From swimming to fishing to hiking to sightseeing unique villages, Namhae Island beats Jejus as the best island in South Korea!
South Korea is a country known for it’s modern-day technology and fast-paced capitol city. What most people don’t know about South Korea is that the peninsular country is covered with miles of gorgeous coastline. Turquoise water meets soft sand beside incredible foothills and mountains around the southern coast of South Korea.
While Jeju Island has made a name as South Korea’s favorite resort island for natives and tourists (check out this Jeju itinerary!), we argue that Namhae Island is even better.
Nahmae is smaller than Jeju and relatively unknown. It lacks the tourists who come to Jeju in droves, so anyone looking for a more low-key beach experience would love it! Like Jeju Island, Namhae offers a variety of things for the relaxed or adventurous traveler to enjoy. Beaches, hiking, shopping, cute village, and picturesque landscape will make you happy you chose this virgin destination!
Here’s what to do on Namhae Island!
You’re gonna love it.
1. Swim at Namhae Island beaches
Namhae Island is home to a few gorgeous beaches. As pictured, imagine soft, white sand and turquoise water. No one talks about how nice South Korea beaches are and I’ll never figure out why! This is truly a beach lover’s paradise!
Our favorite family beach is Sangju Silver Beach. It’s easy to find with Google Maps and right beside a commercial zone. Buy snacks or lunch at a resturant or GS25 convenience store next to the beach, park your rental car in the large lot, and walk over to the beach. You’ll find red umbrellas available for use. The umbrella spaces are free, but you will need a few Korean won to rent a lounge chair from a booth if you’re interested in one of those.
After swimming or lounging as long as you like a clean bathroom is available for rinsing off. It does charge a small fee, though, so be prepared to fork over 1,000w (or so) to the ajumma at the bathroom guard table. Well worth it!
How to get to Silver Beach:
- 10-3, Sangju-ro, Sangju-myeon, Namhae-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
- Open swim between July 6 – August 19
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2. Hike to Namhae Boriam Temple (Boriam Hermitage)
You guys… Seriously. Boriam Temple is AMAZING!
This is easily our favorite single experience in southern South Korea.
Boriam Temple is actually part temple part Buddhist monastery. It’s built into the mountain, as many Buddhist structures want the peace and serenity that comes from being a bit displaced from society and closer to the heavens. Visitors are able to get to Boriam a couple of different ways: the more adventurous path is a 3km hike from the base of the mountain up to the monastery. The trek is of medium difficulty, covers a lot of height, and can take up to a couple of hours, so hikers should be prepared with good hiking shoes and lots of water.
The easier and more traditional way to get to Boriam Temple is by car. Follow a map to Boriam’s entrance gate. At this lower parking lot you can choose to stay in your car and wait your turn to drive to the upper lot, or park your car and take a bus to the upper lot. We chose to wait and drive ourselves, since that gives you more freedom to return back. The upper parking lot is the closest you can drive to the Boriam temple.
From the upper lot you’ll pay another small fee to enter the walking zone which takes you to the temple. It’s only a 1km walk along an even, paved trail. The walk took us around 15 minutes, which included guiding a child and stopping for pictures.
Once at the top you can choose to keep climbing up a set of stairs to an overlook, or walk down to the hermitage.
Boriam is absolutely beautiful! The temple is built on the edge of the mountain with incredible views of the town and water below, and full of gorgeous colors and natural materials. No matter what your religious affiliation you can easily feel closer to a spiritual presence while here!
How to get to Boriam Temple:
- 665, Boriam-ro, Sangju-myeon, Namhae-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
3. Visit America Village or German Village
This seems so strange, but there are international villages around Namhae Island!
Who thought of this? How did they pick the villages? Who wants to live there? So many questions!
Driving around the island on it’s main road will take you from one village to another. The first we saw was the German Village, which was surprisingly large. It has pretzel and hot dog shops, German-style architecture, and signs in German. It was really incredible!
It was also more frequented than I expected. This German pocket on a South Korean Island is popular. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say!
The American Village was smaller but equally well designed. I didn’t realize America had such a distinct house style until seeing the American Village in Namhae! The houses had Native American statues outside, football helmet mailboxes, shingles on the roofs, yards, and fences.
The American Village entrance was guarded by a miniature Statue of Liberty and bald eagle, which was both appropriate and hilarious. And, as you can see, very popular photo spots with the vacationing Koreans!
Again… who thought of this?!
How to get to Namhae’s American Village:
- 947-1 Yongso-ri, Idong-myeon, Namhae-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
4. Darangee Village Rice Terraces (Daraengi Village)
As opposed to the American Village or German Village, the reason to visit Darangee is because it’s so traditional and beautifully Korean.
The rice terraces around Darangee Village are so beautiful that they’ve been called one of the 50 most beautiful places to visit in South Korea by CNN!
What makes these terraces so gorgeous is how they are stacked along a hillside down to the water. From above the area is a puzzle of different shades of green, as each paddy was planted in different stages. These terraces are characteristic of personally-owned rice fields in Korea. Here the rule to remember is that government-owned rice fields are rectangular while personally-owned fields are allowed to fit whatever shape makes the most of the available land.
The rice terraces are mostly kept to one side of Darangee Village. If coming from the village side simply follow any walking road across to the rice terraces, or follow the main road past snack shops and down to the water. It will fork towards a gazebo on the left. Follow the path to and then beyond the gazebo and you’ll hit the rice terraces!
Walking alleys between rice terraces allow for visiting and pictures, but be sure not to try to get inside the rice paddy. You may not realize that rice is grown in water, which won’t feel very good to unsuspecting Instagrammers!
Not only is Darangee Village home to some beautiful rice terraces, it’s also a super cute little seaside town. Small Korean homes, a few snack shops, and a paved path down to the water are more reasons to visit.
How to get to the Darangee Village rice terraces:
- South Korea, Gyeongsangnam-do, Namhae, Nam-myeon,
- Follow any path across to the rice fields, but be careful to only walk where there is a clear path
5. Darangee Village Seaside Bridges
As long as you’re here, anyway, you should also follow the walking paths to the ocean! Here you’ll get incredible views of the turquoise water as it crashes against the rocky coast. You’ll also get to see and walk across the line of red footbridges which connect the giant boulders.
These are not your ordinary footbridges. These bridges are painted bright red and designed as miniatures of Korea’s more famous bridges that connect islands to the peninsula. You’ll feel like a giant walking around the cables!
We’ve truly never seen anything like it. Most places leave you to scramble between rocks (if you dare). Like the American or German Village, this is just one more surprising feature to love about Namhae Island!
How to get to Darangee Village seaside bridges:
- Follow Google Maps or the address above to get to Darangee Village
- Walk the wide path from the top to the coast and curve to your right to follow the bridges
6. Go Fishing on Namhae Island
The southern coast of South Korea is a great place to eat some really stellar seafood. This seems obvious, right? Well, if you’re a seafood lover why not take it to the next level and catch your own grub!
If you’ve brought your own gear you can set up shop along the rocks of any coastline (we suggest you avoid the sandy beaches which are meant for swimming, but you’ll find fishermen there, too!).
If you don’t have your own gear or are interested in deep water fishing find a local fishing boat from the town center to take you into the water. Most can fit 5-8 people. This is where knowing Korean would be handy, but using the conversation feature on the Google Translate app works, too!
A third option to go fishing on Namhae is to bring some bait and chum for fish right on the shoreline. Be sure to keep a good hand on the bait and only lightly swish it along the water, prepared with a net to scoop up what you find!
More of a visual person? Watch this video to see Namhe Island for yourself!
We hope you enjoy Namhae Island as much as we do! If you have any additional tips on things to do please leave them in the comments!