This seaside park is many things all in one – a seaside recreational park for the everyday visitor, a forest reserve for nature lovers, and a crumbling fort to boot for history buffs and adventurous souls.
First time visitors will want to check out the military secrets hidden in the forest on the hill as well as explore the rich biodiversity in the nature reserve, while return visitors can just relax and enjoy the spectacular views, fresh air and sunshine.
Seaside recreational park
At first glance Labrador Park is a pleasant seaside park, with picnic areas, rest shelters and a children’s playground, ringed by a wide pavement good for bicycling, rollerblading, walking, jogging, Taiqi and what not.
With the newish Bukit Chermin Boardwalk extension that hugs the shoreline and then cuts in to the mangrove area, the coastal walk is now a good 2.1km long (about a mile and a half), perfect for a short stroll or jog. The coastal walk extends past the Keppel Golf Club, the imposing Reflections at Keppel Bay condominium – designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind who is the designer of the new World Trade Centre in New York, and the luxury yachts berthed at the Keppel Marina.
The park is especially popular in the mornings and evenings with residents from the nearby areas.
Nature Reserve and Trail
Berlayer Creek, which the boardwalk runs through, is one of Singapore’s few remaining mangrove swamps and supposedly houses 40% of Singapore’s endangered plant species.
Nature lovers will be thrilled with the mangrove wildlife such as giant mudskippers, monitor lizards (which can be big and scary) and other fish and shellfish to be spied here. Bird watchers in particular will delight in the fact that over 60 bird species have been sighted and recorded here, and if you’re lucky you might just catch sight of a sunbird or a kingfisher.
The forest-clad hill forming the backdrop to the park is home to much varied flora and fauna, as well as plenty of squirrels and maybe a monkey or 2. Again birds abound, as well as many species of butterflies and insects. It’s a small forest though with well-lit paths, so don’t expect to run into any tigers or such wildlife.
Old Fort Remains
Hidden amid the nature reserve lie the remains of what was once Pasir Panjang Fort, with its ideal location on a hill overlooking the harbour below. It is here that the park holds many wartime secrets.
Singapore’s busy southern port and deep water harbor, named Keppel Harbour in 1848, was and still is central to the island’s strategic position as a shipping and trading hub. The port is also a key entryway to Singapore from a south-western approach.
Pasir Panjang Fort on Labrador was set up by the British in the late 1800s as a defensive site to protect the valuable Keppel Harbour and the nearby coaling stations. It was completed in 1878 and the first guns were put in place, albeit temporary ones. The fort eventually became one of a series of 11 coastal artillery forts built by the British to defend Singapore’s waters. Prior to and in preparation for World War II more guns were put in place to form Labrador Battery and Berlayer Battery at the site.
Today you can still find gun remnants, machine gun pillboxes, underground ammunition storage chambers and tunnels running beneath the hills. There is even an unfounded rumor that a secret tunnel runs under the seabed connecting to Sentosa island in the distance. The tunnels are unfortunately sealed off so no intrepid exploring is allowed.
The Fort is a treasure trove of history nuggets, and there are plenty of information boards all around the site detailing the Fort’s history.
As with most outdoor places in hot and humid tropical Singapore, try to visit in the mornings and late afternoons/evenings.
There are plenty of rest areas and lavatories all around the park as well as sheltered areas in case of rain, although there are no drinks facilities save for one or two drinking fountains.
There are a few notable dining and rest-stop options however just up the hill beyond the forest – the casual open-air setting Eco Gourmet Café close to Labrador Battery, and the more up market Thai restaurant Tamarind Hill further up on Labrador Villa Road.
Labrador Villa Road (Off Pasir Panjang Road)
Open 24 hours (the park is lit at night, however be warned that some consider the park haunted given its war past)
Only about 10 minutes’ drive from Singapore’s Marina and downtown business district. Follow the signs to turn off Pasir Panjang Road into Labrador Villa Road and drive all the way in to the car park.
You can also take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and get off at the Labrador Park MRT station, which will lead you to the Berlayer Creek trail (a wooden boardwalk) and a 10-15 min walk to the seafront.
The huge shopping mall and transportation hub Vivocity and HarbourFront Centre is also in the near distance, slightly under an hour’s walk from Labrador Park.
HOW MUCH TIME
A fairly thorough exploration of the park will easily take about 2 and a half hours, assuming you are not an extreme history buff or nature lover.
Walking one length of the waterfront will take about 45 mins.
The Fort and historical sites can be covered in about an hour.
If you are an avid nature enthusiast and will want to note every plant and wildlife species, then I imagine you will spend a good few hours here.
Of course if you just want to unwind and soak up the sea breeze, then take all the time in the world you want.
- The machine gun pillboxes or bunkers were hot, cramped and very uncomfortable to be in in our warm and humid weather. I can just imagine.
- The 2 6-inch guns Pasir Panjang Fort had going into WWII, were 37 ton guns that fired 102 lbs shells over a range of 10 miles. The guns were not fixed to face seawards only, and were also turned around to fire on the advancing Japanese troops.
- Best apply mosquito repellent if you go in the evening or at night.
- As with any tropical forest, albeit a small one, do watch out for snakes.
- National Parks Board (NParks) site on Labrador Nature Reserve
- Download older NParks Guide to Labrador Nature Reserve Walking Trail covering more of the historical aspects
- Download newer NParks Guide to Labrador Nature and Coastal Walk featuring Berlayer Creek and the Bukit Chermin Boardwalk
- National Library Board’s Infopedia Site on Labrador Park and Fort Pasir Panjang