The closest beach area to Kuala Lumpur, Port Dickson (PD) is popular with locals, Singaporeans and resident foreign expats. The coastline is lovely, and the area makes for a relaxing short break, or even day trip from the city, but it’s difficult to get around here without your own vehicle.
The Kinabatangan River is Sabah's longest: 560km of chocolatey-brown water, coiling like the serpents that swim its length far into the Bornean interior. Riverine forest creeps alongside the water, swarming with wildlife that flee ever-encroaching palm-oil plantations.
Off the beaten tourist track, Kuala Selangor has a friendly kampung (village) atmosphere and a few sights worth making the trek out here for, including a nature park in the mangroves, the remains of an old fort, and a nightly light show of fireflies along the Sungai Selangor.
This mainland town is the jumping-off point for Pulau Penang. The Butterworth–Penang ferry jetty (RM1.20, every 20 minutes from 5.30am to 12.30pm) is conveniently located next to the train and bus stations. Fares for the ferry are charged only for the journey from Butterworth to Georgetown (on Penang); returning to Butterworth is free.
About 13km northeast of Melaka, Ayer Keroh (also spelled Air Keroh) has a handful of kid-friendly attractions that are largely deserted on weekdays. Some feel a little contrived, but there's no denying this area is a fine family day-trip from Melaka City. Ayer Keroh can be reached on bus 19 from Melaka Sentral (RM2, 30 minutes), or a taxi will cost around RM45.
North of Kuala Terengganu
North of Kuala Terengganu the main road (Route 3) leaves the coast and runs inland to Kota Bharu, 165km north, via Jerteh. The quiet coastal back road (Route 1) from Kuala Terengganu to Kuala Besut runs along a beautiful stretch of coast and is popular with cyclists.
A lethargic riverside town, languorously Malaysian in mood, Muar was historically an important commercial centre but today it’s a very sleepy backwater. Most of the action is in the central Chinatown, which shows off cool historic architecture and a few temples. It makes for an off-the-beaten-path (though not very action-packed) stop between Melaka and Johor Bahru.