Yokjido is an attractive island off the south coast of Korea, covered in lush green forest and surrounded by some stunning, rugged coastline.
What marks it out as different from its neighbours? It’s one of the largest islands in the Hallyeohaesang National Marine Park and as one of the furthest from the mainland, it has its own unique character. There’s also something quite satisfying about that slightly longer boat journey, when your starting point disappears from view and you’ve yet to see your destination – it just feels like more of an adventure. Yokjido has plenty of hiking and walking trails and there’s a genuinely relaxed and warm feel to the place. It’s well worth a visit for a day or two.
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SEE AND DO
Check out the cool suspension bridge and stunning walk on the island’s rocky southeast side. Tour the coastal road where the scenery unfolds around every bend. Wander through sleepy villages and forested hiking trails, seeking out the island’s best views and visiting a humble temple or two.
The local map of the island
Suspension Bridge and Coastal Walk
If you’re looking for a reason to visit Yokjido then this is it. Located on the southeast of the island, this striking suspension bridge spans a deep, narrow gorge, taking you to a rocky outcrop where you can see dramatic views of steep sandy cliffs descending towards aquamarine seas. It’s a fantastic spot which few islands in this area can match. And if you time it right you might even miss the tour groups and have the place to yourself. Or just hang around a little longer and people will soon move on.
Back across the bridge a path winds down through the pine trees to the water. The path follows the coast for some distance past jagged rocks, coves and small bays. It’s possible to follow it about halfway back to town so if you want to walk the whole path make sure you have enough time. We had to cut our walk short last time to get back to the port for our ferry. The magic hour glow was in full effect and we really regretted not getting there earlier. Don’t make the same mistake!
There’s a roadside cafe by the path to the suspension bridge. It sells coffee, smoothies, ice cream, etc. and has a large decking area with great views both north and south. If you have your own transport it only takes around 5-10 minutes to drive here from town. Otherwise, hop on the bus or get a taxi to the bridge and you have the option of walking back on the coastal path. Follow your progress on Google, Kakao or Naver Maps. However you do it, make sure you have enough time to enjoy it.
Touring the Island
Touring the island’s coastal road is undoubtedly one of the main highlights of a visit to Yokjido. The road winds and rolls through small fishing villages and hillside farms, all the while revealing stunning views of its dramatic coastline and the surrounding islands. There are various viewpoints and rest stops as you go. Heading round anti-clockwise, there are two cracking spots with picnic benches and pagodas which offer the best views. Stop in to appreciate them and munch on a quick snack or packed lunch.
Rent A Scooter
The best way to travel the coastal road is on two wheels. We’ve taken our scooter to the island twice. It really allows you to take in the views and you can easily stop in anywhere you like. Depending on how long or often you want to stop, you can ride round the northwestern part of the island in 1-2 hours.
You can rent a scooter or small ATV from a place in the main town:
Perfect for a scooter road trip – rent one in Tongyeong or on the island
Although you can rent one on the island, as long as you’re comfortable riding a scooter around town we’d recommend hiring from 73 Step or 거북선 스쿠터 (Turtleship Scooter) in Tongyeong. It’ll cost 50,000₩ for the day and it’s only around 5,000₩ to get it on the ferry. It’ll give you a bit more freedom to get around and see everything you want to.
For renting a scooter you’ll need your driver’s license and a current international driving permit.
Other Ways To Get Around
If you have a car then you can take that on the ferry and use it to explore the island.
We have seen a public bus running around the island too, but we’d really recommend having your own transport. We’re not sure where the bus stops or how frequent it is.
If you have a bicycle and want to cycle round the island you could totally do it. There’s some nice new road but also some in pretty poor shape and it gets a little hilly at times. I’m not sure I’d fancy it on my road bike but a mountain bike would be no bother. We spoke to four Korean guys doing just that and having a great time.
There is a network of hiking trails to explore and if you’re staying on the island overnight then we totally recommend doing some hiking, but if it’s only a day trip, concentrate on the coastal stuff first.
There are a few easily accessible trails from the island’s main village, close to where the ferry docks.
We explored a few of the routes on our last visit. The first part, started close behind the Yokji Haebada Pension (욕지해바다펜션).
We drove there on our scooter but you can get there by the public bus – it’s only about ten minutes from the port. You can also get there in about thirty minutes by walking up through the village behind the port.
This part was a nice, shady forest walk with the chance to see a few graves among the trees just beyond the peak. This was just before Chuseok, the harvest holiday when Koreans remember their ancestors, and it’s usual to see people trimming the grass near graves randomly scattered throughout the countryside. Although pleasant enough, if you’re short on time miss this section out, especially in summer and autumn; the vegetation is heavy and the views are limited.
Instead hike straight up through the main village, turning left before the first temple, head past the reservoir and take a left towards the second temple when you see the hiking trail board and the stone sign marked 태고암 (Tae-go-am). The temple is old, small and humble with an interesting character. Stop in for a look, have a rest and head on up to the peak. Follow the signs for 천왕봉 (Cheonwangbong) – it’s easy to spot, you can’t miss the military base perched on top. The last section is a short, metal staircase leading to a viewing platform where you’ll get a great view on a clear day.
Check out the reservoir on your way to the peak – there were hundreds of herons hanging out there when we went
There’s another trail branching off that one, before you climb towards the military base. It’s a short hike up and a chance to get views out to the southeast on a really clear day.
Don’t forget – mosquito spray!
It’s something we almost always have with us but this time we forgot. The mosquitoes hang around till late in the year on forest trails.
The two small temples can be seen when you’re hiking or wandering through the village. As mentioned above, Tae-go-am (태고암) is best seen when hiking up Cheonwangbong (천왕봉).
Tae-go-am Temple on the way to Cheonwangbong Peak
The other temple is Yong-cheon-sa (용천사). It’s only a five minute walk up through the back alleyways of the main village. Although small and a little run down, it has a certain charm and there is an impressive statue round the back. It’s worth a quick visit as you wander around or head for the hike.
Towering statue at Yong-cheon-sa Temple
There are a few of these around the island and one is a hae-su-yok-jang (해수욕장), a swimming beach, but it doesn’t really deserve the name. We’ve been to some good looking pebble beaches in this part of Korea, but none of them are on Yokjido. If it’s a hot day and you’re in need of a quick dip then by all means (check Naver Maps for location), but if you’re looking for a day at the beach then head to nearby Bijindo instead.
It’s hugely popular in Korea and on Yokjido. The island’s rocky coastline and deep water is paradise for some fish. Aside from the many boats and fish farms off the coast, you’ll see locals and visitors alike lining the shore, especially at dusk and after dark. If you live in Korea, love fishing and have your own gear, Yokjido seems to be a great place for it. For more information on the best spots, check here.
Fishing off the rocks by the road
EAT AND DRINK
Sashimi shacks line the waterfront in and around the main town. They’ll pick your fish out of the tank and prepare it there and then, along with a few sides including local favourite sea squirt and kimchi, of course. It’s a great experience and the fish is fresh, but it’s not cheap, around 30-50,000₩ for a fish, good for two people at least. You can get beer and soju as standard at all these places for about 4,000₩.
There are a few traditional restaurants in town too. Set back behind the seafront road are a number of raw fish restaurants that’ll offer the same as the shacks plus a few other options at a more reasonable price. Look out for 회덮밥 (raw fish on rice), 고등어조림 (spicy mackerel stew) and 고등어구이 (grilled mackerel). All will come with sides and should cost 10-15,000₩. There’s also a gukbap/ 국밥 (rice soup) restaurant beside the S-Oil petrol station and a beef bulgogi (불고기) place a couple of streets behind the waterfront. Look for the busiest ones, they’re normally the best.
There’s a Top Mart set back from the waterfront, across from the S-Oil petrol station. It’s reasonably well-stocked with food, drink, alcohol and other bits and pieces, although don’t expect too much. It’s a good place to pick up any extras you might need. It also has loads for camping and barbecuing like coal, gas canisters, etc. There’s also a Nonghyup supermarket two streets back which might have more variety in fresh food but we haven’t been in, only noticed it on the map since our last visit.
Whether you’re planning a couple of days or just the one, bringing your own supplies is a good idea. Prices tend to be a little higher on the island and there is much more variety at the big supermarkets in Tongyeong. You’re only limited by your mode of transport and how much you’re willing or able to carry.
There are various places in town and around the island selling coffee, juices and usually some kind of cake or sweet snack. Coffee prices are fairly standard at around 4-5,000₩.
There are three campgrounds on the island.
The closest one to town is the Haemawon Auto Campground (해마원오토캠핑장), 010-4645-1230. It’s only about a five minute drive as you head anti-clockwise around the coast. It’s right on the coast and has a decent view back towards the mainland. At night, there’s some interesting activity as fishermen flock to the roadside rocks and the squid boats put on their light show.
Camp for the night
We stayed there on a Saturday in September and the place was quiet with only a few groups camping. There’s a toilet and shower block which is dated but moderately clean. The owner speaks some English and is very friendly and eager to help.
We paid 30,000₩ for the night, which seemed a little expensive but in actual fact is about as cheap as you’ll get on Yokjido.
We considered just trying to find our own camping spot but having been round most of the island, there isn’t much spare land to just pitch up on. If you’re traveling light, don’t mind carrying your stuff and are willing to chance it, you may find a good spot to free camp. But if like us you have food, drink and various camping equipment to unload, best to choose one of the campsites – it’s still considerably cheaper than a pension.
The Paradise Pension Campground (파라다이스 펜션 갬핑장), 010-2205-5555, is on the South West of the island. It’s probably about a 20 minute drive from the port heading clockwise. It has room for about 20 tents and has a good view of the little harbour and out to sea.
The Yokjido Cheongbori Auto Campground (욕지도 청보리 오토캠핑장), 010-8075-5005, is to the west, about halfway round the main part of the island. They only take reservations here.
There are pensions in abundance on Yokjido, too many to mention. Prices start at around 70,000₩ for a 2 – 4 person room and vary depending on the day and season. Here are a few options to check out if you’re thinking of booking.
Bear in mind that people are unlikely to speak much English so if you don’t know enough Korean, try to get a Korean speaker to help you out. If you don’t want to book, it’s certainly possible to turn up and get a room.
Once you get to Tongyeong on Korea’s south coast there are two options. Ferries run from the Tongyeong main ferry terminal and the smaller port at Samdeok (삼덕). Both are car ferries and are approximately 8-10,000₩ each way per passenger. If you are driving there will be an extra charge, the amount dependent on your vehicle.
The ferry from Tongyeong takes about 1 ½ hours, stopping at Yeonhwa-do on the way. Take this ferry if you’re on foot as Samdeok is a little bit out of town with a limited bus service.