Johor Bahru

The Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru road trip in Malaysia is a great way to explore some amazing historical cities along the west coast of mainland Malaysia. I planned this trip in late August 2023 and decided to stop at some off-the-beaten-path locations on this route. Renting a car from KLIA airport is the best option if you are planning to catch a flight back home after the holidays. Self-driving trip is the most enjoyable and flexible way to explore some amazing destinations in Malaysia. 

The main highway that connects Johor with Kuala Lumpur bypasses numerous bustling cities along the way. To truly immerse yourself in the charm of the small towns and cities, opt for the scenic two-way intercity roads. As I meandered through the countryside, the leisurely pace of traffic allowed me to plan multiple stops and indulge in the delectable local cuisine offered at the cozy roadside cafes and restaurants.

If you venture into rural Malaysia you'll be greeted by a tranquil ambience, where the architecture showcases a delightful blend of Kampung-style houses, exquisitely crafted mosques, and serene temples. Each town and village boasts a unique demographic, shaped by the early settlers who once graced these lands.

Trip Summary: Road trip from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bharu

The total travel time from Kuala Lumpur to Johor round trip is 7 days. I decided to break down the trip into the following legs:

1. Kuala Lumpur to Port Dickson using Highway 5. Spend the day in Port Dickson Resort and then 2 nights in the city of Melaka

I explored the following places in Melaka:
  • Historical Quarters 
  • Museums
  • Dataran Pahlawan Mall
  • Menara Taming Sari
  • Malacca Straits Moque
  • Stay at Bayou Lagoon Resort
2. Melaka to Muar - 1 night stay in Muar 
  •  Bantayan Hawker Food
  •  Kopi 34
  •  Masjid Jamek Sultan Ibrahim 
  •  Masjid Sultan Ismail
  •  Tunjung Emas
  •  Stay at Wood Boutique Hotel in Muar
3. Muar to Batu Pahat and Johor Bahru

Exploring Old Town Batu Pahat. Then took AH2 to drive to Johor Bharu. I stayed for two nights in Johor Bahru and one night in Desaru. I explored: 

Road trip from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru with stopovers in Muar and Batu Pahat

Kuala Lumpur to Port Dickson & Melaka

I decided to explore the coastal route from Kuala Lumpur to Port Dickson and Melaka and then stop over at Muar and Batu Pahat before reaching Johor Bahru. Port Dickson is a popular coastal town south of Kuala Lumpur well-known for beach resorts. The two roads connecting Port Dickson with Melaka pass through palm plantations and small rural towns along the way. The small village still has an old architecture with houses built on stilts.

I stopped over some mosques along the way to say my prayers and enjoyed the laid-back and relaxed lifestyle of these cities. The driving speed on these roads is relatively slower as there is plenty of local traffic and slow-moving trucks and trollies. 


A beautiful coastal resort in Port Dickson

After departing from Kuala Lumpur, I embarked on a scenic journey along Freeway 5 that led me to the enchanting destinations of Port Dickson and Melaka. Although this route may be longer than the direct 1.5-hour drive between Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, it allowed me to truly immerse myself in the beauty of the coastal area of Port Dickson. Along the way, I couldn't resist the allure of Lexus Hibiscus, an exquisite luxury resort that mirrors the grandeur of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

Pork Dickson has some other resorts with private beaches. Family holiday activities including watersports and outdoor pools make these resorts ideal for a family holiday from Kuala Lumpur. 


In recent times, Melaka has experienced remarkable growth, becoming a magnet for a diverse retired expatriate community from all corners of the globe. The region's rich history, shaped by over four centuries of colonial rule, has left an indelible mark on its culture, heritage, and way of life. The historic quarter of the town proudly stands on the prestigious UNESCO heritage list, boasting a collection of impeccably preserved structures harking back to the Dutch and Portuguese influence of the past few hundred years.


Entering Melaka from AH2 exit to Melaka

I booked a Bayou Lagoon Park Resort  located on the outskirts of Melaka City in the area of Ayer Keroh. The resort has an outdoor water park which makes it very popular with tour groups and people traveling with families. I enjoyed a day out in the water before heading into Jonker Walk to explore the night market and visit some local restaurants in the vicinity. 

Melaka is popular for Perankan-style food which is also known as Nyonya food. Nancy's Kitchen, a popular Nyonya restaurant was on my list for the night. The Nynoya food is very popular in Penang as well. I have enjoyed Peranakan food in many restaurants in Kuala Lumpur as well. 


Melaka River can be explored with the Melaka River Cruise

Weekend nights in Jonker Walk are not to be missed as hundreds of stalls stretch along the long walk selling local food, souvenirs, and gifts. The street is also popular for art and craft shops as well as antique stores. A walk along the river by sunset is very enjoyable as the cool ocean breeze keeps plenty of visitors out in the street through the late hours of the night. 

Melaka to Muar - 48 km from Highway 19

The next was an early start to the city of Muar located some 45-minute drive from Melaka. Muar was the find of the year with a beautiful, relaxed layout along the Muar River. Two beautiful mosques built on both sides of the river are worth exploring. These mosques are painted in light blue colour which adds to the beauty of the design borrowing motifs from Indian as well as British architecture. 


A popular landmark in Muar, Johor

I decided to stay at a Wood Boutique Hotel  built inside the Industrial shed. The rooms are shaped like small huts in a typical Malaysian Village with proper street names. The "Wood Boutique Hotel" is highly recommended for budget holiday travel. The stay was very comfortable and I highly recommend this location for a quick short stay in Muar. 

wood boutique hotel in muar

I highly recommend Wood Boutique Hotel in Muar - Great Value for Money

The hotel manager recommended visiting the Bantayan Food Court which offers a wide range of local dishes including noodle dishes, satay, soups, otak otak and many other popular dishes. I enjoyed tasting fee local delights including a flat rice noodle dish served in a sauce with prawn. (Shrimp Chueng Fun).

ozasiatraveller at muar

I explored the city waterfront at night time. The "Heritage Street" along the main road is lined with beautiful murals capturing the cultural life of the region. A walk along the Muar Waterfront at Tanjung Emas is a must as the beautiful open space is well-lit at night and attracts large crowds. The pleasant river breeze is very enjoyable. This location is a popular picnic spot in the area.

The beautiful Masjid Jamek Ibrahim is located along the waterfront. The architecture of this amazing mosque is very impressive. I offered my Zuhr prayers at the mosque and enjoyed its serene environment. 


Muar to Batu Pahat 54 km Route 5

The next day I checked out early to drive to Batu Pahat. The day was clear and sunny I enjoyed the beautiful drive on the country road connecting Batu Pahat and Melaka. The road is covered with massive trees on both sides providing shade on the road. I must say it was a unique driving experience. A statue of dinosaurs welcomes you in Batu Pahat. This is a theme park that is not operational, however, the dinosaur statues are there to welcome visitors. 

exploring batu pahat

Old Street Batu Pahat is a popular place to visit 

My first stop in Batu Pahat was the "Old Town Batu Pahat", a beautifully preserved building with several restaurants, cafes, and rooftop bars. I guess the location is busier in the evening. I enjoyed a brief stopover for lunch at a local cafe offering a good mix of sandwiches and local delights. There is much to be explored in Batu Pahat including the coast. The daytime temperatures can be quite high and the weather can turn humid throughout the year. 

Muar to Johor Bahru - 122 km Highway AH2

I decided to make it to Johor Bahru before sunset so I could enjoy my dinner on time. The V-Hotel in Johor is ideally located at the waterfront near the old part of the town with food street, night markets, shopping malls, and some of the most popular cafes and restaurants. What else do you need!!!


Driving from Muar to Batu Pahat

I decided to spend the evening at a popular McGregor Irish Pub near the hotel. The live band pub grub is a perfect mix for an enjoyable night out. The food was amazing and I loved the choice of classic rock songs played by the local band. 

Exploring Amazing Resorts in Desaru Coast in Johor 

The next day I decided to explore Desaru which is a very popular resort town located along the east coast of mainland Malaysia. I started early as I wanted to make the best of my day at the beach. The 100 km drive from Johor Bahru to Desaura is very enjoyable as the road conditions are excellent with a few stopovers along the way. 

I decided to stay for the night at Hard Rock Hotel in Desaru  offering quality accommodation and an outdoor waterpark for kids. A local band was planned to play hard rock tracks at the local bar at the hotel. 


A seafood lunch at the popular "Nelayan Seafood by the Beach" is not to be missed. The weekend nights are fun with an outdoor seafood BBQ while enjoying the cool breeze from the ocean. The restaurant is located adjacent to Tunamaya Resort. 


On my way back to Johor I visit the Sultan Abu Bakr Mosque sitting on the top of the hill. The mosque is located next to the Royal Palace which can be visited as well. The downtown area of Johor has many old and modern restaurants. I bought some puff pastries from Salahuddin Bakery. "The Replacement" is a great place for modern Western-style brunch.


Staying at Z-hotel which is ideally located near the major attractions in Johor Bahru

This area across Z-Hotel   is packed with several cafes offering several popular dishes for lunch and breakfast. 


Outdoor Waterpark at Hard Rock Hotel in Desaru

The next day, I decided to explore Danga Bay, an emerging residential area with trendy apartment-styled accommodations. Marine Beach Bar is a nice spot to sit and enjoy drinks till midnight. The cool breeze and dimming light of Singapore can be seen from the distance. 

Book Best Tours and Attractions in Johor Bharu

Sultan Ismail Road located along the waterfront and ferry terminal is also a popular hangout with the local crowd with many bars and restaurants offering a mix of seafood and other local dishes. 


Johor Bahru is quite spread out and there is plenty to explore in the city. I think one should stay for at least 3-4 days to explore most places around Johor Bahru. 

On my return trip, I decided to drive straight to Kuala Lumpur City and covered the distance in 7 hours with two breaks on stopovers along the way. 





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