Seoul Weekend Edition: Gyeongpo Beach, Gangneung (강릉 경포해변)

By July 16, 2014Beaches, East Asia

One of the great parts of living in Seoul is the easy access to beaches and mountains all through a superb public transit system. Last summer we spent many weekends on the West Coast beaches of Incheon including Eulwangri and Muuido. This year, however, Hudson and I decided to check out the East Coast.

While the western beaches are fun and cheap and we had a great time, they’re not what you would consider pristine. They are mostly comprised of mudflats with strange tidal patterns and the occasional oil rigger on the horizon. As we consistently heard people talking about the “real beaches” of the east coast, we knew it was time to check it out.

So, just three weeks after we returned from our three week honeymoon in the Philippines, we decided to take our second honeymoon to Gyeongpo Beach in Gangneung, Gangwon-do. Gyeongpo is famous for having both a lake and a beach, separated by a little beach strip and a row of pine trees.

Gyeongpo Beach Korea

Gyeongpo Beach Pine Trees

On a Friday after work we headed to Seoul Express Bus Terminal and found the counter for Gangneung (the signs are in both English and Hangul). The tickets cost ₩24,000 each (one-way) for the limo bus and we were on the road promptly at 7:30. The buses run about every half hour until 11pm so depending on when you want to leave, you might end up on a cheaper bus. We had heard some horror stories about buses taking 5+ hours but we had no such problems. We pulled into Gangneung Express Bus Terminal at 9:50pm and quickly hopped on the 202 local bus down to the lake/beach.

We walked along the lake and down to the beachfront strip consistently charmed with the little seaside town. After passing a few cheap motels, we settled on a room with a small kitchen and patio overlooking the beach for ₩40,000. Once we got settled in we naturally headed out to the nearest GS Mart to drink soju cocktails in the cool, early-summer breeze with the sound of the waves crashing in the background.

Wait, did you just say waves? And they were actually crashing? Yes, I did. Unlike the stale, still beaches of the West, Gyeongpo had the kind of waves that can steal your bathing suit if you’re not careful. The kind I can get flipped around in and swim out against for ages.

gyeongpo beach korea

gyeongpo beach waves

gyeongpo beach south korea

koreans almost get wet

When we woke that morning and saw the beach for the first time in the light of day, we were amazed. Instead of a dull, muddy blue, the ocean was a dusky, pale turquoise and littered with a few small rocky outcrops on the horizon. The water was brisk and enlivening and everything that the West wasn’t. We were sold.

After a long day of nothing but beach, we packed up and got ready for dinner. Already excited at the thought of fresh, cheap seafood we started perusing the menus one by one. But we were in for a shock. The prices were all fixed. And not at what anyone would consider cheap. A “small” fish for ₩80,000? A medium for ₩120,000? Upon asking what a medium fish was, the women held up her hands about 6 inches apart. Well f-that. We’ll go to the next place.

gyeongpo crab shop

gyeongpo crab shop

Unfortunately, there is no escaping this menu. It is set at every restaurant on the sea. The same exact menu with the same exact pictures and the same exact prices. By the time we entered the fourth restaurant we were too hungry to fight. We were offered a seafood platter for two that is usually ₩120,000 but if we have it without sashimi, it will be ₩90,000. I offer him ₩80,000 and we sit down. The meal consists first of some small caviar appetizers, then some fried shrimp and cheesy corn, then a crab, a spicy fish stew, and then a “fish for two.” Doesn’t quite seem worth more than our hotel for two nights, but whatever.

gyeongpo restaurants

generous portions

The appetizers were fine, everyone loves cheesy corn, the crab was very good, the fish stew was questionable, but it was the fish for two that was the crowning achievement of ridiculousness. Please note the size of this fish in the photo below.

gyeongpo korea fish restaurant

fish for two, my ass

So the moral of the story? Gyeongpo is an incredible beach that should be on anyone’s list who is visiting or living in Korea. Just try to make it off the strip if you want seafood, or just live on kimbap and convenience store snacks for a weekend. Don’t lie, you’ve totally done that before.

The next Seoul Weekend Edition will cover another great beach out East: Sokcho. So stay tuned!

12 Comments

  • Carl says:

    Beautiful pics of the East Coast there. Been looking to get out there myself for a while. Those beach eateries are unfortunately the only game in town sometimes, eh?

    Thanks for sharing this. Great stuff.

  • Love the pictures of the waves, I would have a blast playing in those.

    That fish for two is ridiculous. Noted, I will definitely bring food if I go to Gyeongpo. Yikes!

  • Ah, Gangneung! We have a friend that has lived there for years and we finally visited him last year! It was the Fall so we promised to make it up there again this summer, just for Gyeongpo Beach. It really reminded me of beaches back home on the Atlantic coast, so it made me really happy. 🙂 Bummer about the fish, so ridiculous! We always avoid the fish places right on the beaches, they unfortunately all seem to be like that! :/

  • Matt says:

    Nice find! There are definitely some hidden gems in Korea. You just have to be willing to go off the beaten paths!

  • Ana says:

    You’re right, it seems like a nice place but the food, wow. Kimbap weekend for sure.

  • Joey Joe Joe says:

    Hi.

    Doing a trip in Korea late September. Would it be too cold/boring/dead for a trip to Gyeongpo then? Look forward to the Sokcho post!

    Cheers

    • Taylor says:

      hard to say. september is a beautiful time to visit korea anyway, the summer humidity will have broken and monsoon season will be over. may be too chilly to want to jump in the water, but still worth the trip!

  • Gangneung, guys, not Gangneun…

    Anyway, I absolutely LOVE Gangwon-do, probably the most beautiful province in South Korea. The city beaches at Sokcho and Samcheok are lovely too, and Yangyang is meant to be quite nice as well. If and when I make it back to Korea, I’ll definitely make a beeline for the area!

  • Judith says:

    I’m so sad I’m leaving Korea without visiting a single beach!
    But those tiny portions kinda made me happy at the same time! HAHA. I’ve only had sashimi once in Korea in Itaewon and OMG the portions were tiny but soooo delicious!

  • Kirsten says:

    Wow I can’t believe those prices! I’m not sure it’d be worth it to leave Busan haha. Come down to the south where there are tons of islands and beautiful beaches 🙂

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