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Sentosa Heritage Trail - Uncover The Long And Rich History Of The Island



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Featuring 30 heritage sites and 10 heritage trail markers, the new Sentosa Heritage Trail features a long and rich heritage that is waiting to be explored.

Photo Credits: National Heritage Board

The new Sentosa Heritage Trail, developed by the National Heritage Board (NHB) in partnership with Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC),traces the transformation of the island from a military complex to a leisure destination, uncovers stories of the communities who once lived there, and sheds light on the story of modern Sentosa’s reinvention.

You will find a total of 30 heritage sites, 10 heritage trail markers and 20 existing interpretive signs to enrich your family's knowledge of Sentosa’s history.

Stories from Sentosa's Kampung Communities

View of Blakang Mati from the mainland, undated. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Existing in records dating back to the 1600s as Pulau Blakang Mati – which translates to “Death from the Back Island" in Malay – the island was home to various coastal communities such as the Orang Laut and other regional groups. 

Malay Village on North Shore, 1935. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Malay Village on North Shore, 1935. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

The Orang Laut communities on the island made their living by fishing and selling commodities to passing vessels between mainland Singapore and Blakang Mati. Even after Blakang Mati was turned into a British military outpost, civilian communities still lived on the island, with many continuing to do so even after WWII. These civilian communities made a living by fishing, operating small shops and providing a ferry service between the island and mainland Singapore.

Discover the Rich Military History

Soldiers playing badminton at Fort Siloso, c. 1940-50s. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Soldiers playing badminton at Fort Siloso, c. 1940-50s. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Gunners firing the Mark X 9.2-inch breech loading gun at Fort Serapong, 1930s. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Gunners firing the Mark X 9.2-inch breech loading gun at Fort Serapong, 1930s. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

The Sentosa Heritage Trail delves into the island’s military history, which began when Singapore became a British colony in the 1800s. Blakang Mati was recognised for its strategic potential in Britain’s defence strategy for Singapore, which was centred on defending Keppel Harbour and the shipping straits around the island.

Former parade square, now The Barracks Hotel, undated. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

The completion of Fort Siloso and other forts and batteries on the island also meant that barracks and quarters to house military personnel had to be built. Many of these still exist today as buildings which have been seamlessly integrated into Sentosa’s modern landscape. Former barracks have been repurposed into hotels and restaurants, while forts and other military structures have been restored and utilised for education and entertainment.

RELATED: Take part in the Learn With Sentosa Photo Hunt to win cash prizes!

The Early Days of Sentosa

Cable car ride into Sentosa island, 1977. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Cable cars in Sentosa, 2021. Courtesy of National Heritage Board

Sentosa was established as a leisure destination since 1972 and much have changed on the island since. The Sentosa Heritage Trail and its companion
guide cover the island’s early history  and feature some of its earliest attractions such as the Singapore Cable Car and the site of the former Musical Fountain
and Fountain Gardens.

The companion guide also includes stories of the island’s early days as a leisure destination. In addition, heritage trail markers are placed along remnants of the old monorail track and within Resorts World Sentosa to highlight the locations of these former landmarks.

*The Sentosa Heritage Trail’s companion guide and map (the map is available in four languages from early April) can be downloaded from NHB’s heritage portal Roots.gov.sg and Sentosa.com.sg. Printed copies of the guide will also be available for a limited period at NHB headquarters at Stamford Court.

Explore The Trails on 3 Thematic Routes

To explore the fascinating history of Sentosa, trail-goers can embark on three thematic, bite-sized routes according to their interests and in their own time.

Gunners firing the Mark X 9.2-inch breech loading gun at Fort Serapong, 1930s. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Officer's Mess (now Capella Hotel), 1955. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Capella Singapore, 2021. Courtesy of National Heritage Board

  • Kampongs and Barracks
    (3km, 2 hours on foot and with public transport)

    From the Orang Laut and kampong settlers to British Army personnel, a diverse range of people and communities have called Pulau Blakang Mati home. This trail explores the lives and livelihoods of the people of Blakang Mati, as well as their living spaces that included kampongs, barracks and luxurious bungalows.

    ● Sentosa Gateway boardwalk – People of the Straits trail marker (Recommended starting point)
    ● Former recreation ground and barracks
    ● Barracks at the former parade ground
    ● Former Royal Engineers’ Yard
    ● Former Officers’ Mess and Quarters
    ● Former military hospital

Siloso Pier, undated. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Siloso Pier, undated. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Stairs leading to the remnants of the former Siloso Pier, 2021. Courtesy of National Heritage Board

Stairs leading to the remnants of the former Siloso Pier, 2021. Courtesy of National Heritage Board

  • Forts
    (4km, 2 hours on foot)

    Pulau Blakang Mati had been identified as a potential defence outpost since at least the 17th century. However, it was only in the late 1800s that the island was militarised, with artillery batteries, forts, barracks and other infrastructure constructed by the British after they took over Pulau Blakang Mati. This trail explores the extensive fortifications on Sentosa, including Fort Siloso, Imbiah Battery and Fort Serapong, and how they featured in the defence of colonial Singapore.

    ● Siloso Point Station (Recommended starting point)
    ● Fort Siloso Skywalk
    ● Fort Siloso
    ● Siloso Pier
    ● Imbiah Battery
    ● Fort Serapong (Optional)

Siloso Beach, 1932. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Siloso Beach, 1932. Courtesy of Sentosa Development Corporation

Siloso Beach, 2021. Courtesy of National Heritage Board

Siloso Beach, 2021. Courtesy of National Heritage Board

  • Memories of Sentosa
    (2.5km, 1 hour on foot)

    Since the 1970s and following its reinvention as a leisure destination, Sentosa has continually refreshed its attractions to adjust to shifting visitor preferences over the decades. A number of former attractions including the Musical Fountain and the monorail helped define Sentosa in the 1980s and 1990s, and still feature significantly in the social memories of Singaporeans. This trail revisits some of these locations and the memories associated with them. 

    ● Siloso Point Station (Recommended starting point)
    ● Siloso Beach
    ● Former Sentosa Monorail
    ● Singapore Cable Car
    ● Former military hospital
    ● The Musical Fountain, the Ferry Terminal and the Fountain Gardens

Do you have any memories of Sentosa that you like to share? Let us know in our Community Forum now!

 


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This article is prepared by

Jiarong Yu
Daddy to 2 adorable little ones. Misses them the moment they are not around, regrets missing them the moment they are around.

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