Korea has been blessed with a few things – endless mountains immediately spring to mind. But they also have an incredible number of islands and peninsulas scattered along their coast line. Some of these are absolutely stunning! You could almost believe you were on a tropical beach anywhere else in the world. What better way to enjoy them than with some beach camping?
We had, due to the weather, again, and some prior commitments, missed out on camping on Namyeol beach with a group of friends at the end of summer. After seeing photos from their trip we decided we had to go there. The beach itself is situated near the eastern tip of the Goheung peninsula. Clear blue water, white sandy beach and a backdrop of rice paddies terraced up the hills.
We went there towards the end of September, which is after summer has officially ended in Korea. This means that, even though the weather is still very good (probably better for camping than during the heat of summer) the beaches are almost deserted. Also, what used to be a pay-to-camp stretches of beach are now free. Our best kind of camping! There are still public bathrooms to use as well as a small convenience store to stock up on basics, like ramen and makgeolli. There were showers but they were locked due to the season being over. The outdoor washing up areas had no water. There was, however, a hose outside the bathrooms and some basins in the toilets for basic washing up/brushing teeth etc.
After a bit of scouting around we settled on a spot under the trees at the edge of the beach. Initially the only other people around were a few groups set up in the parking lot itself, tents pitched on the paving stones. Namyeol Beach is also a popular surf spot in Korea and there were a few surfers around (although the waves were pretty intermittent and small). In the summer there are surfboards and wetsuits available for rent if you’re interested in that!
As we had gotten there quite early we had the beach almost to ourselves. Later in the afternoon a few other families set up camp just for the day. A large hiking group came to celebrate their hike, but left as soon as it got dark. We spent the day lounging around on our inflatable “sofas”, sipping on local makgeolli and taking dips in the ocean to cool off. This led to us hiking up the side of the small cliff next to the bay to watch the sun go down. Excellent idea as it was an absolutely stunning sunset. The beach is also referred to as sunrise beach – they are quite impressive there. If you’re not to keen on waking up early the sunset is a great alternative…
The stunning sunset meant we stayed up there for quite a while drinking in the tranquility (and the makgeolli). We may have spent a bit too long up there, only to realise we hadn’t yet collected firewood for a campfire. Definitely can’t go camping without a campfire! The evening was pleasantly warm and we certainly didn’t need a fire other than for ambiance. A few trips down to beach with torches soon remedied this. Our campfire was soon lit and we were ready for a very lazy dinner of ramen and spam under the stars.
The following morning was spent lazing around again and making friends with somebody’s collie dog. He was super friendly and loved fetching pine cones, even ones we hadn’t thrown. I also tried a bit of fishing of the rocks on the far side of the bay but no luck. We packed up just before lunch and started heading back home. The reason we left early was so that I could try a few dams on the way back to see if they held any fish. This led to an entertaining meeting with a local farmer but, unfortunately, no fish.
As a beach camping spot this one is great. There are good facilities, even in the off season. The beach is very nice and the water temperature was bearable. There is lots of space to set up and the beach camping is free in the off season. Camp sites in Korea can get very crowded and camp sites on popular beaches even more so!
Has anyone been to Namyeol during the summer, does it get busy? Or has anyone surfed there? Let us know in the comments.
A long weekend in June, thanks to Memorial Day gave us the perfect time to do some beach camping! A little bit of research and a reluctance to spend too many hours in traffic led us to Pohang. A slightly obscure blog post mentioned a secluded beach, next door to Pohang’s main beach Chilpo, where camping was possible away from the crowds. Kayley’s navigation and investigation skills eventually led us there. Initially it didn’t look too promising as the roads went through a very industrial area that wasn’t too inviting. It did, however, lead to a small fishing village with a lovely little beach that we ended up staying on for 2 nights/3days. At first, we had just headed straight into the village and spotted some cars that were parked very close to where we wanted to camp but there were no roads from the village. We backtracked a bit and found an access road right down to the beach. Guerilla camping heaven.
A few Korean families were set up well back from the beach on a grassy area, so we proceeded to set up right on the beach near a few small cliffs that provided a nice shelter from the wind, some privacy and a handy “camping loo”. We set up our tent, did a bit of beach clean up and collected some firewood. There was also lots of ocean debris around that we ended up using to make a lounge area and outdoor kitchen around our camp fire. We ended up having a very comfortable set up.
Relaxation and Fun
When we arrived, the weather wasn’t the best, but it was pleasant enough to be beach camping and we even got some sun on Sunday (with a bit of wind). We woke up on Monday morning to a beautiful sunrise and the rain held off until Monday afternoon while we were packing up. We spent the days lounging around enjoying the outdoors, reading, fishing and learning some Gaelic football moves. I also did a bit of fishing off the rocks and managed to catch a few strange looking fish. We had a big bonfire each night, as well as our delicious samgyupsal (pork belly) and lamb chops dinners. We spent the evenings sitting around the fire swapping stories with our friends John and Neeta. Fortunately firewood was plentiful.
Facilities and Entertainment
The main beach (Chilpo-Ri) was very close to where we camped and there was a small shop for ice/beer/water etc as well as large public bathrooms if you were really desperate. The ocean was cold but good enough for a quick rinse if you felt the need. The beach was soft sand. It was really very picturesque with the little fishing village and harbour in the distance.
The Sunday evening was a lot busier and quite a few Korean families set up to do some beach camping, but it never got crowded. The entertainment for the evening was a Korean man who had probably had a few too many drinks and tried to show off to his friends by driving along the beach. He proceeded to get stuck in the very soft sand and it took an hour, two other off-road vehicles and a four-wheeler to eventually get him off the beach.
After packing up, Kayley and I took the “scenic” route back home. We meandered along the coast line up to the Homigot (Hand of Harmony). Pohang is very well know for this giant hand statue in the ocean that apparently sees the first sunrise of the Korean New Year. If you time it right, you can snap a picture of the sun resting in the hand. Of course this means there are hordes of people trying to capture the perfect selfie and making weird poses (we did the same…) Lots of small Korean restaurants in the area to grab a bite. There are also a few coffee shops if you’re looking for something a bit more western. The drive along the coastal road is a bit tedious and time-consuming though!
Guerilla camping (and beach camping) has been the best thing we’ve done in Korea. It allows us to escape the city and get some reasonably fresh air and enjoy a bit of nature. Being able to camp just about anywhere has made it a lot of fun to explore the countryside.
Have you tried camping in Korea? Have any favourite spots?
Yongdam Dam is a massive man made reservoir in a valley between the mountains and right at the outflow of the reservoir where it turns to almost natural river again is a big, commercial, “camp on top of your neighbours and make sure to bring your projector” traditional Korean camp site called 섬바위캠핑장. But lucky for us, just behind this camp site there is a convenient little access road where you can get right onto the river bank and set up camp next to your car. Of course this means no electricity, shower or ablutions, but we are okay with that. We definitely don’t mind being unplugged for a while. Guerilla camping at its best.
There were only a few other people set up on the river bank, but they were quite far away from us. Firewood was plentiful, as well as lots of rocks around to make a fire pit. We had chosen a good spot though and the fire pit was already made! The nights were still quite cool at this time of the year so a campfire is a must. Of course, it adds to the ambience too! Who wants to camp without a fire?? The views up and down the valley were quite magnificent, Korea really is blessed with some incredible natural landscapes and being able to take advantage of this, now that we have a car, has made our second year in Korea much easier.
I, of course, was immediately attracted to the river to see if any fish were to be found! The river proved to be quite full of life with schools of small fish all over the place, they did not seem interested in any of the flies I was chucking their way though. There were a few other guys around set up for catching carp/babel but I didn’t seem them catch anything. One old man came and fished next to our camp spot for about an hour in the Korean style of at least 3 rods in the water and he managed to catch one small chub. Lots of people were on their hands and knees in the river searching for fresh water muscles/clams and possibly crabs or snails. In Korea most living things are considered food!
It was towards the late afternoon that I spotted a few bass darting around and a local fisherman also said there were Sogari in the river. Sogari is a hugely popular eating fish in Korea and shares the same habitat as bass so their numbers have dwindled. I eventually found a bass sitting on a spawning site and tried for about an hour to get it to take a swipe at every lure in my bag before giving up. The next morning I woke up early and decided to give it another shot and finally manged to get it to bite. It was safely released back into the water and went straight back to its bed.
Most of the day was spent lazing around in the sun, sipping beers. Some birthday cake and an afternoon nap were much enjoyed, too! Kayley loves reading her book whilst watching me tramp up and down the river bank. We spent the evening around the fire enjoying the peace and quiet of the great out doors and a South African braai of lamb chops and potatoes done in the coals. Delicious!
We only spent one night there but would definitely recommend it to anybody looking for an escape from the city and doesn’t mind roughing it a bit with no facilities.
Spring finally brought int the warmer weather and we decided to enjoy the fresh air and outdoors with a camping trip. It was a long weekend for Buddha’s birthday (Happy birthday Buddha!) and it also happened to be my birthday too! We wanted to head up into the area surrounding Muju to a small town called Gucheondong. We had beautiful weather and great spots, but this proved to be one of our more frustrating starts to a camping trip.
The town is situated at the entrance to Deogyusan National Park. As it was a long weekend the small town was packed with people strolling up and down, parked all over and trying to get into the park. The river running through the town was quite beautiful and was the main aim of our trip. I was in search of the fabled Cherry Trout that finds it most southern distribution to be in Korea. This area is known for actually having Cherry Trout. We spent a few hours (!!!) hunting for the ideal spot along the river to set up camp and eventually settled on an abandoned camping ground on the edge of town.
This turned out to be quite a nice setting as we were up on the river bank, hidden away from the road and in between a few trees. It wasn’t long until we had set up camp, collected firewood and I was off to the river to search for some fish. I must admit Kayley did most of the setting up as I was itching to get to the water! I spent about an hour up and down the river looking for some nice pools to fish in. Conditions were great and there were a few fish rising but no Cherry Trout unfortunately. Most of what I saw were a species of chub or minnow I think. (Not too savvy on Korean fish species.) The rest of the evening was spent chilling around the fire chatting and having some drinks. For dinner we had a Korean style barbecue of samgyupsal (grilled pork belly), kimchi and mushrooms in lettuce wraps and just enjoyed being outdoors!
The next morning Kayley woke me up singing “happy birthday”. After having another quick cast into the river, I arrived back at the tent to coffee and a very special gift – an Apple watch. Isn’t my girl the best?? Although it was some kind of sick joke not being able to play with it for the next two days due to no electricity or wifi! After enjoying our breakfast of oats and yogurt we packed up (basically just chucked everything into our teeny car) and headed to Jinan for another night of camping.
I’m a bit late on this bandwagon, but here is an overview of our first camping trip. The lead up to it went something like this:
1. Bought tent and a few other necessary camping supplies from some friends who were leaving Korea.
2. Found friends online
3. Bought samgyupsal and s’mores supplies
4. Decided on a location along a lovely big river bank
5. Met said friends (for the first time) and camped with them!
Spring Camping Season
This was such a great start to the spring (still winter really) camping season and we had such a wonderful time. This is probably still one of my favourite locations that we have camped at here in Korea and I still really hope to go back and enjoy it further. But, as our time comes to an end here in Korea, I’m not sure we will have the opportunity to. We had to park up on the road (and managed to fit our little cars in a little nook next to a walking and cycling path – maybe not 100% legit) and cart our gear down a concrete retaining wall slope which wasn’t the most ideal. We enjoyed feeling like we were away from civilisation all the way down there so it was a small price to pay!
There was a plum blossom festival going on nearby, so we had quite a lot of traffic as we got into Hadong. We were far enough away from the festival though. Make sure you go through the small town (instead of the main road along the river) if you’re coming from the East, especially if there’s a festival going on. Our friends coming from the other side (west) didn’t hit any traffic and settled in an hour or so before us! There are a few camping sites along the river too, but they are often full, or not very inspiring (for us anyway) as they generally just have a flat, concrete spot for you to camp on with many other people! But if you don’t mind that, the option is there!
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Springtime in Korea is beautiful and I get so excited at all the new signs of life and greenery! We were spoiled with some of the first cherry blossoms on our walk along the river, as well as the cutest little tea plantations right under our noses! We had a rather pleasant walk in the late afternoon sunshine, before starting our fire and getting dinner started.
Besides the great location along an awesome stretch of river bank, we met some wonderful people who we have had the privilege of calling our friends since! We are sad that most of them have since left, but glad we still have the memories! Thanks, Huttons, Hedgers and soon-to-be Herders for our introduction to Camping in Korea (and more-so, “Guerilla Camping”)
You can read about the Herders and Huttons experience of this weekend getaway, by clicking on their names!