Korea has some fantastic beaches to tempt visitors and expats alike, however, many of them are several hours from Seoul. Fortunately though, the island of Muuido is a great option that is close to Seoul and even closer to Incheon International Airport.
When you first arrive on Muuido, after a very short ferry ride from Yeongjong Island, you’ll be greeted by a local bus ready to take you anywhere on the island for a mere 1,000 Won (about 80 cents).
While there are several great beaches on the island, most visitors head directly for Hanaggae Beach on the island’s eastern shores. Featuring a large, sandy beach, several seafood restaurants, and a convenience store, the beach has everything you could need for a day trip. If you decide to stay longer, the beach features some great accommodation in the form of ocean-front huts along the beach. Costing only around 30,000 Won, these huts are quite basic, featuring only a collection of pillows and blankets, a small light, and a heated floor. The bathroom and shower facilities are located nearby.
For those interested in swimming, the ocean is a great place for a dip at high tide. At low tide though, it is an entirely different story.
Featuring some of the largest tidal differences in the world, low tide creates a huge mud flat where the waves once crashed. In fact, at low tide, it is possible to walk for nearly 20 minutes before coming to the water. This, of course, leads to excellent opportunities for clamming. While I wasn’t able to find more than a few clams, a small octopus, and some animal with a hundred or so legs, it seemed that many of the locals were having more luck. If, however, your luck runs as dry as the ocean floor, head into one of the many restaurants that dot the beach area for a great meal of grilled shellfish.
While boring and uneventful at most beaches, watching the tide go in and out is actually quite interesting on Muuido because it moves so quickly. If you happen to be out on the mudflats when the tide is coming in, make sure to move quickly back towards the beach, as the tide comes in at a walking pace, leaving you quickly out to sea if you move too slowly.
Hanaggae Beach is very popular with the local expat community, but many Koreans visit the beach as well. One of the popular draws for locals sits on the far side of the beach. There, a large house, the remnants of a set from the popular Korean drama “Stairway to Heaven”, sits. While the house itself is closed, it is still decorated and you’ll see many locals peering in the windows and taking pictures around the area.
Many of the restaurants and the convenience store shut down around 10pm, but there are still things to do at nighttime on Hanaggae Beach. On weekends, bonfires frequently dot the beach line, and there is even a noraebang (karaoke room) tucked away behind the restaurants. If the tide is out, it can be very interesting and eerie to walk out onto the mudflats, peering up at the stars above.
While not the most beautiful beach you’ll even encounter, the mixture of easy access for Seoul, cheap beach-front accommodation, and an interesting tide make Muuido a fantastic day trip or weekend getaway from the city.
Getting to Muuido and Hanaggae Beach
From Seoul, take the subway, an airport limousine bus, or the Arex train to Incheon International Airport. From there, head to the 3rd floor departures hall and go outside to the bus stop. After exiting from gate 5, you can take bus 222 or 306 to the Jamjinnaru Ferry Terminal (Note: Bus 306 stops on the main road, not at the ferry terminal. It is about 10-15 minute from there to the ferry on foot). The ferry costs 3,000 Won and takes about five minutes to reach Muuido. There is no cost for the return trip. Once on the island, hop on one of the green buses for the 30 minutes ride to Hanaggae Beach. There is a 3,000 Won charge for the beach, which is good for you whole stay as long as you don’t leave the beach area.