Seonyu-do: A hidden treasure for a brief respite from Korea's city life

Seonyu-do: A hidden treasure for a brief respite from Korea's city life

by Seth Fellenz
haps Korea Magazine

Sometimes we all need a little time away. The balli-balli life that many of us, foreign or Korean, live in Busan can drive one crazy. The islands hugging the Korean coastline have been a refuge for anyone looking to escape the city, relax and find a little (comparative) peace and quiet. While most of us have been to Geoje or Jeju, there are dozens of smaller, less popular islands within reach of Busan. Among the best of the bunch is Seonyu-do.

Seonyu-do sits off the west coast of the peninsula, 90 minutes from Gunsan by boat. The main island of Seonyu-do is compact but offers a lot. Heading up the road from the ferry terminal, visitors pass a modest collection of shops and restaurants, along with a handful of minbaks that make up Jin-ri, the “downtown” of Seonyu-do. This is where the majority of food and drinks are found, along with bicycle and scooter rentals. It is also where you will see the only cars on the island. Seonyu-do’s tour groups ride in golf carts, and bicycles are the quickest way to get around. At 10,000 won a day, a bike is a must for exploring the area.

Continuing down the soft sands of Seonyu-do beach toward Mangjubong Hill, there is a grassy area along the road where camping is allowed. With a misty chain of small islets in the distance, the sunset views from the beach are some of the best in Korea. The beach itself is much nicer than any in Busan, with soft sand, clean water, and far fewer people. Clamming is popular at low tide. Mangjubong is a short but steep hike with beautiful panoramic views.

The other three islands (Yami-do, Sinsi-do, and Munyeo-do) have a few scattered minbaks and shops, and are even quieter than Seonyudo. Accessible only by pedestrian bridge, they’re a great place to cruise around on bikes, enjoy a picnic lunch and get away from the more crowded area, especially during busy summer months. Attractions include fishing, some newer minbaks, a salt farm, and a “mudflat experience”.

There are a couple of things visitors should be aware of before setting out for Seonyu-do. Seafood is plentiful (the jogae-gui is fantastic), but other food items are not. Be sure to bring some food from the mainland, or cup ramyeon could be your best option. In addition, very few shops and restaurants accept cards and there is no ATM on the island. Budget accordingly.

The combination of Seonyu-do’s natural beauty, seafood, and the ability to really “get away from it all” make it an ideal retreat. The beach is relaxing, sidewalks are for walking, and the shopkeepers friendly. Don’t miss the sunset.


Getting there: Seonyudo  is located about half-way down the western coast of the peninsula. Hop on a train or bus bound for Gunsan in North Jeolla Province. From the station, you can take bus number 7 or a taxi to the Gunsan Ferry Terminal. They leave several times during the day depending on the weather and the tide.

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