Kick back on Korea’s east coast beaches
If you’re still undecided, the JoongAng Ilbo highly recommends heading to the seaside, especially to the beaches off the east coast.
The East Sea area is one of the most familiar holiday destinations in Korea for several reasons.
First, it is reasonably accessible from central Seoul by car. If you choose the right time to depart during peak season, it takes less than four hours to get there from the nation’s capital. Plus, the ocean is shallower and much clearer than the West Sea.
But there are more reasons for choosing to visit the East Sea than accessibility and water quality. We sacrifice a significant part of our hard-earned vacation time driving for hours on congested highways and tend to dream of doing more than just soak in saltwater.
In recent years, many activities have popped up around East Sea vacation spots compared to in the past. You can now surf at one of several wave-filled beaches, fly over the ocean in a zip line, or just settle down at one of the cozy cafes dotted along the coast.
If you haven’t made up your mind about where to go for your summer vacation yet, head to explore the east coast this season to partake in one of several things to do.
Jukdo Beach, Yangyang
Even if you’re not into riding waves, you’ll love Jukdo Beach, which has a distinct surf culture.
Jukdo has been known as a spot for enthusiastic surfers for years because of its steady waves.
But this beach is less famous compared to others better known for surfing, such as Jungmun Beach on Jeju Island and Songjeong Beach in Busan.
As a result, it’s less crowded while the trees that surround the beach add a more secluded atmosphere.
According to professional surfers, fall and winter are the best time of the year to surf on the east coast, but summer is better for beginners because the waves are weaker.
About 10 or so surf shops have opened up one after another along the beach. Gear is available to rent from many of the stores, including Sea Man, which also provides one-day lessons for beginners.
Renting a surf board for the whole day costs between 30,000 won ($29) and 40,000 won.
If you want to learn the basics of surfing, however, a lesson is priced at 60,000 won, including rental fees.
Soaking up the sun
Sageunjin Beach, Gangneung
A section of Sageunjin Beach was designated as dog-friendly last year for pet owners who want to vacation with their four-legged friends. It instantly became a hit.
This year, the same stretch of sand has been replaced with a so-called bikini beach, with facilities catering to people who want to sunbathe.
A wall that’s about the height of an average man has been installed to separate the bikini beach from the regular beach.
Since the area is only open to sunbathers, people are able to catch some rays without worrying about being stared at by others.
Across 1,000 square meters (10,763 square feet) of coastline, 200 sunbeds, 30 wooden benches and 300 parasols are available.
Although the area is designated as a bikini beach, people who want to wear ordinary swimsuits are also welcome.
There is no admission fee, but sunbeds, wooden tables and parasols cost 10,000 won each.
The bikini beach is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week and will be operating until Aug. 25.
For more information, call (010) 3362-0506.
Pedaling along the coast
Jeongdongjin Beach, Gangneung
Jeongdongjin Beach has long been known as a spot to watch the sunrise, but the beach recently added an attraction - a rail bike.
A rail bike is a vehicle attached to a track that is powered half by pedaling and half by electricity.
Tracks have been installed along Jeongdongjin Beach so that people are able to enjoy being at the seaside while riding on the bikes.
There is one course that travels back and forth between the departure point and a halfway point train cafe.
The round trip measures about five kilometers in total distance and takes about 50 minutes.
Some of the course is slightly uphill but it is an easy ride, especially because the bikes are half electric so you can operate them automatically at some harder points of the track at the flick of a switch.
The rail bikes’ operating hours are usually between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., but business hours have been expanded to 8 p.m. until Aug. 24.
It costs 20,000 won for two-seaters and 30,000 won for four-seaters.
For more information, visit sunbike.kr or call (033) 520-2523.
Fresh-brewed coffee at the beach
Anmok Beach, Gangneung
Experiencing the sea breeze is one way to enjoy your summer vacation, but there is another way to relax at the beach - by sipping on a latte on a coffee street, which consists of 26 cafes along Anmok Beach.
If you want to drink a cup of coffee against the backdrop of the blue sea, take a seat at any terrace cafe. Almost all the shops here are two-story buildings with outdoor seating.
Among many cafes, Coffee Cupper is one of the first coffee houses nestled near the beach.
Another attraction that’s available at Gangneung is a zip line.
The Aranabi, as the aerial ropeslide is called, is installed between Gangneung Port and Namhangjin Beach.
The zip line’s starting destination is located about 20 meters above sea level.
Once you leave the take-off point, it only takes 45 seconds to cross a distance of around 300 meters (984 feet).
Aranabi’s operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. A one-way trip costs 13,000 won, but a round trip is 19,000 won. The zip line does not operate on rainy days.
For more information about the zip line, call (033) 641-9002.
Kayaking with an unusual view
Jangho Port, Samcheok
Jangho 1-ri near Jangho Port is the perfect place for city dwellers to experience a day at a fishing village.
The surrounding sea, which is abundant with various types of seafood, is shallow and flanked by huge rocks, while the water’s waves are not too high or harsh.
Since the fishing village has seen a growing number of visitors with children, it brought in kayaks made with transparent-reinforced plastic in 2008 for families to paddle around in.
The see-through boats have become a hit because you can look below at the ocean while rowing around.
Jangho2-ri, a neighboring village of Jangho 1-ri, has also introduced the transparent boats.
Handling the vessel is easy; anyone can operate it without any special instruction.
Two types of kayaks are available: one with two seats and another with four.
Kayaking for two is 20,000 won, rafting for eight people is 50,000 won and snorkeling is 10,000 won per person.
The villages don’t take reservations.
For more information, call (070) 4132-1601.
Mangsang Beach, Donghae
The Mangsang Auto Camping Resort is the nation’s first and largest auto camping site.
Initially opened in 2002, the resort has 83 caravans, 10 camping sites and 59 guesthouses and cottages.
Since the resort is in proximity to Mangsang Beach, those who stay there can fall sleep to the sound of waves.
Along with thick pine trees and close to two kilometers of sandy coastline, another great selling point of the resort is its well-equipped facilities: It has a volleyball court, walking path, cafeteria and rest pavilion.
Securing a spot at the Mangsang resort is always difficult, but the competition has eased somewhat with the recent opening of a second campsite.
Located about 500 meters away from the first resort, the second camping facility has 41 caravans and 93 camping sites.
The camping pitches are currently open to the public, but caravans will be available starting next month.
Renting a single camping pitch starts from 11,000 won and caravan starts from 50,000 won.
For more information, visit campingkorea.or.kr or call (033) 539-3600.
Fishing with a difference
Marine Fishing Park, Uljin
Geoil-ri, Uljin, is well known for its juicy snow crabs, but the latest addition to the fishing village is an artificially-made angling site that floats on the sea.
Uljin Marine Fishing Park is a government-run project that aims to promote fishing villages in order to attract more visitors.
There are five similar angling sites across the nation, but the one in Uljin is the largest. The man-made fishing spot, which stretches about 470 meters (513 yards), looks like a seawall from afar.
Amateur fishers take up the largest portion of visitors, but ordinary people also take a trip to the marine park because it has a walking path and photo zone.
Entry is free for now, but the park plans to levy a charge soon.
The most common available fish these days in the area is seriola, black sea bream and mackerel.
Operating hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (054) 288-2720. Other similar parks are located in Taean, South Chungcheong; Yeosu, South Jeolla; Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang and Jeju.
BY BAEK JONG-HYUN [email@example.com]
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