While living and working in Seoul, we have enjoyed its many sights and sounds, but there are often times where an escape is needed. Whether we need a break from the crowds or simply long to be surrounded by a greater number of natural things; the islands off of Korea’s west coast offer the perfect getaway when escape becomes required. We have made many trips to the various islands that can be reached via public transportation and we’ve held off on giving them a proper blog post until now. These islands offer an alternative adventure to the typical mountain hiking that many Seoulites enjoy. Here are three of our favorite islands.
Located in Incheon, this island is dripping with history. Every corner of Ganghwa-do speaks to its importance in Korea’s unique history and offers many glimpses into this country’s past. Lets run through some basics. There is a bus depot that acts as a central hub of transport for the whole island. English speaking Info-booth workers can help you navigate the labyrinth of roads and sights, even printing off 1st person POV photos that will help you see where you will exit the busses. Super simple to navigate with their help.
Once you get moving, there are a million different things to see/do. At each coast there is something worth visiting. In the north there is the Peace Observatory that looks over to North Korea. East: military structures from the island’s long history as a defensive island that protected the mouth of the Han River. South: mudflat beaches, pensions, bird watching, and stunning sunsets. West: ferries to access the sub islands (all worthwhile side trips with beautiful temples and more beaches) and more mudflats to spend hours sloshing through. Apart from these coasts, the middle of the island also holds endless opportunity to discover why this island is so special. There are dolmens (ancient burial rocks) that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, stunning temples, fortress structures, fish markets, palaces, and more.
For more information, check out our full Ganghwa-do island guide here.
Jebu-do Island is much smaller than Ganghwado, but very beautiful. This island is probably the most difficult to access, as you have to get to Geumjeong on subway line 1, catch a bus then catch a smaller bus, and catch the ocean at low tide so that the road is passable. With an average elevation just above sea level, the road to Jebudo is under water half of the time. Once you get to Jebu Island, however, beautiful views await. With minimal infrastructure, this small island offers a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. There will be tourists/other Seoul escapees, but their numbers are welcomingly small.
Jebu-do has terrific seafood, and specializes in clam platters. For the price of two trips to McDonald’s, you can feast on fresh seafood. There are also expansive mudflats in which you can dig for your own clams and shells if you are a more industrious locavore.
There is also a small amusement park on the island that is frequented by visitors toting children.
The biggest selling point, in our minds, is its walking trail. Starting at either the lighthouse or the rock formations, this path offers stunning views. The rock formations jut out of the sea in a dramatic fashion and are fun to climb around on if the tide is out. Likewise, further up the boardwalk there are outstanding views of the coast as you wind your way north toward the big, red lighthouse. If you’d like, there is also a mountain on the northern coast, near the lighthouse that offers views of the whole island and its landmarks.
Click here for the low tide timetable for trip planning.
Incheon International Airport is located on an island just off the coast of Incheon. At the southern tip of this island is Muui-do, a beautiful island that has served as the location for filming several Korean Dramas. Unlike many of Korea’s western islands, Muui-do has both mud flats for clam digging and sandy beaches. After crossing over on the ferry we encountered picturesque neighborhoods dotting the hillsides, as we hiked toward a resort with sandy beaches and a low-tide crossing to a sub-island. Take the bus, if you can. The hills on this island are deceptively tall.
The sheer beauty of this island is reason enough to visit. We were short on time for our visit, but we did get to visit Silmi Beach, which has great views of the adjacent Silmi-do. As the tide retreated, we crossed a tidal walking path to Silmi-do for a short visit. We weren’t able to fully explore all that Muui-do has to offer, but we will surely be back to relax on Hanagae Beach and hike Guksabong Peak. We really regret how short to Muui-do was, but our 5 or 6 hours of island bliss were enough to know that this island offers a great, watery escape.