Penang For Families: Penang With Kids


Are you travelling to Penang With Kids? This post is all about the best way to see Penang For Families and what kids activities you can do in Penang.

Here’s one of the best and easiest ways to see Penang, in our opinion.

Jetties, Penang with kids
The best way to see Penang? Hire a local. Jetties, Penang with kids

The Easiest Way to See Penang For Families

Penang; an island in Malaysia’s northeast was our second destination after Saigon and our first impressions were that it was very quiet and organised.

Penang reminded me of Western Australia; big, flat, colonial architecture with roads designed for motorists but definitely not good for pedestrians.

I foolishly didn’t rent a car. BIG MISTAKE because driving in Penang is super simple, relatively quiet and the roads are in great condition. In fact, I would say that driving in Penang was on par with driving in Australia. Click Here To See How Much Car Rental Might Cost You In Penang

I wanted to see Penang’s highlights but on foot that would take an eternity and by taxi would be too expensive. Tuk-tuk would be painful, so how could we see Penang?

Panoramic shot from Penang Hill

A Young Man Called DEFFREY and his air-conditioned people carrier!

One way to get innovative and try to access local guides is by using phone apps. They have the potential to offer more personalised and local experiences and this means investment goes directly into local communities and not foreign-owned tour agencies.

I discovered a platform called WithLocals and used it to search for a tour of Penang. We found Deffrey; a Malaysian student with a passion for his home ground and what a delight his tour was!

Deffrey collected us in a seven-seater, air-conditioned people carrier which was comfy and oh-so pleasant after the humidity of Penang.  He had an entire day’s worth of activities planned for us to see and do and what better way to tour the island than with somebody who has grown up there?

The giant Buddha: Georgetown with kids

First stop: Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum

To understand why we visited a Chinese museum in Malaysia, you first need to understand a little about Malay history. I will try to be brief!


The Portuguese were the first European colonialists to conquer in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641 and then the British who ruled until the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824.

In order to meet the needs of the European colonial economy; elite, English-educated, Chinese traders (often from Singapore) immigrated to Penang. With the ability to converse in multiple languages, these businessmen became the middleman between the British, Chinese and Malays.

The successful and wealthy Chinese traders (referred to as Baba) met and married local women (Nyonya) and their offspring (straits born Chinese) are referred to as the BabaNyonya people.

The museum which is typical of an old shop-house, is set out on multiple floors showing the traditions and customs of these much respected people.

Stained glass windows and hand carved wood seat

What is there to see?

On the ground floor there are beautiful tiles, statues, family photographs and fine examples of Chinese furniture and porcelain.

Shoes off to tour upstairs – where displays showcase jewellery; brooches, hair pieces, belts, buckles, costumes and day-to-day utilities.

Upstairs, a bedroom is kept in traditional four poster style and downstairs a carved wooden temple. Both exquisite and definitely worth a visit.

Talcum powder and perfume accessories
Four poster bed Georgetown museum
Four-poster bed detail

The second stop: Clan jetties

Heading downtown to the coast we visited a clan jetty, fishing village where the houses are on stilts. Although this is quite common in various parts of South East Asia, it isn’t so common near big and newly developed cities such as Penang.

Penang is a heritage town, rich with historical sites and cultural events and these clusters of wooden houses were built by the Chinese poor immigrants during the nineteen century. The houses were built on an ad hoc basis and close to each other, with some separated by a small alley to allow sea breeze to pass through for the cooling effect.

We took a walk into the centre of the bay on a long wooden jetty which moved and creaked with every passing step.

The floating houses
Georgetown Jetties
The creaking wooden jetty

Our third stop: Street art in downtown Georgetown

Penang has become famous for its street art and there’s loads of it to see too.  It started back in 2012 when Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic began wall paintings of children across historical Georgetown. Other artists have since added their own variations and the town is full of wall art. There’s even an official map of where to find the art.

If you’ve been already, what was your favourite? Did you find the trishaw paddler?

If you haven’t been, I’d recommend going. Many of the roads around the centre are pedestrianised which makes it easy to stop and pose for photos.

Georgetown Street art
Penang Street art
Penang Street art
Georgetown Street art
Georgetown Street art
Purple street art southest asia
More Street art
Penang Street art
Penang Street art
Street art in Malaysia
Penang Street art

On the streets of Georgetown we met a man…

selling disgusting green powder drinks that exploded! So much fun for kids.

Gross exploding drinks



The fourth stop and very importantly

Being vegan in Malaysia was HARD (update 2023 we’re no longer vegan)! It required a lot of planning because meat was mixed into every dish but Deffrey went out of his way to take us to an actual vegan restaurant. Wow!

We visited a canteen-style, self-serve restaurant which was amazing. I’d never seen anything like that before and we’re really very grateful to Deffrey for accommodating us ‘fussy eaters‘.

Fifth stop: Falling in a puddle at Kek Lok Si Temple

The Buddha on the hill is the largest and most important Chinese Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It was built in 1891 and is described as being one of the largest in South East Asia.

Even for a staunch atheist its architectural prowess was impressive to see BUT did you know that in Malaysia you must have your religion documented on your birth certificate?

Being atheist in Malaysia is not recommended as your religion will be recorded as ‘communist’ on your birth certificate!! Nobody wants to be labelled a communist so most parents choose a religion for their children even if they’re non-practising.

Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si Temple: Penang for families

The temple sits on multiple levels on the hill with the huge Buddha at the crest.

Visiting during the rainy season was a gamble that paid of. You do have to be prepared for the occasional outburst and a few puddles but generally it isn’t as humid as during the summer months.

Imogen, our youngest, had an unfortunate accident when the kids were running and playing tag. She slipped in a large puddle and landed bottom first in slimy mud. Thankfully the toilets are in good working order and we were able to strip her off, wash her clothes, re-dress her and she was dry less than an hour later. Did I mention the humidity?

The Buddha on the hill

There’s also a large pond filled with enormous koi and some plastic ducks. The pergolas are beautifully coloured and there are twelve animals to spot.The biggest Buddha in Malaysia

Biggest Buddha in Malaysia
The biggest Buddha in Malaysia

Air Itam Dam: Penang for families

Our next stop with Deffrey was the Air Itam Dam which was built in 1914 although wasn’t opened to the public until 1962. I’d read that it was an oasis of peace and nature but it was heaving with joggers and hikers. Apparently, if you visit during the week it’s exceedingly quiet but it comes alive on the weekend with families visiting, picnicking, kids cycling and joggers jogging.

The dam is found on a slight elevation and it gives good views over Penang. We’d love to go back and walk around it, so that’s one for next time! Apparently, there are monkeys and turtles to spot.


Penang for families
Penang for families

The seventh stop: Sunset from Penang Hill

Our final destination with Deffrey was Penang Hill. It’s a very popular spot now and there’s a reason why: SUNSET!

From this elevated position, the sunset over the hills, city and ocean is impressive. Really, you could spend an entire day up in the rainforest climate walking around the colonial buildings.

We were even treated to a rainbow in the sunset. A great way to finish off an awesome day!


Dense rainforest Georgeotwon
Dense rainforest Georgetown

Sun set clouds over Malaysia

Penang for families
Sunset over Georgetown
Sunset over Malaysia
Penang for families

Penang for families: Thanks, Deffrey!

There’s a lot to do in Penang for families and although we’ve only shown you one day, I hope you can see how much more you could actually do.

We had a fun-filled day packed with Penang’s popular sites and led by a great guide.  If you’d like to book Deffrey click HERE. 

If you haven’t searched for flights yet, Click Here To See How Much Flights Might Cost You To Penang

Have you found your accommodation yet? Use this interactive map to search for places to stay in Penang.

Other Tours You Could Find: Penang for families

Get Your Guide is another trusty tour app we use. Have a look to see if there are any other tours you like

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Looking for things to do in Penang, Malaysia. You could book a tour with Deffrey (our tour guide) or you could do it yourself. We've listed an entire day's events that you could easily spread out over a week.

What else can you do in Southeast Asia?

Have a look at some of our other posts to see what you could do.