Located just 6.5km from Singapore’s mainland, St John’s and Lazarus Island have in recent time become a scenic and serene getaway for campers, fisherman, marine explorers and even well-dressed yacht goers looking for a break away from the mainland.
St John’s in particular is pristinely maintained; with park benches constructed on finely cut grass, and paved pathways ensuring that eager slipper wearer will never have to suffer. The cleanliness of the water seems almost unreal in a country that prides itself being the number one port in the world, and has maintained itself as a treasure trove for marine wildlife, mangroves, coral reefs and even the odd dolphin now and then.
St John’s also has a rich, perhaps even horrifying past dating back to 18 February 1819, when Raffles first anchored upon St John’s Island before taking a smaller boat to the shores of Singapore the follow day. An anchored stopover for many immigrants over the years, it served as a lazaretto (a quarantine station for maritime travellers) from 1873 onwards, when an outbreak of cholera affected Singapore causing 357 deaths in total. It continued to serve as a quarantine station for almost 70 years, earning fame throughout the world in 1930 as a screening place for Asian immigrants and even pilgrims returning from Mecca.
During the Japanese Occupation, St John’s was also used to house Prisoners of War (POWs), with gruesome tales of a human chessboard where prisoners were used in place of chess pawns. It then became a penal settlement housing political prisoners including former president Devan Nair (1951-1953) and ring leaders of secret societies, before turning into a rehabilitation centre for many of the nation’s opium addicts.
Now mainly a holiday resort that is operated by the Sentosa group, St John’s is also connected by a scenic pathway to Lazarus Island and also Pulau Seringat , which over the past decade has been greatly improved to provide accessibility for hikers, fisherman and even cyclists. Potential plans raised in early 2000 were also made to make these three islands into a ‘resort-lifestyle’ destination with some even mentioning that there were plans to build a road all the way from the mainland to these islands.
Thankfully (or maybe not) we have Marina Bay Sands to take that pressure away and these islands can remain in a serene state and a nice day getaway from the mainland.
You can also check out this nice walking guide of St John’s and Lazarus Island.
How to get there
To get to Marina South Pier, I suggest taking a taxi or bus service 402 from Marina Bay MRT Station. Remember to buy plenty of water and food from the convenience store as there aren’t any on either of the islands.