South Korea’s coastal areas are tourist destinations offering spectacular scenery, delicious seafood and vibrant local culture.
In 2018, Busan, the coastal city in the Southeast of Korea, was ranked by Lonely Planet as the Number 1 Destination in Asia. It is not a bastion of traditional Eastern culture, but Busan represents a dynamic mix of distinct contrasts: a land endowed with both sea and mountain, together with the vibrant life of the fifth-largest port city in the world. It is South Korea’s “second city” behind the capital of Seoul, but has pride in its great development and long history dating back to the 15th century.
You can feel the energy of Busan on its wharfs and streets. A great place to start the morning is Haeundae Beach on the eastern coast. As the sun slowly rises from the sea, flocks of seagulls soar up and down like waves in the sky and wander along the sand.
Seagulls are one of the distinctive features of the coastal city of Busan, and are the inspiration for the design of the Jagalchi Fish Market, which is famous for its fresh seafood and must-try delicacies. The market is packed with traditional seafood stalls but maintains cleanliness both inside and outside, as owners promote their wares to customers in booming voices.
After a walk around the market, visitors can buy seafood to take home or to bring to the second floor and have prepared right away at one of the restaurants there. A variety of restaurants with various price points are located in the buildings, with great views overlooking the sea.
In addition to its cuisine, Busan also boasts Gamcheon Culture Village, a destination that attracts many young people for its “insta-worthiness.” With colorful houses hidden in small alleyways, it has a Mediterranean feel reminiscent of Italy’s Cinque Terre.
If Busan is the place to catch a sunrise, the island of Jeju is a sunset paradise. Jeju is a sanctuary for Seoul residents to unwind in the sun and fresh air, and the Seoul-Jeju flight route is the world’s busiest.
The administrative center on the north of the island is where Jeju International Airport is located. From here, there is a plethora of choices for your enjoyment. You can rent your own car for a drive along the coastal roads or take convenient buses to explore every part of this island. Your journey can follow a North-South direction, down to Seogwipo through lush green cherry tree forests.
Crossing the long wooden Saeyeongyo Bridge, you’ll reach a port with small fishing boats headed for Saeseom Island. Although only as big as a park, Saeseom is worth spending a whole afternoon exploring as you wait for the sun to go down behind the ocean waves, slowly descending into the dark blue sea which is distinctive of this region.
Jeju also stands out with its Northeastern coastal road, lined with windmills creating renewable energy. This is a shallow area where locals dive to catch abalone and sea cucumber, seafood delicacies that Jeju is known for. While South Korea is famous for its technology, nightlife and pop culture, its coastal areas make a fascinating and diverse summer getaway.