Updated 30th May 2022
When people think of Malaysia’s state of Penang, they fall into two camps: those who picture the cityscape of George Town, and those who picture a beach destination. If you’re thinking of a cool beach vibe, you’re picturing Batu Ferringhi.
Batu Ferringhi is a small coastal town on the northern shore of Penang. By car its about 20-30 minutes from George Town and 40-50 minutes from Penang Airport… as with anywhere in Asia, this is always dependent on traffic.
In Batu Ferringhi itself, you’ll find the beach (with all its activities) and the night markets. The neighbouring suburb of Teluk Bahang is where you’ll find most of the other activities mentioned in this post. Like elsewhere in Penang, it’s easy to order a car through the Grab app and you’ll usually only have to wait a few minutes at the most.
So if you’re planning to base yourself in Batu Ferringhi for a few days, here are my recommendations on things to do, places to eat and the best hotels to stay at. (and you can read my wrap up of George Town here)
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Batu Ferringhi night markets
Let’s start with the night markets, since I think this is one of the activities Batu Ferringhi is most famous for.
The night market extends along Jalan Batu Ferringhi, between the Rasa Sayang and Golden Sands resorts. If you’re looking for souvenirs to take home, especially batik knick knacks and clothing, this is your place. You’ll also find the standard knock-off designer goods and all manner of delicious street food to try. Follow the usual rules for bartering in an asian market: go in hard, but friendly. I usually aim to halve the first offer (e.g. “20 Ringgit? I’ll give you 10 Ringgit!”) and go from there. Be sure to follow etiquette: never haggle if you have no intention of buying. If you’re unsure, keep walking: you’ll likely find a few vendors selling the same thing, and you can leverage this.
The Batu Ferringhi Night Markets are open every night from 7pm; they close at 1am.
Batu Ferringhi Beach
If you’re looking for a secluded beach with crystal clear water, this isn’t it. Not by a long shot. But if you’re looking for fun in the sun, you’re in the right place. It’s loud, and busy, and the water is pretty murky… But it’s the activities that make Batu Ferringhi beach what it is.
Yep, you’ll find activities galore on Batu Ferringhi beach. If you want to hire a jet-ski or gallop along the shore on horseback, this is it. Why not hop on a banana boat or go parasailing?
One thing Batu Ferringhi beach really has going for it are the sunsets. As the sun starts to go down, the whole beach starts to glow a gorgeous shade of purple. Even though the sun eventually disappears behind a mountain, this glow is the stuff of romance movies. I actually managed to get a couple of family pictures here as the sun went down – a real rarity!
This gorgeous attraction used to be the Butterfly Farm, and has recently gone through an expansion and rebrand. Now known as Entopia, it’s a one-stop destination for learning about all things entomology (that’s bugs, people).
I understand those of you who aren’t as nerdy as me having reservations about a creepy-crawlie themed activity. Sure. But just think of the butterflies!
Our whole family loved watching the scorpion feeding and the kids really enjoyed “The Cocoon”: an indoor section dedicated to interactive exhibits for younger kids.
Here’s a fun tidbit for you: I am morbidly afraid of cockroaches. It’s a long story of how this phobia came to be but let me tell you: it’s extremely pathetic. It’s actually completely ridiculous. However, it’s something I’ve been working on lately (I live in an environment with lots of trees and ground cover so they naturally appear in my house sometimes, and I can’t ask my young children to get rid of them for me). Anyway, Entopia had some Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches on display. I somehow managed to avoid these when we were actually in Madagascar, but here they were.
I TOUCHED ONE!
He (was confirmed to be a he) was terrified of me. More than I was of him even. But we made it work, and I faced my fear. And now I can sort of deal with them. Sort of.
ESCAPE Theme Park
This one is for the big kids. Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely take kids of all ages along, but we personally felt the experience would be much better if the kids were a bit older and could participate in more activities.
What kind of activities? Think huge waterslides, aerobatics, ziplining, a tree climb course, and all manner of other adrenaline-inducing activities. There’s even a swim-up bar for the grown-ups.
Entry will cost you 138MYR for adults and 92MYR for kids 4-12. Kids under 4 are free. If you book online on the ESCAPE website a few days in advance, you can purchase discounted tickets.
Tropical Spice Garden
What an absolutely gorgeous way to spend an afternoon with the kids! Set over four acres of pristine nature, the spice garden will give you a fascinating insight into not only the natural environment in Penang, but its importance in the spice trade and its culinary history.
You can book an audio tour, a guided tour or even a night walk. There’s also a nature education program for children, which teaches kids all about plants, ecosystems, and even the spice trade.
If you’re willing and able to go without the kids (or if your kids are a bit older) you can even arrange to take part in the cooking school. Here you’ll learn all sorts of Nyonya, Malay, Indian, and Thai recipes and even make your own Penang-style street food.
Here’s more information on the Tropical Spice Garden.
Where to eat in Batu Ferringhi
I’ve mentioned the street food at the night markets, but there are a whole bunch of other places you should try. Here are a few of my favourites:
Long Beach Cafe is actually a hawker centre on Jalan Batu Ferringhi, and it’s an absolute institution. You’ll find whatever you’re looking for here and it’ll be delicious. Because it’s in such a touristy area, it caters to a wider variety of cuisines so you’ll be able to try Indian-style and Chinese-style foods in the same place. Beer is a reasonable price too.
Andrew’s Kampung on Eden Parade is absolutely delicious and consistently gets rave reviews. It often pays to book ahead here, especially if dining around 7-8pm.
Rubin Mardini Cafe & Restaurant is an authentic Turkish restaurant on Jalan Batu Ferringhi that provides something different to the usual Chinese/Malay/Indian fare you’ve likely been eating throughout your trip. The owner is super friendly and the food is absolutely delicious. Try the Madghoud Lamb.
Apam Balik Station is a hawker stall on Jalan Batu Ferringhi, just by the Parkroyal Hotel. True to its name it sells Apam Balik – a thick pancake served with various fillings (traditionally corn or peanuts but these days Nutella and banana is popular too).
Where to stay in Batu Ferringhi
There are several big resorts in Batu Ferringhi, as well as some gorgeous new condo complexes. A few of the resorts need an update, but here are my favourites:
Shangri La Rasa Sayang
I think this is the pinnacle property in Batu Ferringhi. You always know when booking a Shangri La property that you’ll receive excellent service and that the hotel will be gorgeous, and here is no exception. The Rasa Sayang features a beautiful lagoon pool, spacious rooms and one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Penang: the Ferringi Grill.
Book the Shangri La Rasa Sayang.
Hard Rock Hotel Penang
I really enjoyed the Hard Rock actually. It was loud and in-your-face and out there… very on-brand, actually. This was our first time staying at any Hard Rock property, and now we know what it’s like. But for the kids it was PERFECT. A huge pool with water slides and splash pads, great service, and a kids club that caters for kids of all ages (this can be so rare) were the highlights for us.
Read our Hard Rock Penang review.
Book the Hard Rock Penang.
Shangri La Golden Sands Resort
This one isn’t as new or fancy as the neighbouring Rasa Sayang; in fact, the Golden Sands has been here for decades. That said, it’s still a brilliant option for the kids and it’s affordable too. The Splash Zone and waterslides are a huge hit and the indoor Adventure Zone playground provides the opportunity to burn off some energy in an airconditioned environment.
Book the Shangri La Golden Sands.
There are also some great apartments and villas listed on Airbnb if you want to look at other self-catered options. To get you started, here’s $55AUD off your first booking:
A little curious side-note: while we were staying in Batu Ferringhi, we wondered why there were several abandoned hotel/condo complexes. We knew from having stayed in George Town prior that there is huge Chinese investment into such projects, and we saw new condos being built everywhere. We thought it somewhat funny that some projects had just been abandoned. Well, it was only when doing a bit of extra research to write this post that I discovered how much damage Batu Ferringhi actually suffered in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. It makes sense now – the cost of repair to some properties was likely higher than that of new projects. A somewhat sombre note, but something to be aware of before making assumptions like we did.
Batu Ferringhi with kids
Batu Ferringhi is an awesome family holiday destination. It’s chilled out, fun, and you can really take it at your own pace. If you want to pack activities in every day – great! But if you want to relax by the pool or on the beach, that’s great too. Destinations like this really are perfect for families because you can take it as it comes.
So sit back, relax, order a mai tai and a chocolate shake, and make some precious family memories in Batu Ferringhi.
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