My first trip in the spring of 2013 was a success! My partner and I hopped in my car and started driving east, with no real destination in mind. We had both been to the Gangwando province and had already visited the famous Seorak mountain, so we had a rough idea of what the area was like. I wanted to try to head a little farther south and drive until we hit water.
As some of you may know, the beaches in South Korea are not known to be the finest or most beautiful in the world. Jeju island is probably the most famous, but quite an exception. People usually travel to the coastal regions of the country to try delicious seafood or hike the mountains and trails located near the sea. Busan is the second largest city in the country and is located on the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula and is famous for its metropolitan characteristics, yet small beach town feeling. So there are several reasons to visit the coastal regions of Korea, but the beach is generally not one of those reasons. And I would have continued to have believed this until I took this road trip last spring.
I wanted to drive until we hit water and we did just that. Eventually we literally came to a three way stop with the ocean straight ahead. I took a left and for miles and to our total surprise, all we saw was crystal clear, emerald green waters! We found a sign that said we had arrived at “Marang Beach” in the town of “Donghae”. We finally found a huge spa or jimjilbang (Korean style public bath house) and decided to stop for dinner and a scrub. (For more information on Korean public baths, please see “jimjilbang” in the Life Outside of Teaching section of the blog) After dinner we found a motel for 60,000 WON right on the sea and called it a night. The next day, we woke up to this:
It was absolutely breathtaking and we were astonished at what our 60,000 WON had gotten us. After getting up, we decided to have some breakfast and a coffee down the street at a cafe we had driven by the night before. The town was so quaint and we realized that it was actually a small fishing village.
We finally arrived at the cafe and had yummy English muffins and smoothies on the roof.
The cafe overlooked the sea and again to our astonishment, we had stumbled upon Korea’s little secret: beautiful beaches.
Honestly in the almost four years now that I have lived in Korea, I haven’t seen sand more white and water more clear. I am from Florida, so of course there isn’t much in the world that compares to the Gulf Coast sugar sand beaches, but for Korea, this was about as close as I think we will get. We felt like we had discovered a place that not even Koreans knew about. After breakfast we took a stroll.
After exploring for most of the day, we realized that Donghae is actually quite a useful port. Not only is there fantastic seafood freshly served everyday but there are also ferries you can take to two very famous nearby islands: Uleongdo and Dokdo. There is also a hiking trail that leads to a temple and along the same trails there are waterfalls. If these activities don’t interest you, there are also caves just a few minutes away from the coast. There seemed to be something for everyone in Donghae and we were so delighted to accidentally run into this place.
The scenery to and from Donghae and Marang beach is also breathtaking. 75% of South Korea’s terrain consists of mountains. I didn’t realize how true this was until I took this road trip. Hundreds of mountains made-up the majority of our drive there and every two minutes it seemed we were gasping at another sight.
If you want to see mountains, caves, waterfalls, temples, beautiful beaches, eat delicious seafood and stay in an affordable motel with a breathtaking view- go to Marang beach!
We did all of this in just one night and two days. I think it is possible to do, but I wish we had spent more time there. I recommend going for a three day weekend. Below is the train information and information for the hotel we stayed in:
Yes, there’s a direct train route to Donghae! Unfortunately, there isn’t a high-speed KTX route available but there are night trains. The trip takes about 4 hours one way.
Board the KTX from Cheongnyangni station 청량리역 (Seoul). Times vary depending on when you’re traveling.
Go to http://info.korail.com/2007/eng/eng_index.jsp for more information and to reserve your ticket. This website is in English.