Also known as Serangoon Island/Pulau Serangoon, Coney Island is a piece of land laying off the coast between Punggol and Pulau Ubin. It may be small – the island measures just 133ha – but it has a story worth telling, and has recently come once again into the public’s consciousness with the recent (October 2015) opening of the Coney Island Park, and its integration into the Park Connector Network. Today joggers, cyclists and nature enthusiasts can access the nature reserve via two bridges that connect it to the mainland, one on each of its tips, whereas in days gone by the only way on and off the island was via boat.
The one thing Coney Island is probably most well-known for is as the former home of Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par – the two Burmese impresarios behind the Tiger Balm story. They bought the island, lock stock and barrel in 1936, but short of building the Haw Par Beach Villa they did very little else with it. That cannot be said of Ghulam Mahmood the Indian entrepreneur who bought it from them in 1950. Mahmood, was maybe ahead of his time, and in a precursor to what would eventually happen not too far away at Sentosa, he had grand schemes to turn the island into an amusement park, Asia’s equivalent of New York’s Coney Island. Accommodation was built, along with a dance hall, bars and a restaurant, but his dreams were never realised. Despite its new title, it didn’t live up to its namesake and just 3 years later the island was put up for auction.
Over the subsequent five decades the island fell back into obscurity while more than doubling in size due to reclamation efforts. The government, who retook ownership of the island, twice tabled plans to turn it once more into a recreation venue, but neither time it came to fruition. The creation of the park however has given the island a new lease of life, and though the activities may not be as decadent as those envisaged by Mr Mahmood, the island has once again become a place for Singaporeans and visitors alike to visit and enjoy.
Once on the island there is nothing much to do apart from take in the peaceful and natural surroundings, and enjoy being close to nature. The 2.4km path that runs the length of the island and is part of the PCN, has several small rough paths running off it taking you to each of Coney Island’s five beaches. These may not be large, but they have been left as nature intended and are very picturesque as a result. Elsewhere on the island, there is a boardwalk that allows visitors to explore the mangrove swamp. The original beach villa can also be visited though only as part of a guided tour due to its perilous state.
The only permanent residents on the island today are a rich and varied collection of wildlife, including as many as 80 different species of bird, as well as otters and long tailed macaques. Apart from the original owners of the island the next most famous resident was a Brahman cow, who sadly passed away in 2016.
Love Mother Nature? Below are some new launch condos that are close to parks and lakes.