The 7 best road trips in Singapore

Founded in 1819 as a bustling trading port, the modern city-state of Singapore is now best known for its diverse blend of cultures and cuisine, alongside a rich mix of architecture.

In the land where skyscrapers are interspersed with traditional colonial architecture, greenery and tropical gardens, often the best way to take it all in is by road. 

From iconic motorsport-inspired Marina Bay night drives to calm coastal routes and tree-lined trails, here are the best roads to drive in Singapore. 

1. Marina Bay Street Circuit night drive 

Best drive for motorsport fans
Marina Promenade and back via the Downtown Core; 5km loop (3.1 miles)

It’s no surprise that the number one drive for any motorsport fan in Singapore is a lap around the 5km (3.1 miles) circuit that hosts Formula One racing. The Marina Bay Street Circuit – or Singapore Street Circuit as it’s often called – was the site of the sport’s first-ever night race in 2008 and it remains one of the few circuits that fans can drive around any time of the year, albeit not on a race weekend, of course. The track is best driven at nighttime to get as close to the F1 feeling as possible. 

Starting on the long straight, running parallel to the Marina Promenade, the road heads north, slotting under Benjamin Sheares Bridge before weaving its way left to head back down Republic Boulevard. Once around a long, sweeping right-hand bend, the road merges onto the famed Raffles Boulevard, named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore. 

Cutting through the downtown core, Singapore’s historical heartland, the circuit turns sharply left onto Nicoll Highway, opposite the Kranji War Memorial, before another sharp right turn onto Stamford Road. Just a short way down, it’s another left turn onto St Andrew’s Road and down past Singapore’s National Gallery and Recreation Club before turning left, down to the intersection with Fullerton Highway. 

Once on the highway, it’s up to speed as the track fires you north, back toward Raffles Avenue, running parallel to Raffles Boulevard. Wrapping around the modern Esplanade complex, the track weaves its way around the waterfront before meeting back up with the start-finish line, completing the circuit, which takes in a good deal of Singapore’s iconic city center.

Local tip: Just like the F1 race, driving at night brings a whole new dimension to Singapore’s central waterfront, and the sparkling lights of its towers and main attractions glisten as you drive by.

Young woman walking in orchid house at Singapore Botanic Gardens
Take a break from the city at the Singapore Botanic Gardens © Getty Images

2. Botanic Gardens loop

Best drive for an inner-city breather
Singapore Botanic Gardens shop to the National Orchid Garden; 5km (3.1 miles)

Singapore Botanic Gardens is an inner-city haven, and the perimeter road around it provides the perfect short breather away from the city. The 162-year-old tropical garden, located on the edges of the Orchard Road shopping district, was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2014. 

While it’s not possible to drive into the gardens, Cluny and Tyersall Roads wrap their way around the edges of the site, where it’s possible to slow down and channel some of the zen the garden is famed for. 

Sandwiched between the main thoroughfares of Bukit Timah Road to the north and Holland Road to the south, both Cluny and Tyersall Roads provide the link between the two main roads and skirt the gardens on the east and west side respectively. For a welcome reprieve from the dense traffic outside of the gardens, start off driving north on Cluny Road, taking in the sights before turning left onto Bukit Timah Road for a short distance and turning left again to join Tyersall Road, heading south. 

Stopping to take in the beauty and tranquility of the 74-hectare (182 acres) botanic gardens is a must. Due to its proximity to the equator, Singapore boasts some of the most beautiful and well-kept tropical vegetation in the world. With calming lakes, rolling lawns and themed gardens, the site has a rare patch of dense primeval rainforest that is teeming with over 300 species of vegetation. 

Detour: For those with a bit more time on their hands, take a detour on the west side of the gardens and head up the winding roads that lead up into the residential areas like Cluny Hill. Here, it’s possible to marvel at the modern villas that overlook the gardens, which will be a firm favorite for fans of modern architecture. 

Read more: Singapore’s best national parks and gardens

3. The Kranji loop

Best drive for countryside 
Singapore Turf Club to the Jalan Bahar and PIE junction; 18km (11 miles

Best known for its sprawling wetlands, farms and nature reserves, driving around the Kranji reservoir takes in some of Singapore’s more rustic countryside. 

Start at the Singapore Turf Club, the city-state’s only horse-racing club, founded in 1842. Head north on Kranji Road, in the direction of the Kranji dam. The route weaves in and out of industrial districts until the buildings thin out and give way to a narrow strip of road called Kranji Way, which skims between the Johor Strait and the still waters of Kranji reservoir. Once past the dam, the road winds through the open Kranji countryside.

While the single carriageway road is not exactly fast-moving, the route allows for time to refocus away from the hustle and bustle of the city and stop at a few of the farms. Hay Dairies, established in 1988, is Singapore’s only goat farm and is home to around 800 mixed-breed goats. 

After you get back on track, the route passes by the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course and, a little further on, the Kranji Marshes nature reserve. For keen hikers, the marshes provide the ideal opportunity to jump out of the car and stretch their legs before continuing on. 

Once past the marshes and around a few kinks, the road straightens and widens as it heads south to link with PIE and KJE highways and Woodlands Road, which fires you back up to the intersection with the Turf Club, completing Singapore’s best countryside loop.

Read more: The 7 best hikes in Singapore

Overhead cable cars at Mount Faber in Singapore
Cable cars going to Mount Faber, which offers panoramic city views and can also be reached by motor vehicle © Getty Images

4. Mount Faber Park

Best drive for seeing the city from up high 
Kampong Bahru Road to Morse Road via the peak; 4km (2.5 miles)

Mount Faber – as the name suggests – is the best place to view the city from above and the road leading to it is the closest you’ll come to a twisting mountain pass in Singapore. Standing 94m (308ft) above the city, the peak is a popular tourist spot that offers panoramic views over Singapore’s sprawling Central Business District and the coast.  

Branching off Kampong Road, heading north, take the exit for Mount Faber Road. At this point, the road starts climbing and weaving its way up Mount Faber, narrowing to a single lane (one way) as you get closer to the top. Lined with lush and dense foliage, the road is a popular route for those seeking a little bit of altitude to escape the bustling city center. 

After a mile or so, the road levels out as you approach the peak, which houses restaurants and the Mount Faber cable car. Once past the peak, the road winds its way down the hillside to join Morse Road and, eventually, the busy West Coast Highway.

Local tip: Various lookouts along the route provide the perfect opportunity to get a snap of the view from the top.

5. Find history on remote roads

Best drive for history buffs 
Admiralty West – Changi – 70km (43 mi)

There are a few places in Singapore where you can still see the hundred-year-old historical “black and white” bungalows built by the former British colonial rulers. Today they are owned by the local government, and they’re only accessible by car. The peaceful, picturesque drive takes you on secluded roads set amidst towering native Tembusu trees – the massive heritage mansions tucked away on the side of the road are a stark contrast of opulence against nature.

Admiralty Road West/East and Seletar in the north area, Mount Pleasant Road and Rochester Park in the central region and Changi Road in the east all offer takes on this scene, highlighting the bungalows juxtaposed with verdant jungle-like scenery.

Do bear in mind that at night, these routes are exceptionally lonely and a little eerie, a fact that invites numerous stories of ghost sightings on these roads. Some taxi drivers are known to refuse to travel in this area in the evenings. A drive to these spots is best done during the daytime, as the bungalows are easier to spot when the sun is out and the ghosts aren’t around.

Local Tip: On the scenic drive from Admiralty Road East in Sembawang to Seletar you’ll pass by Yishun Dam on Lower Seletar Reservoir (before you get onto the Seletar West Link road). As you cross the reservoir, enjoy the serenity of the water on both sides of the bridging road. You might even catch anglers fishing or adventurists canoeing in the wide waters.

6. Driving tour for architecture lovers

Best drive for design fanatics
Plaza Singapura to Anderson Bridge – 3km (1.8 mi)

Many of Singapore’s preserved historical buildings are all situated in the same vicinity – drive by to appreciate the intricacy and stunning beauty of these buildings that you can never find in modern times.

Start from Plaza Singapura on the tail end of Orchard Road and drive straight – you’ll come across the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on your right. This Catholic church, built in 1847, is the oldest one on the island and it still holds services till today. Just after the church is Chijmes, a Catholic convent built in 1852 in the neo-classical gothic style; it became an all girls school in 1904 and is now an entertainment hub with cafes, bars and a cozy lawn for relaxing. Beyond that you’ll see the legendary neo-renaissance Raffles Hotel on your left and further on, the War Memorial on your right.

Keep going till you get to Nicoll Highway (just before Suntec City), where you’ll turn right. This route eventually turns into Esplanade Drive, and on the right is a majestic building that used to be the main post office during British rule. Today it’s home to the high end Fullerton Hotel.

Turn right onto Fullerton Road and you’ll see the Art Deco Waterboat House on the right, which used to provide water to incoming ships from 1919 to 1990. Continue across the 114-year-old Anderson Bridge into Singapore’s Civic District.

Local Tip: As you take Esplanade Drive cross the Singapore River, look to the left and you’ll spot the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel across the water, with its spaceship looking top floor.

An aerial view of Upper Seletar Reservoir Park with people on the lawn
Drive through Singapore’s green countryside to arrive at Upper Seletar Reservoir © Shutterstock / DerekTeo

7. Spot wildlife in Singapore’s countryside

Best drive for animal lovers
Bukit Timah Expressway/PIE to Lim Chu Kang – 30km (18.6 mi)

Singapore is a concrete metropolis, but we still have parts of the island where a drive can take you away from the chaos.

Take the Bukit Timah Expressway or the PIE and get onto the KJE that leads into Choa Chu Kang – this will eventually connects to Lim Chu Kang Road. Both Choa Chu Kang and Lim Chu Kang are long, bucolic roads that are relatively quiet with loads of Angsana and Tembusu trees lining on both sides. Here you’ll be able to spot Long Tail Macaques, along with birds like the Collared Kingfisher and Olive Winged Bulbul.

From Lim Chu Kang Road, get onto Kranji Road and then onto Mandai Road. You will pass Upper Seletar Reservoir, a tranquil setting perfect for a picnic lunch or afternoon tea. Explore the area on foot and you’ll discover the Rocket Tower, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the reservoir and surrounding areas, and a pier.

We locals refer to routes like this as “ulu roads” (meaning in the middle of nowhere, away from the bustle), and on these drives you will find yourself on an empty stretches with only greenery as your companion. Similar experiences can also be found on Old Upper Thomson Road, Arcadia Road, and South Buona Vista Road.

Local Tip: At Upper Seletar Reservoir, locate the lone Casuarina tree with two benches flanking it. Set against the baby blue waters of the reservoir, this has become a favorite setting for social media lovers. Also, don’t feed, pet or touch the monkeys if approached – just step away slowly and carefully.

This article was first published Nov 4, 2021 and updated Jul 4, 2024.

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