Ah, Namhae (남해도). When I think of this gorgeous island in the South Gyeongsang Province, I think of winding seaside drives, farmlands galore, and countless beautiful views. Namhae was a highlight of the summer season, and I would love to go back one day!
Kona Cafe (코나하우스)
Kona Cafe will surpass your wildest coffee drinking dreams. The inside is decorated as a kitchen in the ’50s and it truly feels like you’re going back in time. For good weather, there is a beautiful, outside seating patio right beside the ocean. We ordered drinks and a scone but the food menu looked delicious, too!
Sachon Beach (사촌해수욕장)
There are a couple beaches on the island. The most well-known is Sangju Silver Sand Beach. Sangju Silver Sand Beach is very built up and there are lots of restaurants and convenience stores around it. It was jam-packed with families and much busier than we had hoped. Because of this, I would recommend the smaller and less-built up, Sachon Beach. It felt cleaner and less crazy but still had the same great white powder sand as Sangju. We went late in the afternoon for a quick swim and to see the sunset, and we practically had the place to ourselves!
Darengi Village (다랭이마을)
After visiting the famous Longsheng ‘Dragon Back’ Rice Terraces in China, I fell in love with rice terraces carved out of mountain sides. Unfortunately, this is a rare sight in Korea. So when I found Darengi Village, I knew I had to go! Obviously, it is much smaller and less dramatic than other places in South East Asia, but it still has a charm of its own.
Get ready for lots of walking in the Darengi Village. But don’t let that scare you off, the views are definitely worth it. If you are visiting during the summer, I suggest going early to avoid crowds and the heat of the day. It is much more enjoyable to explore the village while it is quiet. If you are lucky, you can see the locals and farmers going about their morning routines.
There are pensions in Darengi Village, but beware, restaurants and businesses in the area close early. Most visitors to the island typically do KBBQ at their pensions. If you’re planning to eat dinner out in Darengi, go early! Most places are closed before 8pm.
German Village is a little campy but it is fun to check out anyway! You can enjoy an overpriced German beer and bratwurst sausage overlooking the ocean. In October, the village hosts a replica of Germany’s Oktoberfest, complete with live performances, sausages, and of course, lots of beer.
Geumsan Boriam Temple (금산 보리암)
This is a small temple with a tremendous view! At the temple, you will feel like you are high up in the clouds. Never ending mountains and the ocean drift out farther than your eye can see. It is a sight for sore eyes, that is for sure!
You can opt to hike up the mountain, but we drove which saved some time. It is a popular spot among Koreans, so be prepared to wait in some traffic before you can drive up to the small parking lot adjacent to the temple.
On an overcast day, I would suggest skipping the temple because there isn’t much to see other than the view. Although, thick clouds may make the ambience particularly spooky. Who knows, you may luck out with a spectacular, mystical view!
Pensions are the way to go in Namhae and other rural areas of Korea. It can be a little tricky to book without a Korean friend but you can still find some nice places on booking.com or even airbnb. We stayed at the Namhae Olive Pension. I highly recommend it. It was W80,000 for a night, which is a little pricey, but for peak season, was definitely worth it. It looked newly renovated and felt clean and comfortable. Namhae Olive Pension was a five to ten minute drive from Darengi Village and felt pretty central to the other attractions on the island as well. Like most pensions, you can ask to rent a grill and coal to cook BBQ during your stay. This usually costs around W10,000.
Namhae is much easier explored by car, and I would not really recommend visiting without one. Buses are few and far between and the sites are too far apart to taxi between, unless you are willing to spend a lot of money on fares. I highly suggest renting a car to explore the island at your own leisure.
Namhae is stunning and should be more well-known among the expat community! The highlights were the Darengi Village and the Boriam Temple but there is so much more to explore on the island. It can be great to stick to guides, but I would also recommend going off the beaten path, and finding some hidden treasures for yourself! Enjoy!
Read more: Stopping Time in Bijindo