Top Ten Things to do in Penang for Families
Updated: Aug 5
Visiting Penang for the first time, with kids? This article lays out some of the top thing to do on the island!
Mike and I and the kids stayed 6 weeks in Penang, in various air B & Bs. Even after 6 weeks we felt there was so much more to explore but it certainly meant we got a feel for some of our favourite spots, where we would return to again and again; some of which feature in this list:
1. Wander the streets of Old George Town
The island's capital city's historical core wreaks of a fascinating, multi-layered cultural heritage. The port is where you would arrive from mainland by ferry and the area surrounding it is within a Unesco World Heritage zone.
Georgetown holds one of the largest collections of pre-war buildings in South East Asia. The combined influences of Britain, China, India and Islam make for very interesting and pretty architecture. I absolutely fell in love with some of cute, colourful tiles and staircases and pastel- shaded facades. The historical core is small enough to cover by foot.
Highlights: Street art, Indian street, Love Lane, Clan Jetties, China House
2. Hike the National Park
Head to the north east part of the island by public bus or by grab (local taxi company). You can enter the national park for free and either walk it, boat it, or combine the two. With kids, we tended to do the latter, on our multiple visits and Mike on occasion lapped up the trail running on offer! Trudge the cool, shady rugged paths interspersed with sprawling tree roots for about 5 km until you reach one of the island's most beautiful, unspoilt beaches: Turtle beach. You can either hike it back to the carpark, directly the way you came or opt for a boat ride back.
Read more about the National Park here.
Highlights: Hawkesbill turtle sanctuary, beautiful coastline, vibrant wildlife including monkeys, eagles and butterflies.
3. Soak up some rays at Battu Ferringhi
Although as South East Asia beaches go, this is not one of the best because there are many local rumours of jelly fish and the sands are not like the fine white variety of Langkawi, the neighbouring island. However there are rock pools to explore, shady patches for kids to play, multiple water sports available, decent resorts and vibrant night markets.
4. Take a twirl to the top of Penang Hill
Probably one the most popular tourist sites does not disappoint! At the peak of the hill, once you exit the funicular, you will find many attractions, including restaurants with panoramic views, specialist gardens, (go and see the monkey cup plants!) and long paths through the rainforest. One way or return tickets for the funicular can be purchased at the base station. A standard round trip funicular adult ticket costs 30 RM (five pounds 30 pence, as of March 2020). Make it a day trip or make a few visits, theres plenty to explore.
5. For an adrenaline rush: visit Escape Water Park
For an unbeatable family treat, the Escape adventure park is a must. In addition to hosting the world's longest water slide, the park it offers a plethora of watery fun experiences for all ages, such as splash pools, vertical drops, peddle boats and wave pools. Entry to the park also provides access to the most amazing high ropes course. With zip wires through the forest, this is one fun way to experience the leafy rainforest canopies of the island. There are also child-friendly versions!
6. Sample the culinary delights
Penang has been renowned as one of South-East Asia's food capitals. And thanks to a blend of culinary cultures there is a feast of striking flavours and bites waiting to be introduced to your taste buds! Our favourite places to eat: SAAB- for Indian cuisine, China House - very kid friendly and has almost every cake variety under the sun and the street vendors and hawkers for the east-west experience in one, depending which stalls you chose!
Don't miss: Pulut inti, Nasi Lemak and Laksa. You can read more about those dishes here .
7. Visit the Tropical Spice Gardens
Just minutes from Battu Ferringhi, this large old property is home to vast and luscious well- nourished gardens. Audio and visual tours are optional. The paths weave through luscious foliage and themed garden areas. They are framed with snippets of information about the different species of domestic and foreign plants, herbs and spices. Not to mention the giant swing and the twisty slides which my 5 year old daughter absolutely loved en route!
Price of entry to the gardens: 15 RM (two pounds fifty).
8. Stroll around the historic clan jetties
This unique area of old George town bares witness to multi-layered history of the island. The Chinese labourers settled here on these jetties built on stilts over the water over 100 years ago. Going for a wonder through the quaint, narrow alley ways is an missable way to explore some of the island's Chinese heritage. If you are visiting at Chinese New Year, these jetties are the heart throb of the festivities, with fire crackers, feasting and dancing galore.
9. Relax in the Botanical Gardens
About 8 km from George town lies the lovely, spacious botanical gardens, free to enter and open from 5 am to 8 pm daily. At dawn and dusk it is popular with runners, and throughout the day cyclists or slow amblers. Watch out for the monkeys! We lost many a banana or a sandwich to some cheeky macaque! And I also can't recommend highly enough the central park next door to the botanical gardens where my kids and I spent many a happy hour swimming the outdoor fountains or playing in the grounds.
10. Check out George Town's intriguing street art
You can't miss the curious murals and art installations decorating parts of Old George Town's streets. Over a decade ago, a Lithuanian artist was commissioned to bring a creative slant to the tired old streets of the area. You may follow an organised tour or view them as part of a DIY scavenger hunt.
Wander the streets of Old George Town
Hike the National Park
Soak up some rays at Battu Ferringhi
Take a twirl to the top of Penang Hill
For an adrenaline rush: visit Escape Water Park
Sample the culinary delights
Visit the Tropical Spice Gardens
Stroll around the historic clan jetties
Relax in the Botanical Gardens
Check out George Town's intriguing street art