Seonyudo (Seonyu Island) is a small South Korean island located off the western coast of North Jeolla Province, populated by a handful of local residents, fishermen, and summer tourists. It’s an ideal summer getaway from the city smog and heat radiating off Seoul’s massive buildings and concrete sidewalks. Instead, the island is known for beautiful, sandy beaches, small mountains for trekking, seafood restaurants, and quaint streets which are ideal for biking. There’s also a chance to witness the “Moses Miracle,” a pathway between two islands that appears during low tide. I jumped at the chance to explore Seonyudo with the budget Korean tour company Adventure Korea, who generously sponsored my trip.
Our group gathered in Seoul early Saturday morning and traveled to the city of Gunsan by bus, where we boarded a ferry destined for Seonyudo. The ferry ride was relaxing and refreshing after a three and a half hour bus ride. Most of sat on the top deck, viewing the ocean and surrounding islands while feeling the wind in our hair.
When we arrived on the island an hour later, we immediately rented bikes and dropped our bags off at our pension, a mere two minute walk from the beach. It was a scorching day, about 32 degrees Celsius, but perfect for a weekend on the water. Before diving in the sparkling sea, we spent a couple hours exploring Seonyudo and the surrounding islands by bike.
A couple different bridges connect the islands together. The islands are ideal for biking since the bridges are too narrow for cars to pass.
On the smaller island, we came across a small fishing village, littered with nets, fishing poles, rope and boats shored on the beach. Because the water was so low, this area was almost desolate. However, we saw several fishermen working on and off land throughout other parts of the island.
Although we didn’t see any fishing in this area, someone had laid out red peppers to dry.
Here are bags are fishing nets, waiting to be used.
As well as clusters of ropes.
After a couple sweaty hours of bike riding, we met Seokjin, the leader of the group and owner of Adventure Korea, at the beach, where he showed us how to dig for bamboo clams. Bamboo clams are long and thin, quite different from the clams at the Hajeon Mud Activity Village, on my last trip with Adventure Korea.
Several hours of daylight were remaining, so a few of us decided to bike to the other side of the island.
We watched fishermen on the pier and glimpsed some town island life as we rode through narrow streets.
Despite our empty water bottles and the feeling that we were swimming in our own sweat, we decided to climb one of the mountain’s small peaks. From the top, we could see roads and bridges winding between the islands, mountains, and small clusters of homes and businesses with red, orange and cyan rooftops.
The entire group, all 40 of us, reunited at the beach to watch the sunset. I quickly adjusted to the concept of “island time,” relaxing and drinking a cold bottle of Cass, while thinking of nothing but the blues, pinks and purples blazing brightly overhead. Over a late dinner and drinks on the beach, I got to know some of the people on the trip, before passing out around 10:30 PM, exhausted from the day’s activities in the hot sun.
The next morning, we embarked on another short hike after breakfast. This mountain was located on another part of the island, offering different views than the last.
It only took 20-30 minutes of climbing to reach this fantastic view of the ocean seamlessly blending into the horizon.
After hiking, and again, feeling like we were already swimming in sweat, a few of us decided to dive into the ocean. The water was cool and refreshing, but much warmer than I expected. It was also incredibly clear and seemingly clean. I spent about 45 minutes swimming out the to farthest set of buoys and relaxing in the water, not wanting to get out!
Eventually Lela, a girl on the trip, and I dried off and spent another half hour biking around before departing the island.
After returning the bikes and gathering our wet bathing suits, dirty towels, and miscellaneous gear together, we walked to the ferry terminal for lunch. We ordered big bowls of steaming kalguksu, noodles with fresh clams. Eating fresh seafood from the island was the perfect way to conclude our trip. After leaving the restaurant, a group of Korean island-goers offered us some homemade rice cakes to snack on. Everyone seemed cheerful and laid back on the island, quite the contrary to the rushed nature of Seoul.
As the ferry arrived we waved goodbye to Seonyudo, although most of would have preferred to stay. The trip was relaxing, fun and openly structured, allowing us to bike, hike, swim and relax at our own pace. Also, the island offered a plethora of activities, but was small enough to avoid getting lost. With a gorgeous beach, bikes, mountains, plenty of restaurants, good company and cold beer, what else could we possibly need?
It’s Monday morning, and in an hour, I’ll be going to work. I know exactly what my Korean co-workers will say: “Sarah, you got burnt!” I did not get burnt. I got a marvelous tan. And it’s a result of a fantastic weekend basking in the island’s rays.
This trip is called “Seonyudo Island Bike Trip.” Adventure Korea leads this trip several times at the beginning and end of the summer to avoid peak tourist season. It costs 109,000 won (approximately $100), including transportation (A chartered limousine bus), a round trip ferry ticket, one-day bicycle rental fee, 2 meals (Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast), and pension accommodation. Visit Adventure Korea’s homepage for more trip options.
*Note: This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are, of course, my own.
-Text and photography by Sarah Shaw @ www.mappingwords.com. All rights reserved.