Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Penang?
Why visit Penang for adventure?
Nobody comes to Penang primarily for adventure, as it’s the food that draws you in. Arguably the best place in SE Asia to eat authentic street food that effortlessly blends the Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures, Penang often gets shortchanged as a place “just for food.”
But staying here for two+ weeks has shown us that there’s a lot more to Penang than laksa, ais kacang, and char koay teow. Just a few kilometers away by bus, there are jungles and rainforests to be discovered.
Outdoor Activities in Penang
Take a Hike and Swim in Penang National Park
Penang National Park is Malaysia’s smallest, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. Only 25km from Georgetown, the park has three accessible but hidden beaches and tons of trails for trekking. All in all, it covers a bit more than 1200 hectares, but it really packs in the jungle!
It’s hard to believe how close you are to the hustle and bustle of the city once you step foot into the park. It brought us right back to trekking in Borneo, but with the added benefit of no leeches due to the saltwater from the ocean.
Whether you do the easy hike to Monkey Beach or the more challenging trek to Teluk Kampi (past Turtle Beach), allow a few hours to explore what this park has to offer. We saw tons of monkeys, and a turtle crossing the trail. If you’re lucky, you can also see baby turtles hatching at Turtle Beach!
While the water isn’t crystal clear, if it’s hot enough, nobody will blame you for wanting to take a dip. Keep in mind that you are in a predominantly Muslim country, so more conservative bathing options are recommended.
Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity
The cheapest way to get to the park is to take RapidPenang bus 101. It’s 4MYR each way and takes about an hour depending on traffic.
Cost of doing the adventure activity
Entry into the park is absolutely free! The only thing that costs money is the canopy walkway, but it was closed due to rain when we visited.
Penang used to be home to a British hill station, set up top of Penang Hill and looking over the rest of the island and the city. Nowadays, Penang Hill still boasts those grand views and even a few leftover British cottages. But the real attraction for hundreds of daily visitors is the cooler air.
The most common way to get up to Penang Hill is to take the funicular and pay 30MYR return. But there’s another way, one most travelers never see. It starts by the Botanical Gardens and it’s called the Moon Gate. From here, it’s around 6km up to the Hill, where you’ll emerge behind a restaurant and in front of a lot of amused Malays who’ve never seen someone so sweaty.
The trek shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. It’s steep, muddy, and hot as hell, so bring lots of water and wear hiking boots if you have them. You’ll meet some Chinese locals on the way who’ll be happy to point you in the right direction if you’re lost. But mostly, you’ll be on your own, with the grand views of Georgetown all to yourself.
If you’re in a hurry to get down or just want to avoid the mud, you can take the paved “Jeep Track” back to the Botanical Gardens. Just walk past the Hindu temple (opposite direction from the line for the Funicular) and start heading down. You’ll be sharing the road with tons of cyclists and a lot of Chinese locals walking backwards. It’s that steep! But the descent will take less than an hour, which is much faster than taking the trail all the way back down.
Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity
Do NOT take the bus to Penang Hill if you want to do the hike, as the bus only takes you to the Funicular. Instead, take the #10 bus to the Botanical Gardens. It costs 2MYR but takes an insanely long two hours to drive the 8km. Alternatively, you can rent bikes, but after climbing that hill, the one hour long bus ride back in AC was much more appealing than pedaling!
Cost of doing the adventure activity
Absolutely free, which means you get the same views as the people who took the Funicular up but without spending a ringgit! You also get a workout in the process, which is a good thing considering the number one activity in Penang is eating.
Georgetown Heritage Walk
Can walking be considered an adventure? I think so, especially if it’s 30+ degrees outside and there’s so much to see!
The Georgetown area of Penang is where most travelers rightfully spend most of their time. As a UNESCO Heritage Site, the area boasts Chinese shophouses from the 19th century, temples, clan houses, and mosques for several different ethnicities, more cute coffee shops and boutiques than you’ll ever have time to visit, and an awesome street art scene.
You could do worse than getting lost here for a few hours, either on foot or by bicycle. Start out at the Clan Jetties by the pier, where you can get a sense of how early Chinese migrants lived when they first moved to Malaysia. Each of these jetties belongs to a separate clan, or family, and as the name suggests, they stretch out over the water. Most of the jetties were occupied by fisherman, but now the occupants are as likely to own motorbikes and work in town as they are to gut fish.
From there, follow the Art Walk through the historic part of Georgetown and discover the many murals that decorate Georgetown’s beautiful old buildings. You’ll also have a chance to peek into the clan houses that abound in Georgetown, the most famous being Khoo Kongsi off of Cannon Street. These houses, which to us look more like temples, are places of worship and offering for the many members of the family.
A good way to understand Georgetown’s mixed heritage is to take a walk on the Street of Harmony. Here, you’ll pass a mosque, a temple, a church, and several clan houses that bring to life how diverse life on this island really is. It’s a fascinating mix of cultures and religions, all on one street.
Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity
You’ll likely be staying in Georgetown, so all you have to do is walk out your guesthouse’s door in order to start the walk. Make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen; this island is really hot!
Cost of doing the adventure activity
Free, though some clan houses like Khoo Kongsi do charge an admission fee.
Additional contact information for the adventure activity
Make sure to pick up maps from your hotel or from any tourist information center in town. There’s an Art Walk map, a Georgetown map, and a food map that all come in handy!
Best time of the year to visit Penang for adventure?
You can pretty much visit Penang any time of year, but keep in mind that October and November tend to bring heavy rainfall.
Finally, the reason I love Penang for adventure is because…
There’s nothing like coming back from a challenging hike and being able to gorge yourself on delicious freshly-made food that makes your mouth and head explore with flavor. With prices so low, nobody’s going to blame you for having two or three dinners to reward yourself for all those calories burned. And make sure to end your meal with ais kacang–there’s no better way to cool off in the tropics!
Lina Eroh is the voice behind Erohisms. In February 2013, Lina and her husband Rob quit their tech jobs, rented out their San Francisco apartment, and set off for a year of travel. With a flexible timeline and a budget of $1000pp/month, their goal is to show others how affordable exploring the world can be. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@erohisms) or sign up for their travel newsletter.
Have you been to Penang before? Have you tried any of these outdoor activities in Penang?
How to Make the Most of Your Travels
Traveling is a very liberating and fun experience. Not only do you get to see some incredible sights, taste some amazing foods, and hear sounds you might never have heard before, but you also get to know the people who live in such exotic places. There are 7.6 billion people in the world, and we have created a complex, fascinating collection of cultures that truly need to be experienced to be understood. There is so much potential when you travel, but you need to make the most of your time abroad in order to appreciate it truly. Staying at a hotel the whole time won’t let you learn about places like Egypt, Israel and Peru, it will only give you a taste of what another resort is like. To truly make the most of your travels, you need to:
- Get Out There: Taking Tours
If you aren’t comfortable jetting off on your own, that’s okay! There are tours and packages available that will ensure you have a safe and comfortable trip. For instance, you can extend your South Africa trip and take all-inclusive tours to Israel. This means you get a return flight, your hotel rooms booked, and your food covered all on top of great guides to show you around the most ancient of cities. These kinds of tours allow you to experience the world with the comfort and peace of mind that comes when an experienced travel agency has arranged everything.
- Explore at Your Own Pace: Going Off on Your Own
When you’re experienced enough with traveling the area, you can then go off on your own. When you do, opt for slow travel. This means that instead of trying to see all the top sights in a week, you stay for a longer period of time and explore a smaller area at greater length. Not only is this slower travel better for the environment, but it’s also better for your health, and you’ll gain more insight from your trip.
- Do Your Research
Many activities will have to be booked in advance. Therefore, you’ll need to read up on the activities in advance, so you know the scams you should avoid and the best offers available to you. You should also read up on common dos and don’ts. For instance, you shouldn’t take cabs that aren’t arranged for you through your hotel.
- Document It!
Memories only last so long before they begin to fade, which is why you need to document your travels. Take photos, video, and most of all, keep a journal. This can be on paper or on your phone, but write down everything that you have done that day. Write down what you’ve done and what you felt. This will be the best souvenir that you can take home with you.
Traveling is an amazing experience, but you need to do your research so that you can find the best tours, key information, and safety tips. The more prepared you are and the more you know, the more you’ll get out of your journey.
Travel Photography – Most Photogenic Places in New Zealand
If there is a place in the world no nature enthusiast should miss no doubt the South Island of New Zealand it is. The landscapes there are simply breathtaking, so diverse you can’t imagine such a small country has it all. Throughout this wonderful island are stunning beaches and thrilling waterfalls, turquoise lakes and snow-capped mountains; the list is literally endless. Although so small you only need a few hours to traverse, you a likely to spend days in the blissful amazement of this country.
Take your camera with you. This is a place to remember through the rest of your lifetime. In that regard, below are the most photogenic places on The South Island of New Zealand.
Found on Koekohe Beach, these strange-looking, large spherical concretions rank among nature’s oddest and astonishing sights. Eroded from the shoreline, some of these boulders are up to 2 meters in diameter. The best time to view these natural wonders is at sunset, and some visitors say they look like dragon eggs waiting to hatch.
Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
At the top end of the South Island, you’ll find an amazing geological occurrence. The Marlborough Sounds are a collection of sunken river valleys, where the ocean has reclaimed the land. The stunning contrast of thick forested hills sinking steeply into the ocean creates some wonderful opportunities for photography.
Church of the Good Shepherd
One of the most visited historical sites in New Zealand, the Church of the Good Shepherd is located in Mackenzie Country area. Located right within the international dark sky reserve in, the placement of the church means you can capture some of the most amazing astrophotographical shots imaginable. Any astrophotography enthusiast visiting must see this little chapel, located in the famous Tekapo region.
St Clair’s Beach – Dunedin
St. Clair’s is a stunningly beautiful sandy beach, one of the many sweeping along Dunedin’s eastern suburbs. As well as being a highly popular surfing spot, St. Clair’s Beach is home to tourist’s bars, café’s and relaxing saltwater outdoor heated swimming pools. At the end of the beach stand old wooden poles, and there is most photographers’ favourite spot.
The Caitlins region is an absolute delight for nature photographers, with countless beautiful locations to visit. One of the best in the region is the Purakaunui Waterfalls. Found at the southern tip of the country, the crystal cascade of water contrasts beautifully with the mossy green rock and lush vegetation it cuts through.
Lake Pukaki, with its amazingly ice blue 180 square kilometer water expanse provides breathtaking colour combinations across a backdrop of snowy mountain ranges. You could be forgiven for thinking you’d suddenly ended up in the Canadian ranges as the scenery is very similar.
Lupin Flowers in Tekapo
On December, during the summer’s peak, pretty beautiful lupin flowers buoyantly bloom for up to six weeks, offering a very fantastic view for nature kids. Each summer these flowers turn into startling bright colours, calling masses of photographers and tourists. Mostly found at the beautiful shores of Lake Tekapo as well as the nearing zones, these wonder flowers flourish best in the first two weeks of the month.
Hikers have a reason to smile whenever they visit the Southern Island of New Zealand. Mount Roy is the place that, besides offering an iconic viewpoint of the Lake Wanaka, stands out as a wonderful area for exciting day hikes. Up there, you get amazing views to the landscape below, which savvy photographers cannot miss.
Hooker Glacier Lake
At the foot of Mount Cook is the Hooker Glacier Lake, an all-year-round stunner you cannot afford to miss while visiting this incredible country. However, most experts recommend winter as the most suitable time for photo taking.
Planted at the centre of Glacier Country and Westland National Park, this lake provides a pretty sight. It was formed 14,000 years ago through glaciations. Its surrounding is rich in ancient native forests that are also a favourite phenomenon for photographers. Lake Matheson mirrors Mount Tasman and Mount Cook—two of the highest peaks in New Zealand.
Milford Sound receives quite much rainfall. The annual estimates are up to an amazing 6.8 meters, making it among the very wettest spots of New Zealand. Due to such high rains, the area is adorned with pretty spectacular waterfalls, many of them cascading into the photo famous fjord on wet days. Milford Sound is found in the Fiordland National Park.
Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall
Anyone would be excited to see and photograph the Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall. It is the largest waterfall in the land, standing at 131 meters. It is surely worthy visiting, but remember to take rain jacket. You likely will get wet.
As suggests the name, this is a truly remarkable place. Featuring a rare scene of mountain range, the Remarkables are located next to Queenstown. Moreover, around this top photogenic zone is one of the finest ski fields the island boasts of.
Bennett’s Bluff, Glenorchy Road
Bennett’s Bluff is a popular viewpoint along one of the impressive drives through New Zealand. Glenorchy Road runs from Queenstown to Glenorchy. This particular viewpoint impressively overlooks the Pig and Pigeon Islands, as well as Lake Wakatipu.
The Wanaka Tree
The Wanaka is a symbolic willow tree located off Lake Wanaka shore line. It is claimed to be among the most photographed trees the world over, making it one of the most photogenic places in The Southern Island of New Zealand.
Franz Josef Glacier Valley
This is one of the major attractions on the island’s west coast, an ice glacier descending 12 kilometres. It starts in the high peaks coming down through rainforest to a mere 300 meters above the sea level.
Despite being a small country, New Zealand is one of the most exciting places to visit in the world. You cannot finish in a day or even two, for every corner you go, you will want to take a photo.
Summer Events to check out in Surfers Paradise
The weather is already heating up on the Gold Coast and everyone is getting ready for some hot days on the beach. Christmas is just around the corner and with it all the big summer events and festivals that happen at this time of year. Surfers Paradise is at the centre of it all and makes a great base for exploring the Gold Coast and attending the events on the Gold Coast’s summer schedule. There is plenty of places to stay in Surfers Paradise, so book yourself a room and check out some of these fantastic summer events.
Australian PGA Championship
Pacific Pines Resort is one of the premier golf courses in Australia. The country’s biggest golf tournament will make its way here from the 30th of November until the 3rd of December, where the best golfers from Australia and overseas will compete for the title. This is a must attend event for golfers, and there will be plenty of food and entertainment on offer across the four days.
The foreshore in Surfers Paradise comes alive every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night, with over 100 market stalls filling up the esplanade. The iconic Beachfront Markets will continue throughout the summer and provides the perfect opportunity to get out and about on those warm summer nights, browse the stalls for some unique buys, and then head out on the town for dinner.
Christmas in Surfers Paradise
Experience Christmas in true Aussie style by attending the popular Christmas in Surfers Paradise event that fills up Cavill Mall from the 13th – 24th of December. The entire mall is transformed into a festive wonderland, Surfers style. Even Santa himself will be wearing boardies and travelling in a surf boat sleigh. The kids will love getting to visit Santa in the mall, and the whole event ends with the popular Carols on the Beach on the 23rd of December. Where else in the world can you experience Christmas Carols on the beach on a hot summer’s night?
New Year’s Carnival
Surfers Paradise is one of the best places to celebrate the New Year in the country. The New Year’s Carnival happens on the foreshore of Surfers Paradise across five days from the 27th of December until the 1st of January. It will be one big celebration with lots of rides and fun filled activities, music and more. On New Year’s Eve, you can enjoy massive fireworks displays over the water, with three different displays lighting up the skies above the Gold Coast. There will even be an earlier fireworks display for the little ones. This is definitely the place to be to bring in the New Year.
Magic Millions Carnival
One of the first big events to check out in 2018 will be the extravagant Magic Millions Carnival. On from the 7th until the 13th of January, the Magic Millions Carnival is the premier event of the summer horse racing season. This is a $10 Million horse race and it is sure to be a huge event, with all the glitz and glamour and socialising that goes with it. On the 9th of January, head to the Surfers Paradise Foreshore for the Barrier Draw, where you can watch the horses on the sand and enjoy food and beverages from the stalls. The big race day will be held on the 13th of January.
Surfing is huge on the Gold Coast and one of the best surf spots is at Burleigh Heads. The Burleigh Pro has grown to become one of the biggest surfing competitions in Australia and will see some of the world’s top surfers compete for the title. Local surfers and visitors should definitely attend this one. The Burleigh Pro will be held from the 25th – 28th of January.
One of the more unique and interesting events to check out this summer will be the 2018 Sand Safari. This arts festival focuses on Australia’s talented sand sculptors, who will compete in the Australian Sand Sculpting Championships. These sand artists carve out incredible, often life sized sculptures entirely of sand, and you will often be truly awed by what they are able to create. The main sculpture competition takes place on the beach along the Surfers Paradise foreshore, however this is a big event from the 2nd to the 25th of February, and you will be able to find special sand sculpture exhibits all over Surfers Paradise.
Summer of Surf
The Summer of Surf is a massive event which will see the country’s best Ironmen and Ironwomen compete in a gruelling six discipline event across six rounds, including the highlighted IronMan and IronWoman competitions. These athletes are the epitome of endurance, and the competition will hit Surfers Paradise for round five of the competition on the 3rd and 4th of February.
The Village Markets
Burleigh Heads is one of the most picturesque and laid back places on the Gold Coast and well worth heading to for a few hours. A good time to visit is during the twice monthly Village Markets which have become an integral part of the Burleigh atmosphere. This popular and laid back market has a beachy, artsy feel to it, and you will find all kinds of unique buys here from the many stalls on offer. Street food stalls are also a big thing here so you can sample some delicious delicacies while browsing the stalls. Finish the day by relaxing on the beach, or sit down for a drink at the Burleigh Surf Club.
Whether you’re looking for a destination for a family holiday or just wanting a quick getaway to unwind this summer, Surfers Paradise is a great choice. With so much happening from cultural night markets to world class sporting events, you are sure to find something of interest in this iconic Gold Coast location.
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We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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