An epic trip that takes you from the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula to its eastern tip
With international borders still closed, it’s the ideal time for a great Malaysian road trip – one that begins right at your doorstep. Or, if you aren’t up for quite so much driving and want to start closer to the finish, just take one of Malaysia Airlines’ newly reinstated domestic flights to your starting point, and pick up a rental car from there.
This epic road adventure takes you from Johor Bahru in the south to Terengganu in the east, with highlights along the way including dreamy beaches, mouthwatering traditional cuisines and plenty of retail therapy along the way. Buckle up! (For seven other road trip ideas, click here.)
Total distance: 826km
Suggested duration: 4 days, 3 nights
Perfect for: Foodies and beach lovers
Before you hit the road
The drive from Johor Bahru to Port Dickson is relatively short (just over three hours) but you can maximise your road trip by making stops along the way at towns such as Batu Pahat, Muar, Malacca and Seremban. Starting in Johor, grab a cup of joe for the road. The once-sleepy enclave of pre-war buildings along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and Jalan Dhoby are now home to indie coffee enterprises like The Replacement Lodge & Kitchen and Chaiwalla & Co.
Shopping is a must while you’re in this mall haven – and so are its sumptuous hotel buffet offerings. Located in Johor Bahru’s bustling Pusat Bandar Tampoi district, Angsana JB Mall is the city’s premier leisure and entertainment destination. With over 240 retail outlets across five levels, the mall boasts an assortment of global and local brands, ranging from trendy fashion labels to high-end jewellery stores, as well as boutiques specialising in kebayas and sarongs. Here, you’ll also find an array of attractions such as a bowling alley, a video arcade and a karaoke bar as well as two large food courts packed with international flavours.
After a day of shopping, check in to DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru and embark on an epicurean journey. Fuel the day’s sightseeing with a gourmet lunch at The Food Store. Be sure to make it back in time for the hotel’s high-tea service, where savoury bites and sweet treats are served all afternoon from Friday to Sunday. In the evening, the chefs at Makan Kitchen prepare Indian, Chinese and Malay dishes from the live cooking stations. Meanwhile, up on the 13th floor, Tosca Italian Trattoria promises its own culinary spectacle with fine Italian dining overlooking the Straits of Johor.
Those travelling with kids in tow can make time for every child’s dream destination, LEGOLAND Malaysia. Just a few steps away from the iconic theme park is the conveniently located Somerset Medini Iskandar Puteri, a contemporary property with 310 serviced residences. Go for its largest three-bedroom suite, which includes a living and dining area, a kitchen and enough room to fit a family of six. The property also provides babysitting services, on-call doctors and top-notch facilities such as a children’s play room and wading pool, an outdoor swimming pool and a gym.
Pitstops along the way
After your little ones have burned off enough energy, it’s time to hit the road and head north to Seremban. While perhaps it’s Malacca that is best known for its delicious traditional food, Seremban is no lightweight either. This underrated foodie haven is most famous for the Seremban siew pau, a flaky pastry bun with a meat filling.
To break up your drive, get some shuteye at the cosy boutique hotels here. D&F Boutique Hotel, which has three outposts (one of which opened recently in July 2020) in Seremban, the capital of Negeri Sembilan, is only 40 minutes away by car from Port Dickson Beach. Stylish yet intimate, this hotel – opened in 2012 – promises a stay that feels like a home away from home. Perfect for solo travellers or small groups looking to explore the less mainstream sights of Malaysia, it offers a comfortable base from which to discover Seremban’s charming shophouses and foodie favourites, such as Seremban Seafood Village, as well as the beautiful Gunung Angsi.
From Seremban, it’s just 30 minutes to the resort town of Port Dickson, where you can feast on fresh seafood. If you love your crabs, hit up Weng Yin Seafood Village for a hearty feast. After your meal, soak up the sun at Ancasa Residences Port Dickson, a short walk from Port Dickson Beach or an hour by car from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in case your journey is just beginning here. The tropical resort offers spacious apartments with modern Asian-inspired furnishings, complete with a living area, kitchenette and private balcony that overlooks the sea. Drop by Saffron Brasserie, a laid-back restaurant with buffet-style offerings and picturesque views of the hotel’s swimming pool and lush garden. The Balinese-inspired AnCasa Spa features a range of treatments and therapies, which you can enjoy in an outdoor gazebo.
Once you’re ready to hit the road again, continue on to Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Highway before cutting across the interior of the country and taking the scenic B-roads that hug the eastern coastline all the way to Terengganu. Stop by the Lentang Forest Reserve, an hour from downtown KL, where you can cool off in one of the many natural pools. Alternatively, drive a little further on to the Sungai Pandan waterfall for a dip beneath the 100m-high cascading rapids, followed by a relaxing picnic lunch.
If you need to make a pit stop at Kuala Lumpur, consider a stay at AnCasa Hotel Kuala Lumpur. Situated beside Chinatown, and close to various train stations, this recently refurbished contemporary hotel has 294 cosy guest rooms to rest in while en route to Terengganu. In addition to being a stone’s throw away from must-visits such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Merdeka Square and River of Life, it also has an in-house, all-day dining restaurant serving Asian classics, a vintage-style bar and a spa – so you can either stay in and recharge or hit the sights before driving on.
The final stretch
When you get to Terengganu, find out more about the city’s artistic heritage at the Terengganu Handicraft Centre or the Bazar Warisan (Heritage Bazaar). Feeling peckish? Nasi dagang (a coconut milk rice served with curry) is to the east coast what laksa is to Penang, and Terengganu is home to a myriad of hole-in-the-wall eateries that serve the state’s signature dish. Nasi Dagang Atas Tol is well-known among locals, so be sure to visit this decade-old establishment.
Golf enthusiasts will love the Kuala Terengganu Golf Resort, located in the quiet town of Gong Badak, just a 20-minute drive from the city centre. With its undulating fairways and manicured greens sculpted into the surrounding natural forest, there’s a challenge on offer throughout this 18-hole course, whatever your ability. Over at the clubhouse, cool off in the outdoor pool before treating yourself to dinner on the terrace of in-house restaurant Saffron Brasserie. If you’re spending the night, choose from a standard room or suite, both of which come with private bathrooms and air conditioning.
Terengganu is also the jumping off point for islands such as Redang and the Perhentian Islands, so your adventure does not need to stop here. Hop on a breezy speedboat ride to these tropical idylls for an easy beach escape and even some water activities like snorkelling and diving.
With thanks to our partners Angsana JB Mall, DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru, Somerset Medini Iskandar Puteri, D&F Boutique Hotel, AnCasa Residences Port Dickson, AnCasa Hotel Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Terengganu Golf Resort