Gyeongpo Provincial Park
To me, this park is a classic. A must-visit. Even though, like nearby Naksan, it’s not mountainous. Gyeongpo Provincial Park features one of the east coast’s best beaches, a lovely little lake and a swath of pine trees. I visited Gyeongpo a little less than a month after moving to South Korea. In the years that followed, I returned multiple times. Seven years later, it’s still one of my favorite places.
My first visit to Gyeongpo Provincial Park involved a 10k race along the beach in 2011. I’d read about this race online, and was determined that this scenic course would be my introduction to Korean running. It was also my first trip outside Seoul! It was a blast, and I recognized having found a favorite.
In 2012, my future husband and I returned to the same summer race. And again, a few weeks later, to spend our birthdays on the beach! In addition to an especially beautiful sunrise running route, we’d found a comfortable little niche there. There was a quieter section of the beach that we sometimes had all to ourselves, a good deal on a motel with floor to ceiling windows of sea views, and a little cafe in which we’d play scrabble for hours in inclement weather.
In 2014, we’d planned to take my visiting sister there for a single night, and wound up staying for three!
And yes, we visited again during our mountain mission year. Our 2016 east coast bike trip would pass through Gyeongpo, so we planned a reminiscing rest stop there. Although I somehow neglected to take any photos whatsoever, we spent a relaxing hour or two there, re-hydrating at a favorite local mart and taking a refreshing dip in the ocean. It was every bit as lovely as I remembered.
Know and Go! Gyeongpo Provincial Park
Getting to Gyeongpo is now easier than ever. With the new high-speed KTX train, you can get from Seoul to Gangneung city in about an hour and a half. Otherwise, buses ply the mountainous routes heading inland and along the coast, connecting many cities and towns. Gangneung is the major city in coastal Gangwondo, so transportation options are abundant.
Once in Gangneung, you can take a local bus or taxi to Gyeongpo Provincial Park. Be aware that the park spans a lake and a large section of coast, so if you’re directing a taxi, you might want to have a specific destination in mind. Head to Gyeongpo haebyeon (beach) , or Gyeongpo ho (lake) to start your adventures.
This area of the coast is extremely flat by Korean standards. As such, this is not really a hiking destination. But there’s still lots of active stuff to do! You could join the Gyeongpo Beach ‘Marathon’ (5k, 10k and half-marathon distances available), as we did, or just go running on your own alongside the beaches or around the lake. Alternatively, rent a bike and do the same. Or just take it all in at a stroll.
If you’d like to have it all – and in this case I mean mountains and beaches both – head to inland Odaesan National Park. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it’s located practically next door to Gyeongpo Provincial Park; easily accessed from Gangneung.
Stay & Eat
You will be spoiled for choice here. Accommodation offers a full-range of options, and same with restaurants. Visitors have the option of staying in the city or right on the beach. My personal favorite spot is slightly north of the main action of Gyeongpo Beach, in a little area known as Sagunjin Haebyeon. Daedeok Hos(u)tel has views over a nice beach, and is a good place to base yourself if you want to be close to both the beach and the lake. Ann’s Coffee is right next door.
After my first visit here with the Seoul Flyers running club in 2011, I visited Gyeongpo Provincial Park several more times over the years. It’s one of our top choices for taking international guests and weekend getaways.
This was one park we didn’t need to research in advance. We’d checked it out thoroughly prior to our mountain mission year.