Stay and play

Staycations don’t always have to be in a hotel. Singapore families are flocking to upscale chalets and local resorts that offer comfortable lodgings with cool facilities.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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Staycations don’t always have to be in a hotel. Singapore families are flocking to upscale chalets and local resorts that offer comfortable lodgings with cool facilities.

Jonathan Quek, 46, books staycations for his family at the Civil Service Club @ Changi at least three times a year. At the resort, the family swims, bowls, cycles and takes trips to Pulau Ubin, which is just a boat ride away from the nearby jetty. The director in an insurance company is a club member, and pays a discounted rate of about $300 a night for a suite each time.

Some may baulk at the price tag for a chalet, which is comparable to a three- or fourstar hotel stay, but the resort’s decor and facilities match up. The two-bedroom suite has tasteful interiors with dark wood furnishing, flat-screen TVs that offer movie and football channels, and a balcony that looks out to the sea. Jonathan adds: “Because of the club’s location by the beach, we don’t feel like we’re in Singapore when we’re here.”


Civil Service Club @ Changi is among the poshest chalets in town, after a series of renovations. First opened in 1994, it closed in 2012 for extensive redevelopment and refurbishment works. Two years and a $33-million upgrade later, the club now features suites and two-storey villas. The latter resemble stylish private houses built by designer architects, with clean, minimalist designs and lots of windows for natural light.

An outdoor darkwood patio serves as the barbecue hangout area. Housekeeping services, fresh linen and toiletries are also provided. “We strive to be the equivalent of a hotel,” says the club’s manager, Peter Chew, 37. In recent years, chalet and resort operators here have been sprucing up to compete for a slice of the local staycation pie and reach out to visitors, including tourists.

Gone are the old chalets associated with run-down facilities, dirty toilets, hard beds and ancient barbecue pits. These days, four-poster beds, towel art, open showers and themed rooms are par for the course. The NTUC Club’s D’Resort @ Downtown East officially opened to the public in July last year as part of a $200-million Refreshing Downtown East project.

Previously, the resort had just two room types and 163 rooms. Now, it has nine room types and close to 400 rooms. Family rooms come with themes such as Jungle, Underwater and M&M’s – yup, the chocolate snack. In such a room, there are M&M’s plushies in a doubledecker bed for children, M&M’s pillows on the double bed and M&M’s murals on the wall. Other frills include in-room towel art, and balloons and chocolates for children, which are handed out at check-in.


Chalets and resorts have also boosted their facilities beyond barbecue pits, bowling alleys and karaoke rooms. The Civil Service Club @ Changi has several pool types, including an infinity pool. The National Service Resort & Country Club in Changi also has three types of swimming pools – an adult leisure pool, as well as a wading pool and a play pool for kids.

To cater to families, operators such as D’Resort offer complimentary activities such as temporary hand or face tattoos and balloon sculpting. Earlier this year, Punggol Ranch Resort opened an indoor children’s playground and a bunny park within its premises, where children can feed rabbits.

These upgrades mean a slightly heavier price tag for a night’s stay. For some of the chalets and resorts, a basic room can still be had for about $100. But, in most cases, a basic room now costs about $200 and can go up to $600 and beyond for a suite or villa during peak periods. Here’s a look at what you get at four popular options.

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You do not have to head to the nearby Indonesian islands of Bintan or Bali to enjoy a seaside resort experience. The Civil Service Club @ Changi will give those places a run for their money. The club, which overlooks Changi Creek, reopened with a refreshed image in 2014 following an extensive two-year refurbishment.

The suites and villas are spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows, large beds and woodgrain design tiles. Club manager Peter Chew says they are almost 100 per cent occupied on weekends and about 60 per cent occupied on weekdays. The chalet also offers a range of facilities, which includes an infinity pool, a 20-lane bowling centre and a bike gym.

If guests want to venture beyond the club, they can eat their way through the many famous eateries at the nearby Changi Village. Pulau Ubin is also a short bumboat ride away.

How much Public rates range from $225 a night for a superior single bedroom suite (off-peak), to $844 a night for a premier Villa C with a sea view (super peak periods). The villa has three bedrooms. Find out more

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This is not a kampung-like experience. Instead, each of its 35 villas comes with comfortable beds and plump pillows. Some of the rooms also offer outdoor jacuzzis, saunas and open showers with greenery shielding guests for privacy. The resort has private car porches for each villa, which make you feel like you’re driving into your own landed property.

While there are no chickens pecking about the premises, the resort has maintained a rustic vibe. Some of the attractions include ponds for prawning and a museum that showcases swiftlets, the species that produces the delicacy bird’s nest. The resort offers bicycles for rent, massage and spa services, farm tours, and also includes several food and beverage outlets: a cafe, a seafood restaurant and a beer garden.

How much From $120 for a night’s stay in a standard villa, to $690 for a family suite during peak season. Find out more

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With nine room types and a host of free activities for children, families will be spoilt for choice at D’Resort in Downtown East, Pasir Ris. Every since it opened last July, following a revamp, the resort now has close to 400 rooms comprising both family chalets and suites, which offer guests park, mangrove or beach views.

The airy rooms feature artworks and the walls in the family rooms depict cheerful scenes from the jungle, ocean, and of M&M’s cartoon characters. The family rooms also come with bunk beds, which are a hit with children.

Outdoor activities include art jamming, cycling around the nearby Pasir Ris Park and guided mangrove walks. By the end of the year, the water theme park on its premises, Wild Wild Wet, will be expanded to twice its current size. The resort is also rolling out guest excursions to kelongs and visitors will soon be able to try urban farming at the resort.

How much From $118 for a basic room, to about $350 for a suite. Find out more

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Punggol Ranch Resort wants to create a Wild, Wild West in Singapore – complete with horses and wagon-style chalets. The resort’s 29 rooms feature chairs with wagonwheel motifs and brass horse heads that adorn towel racks. Most of the rooms come with a double bed and a single bed. Daily housekeeping and toiletries are provided, although breakfast is not. The ranch is home to 40 horses and 20 ponies.

Guests can take them out on rides, or simply watch them graze. A stable tour where guests can get up-close to the horses can also be arranged. Since last year, the resort’s owners have spent about $500,000 to expand the resort’s offerings beyond horse-related activities.

To attract more families with young children, there is now an indoor playground with swings, a slide and ball pit, an arts-andcrafts room and a bunny park where children can feed and interact with rabbits. Older children can try their hand at archery, or rent bicycles to cycle to the nearby Punggol Beach and Coney Island.

How much $190 on weekdays, $230 on weekends. Find out more E-mail enquiry@punggolranch. com, or call 6690-0900.