Korea does not come to mind, when I think of white sand beaches and blue sunny skies. However, with a little bit of digging during my time teaching in Korea, I discovered that Korea does indeed have white sand beaches and places that have a beach culture. Coming from South Africa myself I decided to search for a piece of Summer paradise by traveling and experiencing various places in Korea. Over the years, I fell in love with a few beaches in Korea that are situated in various provinces all over the country and have come to choose my favorite beaches according to my mood and vibe I would like to enjoy during a weekend getaway.
For the Relaxer
Gyeongpo Beach is the perfect destination for anyone who loves relaxing and being close to nature. Gyeongpo Beach is situated in the small town of Gangneung on the East coast of Korea. It is about a 3.5 hour bus ride from Seoul, and you can catch an express bus from Dong Seoul or the Seoul Express Bus Terminal.
Gyeongpo Beach is beautiful , with its glistening white sand and aqua blue seawater. There is no other beach or coastline in Korea that compares to it. It is a very relaxing atmosphere with the beach being less crowded and quieter than Busan beaches. Travelers can enjoy a quiet day at the beach and then walk along the boardwalk to Hangjin Beach, which is a little down the coastline, for sundowners drinks and fresh sashimi. The beachfront is lined with seafood restaurants filled with lobsters, crabs and any fish you desire.
Ganeung area is also famous for travel and you can experience Gyeongpo Lake and Odesan Mountain nearby. There are famous hot springs, the Osaek Hot Springs, and you can stroll around the most famous Chodang Sundubu (Tofu) Village in the world. There are also must-try coffee shops such as Tera Rosa Cafe for delicious brownies and organic homemade yogurt with the popular Ganeung coffee cakes at EL Cafe.
The famous Naksan Beach is a little further north on the coastline and it boasts the most stunning view of the East Coast from the giant Buddha statue overlooking the Sea at Naksan Temple. Naksan beach is also quiet and unspoiled, and has white sand beaches and blue waters encompassing it.
There is plenty of things to do for the nature-lover, like taking strolls along a beautiful coastline and climbing the famous Seoraksan Mountain in Seoraksan National Park. There is also the beautiful Cheongchoho Lake that is perfect for a cup of coffee or a picnic. The North Korean border is also close by, so you could do a day trip to the DMZ area, or visit the North Korean village called the Abai Village. To get to the Abai Village you have to pull yourself across on a jetty. Once inside the village you can sample North Korean foods and speak to older generation war veterans.
A highly recommended place to stay is Casa Seorak. It is located within a good distance to all bus stops that will take you to Naksan Temple, Seoraksan National Park and Sokoho City. The staff is delightful and the breakfast is delicious. You can watch movies, play Jenga, or even BBQ and enjoy the Jacuzzi afterward!
For the Party Animal
Haeundae Beach is the beach to be in the Summer! Every tourist, foreign teacher and Korean student flocks to this popular beach in Busan! Haeundae Beach is one of the most populated beaches in the Summer, because of its big expat community and has a more western beach culture. You will feel more comfortable in a bikini there, since most people are in bikinis and buttered up in beach oil. It is one of the very few beaches in Korea that has a true ‘beach culture’. Also, it is possible to rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and any tubes for floating about in the water.
Haeundae area is bustling with beach bars and clubs and is a night time adventure for anyone who loves to party! There are popular restaurants on the beach like The Spain Club where you can enjoy jugs of delicious Sangria and deep fried garlic prawns while watching the sunset, or famous night clubs like Elune that has DJ’s from all over the world coming to play there. Also, the beach boulevard is full of activity at night with musicians, entertainers and fireworks displays. Most tourists enjoy a drink while walking along the beach front enjoying various leisurely options of magic shows and hip hop dancing.
One of Koreas most popular tourist attractions is the Boryeong Mud Festival. Daecheon Beach in Chungcheongnam-do province is the strip that hosts this festival throughout two weekends in July, the 15th and 26th. Tourists come from all over the world to experience this unique festival and it is a must for English teachers who have not been before. The festival is hosted throughout the two weekends, and the tickets sell out really fast. Since Boryeong is a small town, it is recommended that you book a tour group when traveling from outside of Chungcheongnam-do province. Seoul Hiking Group and Adventure Korea have trip itineraries available right now, including accommodation and bus fares.
Daecheon Beach is another popular party beach among foreign teachers in Korea. Boryeong is not like Busan, where you will find western bars and restaurants, but there is a Korean party vibe on the beach. Tourists can enjoy seafood restaurants and the many bars and clubs on the beach. Plenty of foreigners live in Daecheon or teach in Chungnam province, so it is a popular area for those who live nearby.
The west coast also boasts some other tourist attractions like Anmyeondo Island Island and the city of Taean with its beautiful Mallipo Beach. From Boryeong harbor, you can catch a ferry to Anmyeondo Island where you can enjoy camping on the beach in a quaint and quiet island lifestyle. The island is really untouched and there are natural forests and walking paths you can explore, while camping freely and BBQ-ing where every you wish.
For the Traveller
Tongyeong, located in the most Southern tip of Korea, in Gyeongsamnam-do, is a hidden treasure. Tongyeong is not easy to get to, so many foreigners miss out on the opportunity to explore this province and its beauty. There is a direct bus from Seoul Express Terminal that only takes 4 hours one way, and it is pretty convenient to catch the late night bus after 11pm with minimal traffic congestion.
Two famous beaches and islands to discover in Tongyeong are Bijindo Island and Yeondaedo Beach. Bijindo Island is a cute little island situated in Hansan-myeon just off the coast of Tongyeong. It is compared to a barbell shape and its top tourist attraction is to watch the sunrise and sunset from the same spot, because of its unique shape. The beach is perfect for swimming and there is a strip of beach that connects the two islands, so you can enjoy a walk from island to island. Yeongdaedo Beach is on Yeondaedo Island, and it is covered with black pebbles and pine trees. The beach is famous for its black stones that are believed to have healing properties called the Black Mongdol and is used to cure Neuralgia. The sunsets are stunning from this little island and there are plenty of ancient relics to discover.
Jeju Island, is possibly the most famous travelling destination in Korea and is known as the Hawaii of Korea. It is famous for its delicious Hallabong Oranges, Hallabong Mountain, and Udo Island. There is plenty to see and do in Jeju, but in the Summer months the island is a popular beach destination. It is nearly impossible to book good tickets to fly to Jeju in the Summer, since so many people are trying to vacation there. You can scan Jeju Air for good flight deals, but keep in mind to book a long time in advance and the flight from Seoul is about 1 hour 10 mins.
The top beaches to soak up the sun on Jeju Island are Jungmun Beach and Hyeopjae Beach. Jungmun Beach is Jeju Island's most popular beach, and it is super busy during the Summer months. The water is crystal clear and the famous black volcanic rocks line-up on the coastline. During the Summer months, it is a good place to go surfing and plenty of people do some snorkeling out in the bay. There are plenty of luxurious hotels that look over the ocean and a good way to get around the island is to rent a scooter and discover the little countryside streets that surround this area.
Hyeopjae Beach is stunning, with sparkling white sand and aqua blue water. This beach is a little bit more difficult to get to, but worth the trip and you can see a good view of the fishing village on Biyang Island. Unlike Jungmun Beach that has waves for surfers, Hyeopjae is a little calmer, but is a relaxing atmosphere for anyone with a good book, beach chair and an umbrella.
There is plenty to discover on Jeju Island, and must-see attractions for those not-so-beach-days is Sunrise Peak, Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, Hallasan Mountain, Love Land and a trip to Udo Island. You should also eat Jeju Black Pork and plenty of the well-known Hallabong Oranges.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!