The iconic Penang ferry has been plying across the channel for over a century at its narrowest point 3 km from northeast of the island, city of George Town, to its mainland strip Seberang Prai (previously known as the Province Wellesley).
It was the only mode of transportation across the channel until the first Penang bridge measuring 13.5 km in length was opened in 1985. At first the locals were not using the bridge uncertain of the safety but soon found it was the quickest way for them to get to their destination – most of them reside on the mainland but work on the island.
There is a second bridge measuring 24 km in length, which was opened in 2014, making it the longest bridge in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. This bridge was built to connect the south part of the island, Batu Maung, to Batu Kawan on the mainland, then an agricultural and swampy land, which is now undergoing a huge redevelopment into a new township to further grow and strengthen the Penang economy.
However, for a nostalgic feeling of Penang past, neither one of the bridges has the tradition and charm like the ferry. From the moment you board the ferry until you disembark, either as a foot passenger or a vehicle passenger, you will get a sense of calmness as you ride the ferry across the channel. On approaching the island, many structures are still intact from its colonial past of seafaring trade with wooden stilt-houses over the water and beautiful colonial buildings majestically facing the channel.
There is no better way to arrive in Penang than on a ferry landing right in the heart and soul of a UNESCO cultural heritage site called George Town.