Singapore family holiday: Big thrills abound on this small island

Singapore might like to emphasise its glitz and glamour, from luxury Orchard Road fashion retailers to flashy, art deco cocktails bars, but it is also one of the most family-friendly destinations in south-east Asia.

The island state is easy to get around, has loads of activities for kids and it's always warm (though you might get caught in a tropical downpour or two). See our list below of some of the best things to do in Singapore, with kids.

WILDLIFE

Monkeys and crocodiles

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, at the far north of the island, has a network of paths through the lush tropical marshes. You might have a bright green Oriental whip snake watch you from the trees or, if you are really lucky, you may spot one of the area's native crocodiles lumbering across the track in front of you. And make sure you get the bird's-eye view from the modern observation pods.

Another great wildlife walk is MacRitchie Reservoir Park, a thick green rainforest in the middle of the island. Lined with rubber trees, the reservoir offers a boardwalk that surrounds Singapore's most important water resource. Kids will love the TreeTop Walk – a suspension bridge 250 metres up in the trees – and they will really get a kick out of the Mushroom Cafe where you have to defend your food from a cheeky troop of macaques.

FOOD

Ice-cream sandwiches

In the shadow of the shiny Orchard Road towers are the old "uncles" selling this Singaporean treat from cute carts that look retro but have really just been around forever. They will carve off a slice of ice-cream and wrap it in sweet, coloured bread and charge you very little for it (a rarity in the Lion City) – be brave and try the pandan flavour, or braver still, and sample the durian.

Ice kachang

This rainbow-coloured pile of icy sweetness is perfect for the kids, though they may get surprised to find some red beans and corn kernels in their dessert. Still this crazy mishmash of flavours works and is found in most hawker stalls.

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Try the popular Maxwell Road Hawker Centre where you can also grab a plate of popiah, plump Peranakan rolls filled with cooked cabbage, chilli and shrimp paste.

GARDENS

Singapore Botanic Gardens

For a densely populated island, Singapore respects the need for green space, and the kids will have plenty of places to run around. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens. Attractions include the huge Swan Lake, the Orchid Garden and the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden, a huge kids' play area of hedge mazes and massive tree houses. The park also hosts outdoor movie screenings, theatre and concerts.

Gardens by the Bay

At Gardens by the Bay there are sculpture parks, natural amphitheatres (it is the home of the Singapore Laneway Festival) and plenty of pop-up events. Kids will also love the water park full of fountains and tipping water buckets. The water park is one of many dotted across this always-hot city – so travel with a spare set of kids' clothes.

Secret rooftop garden

Get some culture and the feeling of discovery on the fourth floor of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum in Singapore's Chinatown. The interiors of this relatively new temple (built in 2007) are an onslaught of gold in honour of it holding one of the Buddha's revered dentures which is surrounded by 320 kilograms of the precious metal – but it is the secret rooftop garden that kids love, complete with a giant prayer wheel for them to spin.

Fly a kite

The waterfront park at Marina Barrage is a popular kite-flying spot due to the wide open spaces and onshore winds. The Singapore Kite Association runs an annual kite festival around June and July that is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. You can buy a kite from many of the city markets.

ATTRACTIONS

Universal Studios

In the Sci-Fi City precinct of this fun park, the Transformers 3D ride will see you ducking projectiles, falling from skyscrapers and coming face to metal face with Optimus Prime and crew. The rides are enough to give you vertigo, but the kids will want to go on again, and again, and again.

Elsewhere, the Lost World precinct will see you swing along across the treetop on the Canopy Flyer and face rapids and rogue animatronic dinosaurs on the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure ride – block out the whole day, you'll need it.

Singapore Zoo

You simply can't talk about kid-friendly Singapore without mentioning this world-famous zoo. Enter through the gates and free-range monkeys greet you as they dart in and out of the lush foliage, the region's famous orang-utans swing overhead (book a breakfast with them to get really up close and personal) and you can enter an enclosure where a sloth climbs (slowly) by.

Next door at the River Safari you can walk thought the squirrel monkey forest where the inquisitive residents will come up to you in another free-range setting, or see the giant pandas in their airconditioned enclosure. Singapore Zoo is the gold standard of zoological gardens, and the kids will love the lack of cages between them and the animals.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

yoursingapore.com

GETTING THERE

Major airlines Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com), Qantas (qantas.com), Emirates (emirates.com) and British Airways (britishairways.com) all fly to Singapore from Melbourne and Sydney. For low-cost carriers, Scoot (flyscoot.com) flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Singapore and Jetstar (jetstar.com) flies from Melbourne to Singapore.

STAYING THERE

Hotel Clover

Doubles from $S300 with breakfast at this good mid-range option with a small collection of hotels set in places like the Arab Quarter with a foyer referencing its former life as a textile house.

769 North Bridge Road; hotelclover.com.sg

The Quincy

Modern hotel near Orchard Road where studio rooms start from $S250, Mount Elizabeth, Singapore; Phone +65 6738 5888; quincy.com.sg

VISITING THERE

Maxwell Hawker Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore; no website.

Sungei Buloh Wetlands, 60 Kranji Way, Singapore; nparks.gov.sg and MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Lorne Road, Singapore; nparks.gov.sg.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is at 1 Cluny Road, Singapore, but there are other entrances at Bukit Timah and Gallop Road; sbg.org.sg.

Singapore Zoo, 80 Mandai Lake Rd, Singapore; zoo.com.sg.

Universal Studios Singapore, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore; rwsentosa.com.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, 288 South Bridge Road, Chinatown; visitsingapore.com

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