Juwangsan National Park
Far to the east of Andong and reaching almost to the coast, the 106-sq-km Juwangsan National Park is dominated by impressive limestone pinnacles that seem to appear from nowhere. Beautiful gorges, waterfalls and cliff walks also feature, and with any luck you’ll see an otter or protected Eurasian flying squirrel, among the 900-plus wildlife species here.
If you’ve ever wanted to swim on a beach in full view of the world’s second-largest steel plant, Pohang is the place for you. A large and rather bland city best known as home to Posco (Pohang Iron and Steel Company), Pohang does actually boast a pretty decent beach, though a fairly unpleasant smell pervades much of the place.
Woraksan National Park
Spread across two serene valleys, this park offers fine hiking through picturesque forests, with pretty waterfalls, ancient Buddhist structures and, if you climb high enough, views all the way to Chungju-ho. Worak-san (Moon Crags Mountain) is also home to the endangered long-tailed goral.
Connected to the mainland by the 8km Busan-Geoje Fixed Link bridge and tunnel, Korea’s second-largest island is famous for its massive shipbuilding industry and natural beauty. The coastal scenery varies between pastoral and industrial, with the best views in and around Haegeumgang (해금강).
Taean Haean National Marine Park
This beautiful marine park covers 327 sq km of land and sea, with 130 islands and islets, and more than 30 beaches. It was badly hit by South Korea’s worst-ever oil spill in December 2007, but the coast has been cleaned up and fishing and tourism have resumed with aplomb. At the southern end is Anmyeondo (www.anmyondo.
Sedate little Samcheok is the gateway to an unusual mix of sightseeing spots. Within an hour’s bus ride are spectacular limestone caves, an inimitable ‘penis park’ (phallic sculptures, not body parts) and pretty beaches tucked away in quiet coves. The town has a rousing Full Moon Festival in February, with tug-of-war competitions.
If you’re looking for a beachside escape within easy reach of Seoul, Muuido fits the bill perfectly. Much less developed than Yeongjongdo, the island has several lovely beaches. However swimming is only possible during high tide; during low tide the water recedes substantially, turning it into mudflats.
If you like undeveloped beaches and the salty smell of fish, skip out to Sapisdo, 13km from Daecheon. There isn’t much to do here except hit the beach or wander between the two villages, Sulttung and Bamseom. You’ll see locals mending fishing nets, collecting shellfish at low tide or working in the rice paddies.