By Vibrant Dot Staff
Coney Island? Is it in New York? No, it isn’t.
Located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore near Pulau Ubin, the island was renamed as Coney Island in the 1950s by Indian businessman, Ghulam Mahmood. He was inspired to turn the island to an amusement park or resort similar to Coney Island amusement park in New York, but his dream was not realised.
Also known as ‘Serangoon Island’ or ‘Pulau Serangoon’, it has remained uninhabited for decades though it was once a popular spot for family picnics, fishing, swimming and water-skiing. Kelongs were once found off the island’s coast.
However, by 1998, it could only be visited by people with their own boats. It was closed shortly after that for redevelopment under the Punggol 21 plan.
Today, the 50ha Coney Island Park which took 15 months to build is open to the public. Managed by National Parks Board (NParks), Coney Island is connected to the mainland by two bridges on its western end (Punggol Promenade) and eastern end (Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park 6, Lorong Halus and Punggol Waterway Park).
The new nature attraction is a rustic and ideal haven for bird-watching, cycling, nature walks as well as nature photography.
Covered with a rich vegetation, Coney Island is home to a myriad of plants and animals – at least 157 fauna, 86 tree species and some 80 bird species. 53 fauna and 17 tree species are considered locally extinct or endangered such as the Sultan dragonfly, the cycad specimen, the black-crowned night heron, the spotted wood owl, the red junglefowl and the rusty-breasted cuckoo.
The island also boasts a rich biodiversity and has a wide variety of habitats, from coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves to casuarina woodlands.
If you are lucky enough, you might come across the lone Brahman bull that has been roaming freely on the island.
Another highlight of Coney Island is the deserted Haw Par villa. In the 1930s-1950s, the island was called ‘Haw Par Island’ as the Haw Par brothers, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, purchased the island and built a villa on the island in the 1930s. The villa has a central hall and an open verandah that surrounds the house. This is an example of the architecture style in Singapore during the 1930s.
Today, the building is structurally unstable and visitors are advised not to enter as it sits in a mangrove area that is subject to rising tides.
Besides that, there are five beaches on the island which have been left rustic. Visitors are advised to wear long pants as they might encounter sandflies. You can get a good view of Pulau Ubin and Johor from the beaches.
The park also features a Casuarina Exploration area near the western entrance. The playground made from the timber of uprooted Casuarina trees (native to Singapore) and other recycled materials is ideal for kids as well as adults seeking simple adventure.
For bird enthusiasts, the park has three bird-watching hides for birds and wildlife observation.
To protect and preserve the island’s wildness, there is no electricity, piped water or food vendors on the island. Electricity for the toilets pumps is generated from solar power, while water for flushing and hand washing is harvested from rain.
The island is connected from its western and eastern ends by a main path. Cycling is allowed on the main path and is barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible.
On Coney Island, there are also other boardwalks and earth tracks for those seeking nature walks.
Coney Island Park is open from 7am to 7pm daily.
How to get there: From Punggol interchange, take bus 84 to Punggol Point Park/Punggol Settlement. Walk about 500m east along the Punggol Promenade Nature Walk to get to Coney Island West Entrance.