Pantai Robina seafront promenade
The surprising and little-known urban coastal public park of Butterworth
Penangites are very familiar with popular beachside recreational sites for the public in several urban areas on the island. They know of Gurney Drive, the Esplanade, Karpal Singh Drive and Queensbay. Few people, however, are aware of Pantai Robina on the mainland.
Quite possibly this is one of the most relaxing and scenic urban coastal promenades in the state that few locals have visited. Ensconced along the far northern end of Butterworth, Pantai Robina is free from the glitzy commercialism that has inundated Gurney Drive and the noisy hordes that often afflict Karpal Singh Drive and Queensbay.
Located behind the quiet Taman Wira and Taman Robina residential estates, across the landmark Butterworth air force base, Pantai Robina’s park-like setting is well hidden from the busy urban traffic and raucousness of the town.
The enclave’s tree-lined vista stretches over some 700 metres, directly facing the vast breezy northern sea of the Penang Channel where tiny fishing boats, container vessels, and cruise liners can be seen gliding idyllically along in the distance.
The site is also blessed with a plush panoramic view of Penang island with its bulky hills looming in the distant horizon above the endless stretch of toy-like buildings that appear like petite dappled tiles from this far away. On a good day, one is also treated with a spectacular visual feast of colours on the sky during sunset.
The charm of Pantai Robina is in the simplicity of its ambience. People can be seen jogging, ambling about or just seated enjoying the fresh air and picturesque scenery. A playground has been set up for children. Families sojourn here during weekends and public holidays for picnics.
Some folks are seen idling with their fishing rods while others savour snacks and refreshments at the few vendors who set up stalls here. A food court quaintly called Route Sixtynine Café by the Beach offers an appetising venue for outdoor dining.
Two rows of towering casuarina trees rise above a lengthy swathe of Pantai Robina, their green freckled branches swaying and shimmering with the wind. Interestingly enough, these trees were planted in the same way that the George Town City Council on the island had planted the now familiar casuarina trees at the eastern half of Gurney Drive in the early 1960s.
Indeed, Pantai Robina presents a nostalgic picture of what Gurney Drive once was a very long time ago. A humble hidden jewel, it waits placidly for Penangites to come over and enjoy it, by simply breathing in the quiet unsullied air.
Written by Himanshu Bhatt
Photographs by Adrian Cheah