I have visited a lot of beaches while living in Korea. Perhaps surprisingly for many people, most of them are actually very nice! Korea isn’t known for beaches or even nature, but there truly are some beautiful outdoor locations.
Sokcho is arguably the nicest beach (in my opinion it is the nicest!) within day-trip reach of Seoul. It is about two and a half hours away and costs about $40 for a round trip on the bus. The buses are very comfortable (Korea does transport the best out of anyone!) and the ride is very enjoyable, albeit a bit cold with the AC!
My first reaction to the beach was that of amazement! The weather had been terrible in Seoul when we left… Rain, wind and storm clouds. However, after getting off the bus we were greeted with bright sunshine that proved to be too hot nearly instantly.
The first task was to find some shorts I could use as togs (or a swimsuit for the non-New Zealanders out there). This proved pretty easy and finding a cheap $10 pair of shorts at a nearby beach store was not difficult at all.
It was now time to head to the beach, and wow, what a sight it was to behold!
Sokcho quick information
Where: Sokcho is locateed on the north-east of South Korea. By bus the trip takes about two hours.
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On the way to the beach!
A nearly empty beach? In Korea?! We pretty much had the beach all to ourselves! It was amazing! The beach did get busier throughout the day, but even at the peak of the day, there weren’t overwhelming amounts of people. I think this would definitely change on weekends though, so if you visit make sure to pick a day that you think will be less crowded.
Coming from New Zealand I didn’t really expect much from the beaches of Korea, after all, New Zealand’s beaches are heralded as some of the best in the world. However, even at first sight, I was impressed! It was beautiful! Images can’t possibly do it justice.
A monument on the beach.
By this point, we were a bit hungry… I hadn’t even eaten breakfast as we left at 7 am! So we decided to go and find something to eat. We decided on seafood since we wanted something that was special to the area.
This turned out to be problematic, as the beach area (which is a bit separated from the actual city) is mainly a vacation/tourist area that isn’t very busy on weekdays. Out of 5 or 6 restaurants we tried, only one was actually open. The food was great though (although a little traumatising as it was alive still…) and if you visit Sokcho, I have to recommend seafood! You could definitely taste the freshness.
The mountains in the background of the above image are also an attraction. Although we didn’t have the time to go this visit, I would love to climb them sometime in the future… I can only imagine what the view must be like! (2020 update – I have now had the chance to visit Seoraksan!)
Sitting in the sun
The walk back to the beach was pleasant (and too hot), and now it was definitely time for a swim. We had been dying to get into the water… That was the whole reason we had come after all!
By this point, there were quite a few more people at the beach. It was definitely still comfortable though, and for $10 (10,000 won) an umbrella could be hired for the day. I would say this is an essential as the sun is very very strong on good days, and without an umbrella you can’t really stay close to the swimming area (as it is reserved for people renting umbrellas). They cost $20, but $10 is returned when you return the umbrella ‘ticket’ at the end of the day.
The sun begins to set!
Have you ever seen a more appealing beach?! Across all the countries I have travelled, and all the beaches I have seen… I would say this rates quite highly. The water was so clear and clean (something I don’t expect from Korea). There was next to no litter in it, and the only thing you were likely to come across was seaweed. For such a populated country, the beach was extremely clean and I was more than impressed!
There are lifeguards on duty, and you can swim within the first barrier. It looks quite small, but the deepest part would easily be twice my height. The sea was very calm on the day we visited, and although it wasn’t too exciting, I didn’t care! After months and months, I could finally see the ocean again!
The beautiful beach at Sokcho.
At about 6, the sun started to set. We were pretty content with the amazing day we had had at the beach, and we were exhausted. In typical Korean style, we had eaten fried chicken for dinner (another thing Sokcho is apparently known for!) and were ready to rest.
The path back to the bus stop
Unfortunately, the time to leave was soon upon us. We had had an amazing day, but like all good things, it must eventually come to an end. At 8 pm we took the bus back to Seoul (another two and a half-hour ride, arriving at the express bus terminal at about 10:30).
My first day at Sokcho was a day filled with memories I will not forget for a very long time to come! Korea is a beautiful country, and if you visit the right places, it is fair to say you will be amazed! I have always loved Korea and Seoul, but after visiting Sokcho, I definitely love both even more.
After a day away, I was excited to return to Seoul, the amazing city that it is. But that doesn’t undermine the fact that Sokcho was amazing, and if I get the change to visit again, I won’t even have to think twice about it.