Want to go on a last-minute holiday but don’t want the hassle of organising flights? Take a road trip to Malaysia. Assuming you’re driving from Singapore, you have plenty of options to choose from – including Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, and Johor. Our handy guide tells you how to get to each of them, and where to stay. We’ve also included family-friendly attractions that you shouldn’t miss. Get the kids to pack their bags… it’s time for a road trip!
Malacca is just a four-hour drive from Singapore, the perfect length of time for a first-time family road trip. This lively coastal town used to be occupied by the Dutch, which is why many of their buildings look distinctively European. Even if your kids aren’t old enough to appreciate history, they’ll still be impressed at the fire-engine red Christ Church, which was built using bricks shipped over all the way from the Netherlands. Of course, there’s plenty of delicious local food to keep every Singaporean appetite satiated.
Jonker Street: A road trip to Malacca is not complete without a stroll down Jonker Street. Lined with restaurants, eateries and shops selling souvenirs and knick-knacks, there’s also a night market from Friday to Sunday evenings. When you’re here, check out Mamee Jonker House, a one-of-a-kind Mamee Café that serves dishes revolving around – guess what? – Mamee noodles! Adults can try their hand at customising their very own instant noodles, while little ones can join in the Mamee Monster DIY workshop, and learn how to make noodles from scratch.
Melaka Wonderland: This water park features 16 attractions including the Big Wave pool, the Adventure Island, Anaconda Twist, The Pendulum, and a small dinosaur park. If your kids are still energetic and raring to go after taking on the water park, Melaka Bird Park is just next door!
A’Famosa is an integrated resort that features a hotel, villas, theme parks and more. The kids won’t be able to get enough of the resort’s Safari Wonderland and Old West. Then there’s their Water Park, which is the largest in Malaysia. Want to shop? Check out Freeport A’Famosa, an outlet mall with over 70 fashion, sport and accessories brands laid out in an open air mall complete with fountains, carousel and even a windmill.
The Settlement Hotel
This swanky hotel used to house a 1960s government office so you’ll be staying in a real slice of history. Apart from a 45-room residence block, the hotel also has four villas with spacious gardens and lawns and five traditional Malay villas, one of which houses their spa facility. There’s complimentary shuttle service to Jonker Street and the Portuguese Settlement as well.
How to drive to Malacca:
The most efficient way to get to Malacca is via the North-South Expressway (NSE). Watch out for the exit at Plaza Tol Ayer Keroh. If you need to take a break, there are several Rest and Service Areas (RSAs) at Gelang Patah, Machap, Pagoh, and Ayer Keroh, where you can grab a bite and fill up your tank.
2: Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is an obvious choice for a quick and easy road trip if you’re a city lover. There’s a smorgasbord of good food to be had here, and plenty of attractions to keep kids occupied.
District 21: This indoor theme park at IOI City Mall has plenty of exciting obstacles and rides that will thrill kids of all ages. Younger ones can head for the tamer activities (such as the launch pad, carousel, tubby ride, and pedal go-kart) while older kids go for the sky trail, where they’ll have to navigate a wobbly rope bridge, balance on narrow planks and traverse a series of oil drums — all up in the air.
Sunway Lagoon: One of the best-known theme parks in Malaysia, this is just a short drive away from KL’s city centre. There are six different areas, including a Wild Wild West themed amusement park, a haunted house, an Extreme Park, a Water Park, a Wildlife Park and a Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon. There’s too much to cover in a day so pick your attractions carefully. Older ones might enjoy the Scream Park (a huge haunted house with zombies) and the Extreme Park (where you can take part in activities such as bungy-jumping, go karting and ziplining), but these may be too adventurous for younger children.
(See also: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Sunway Lagoon)
KLCC: This is where you’ll find the famous Petronas Towers. The KL Aquarium and the excellent Petrosains Discovery Centre are also located here. Visit them earlier in the day, then head to the KLCC playground and water park as the sun starts to set. This gigantic playground with a shallow wading pool and waterfall is massively popular with kids of all ages.
PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur
If you need to accommodate a large family, the PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur has spacious family suites that span up to 62 square metres. The hotel comes with all the usual bells and whistles, including a gorgeous pool. Kids under 12 stay free when they use existing beds.
Ramada Plaza Kuala Lumpur
Looking for a more affordable option? Try the Ramada Plaza Kuala Lumpur, a four-star hotel in KL’s Mid-valley district. Facilities include outdoor and indoor swimming pools. Plus, one child under the age of 12 stays free if using existing bedding.
How to drive to KL:
Take the Second Link at Tuas, then follow the signs to KL. From there, it depends on where you are going to. If you’re heading to Bangsar, take the “Bangsar” exit on the New Pantai Expressway once you hit the Sungei Besi toll. RSEs along the way include Machap, Pagoh, Ayer Keroh, and Seremban. Your journey to KL should take approximately five hours, but you might be stuck in heavy traffic once you reach the city.
3: Cameron Highlands
If your kids are clamouring to go somewhere cold, but you can’t afford to take that many days of leave (and splurge on expensive plane tickets), bring them on a road trip to Cameron Highlands!
Fun fact: Cameron Highlands is the only place in Malaysia which has strawberry farms. Popular strawberry farms in Cameron Highlands include: Big Red Strawberry, Strawberry Farm Kea, Healthy Strawberry Farm, and Kok Lim Strawberry Farm.
You’d be surprised – the honey farms in Cameron Highlands can make for unexpectedly educational visits. Most have tours and they’ll even walk you through the entire life cycle of the bee, so the kids leave with insights about how honey is made. Popular honey farms here include: Cameron Tringkap Bee Farm, Ee Feng Gu Bee Farm, and Highlands Apiary Farm.
Time Tunnel is the first ever memorabilia museum in Malaysia. It aims to preserve the “historical memory and cultural heritage” of Cameron Highlands. Here, you’ll find 1,000-plus exhibits spread out over two levels, from the private collection of See Kok Shan, a collector who grew up in Cameron Highlands.
As you stroll through the exhibits and reminisce about the past, the kids can immerse themselves in the different “sets” that are laid out, complete with props. They’ll be able to role-play as a hairdresser in a salon, pretend to serve drinks behind an old-school drinks cart, and even try their hand at some vintage games. Talk about a blast from the past!
Cameron Highlands Resort
This colonial hotel and boutique hill retreat is perched 1,500 metres above sea level. Serene and peaceful, it offers stunning views of tea plantations and rolling hills. All rooms and suites have gorgeous four-poster beds, polished teak furniture, and luxurious silk fabrics. The two-bedroom suite and signature suite can accommodate four, and cots are available upon request.
Moonriver Lodge is a family farmstay within the picturesque mountains of Sigar Highlands. There are plenty of fun activities here – a gardening programme to learn how food is grown on-site, a trek to see the Rafflesia Kerrii, the second largest flower in the world, harvesting organic vegetables, fruits and herbs from their kitchen garden, and even helping the staff prepare a meal.
Prefer some quiet bonding time with your kids? Laze on a hammock, play board games, or enjoy family karaoke (just remember to bring along your own VCDs or DVDs).
How to drive to Cameron Highlands:
The drive from Singapore to Cameron Highlands takes approximately eight hours so this is a longer road trip. Leave early so that you can reach Cameron Highlands at around 3pm in the afternoon. Take the North-South Expressway (NSE) and exit at either Simpang Pulai or Tapah. The Tapah route involves a three-hour long winding drive up the mountains, so we’d recommend the Simpang Pulai exit, which gives you a shorter and more manageable route.
RSAs along the NSE include Gelang Patah, Machap, Pagoh, Ayer Keroh, Seremban, Dengkil, Rawang, and Tapah. Hop out and use the restrooms, and stop for snacks/lunch at these areas.
4: Johor (Kota Tinggi)
Johor isn’t just for café-hopping and stocking up on groceries – there are also plenty of family-friendly attractions and sites that you can visit on a short road trip here.
Visit (Kota Tinggi):
Kota Tinggi Firefly Park
The sight of the night sky lit up with fireflies is spectacular – so don’t pass up on your chance to witness this at the Kota Tinggi Firefly Park, an easy 15-minute drive from Kota Tinggi’s city centre. You’ll drive through a palm tree plantation and arrive at a tze char restaurant where you can purchase tickets for your boat ride to see the fireflies. While waiting for the boat, kids can explore the mini farm and old-school playground nearby.
The boat sets sail towards the mangroves, where you’ll witness groups of dancing fireflies. Do pay attention to the audio guides; these provide interesting tidbits about the fireflies and the World War II Fortress that you’ll sail past.
Kota Tinggi Waterfalls
Kota Tinggi Waterfalls is one of the best known waterfalls in southern Malaysia. There are actually two waterfalls here – one near the park entrance, and another that can only be accessed via a walkway. If you’re coming with older kids, head for the cement steps – this will take you up the walkway, and from there, you can get to the larger waterfall. Your kids can swim, or rent tubes to float on. For younger kids who aren’t strong swimmers, stick to the waterslides and shallow pools. Alternatively, go on a hike – there are plenty of trails in the area.
Stay (Kota Tinggi):
Kota Tinggi Rainforest Resort
This family-friendly resort has swimming pools and natural water pools, and activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, paintball, abseiling, and Flying Fox. Guides can be hired to bring you on a trek through the rainforest, or a hike to the nearby Pelapah Waterfall. The resort’s Family Chalet Room can accommodate up to seven adults and one child – if you’re coming with extended family, definitely consider staying here!
How to drive there:
Kota Tinggi is just an hour away from the Woodlands Checkpoint in Singapore. To get to Kota Tinggi Town, take the AH2 and AH18 to the Johor Bahru-Kota Tinggi Highway.
(See also: Why Kid-friendly Colmar Tropicale Should Be Your Next Family Holiday Destination)
5. Johor (Desaru)
Like Kota Tinggi, Desaru is highly accessible (just 2-3 hours away!) for a road trip, and has plenty of fun for the whole family.
Desaru Ostrich Farm
This family-run ostrich farm is one of the largest in Malaysia. Most of the over 200 ostriches are fenced up for safety reasons, but there are two which roam freely. They are tame, so it’s perfectly fine to get up close and personal with them. Take a selfie with them, or pay for your kids to have an ostrich ride. You can also order an ostrich omelette or other ostrich dishes at the stall later. PS: Ostriches are attracted to shiny objects, so avoid wearing any eye-catching jewellery or accessories here.
Desaru’s pristine beach is famous. It overlooks the South China Sea, and the shallow portion of the sea extends pretty far out from the beach, making this an ideal spot for families with children to enjoy water play. If your kids are a little older, consider activities such as parasailing, jet-skiing, or a thrilling ride on an inflatable donut. Why not pay a visit to the newly-opened Desaru Coast?
Desaru Fruit Farm
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Went to the @desarufruit, and this guy was amused with lemon growing on tree. We spotted many different kinds of fruit trees and there was a mini petting zoo within. Animals always delight the kids, and they were most happy feeding koi fish. . #desarufruitfarm #lemontree #fruitfarm #sgtoddler #sonshine #instakids #shortgetaway #toddlerboy
Desaru Fruit Farm has more than fruit – there’s a petting zoo, a paintball arena, and a go-kart and ATV track as well. Walk around by yourself and purchase fruits, or pay for the guided tour to learn more about how over 100 varieties of fruits and herbs are grown. This comes with a complimentary fruit platter. Remember to purchase some fresh fruits to enjoy on the drive back to Singapore!
Lotus Desaru Beach Resort
One of the most popular resorts in Desaru, this has apartments as well as more traditional bedrooms and suites. Baby cots and strollers are available for loan. Within the beach resort, there’s a water park, a “High Ropes” obstacle course that’s suitable for children over age 10, pond water rafting, paintball, Flying Fox, kayaking, and jungle trekking activities.
Sand and Sandals Desaru Beach Resort & Spa
This family-friendly resort has a beautiful pool with a swim-up bar, and an air-conditioned gym that’s floating within the pool. The Family Suite Duplex is a comfy, spacious suite that spans two floors. You get your own space (with a luxurious four-poster bed) and kids get a colourful pirate-themed room. Perfect!
How to drive there:
Take the same route to Kota Tinggi from the Woodlands Checkpoint in Singapore. Then go via the Senai-Desaru Expressway and cut through Johor River to get to Desaru Beach.
Take a Road Trip today!
So you see, there’s no need to head to exotic, far flung locations in order to have fun. Just round up the entire family, hop into the car, and go on a road trip to visit our neighbours up north!
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