu area. A couple of landmarks along the stretch of Beach Road known as the Golden Mile can be seen across the Kallang Basin. Beach Road was once a coastal road, but the sea is nowhere to be seen from here today. The Golden Mile stretch of Beach Road was part of an urban renewal program initiated by the government in the 1960s. Golden Mile Complex is perhaps the most well known of landmarks the stretch, and it has had its fair share of news and controversies over the years.

On yet another side of the basin is the National Stadium and Sports Hub. Lots of different sports to try out if you’re done with walking already.

Stadium Park Connector (1.1km)

Next we crossed the Tanjong Rhu Suspension Bridge and got to the Sports Hub. The Stadium Park Connector traces between the Sports Hub and the Kallang Basin. Here might be a good place for a break as it is the only mall along the route till Woodlands. Beyond the mall, we continued on the path along the water, passing the National Stadium and Sports Hub, then took the underpass that crosses Nicol Highway to reach Kallang Riverside Park.

Kallang Riverside Park (1.0km)

Kallang Riverside Park marks one mouth of the Kallang River, and for the next few sections the walk traces the entire length of the Kallang River almost till its source – Lower Pierce Reservoir. Compared to the bustle around the Sports Hub, it’s slightly quieter here. The grassy river banks lined by trees look inviting for a picnic. Scenes of the towering skyscrapers in the city center slowly fade into the background. We continue on the path on the eastern side of the river from Nicol Highway till Kallang MRT station.

Kallang Park Connector (7.1km)

Kallang Park Connector follows the Kallang River from Kallang Riverside Park to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, winding through housing and industrial estates. Probably one of the least green of sections, but still evident that NParks has made significant efforts in blending greenery into highly urbanised spaces. From Kallang MRT, the path follows the river down to Pelton Canal. Or, if it’s time for a break like for us, take a short detour along Lorong 1 Geylang to get to Upper Boon Keng Market and Food Center. Regardless, head towards the bridge near block 14a Upper Boon Keng and cross Pelton Canal. We then continued along the path towards Kolam Ayer Waterfront. Where the park connector intersects a road, Kallang Bahru, there’s a traffic light to cross. From there we continue on the park connector next to the river.

Kolam Ayer Waterfront

Kolam Ayer Waterfront was the first waterways to be enhanced by the Public Utilities Board under the ABC (Active, Beautiful Clean) Waters programme. Nowadays, such beautified or naturalised canals and waterways can be found across Singapore, with more further down today’s hike. While tempting, there’s no need to cross the bridge here. This section ends at Bendemeer road, where it gets a little busy and slightly less straightforward.

First, we crossed the overhead bridge across Bendemeer Road. Then we continued along Kallang River till Serangoon Road. A short detour is required to get across the overhead bridge, then back towards Kallang River. We crossed the river this time, along Serangoon Road. After crossing the river, we got back to the park connector along the river, behind some private housing estates. There’s another bridge across the Kallang river just slightly further down this path. We crossed the river again and followed the path till Moonstone Lane. Took a left turn at Moonstone Lane, then a right right at the junction ahead, then straight and finally had to look for the overhead bridge that crosses the Pan Island Expressway, the longest and oldest highway in Singapore.

Potong Pasir

Across the busy highway, we walked on the path in the direction against the flow of traffic (road on our left) till we met the Kallang River again. It’s much more tranquil this time as the park connector follows the Kallang River through Potong Pasir. The park connector continues on the far side of Kallang River (the river will be on your right). Lots of chill vibes and sloped roofs here. This section is straightforward, just continue on the park connector all the way to Braddell Road, where there’s another overhead bridge to cross.

Bishan

On the other side of the overhead bridge, a slightly younger housing estate, Bishan. It’s still tranquil on the park connector, still along the river, just somehow feeling a little more alive. On the near side, more public and private housing of various shapes and sizes. On the other side of the river (more accurately, canal) is Bishan Depot, which serves trains on the North South Line. This section is also straightforward, along the park connector on the same side of the river till Bishan Road. At the end of this section there is a traffic crossing to get to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (3.3km)

And finally, reaching the end of Kallang River! Or rather, the start of it. The straight, concrete canal that used to flow through Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park has also been naturalised under the ABC waters programme and is now an iconic, scenic spot which appears to have attracted wildlife back into the area. Apart from just looking pretty, the meandering waterway also created more recreational spaces while increasing the flow capacity of the canal during heavy rain. Here’s a brochure and another for more details of this beautiful park.

If you think you might need a drink or bite in the next couple of hours, here might be one of the last places to get your fix. There’s a McDonalds in the first half of the park, or, like we did, take a short detour to Bishan North Shopping Mall for more coffee shop options. There are a few more options within the park and along the edge, but beyond the park there aren’t food options until Woodlands.

Sin Ming/ Bright Hill side of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio runs between Bishan and Ang Mo Kio, and is split in half by Marymount road. The section after Marymount road is larger, but appears to be quieter. Along the way, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, the largest Buddhist temple in Singapore, can been seen at the edge of the park. Here’s a look from the other (quieter) side of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

Windsor Nature Park (2.5km)

Kallang River starts (or ends) just beyond Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, at Lower Peirce Reservoir. Lower Peirce Reservoir is unfortunately not on our walk today, so the end of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park will be where we depart the Kallang River. At the end of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, we crossed Upper Thomson Road, then turned left and walked along Upper Thomson Road till Venus Drive, approximately 1km away. We took a right turn into Venus Drive and followed the signs to the start of the trail at Windsor Nature Park.

There are public toilets at the entrance of Windsor Nature Park so it’s a good time for a short break. Else, it’s time to head into the forest! There are a couple of curated trails you can take, and any that point towards the TreeTop Walk will do. Or take a short detour and explore all of the little trails.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (1.7km)

The Drongo Trail or Venus Link took us to a T-junction, where one direction points towards MacRitchie Reservoir Park, and the other towards the Ranger Station/ TreeTop Walk/ Jelutong Tower/ Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. We were now in the largest nature reserve in Singapore, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve! The map link on the NParks page appears broken, this appears to work instead at time of writing. We followed the signs towards Ranger Station, the next stop with toilets and water coolers.

The dirt track first goes along a small private road before meeting a road which turns uphill towards a Bukit Kalang Service Reservoir. Some time back there wasn’t a fence separating the track and the private road, and the track was in bad condition, so hikers and runners (myself included) just used the road instead. Looks like that’s no longer possible. Somewhere along the uphill road, the trail sign direct hikers and runners back to the forest on a small track that leads to the ranger station.

Beyond the Ranger Station

After your break at the Ranger Station, we took the directions towards Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Some side walks from here are the one to the TreeTop Walk and also a short detour to the Jelutong Tower for a bird’s eye view of the nature reserve. These spots are occasionally under maintenance though, so it’s better to check before taking these detours. The path towards Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from the Ranger Station starts on the Sime Track and heads towards Rifle Range Link.

Rifle Range Link/ Rifle Range Road (3.0km)

Most people in Central Catchment Nature Reserve keep to track that goes around MacRitchie reservoir, and relatively fewer people take the route that connects Central Catchment Nature Reserve to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. As such, this section is a little quieter and more rugged compared to the section just before this. Though this goes through dense forests, there aren’t many junctions to get lost in and the trail is relatively clear. We took the trail towards Rifle Range Road and headed in the direction of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

After awhile, the trail left the forest. This section continues along a small road, Rifle Range Road. While there isn’t much traffic it’s still good to be on the lookout and not get distracted by the occasional wildlife. The road passes military installations and crosses over a highway, the Bukit Timah Expressway. Bukit Timah Expressway cuts the forests spanning Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve into two. In order to mitigate the environmental impact on wildlife (specifically, roadkill, reduced biodiversity and reduced genetic diversity), [email protected] was constructed in 2013. Thought it’s quite a cool project to mention here, though it isn’t visible from Rifle Range Road nor is the link open to public.

Soon after crossing the highway, Murnane Service Reservoir was on our right, while the start of the next section, the Pipeline Trail, was somewhere on the left.

Pipeline Trail (1.6km)

So here’s one area where’s where it isn’t so well marked. After crossing over the expressway, keep a lookout on the right side for trodden paths leading to a long straight opening among the trees. Huge exposed pipes may also be seen along this straight, depending on your angle of vision and elevation. We kept a lookout for signs instead and missed an earlier opportunity to switch to the Pipeline Trail.

About the pipes

The pipes running beneath the Pipeline Trail bring freshwater across the sea Johor to the center of the city. Today’s walk will cover just a small section of the Pipeline Trail, the section that runs along the edge of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Here’s Urban Explorers of Singapore’s post on the extended Pipeline Trail. Possible detours here are to the points of interest in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, but any of those may add a significant amount of time to the pretty packed schedule, so best to keep Bukit Timah Nature Reserve as exploration on another day.

We took wide, open trail till the end. This and the following sections overlap with the mountain biking trails, and are narrow at times, so it’s good to keep a lookout especially around corners or slopes. Along some stretches there may also be dedicated hiking paths and mountain biking paths, and it’s important not to take the wrong one. At the end of the open stretch, make a small right turn, then left, towards Zhenghua Park. The path goes under Dairy Farm Road and leads into Zhenghua Nature Park.

Zhenghua Nature Park (2.4km)

Zhenghua Nature Park stretches along the Bukit Timah Expressway, and acts as a green buffer between Bukit Panjang housing estate and Central Catchment Nature Reserve, which is located on the other side of the expressway. The multiple parallel paths cross sometimes and it can get slightly confusing. However, there are ample signages, and we generally kept northwards towards Zhenghua Park.

After the initial unpaved section through some forests, there is a small open spaces with benches. The trail then crosses a small road, Chestnut Avenue, and continues between the highway and some community gardens. Just after a couple of blocks of public flats, the pipes come into view again. There are some twists and turns but the general direction is to follow the pipes under the road, Bukit Panjang Road. Finally, after going under Bukit Panjang Road, there’s a path on the right that goes under the Bukit Timah Expressway. Chestnut Nature Park is on the other side of the expressway.

Chestnut Nature Park (0.6km)

Under the highway, on the other side, is Chestnut Nature Park, on the edge of Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The hiking path leads up a flight of stairs to a shelter. Further down the path, there’s an observation tower to get nice view of the surroundings. Went up once before so gave it a miss on this walk as I was starting to get tired. There are a couple of paths leading out from under the observation tower. The one to take is the one that heads northwards.

Trees get denser and crowds thinner the further in. The surrounding areas include military training areas that are out of bounds so we had to take care not to stray off track. While we found ourselves all alone once in awhile, the expressway is often just an earshot away. The junctions can look confusing, but just keeping towards Gangsa Track/ Trail (general northward direction), with the expressway on your left, you’ll be in good hands.

Mandai Trail/ Central Catchment Park Connector (4.0km)

It’s the last couple of kilometres in the forest here, not particularly eventful or scenic, and a good time to catch our breaths, while keeping a lookout for bikes along this popular mountain biking trail. About 1.7km past the observation tower at Chestnut Nature Park, the forest trail skirts around the intersection between Bukit Timah Expressway and Kranji Expressway. Near the end of this roundabout, there are a 2 possible paths to take that will lead to the same place. I took the longer one the first time I was here (to the left), and thought I’d try the shorter (straighter) looking one on Google maps (the one on the center) on this particular walk. The path to the right is not on the right track.

Where things got a little messy

As it turned out, the straighter path was quite a terrible choice, as the subsequent section was waterlogged and muddy at parts, and the trail all but disappeared at others, resulting in a little bit of squeezing between the bush and an old rusty fence to continue on the trail. The slightly longer route (keeping left after the BKE/KJE junction) was relatively much less treacherous.

Regardless of the path taken, they eventually converge, as the Central Catchment Park Connector leads out of the forest to Mandai Park Connector. Lots of bamboo, and views of the new bird park on this stretch.

Mandai Park Connector (1.2km)

Out of the forest, we turned right and followed the Mandai Park Connector along Mandai Road towards Ulu Sembawang Park Connector. Mandai Road is flanked on both sides by forest, and occasionally there are breaks in the forest on the right that provide views of Upper Seletar Reservoir. The full Mandai Park Connector is 5km long and leads all the way down to Lower Seletar Reservoir at Khatib. This walk will cover only 1.2km of it. The nicer views of Upper Seletar Reservoir are further down on Mandai Park Connector, beyond today’s walk though. To get to Woodlands,, only the initial section is covered, up to the junction with Ulu Sembawang Park Connector. There’ll be signs and a road crossing to indicate when you need to switch over to Ulu Sembawang Park Connector from Mandai Park Connector.

Ulu Sembawang Park Connector (2.0km)

After that stretch along the road it’s back to a quiet stretch again. Ulu Sembawang Park Connector cuts across army training groups and Mandai MRT depot to connect Mandai Road to Woodlands. There aren’t any detours or junctions here. The park connector leads away from the road into the trees, finally reaching the MRT depot where it makes a detour around it, then ending at the road junction between Seletar Expressway and Woodlands Avenue 12.

Woodlands (SLE) Park Connector (3.6km)

After crossing the SLE/ Woodlands Avenue 12 junction, we continued along the Woodlands (SLE) Park Connector along the SLE (Seletar Expressway). Right after the Singapore Sports School, we followed the park connector to turn right into Woodlands Avenue 2, then crossed diagonally at Woodlands Avenue 1 and continue along Woodlands Avenue 2. At the next junction (Woodlands Avenue 5), we left the park connector to head to the malls for a well-earned dinner and to get more water after the prior long dry stretch. All recharged and ready to go, we returned to the Woodlands (SLE) Park Connector to continue along Woodlands Avenue 2, under the MRT tracks and towards Admiralty Park.

Admiralty Park (1.6km)

Admiralty Park is the largest park in the northern region of Singapore. It features funky looking playgrounds, an inclusive play area, as well as a forested zone around a mangrove forest. Admiralty Park connects Woodlands (SLE) Park Connector to Woodlands Waterfront Park. After all the play areas, the forested area is to the north of the park, the final stretch before Woodlands Waterfront Park. This section is unlit so we decided to take the road to get around the forested section instead, since it was already dark. If you’d like to pass through this area it would be a good idea to start your day much earlier than we had.

Woodlands Waterfront (0.5km)

To get around the dark forests we walked along Riverside Road and turned right at Admiralty Road. It’s about 1.3km from the pond to Woodlands Waterfront Park. And finally, after a full day of walking from sunrise to dark, we arrived at our destination, Woodlands Waterfront! Felt nice and relaxed on the jetty as groups gathered (some group sizes illegally due to safe distancing measures during the period) to feel the sea breeze and enjoy the closest we’d ever get to another country for some time to come. The Johor skyline sparkles across the straits. Probably a little dimmer in view of the current situation, but hopefully glowing bright and welcoming Singaporeans again soon.

End of the Cross Singapore day hike!

That concluded my longest hike in over a year, and my longest hike yet in Singapore. This time being almost locked up in the little island has provided the best opportunity for me to explore the interesting green spaces more thoroughly, and while it was nothing like the snow capped mountain tops or lush green valleys of the past few years, it’s nice knowing that Singapore still has amazing green spaces to call our own. Now it’s getting a bit tougher to tell if I’d prefer traveling to be open again and get on a multi-day hike, or for me to be stuck home long enough again to route another day hike through other green spaces in Singapore.

Trail Map

Distances, Toilets and Refreshments

OrderSectionDistance (km)ToiletsFood/ Drinks
1Gardens by the Bay (4.0km)4.0YesSatay by the Bay, restaurants at the mall
2Tanjong Rhu Promenade (1.3km)1.3NoNo
3Stadium Park Connector (1.1km)1.1Yes (in mall)Kallang Wave Mall
4Kallang Riverside Park (1.0km)1.0Kallang MRT stationKallang MRT Station, Upper Boon Keng Food Center (short detour)
5Kallang Park Connector (7.1km)7.1Not on path, may be possible at food centers along the wayAlong Serangoon Road (short detour), Moonstone Lane area
6Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (3.3km)3.3YesMcDonalds, Canopy, ToriYard, Grub, Bishan North Shopping Mall (short detour)
7Windsor Nature Park (2.5km)2.5At entranceWater coolers/ vending machines at entrance
8Central Catchment Nature Reserve (1.7km)1.7At Ranger StationWater coolers at ranger station
9Rifle Range Link/ Rifle Range Road (3.0km)3.0NoNo
10Pipeline Trail (1.6km)1.6NoNo
11Zhenghua Nature Park (2.4km)2.4NoNo
12Chestnut Nature Park (0.6km)0.6Not on route, possible with detourNo
13Mandai Trail/ Central Catchment Park Connector (4.0km)4.0NoNo
14Mandai Park Connector (1.2km)1.2NoNo
15Ulu Sembawang Park Connector (2.0km)2.0NoNo
16Woodlands (SLE) Park Connector (3.6km)3.6Around Woodlands MRTMalls around Woodlands MRT (Causeway Point, Woodlands Civic Center, etc)
17Admiralty Park (1.6km)1.6YesNo
18Woodlands Waterfront (0.5km)0.5On landRasa Istimewa Waterfront Restaurant (on the jetty)

Cycling this route

Most of this route is on mountain biking trails and park connectors, so it might be possible to do it on a bicycle. The only stretches this would definitely not be possible is section 7 to 9, from Windsor Nature Park to Rifle Range Link.

One possible (possibly big) detour would be to continue along Upper Thomson Road southwards till MacRitchie Reservoir, then take the Lornie Park Connector to get to Kheam Hock Park. Next, take Adam Park Connector to Adam Road Food Center, then the Coast to Coast trail along Bukit Timah Road all the way down to the rail corridor (after King Albert Park MRT). From there head towards Rifle Range Road to get to the Bukit Timah Mountain Bike Trail, which will connect to the Pipeline trail and you can continue from section 10. This detour is about 13km from the end of Bishan Park to the start of the Pipeline trail, or approximately 6km more than the hiking route.

Other day hikes in Singapore

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