Our humble city of Yeosu is blessed with the gift of islands. While the coastline and city are beautifully juxtaposed against the blue water of the bay, the best way to get away and experience the slow pace of Yeosu is by hopping onto a ferry. With over 300 islands in Yeosu’s territory, visitors and residents have a myriad of options, each with their own highlights and charms. Some islands can be reached in under an hour, while others take closer to 4 on rough waters and mean a guaranteed overnight stay.
This past weekend we set our hearts on a hiking and camping adventure on an island named Hahwa-do. This small island has a full-fledged village, store, and pensions but we went for the camping and hiking. Many of the islands in Yeosu have hiking trails but finding one with designated camping sites is a bit more tricky. We had seen pictures of the beautiful 5.6 km trail but the seaside camping is what sold us.
Yeosu has several ferry terminals that service routes to the islands. Early Saturday morning we met our friends John and Mara and drove down to Baekya-do Port where we parked our car and boarded the 10:00am ferry to Hahwa-do. The ferry was busy with locals headed to the island for some Saturday picnics. A fairly common favorite pastime in Yeosu is hopping on the ferry with some friends, eating pajeon and drinking makgeolli in big groups of friends and family. While we were essentially doing the same thing, we made sure to complete the hike first.
Hiking on Hahwa-do is a really nice way to spend an afternoon. The course only takes about 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace, but the views were stellar and trails were immaculate. Typically, Korean hiking will include a lot of stairs, but Hahwa-do had a minimal amount in favor of rolling trails that we preferred greatly. The islands surrounding the island are also quite beautiful (what in that area isn’t?), so it’s a great way to get a different perspective on Korea. Much of this country is covered in concrete and farmland, but visiting islands often reminds us that we are in a foreign country with typically astounding panoramas that you get in many coastal Asian cities.
With a few beads of sweat on our foreheads, we finished the hike around 2:30 in the afternoon and set off for the only mart on the whole island. We bought makgeolli and settled into our campsite that we had arranged upon our ferry’s arrival. Shoes off and paper cups of rice wine in hand, we relaxed with a nice breeze and chatted about how perfect the weather was after so many weeks of rainfall.
After a few bottles of makgeolli, one of the porpoise lovers (don’t get Stephanie or John started on sea life…manatees in particular) spotted something swimming off in the distance. Several schools of fish had been jumping from the water, either feeding on a hatch of bugs or running from something else, but this mystery animal was different. About 100 meters out, a gray blob was spotted repeatedly surfacing then diving for extended periods of time. Thanks to my super impressive vision, I semi-correctly identified it as a seal-sized Korean Somethingorother. We watching it in disbelief for a long time, not sure if the rice wine was causing hallucinations or if we were seeing rare wildlife, before it had moved too far away to watch enjoyably. Mara speculated that the beast was a mermaid, but that’s just ridiculous. Stephanie later identified them correctly with the help of the internet as a Sangwaengi (상괭이): a small finless melon-headed porpoise that has been hunted by Japanese people and caught in the fishing nets of Koreans to near-extinction. It wasn’t just the makgeolli and our imaginations!
After sundown, we settled into our campsite, ate ramyeon from our camp cups, and laughed well into the night. It felt great to get out and use our tent again, and the weather was perfect. I’m sure that we will be doing several more island camping trips this summer with our friends, so stay tuned.
Getting to Hahwado:
Hahwado is an island and must be reached by ferry. Two ferry terminals in Yeosu service this island, Baekyado Ferry Terminal and Yeosu Ferry Terminal. Yeosu’s main ferry terminal sends boats out twice per day (6am and 2:20pm) but we went down to Baekyado’s Ferry terminal which has more times/options.
Getting to the terminal on Baekyado can seem daunting, but it is accessible by car, taxi, or Bus #28. I’d suggest a taxi getting there, but then a bus back to Yeosu-proper if you don’t have a car (the simplest way). Below, I’ve included some basic maps showing where Baekyado is in relation to Yeosu, and a ferry schedule.
If you have any questions about our city, or would like information on Yeosu’s islands, feel free to contact us on our About page or by leaving a comment below. How do you escape on the weekends? Where is your go-to camping destination? We’d love to hear from all of you!