Yeosu is a city claiming over three hundred sixty islands. While many of them are beautiful and worth visiting, they can sometimes be difficult to reach and visitors are subjected to ferry schedules and occupancy limitations. Many posts in the past have highlighted our favorite Yeosu islands, but we’ve never covered the largest and most famous until now. Famously featured in Busker Busker’s music video for “여수밤바다(Yeosu Night Sea),” Dolsan Island draws a large crowd for its natural beauty and stunning views while being much more accessible than the smaller islands.
Dolsan Park and the Cable Cars
At the northern tip of the Island you’ll find the tourist hot spot that is: Dolsan park. With the newly completed cable car ride across the bay, this park is now regularly visited by excited tourists looking to gaze at the beautiful Dolsan Bridge before riding across the blue waters of Gamak Bay toward Jasan Park on the mainland. The most popular method for enjoying this area is by timing your second trip across the bay to be at a different time of day (preferably before and after sunset) so that you can experience the bay in the sunlight and after Yeosu lights up the bridge and coastal areas with colorful lights. The thrill of riding a cable car across the bay is the latest attraction added to this area, but the views from Dolsan Park itself are breathtaking, especially after dark. The famous Dolsan Bridge is lit up brilliantly each night with a light show that compliments the colorful lights coming from the adjacent shore and buildings nearby. It’s no wonder that we inevitable take almost anyone who visits us in Yeosu to this park to see what we saw on our first night in town. It took our breath away then, and still does.
One of the most enjoyable hikes we’ve done so far in South Korea was the coastal trail along Dolsan’s East Coast. Starting at Dolsan Park, this trail follows an extensive series of spray-painted turtles used to mark the trails to keep you on course as you make your way to the eastern shore then south following the water. This trail truly traverses the length of the island as you start around the northern-most point until you reach Hyangiram Hermitage at the far south. Taking a solid three days for the average hiker carrying camping equipment, we found its design to be well-planned landing hikers on beautiful beaches late each afternoon to rest and set up camp before the sunlight fades from the sky. Facing the rising sun each morning, it was easy to rise in excitement for our next day of trekking. Since this coastal trail stops at Musulmok Beach, Bangjukpo Beach, and Hyangiram, I’ll let the rest of this post and describing those areas further explain this awesome hiking experience.
For extensive information on this trail; shout-out to our good friend Tom’s guide.
One of the best ways to experience the relaxation of Dolsan Island is by buying a few cold beers and settling down on one of the beaches for a short while. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, Dolsan’s beaches are a lovely place to sit back in the shade and enjoy the sort of rhythmic sounds one can only find near the ocean. There are several strips of sand that don’t warrant names, but we’ll focus on the two beaches we’ve both camped at and lounged on with expert skill. Both have their positives and shortcomings, though.
Not the most comfortable beach for camping, as it is mostly softball-to-volleyball-sized rocks among the trees where you’d want to set up your tent, but very lovely. For a mere short time relaxing with views of Namhae in the distance across the water, though, this beach is a fantastic place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. Since Dolsan can be a pretty specific area to venture down from mainland Korea, Musulmok is a welcome retreat. Located right next to the Maritime & Fisheries Science Museum (전라남도해양수산과학관), this beach has interesting sculptures in the park, as well as seating while you gaze through the pines onto the water.
Our favorite beach on Dolsan is easily Bangjukpo. Although this beach doesn’t have the same “off into the forever distance” view of Musulmok, it makes up ground with better sand, better swimming, a larger beach, and camping that doesn’t require medical insertion of boulders into your spine. A beautiful pine grove sits just off of Bangjukpo Beach where you can easily have picnics or string up hammocks. We love this beach for many reasons, but its balance of sun, shade, and camping is harmony that brings us back. For those unlikely to camp, this beach also has pensions along the western cliff face that are supremely comfortable (we stayed in a large on for a friend’s Bachelor Party) and have great views of the water. We really love this beach and find ourselves using it as a default “obvious choice” for group camping trips each and every summer.
Yeosu’s most famous religious structure, Hyangiram is an old Buddhist Hermitage-turned-Temple (as most in Korea do) with a special draw. Heralded as having one of the best vantage points of both the sunrise and sunset in South Korea, this compound is as beautiful as it is old. Whether spiritual, religious, or simply an appreciative spectator of others’ faith, anyone able to visit Hyangiram will, at the very least, appreciate its beauty. With cavernous caves you must pass through between buildings and stunning views out to sea from the majority of the buildings, one can easily enjoy exploring this temple no matter your background. Equally wonderful is the market-ish area leading away from Hyangiram where makgeolli and pajeon merchants offer the finest afternoon resting places. See ‘Wind Cafe’ for a coffee suggestion if you’ve drank too much rice wine after leaving the famous hermitage.
Located a short drive from Hyangiram, the Wind Cafe is a classic example of people far away from the masses doing business their own way. This cafe not only has some of the best views from Dolsan that overlook the neighboring, but also serves some splendid coffee and tea. Probably more notable for its teas, the Wind Cafe is a case study of a man following his passion and succeeding. The owner runs the place with an obviously full heart. He generally serves the drinks himself and organizes the occasional jazz jam sessions on the cafe’s stage. From the decor to the manicured grounds outside, this cafe is always on our list of places to visit when going to Hyangiram or simply wanting to relax somewhere away from our life in mainland Yeosu. Graffiti and messages litter the walls of this cafe from appreciative customers and happy first-time visitors alike; a testament to the appreciation garnished by this cafe from every person who stumbles upon its humble gates.
While not the most accessible for people without cars, there are buses that cover every inch of Dolsan and it is absolutely worth a trip down if you find yourself in Yeosu. We are often biased because of our familiarity with Yeosu’s highlights, but Dolsan won’t disappoint anyone looking for solitude, beauty, and relaxation.