When I think back to my time in South Korea, and the extensive traveling that I did while living there, there is one place that keeps coming to mind as my absolute favorite place: Seonyudo Island.
Located any hour by ferry from the port city of Gunsan, Seonyudo feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul. White sand beaches, forested mountains, secluded pebble beaches, and picture perfect fishing villages combine to make for one incredible island getaway.
I first visited Seonyudo with the foreign travel group Adventure Korea, and it was on this trip that I discovered the beauty of the island. After renting our bikes, we peddled off to one of the three islands that are connected by a series of bridges. Despite getting soaked by a monsoon rainstorm, we peddled on, past fishing villages and beautiful scenery until we reached the end of the road.
The scene was so breathtakingly beautiful and serene that it was hard to believe that we had been in downtown Seoul earlier that morning.
After my initial trip, I went back on two different occasions, each time enjoying the trip more than the previous one.
Without a doubt, my favorite place on the island is the secluded pebble beach. Tucked away behind a small row of houses, the sound of the waves hitting the pebbles is one of the most relaxing sounds I can imagine. Walking along the pebble beach, you are surrounded by clear water and beautiful mountains. The beach is also a treasure trove of fantastically smooth sea glass.
Another great place on the island is the main sand beach. Flanked by Manjubong, a giant monolith standing guard over the crescent moon shaped beach, Seonyudo’s main beach is a great place for swimming, catching shellfish, or watching some of Korea’s most majestic sunsets.
If you fancy seeing Seonyudo from above, a great hike to the island’s peak starts from near the island’s main beach. While not the tallest of hills, the summit still provides an excellent vantage point for viewing the many islands that dot the western coast of Korea.
By far the best way to explore Seonyudo is by bicycle. Bikes can be rented in the miniscule main town near the ferry dock. Once outside of town, you’ll ride past fishing villages, forested hills, and hidden beaches. You might even seen locals cleaning their fishing nets for the next days catch.
Some of the friendliest people that I’ve ever met have been on the island of Seonyudo. While many won’t speak much English, they are genuinely interested in you and will try to interact with you. For example, during one visit, my wife was given a steaming bowl of ramen noodles by a pajama clad child.
If you are in South Korea, and want to get away from the cities for a few days, I highly recommend a trip to Seonyudo.
How to Get to Seonyudo
Seonyudo is located about half-way down South Korea’s western coast. To get there, take a train or bus bound for Gunsan in North Jeolla Province. From the station, you can take bus number 7 or a cab to the Gunsan Ferry Terminal. Ferries leave from the terminal several times everyday, though the schedule changes frequently due to weather and the tides.
From the island’s ferry dock, walk about 5 minutes to your right to reach the small town, which has a several restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, and bike rental shops.
To get to the hidden pebble beach, head left from the ferry dock (the opposite direction from town), and make your way up the hill. When you reach the top of the hill, don’t cross the bridge, but take the road down the hill to your right. When you reach the bottom, follow the narrow paths through the buildings to your right. The pebble beach is just behind this narrow village.
Note: There is a small island in the middle of Seoul’s Han River called Seonyudo. Make sure that you don’t confuse them when looking for information.
Jim Cheney is the creator of Tripologist.com. Having traveled extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia, Jim enjoys sharing his love of travel and some of his favorite places to visit around the world. He lives in Pennsylvania, USA, with his wife and two kids.