Driving from Tongyeong to Geoje

The drive from Tongyeong to Geoje is about 30 minutes. However, the journey from Yi Sun-sin Park (earlier post), in Tongyeong, to Windy Hill, in Geoje, took over an hour. Both scenic points are located at the southernmost tip of each island city. We would spend the night in Geoje. Most Korean hotels and pensions have a late check-in and we weren’t in a hurry. In summer (2019), the sun sets pretty late and we had a couple of hours before calling it a day.

Geoje is about an hour away from Busan. It might be a better idea to explore Geoje from Busan — if you’re coming from Seoul or driving along the east coast. There’s a lot to explore in Geoje and the regional tourist site might be a good starting point to plan a longer trip.

Traditional Korean Techniques

Driving in rural Korea can be a rewarding experience. There are so many interesting cultural practices that aren’t easy to spot in the big cities or popular tourist sights. We had learned about traditional Korean fishing (using rods) in Namhae. However, I’m not sure if this is a traditional fishing or farming technique. From our Namhae trip, I just assumed it’s a traditional way to catch fish.

Hallyeohaesang National Park

The winding roads of Geoje were deserted on a Friday afternoon. The route wasn’t too challenging and I didn’t need to focus on the direction boards or road map. The scenery changed from idyllic farms, quaint village roads, towering trees to green mountains.

Wildflowers popped sporadically. Unlike Namhae, where I felt intimidated by the lack of human presence, in Geoje, the isolation was a treat.The weather was nice and cool for a change.

We drove deeper into Hallyeohaesang Marine National Park. In the month of June, hydrangeas covered the sloping hills on the side. I’m not sure if they were planted or naturally grow in the summer months. Driving through a tunnel of trees is one of the most soothing parts of the drive to ‘Windy Hill‘.

Windy Hill

It wasn’t easy finding parking here. We were surprised to see so many Korean tourists appear from nowhere. Most of them were leaving and we found a spot to squeeze (literally)/park the car. There are many tourist shops and cafes just before the stairs that lead to top of the hill. The wooden windmill, on the top, is Windy Hill’s top tourist draw.

Manicured lawns with well-marked walking trails covered the hill. Last summer was quite hot and it was nice to enjoy the occasional sea breeze.

Speed boats took tourists for a spin in the sea or possibly closer to the hazy island in the distance. We didn’t have the time to explore these options and focussed on the views from the top.

It would have been nice to sit on a chair and enjoy the natural beauty of this green island in Hallyeohaesang National Park. The fact that every chair was empty — indicated how hot the weather actually was.

Windy hill is a manicured cliff that overlooks the sea and cascading mountains of the national park. Dense foliage covered every inch of the small islands.

It’s a steep and quick climb to the wooden windmill. The views from this vantage point are totally worth it. Most Koreans were obsessed with the wooden windmill and couldn’t get enough of it. Two popular K-Dramas have been shot here and that’s possibly one of the reasons why it’s so famous.

There’s another trail that leads into the woods. We knew we didn’t have the time to explore that trail and we preferred to walk towards the village settlement.

After an internet search, I finally found out the name of these flowers that pop from every divider in Seoul during summer. I love these flowers so much that we’ve bought a plant in every summer. These flowers are called petunia surfinia (or vice versa)and were growing abundantly along a long railing to the other end of the village road.

The village (my guess Dopojang village) was quieter and perfect to enjoy long shots of windy hill. Remember to speak softly in such villages and try to respect locals while photographing houses or people. Always ask permission — if you see someone. Lookout for boards on photography. The government wants to attract tourists to such villages, by inviting local artists to paint murals on the walls; but one must also understand that for most locals it can be annoying to find a dozen snapping cameras. We walked in silence and enjoyed the narrow village roads.

Petunia flowers lined the outer perimeter of the village road and made a wonderful foreground to those gorgeous views.

Eating roasted chestnuts is quite popular here and we bought a pack of chestnuts from a local stall. I was quite hungry and those warm chestnuts hit the spot.

We continued walking to the main road and discovered another parking lot on the top. I guess, the GPS leads you to the parking closest to the location of your destination. There’s a touristy museum nearby. We weren’t able to pick up a tourist map of Geoje and the map on the board was our reference for the day.

Sinseondae Cliff

We were lucky to find a wonderful cliff — hidden in plain sight. Windy Hill was the main attraction, however, I preferred the solitude and uninterrupted (non-gimmicky) views from Sinseondae Cliff.

Views like these can get anyone’s energy levels back on track. I felt invigorated and didn’t think twice before walking closer to the base.

Yellow wildflowers were growing in wild abandon and tiny islands emerged out of the sea. It was a perfect setting for a picnic.

The walking trail goes right to the base and if you look closer (second pic), you can spot a couple of people on the edge of the rock.

These rocks were quite unique in texture and composition. Wind and water erosion had sculpted the cliff into nicely sliced slabs. Vegetation was denser at the top and the base was mostly abundant in shrubs, grass, and wildflowers.

Water formed a small chasm between two rock faces and it looked pretty spectacular from the other side.

We found orange algae (possibly lichen) on multiple rock surfaces. It looked quite pretty in the evening sun. Wildflowers formed pretty bouquets and spilled out of rock crevices.

The walk back to the top and the parking lot felt very long. We would have liked to explore more and possibly stay back here.

Dopojang Mural Street

We passed murals and street art on the way back to the parking lot. Unlike other mural villages (it’s a thing in Korea), most paintings were losing colour and the flowers caught our attention instead. Hydrangeas and ice plants dotted the sloping hills on the side of the narrow road.

Pension Adventures

Our pension was located on the top of a narrow village road. It’s always better to rent a smaller car in Korea — especially if you’re doing village exploration. Basil had to gently manoeuvre the car through this narrow road. The owner/caretaker couldn’t speak English and there was some confusion regarding payment. When everything was settled, we finally enjoyed the view from our window.

Our room overlooked colourful rooftops of village houses, the sea, and Hallyeohaesang National Park. It was the perfect view and setting to end a long day of exploration.

Hakdong Beach

On the next morning, we stopped for breakfast at Hakdong Beach. We had a long way to go back to Yeosu — to return the rental car. We started early in the morning to get a head start and skip traffic.

Hakdong Beach is known for its black pebbles. There’s a story about a young girl who took a pebble back to her country and returned it to South Korea — after her mother found it in her bag.

We walked for a bit and sat to enjoy the cool breeze. It was last day of our very long summer trip (2019) and we were sad to go back to city life.

Green Sanctuary

The best part of having your own car (despite problems with navigation and language) is the luxury of stopping wherever and whenever you want. We found this pretty sanctuary on the way and it was hard to leave. The next couple of hours were spent navigating (and also getting lost) through highways, rotaries, tolls, and tunnels. We retraced our path from Geoje to Yeosu via Tongyeong and Namhae. It turned out that we had to return the car a day earlier and had to pay an additional fee (with a fine) to the rental agency. After that, we left our bags in a local hostel and spent our last day walking around Yeosu.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

24 replies on “The Best of Geoje (거제도) in a Day

    1. Our petunias didn’t last through summer…or possibly we just killed them with our travel. 😦 Korean pensions are very well located. 🙂 the views are perfect for escaping the city.

  1. This was such a scenic write-up about your trip in Windy Hill, Geoje. One hour is not long to get there at all. This is the side of Korea you don’t see that often in mainstream media, and from your photos, driving in rural Korea is a picturesque experience. The roads do look quiet on a Friday – probably a weekday and also perhaps this is a side not yet too popular with tourists, and also perhaps with what’s going on in the world right now.

    I like the phrse ‘manicured lawns’. I think that is so apt to describe the neat greenery you saw alongside the windmills and waters. It is respectful of you to be mindful of photographing people’s houses there no matter how attractive they look. If it were someone taking a photo of my own house, I’d feel like my privacy has been invaded.

    Hope you are doing well over there, Cheryl. Stay safe.

    1. Hi Mabel! It’s been such a long time since we chatted. We’re fine. Expat life has its highs and lows. 🙂 I try focussing on staying positive. Trust you’ve been well too.
      Thank you for your wonderful comment. We were planning on going to Russia last summer (2019) and had to cancel because we couldn’t work out a plan. So, we decided to make the most of the trip around Korea. It’s taken me a year to complete this trip. 🙂 I had to write this down before I forgot about it. We like travelling away from tourist sights (not that there is anything wrong with visiting them) and I like the solitude one finds in nature. Seoul can be quite cramped and we live in a busy junction surrounded by office spaces. I crave isolation and solitude. 🙂 I’m so glad you liked this side of Korea. My Korean friends are equally amazed. 🙂

      1. Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve chatted. That’s good you are staying positive. It’s what I’m doing too. Your trip around Korea seems to not disappoint judging by your posts on it. I’ve read a lot of blogs about travelling around Korea and they mainly focus on the city centres. Your Korea travels really stand out – it’s different and showcases the quiet beauty where you are. Solitude is an amazing thing 🙂

      2. Thank you for such a wonderful comment, Mabel. 🙂 We’ve always lived in big cities and probably that’s why we feel the need to escape it all. Most travellers (to Korea) have a limited number of days and prefer to stick to the tourist trail. I get that. I write these posts for to journal of memories and for expats who might want to try the off-beat trail. Solitude is truly priceless. Take care!

      3. Big cities are amazing but there are always good things about quieter places too. Hope you continue these posts that are so refreshing 🙂

    1. Seriously! Geoje has some nice islands too. Stranger season 2 is out this month. We’ve been watching ‘World of the Married’ and ‘It’s OK to not to be OK’. Crash Landing was pretty funny too. Long way to master Korean though! 😦

  2. Looks like you had a field day being treated to all that stunning scenery that seems to go on and on. I was under the impression that Koreans are quite okay with photos being taken of their home and garden… provided it is not excessive, of course. It should be seen as a compliment that the gardens are so well-looked after and manicured that they serve as an inspiration to want to photograph and recall that moment.

    1. Actually, we were very tired because we had done a small hike in Tongyeong in the morning and the heat was quite terrible. I wish we can try slow travel in the future. 🙂 These cultural villages are quite famous in Korea. We visited our first village, in Busan, on my first trip to Korea (2015). Back then, an elderly lady shooed Basil when we clicked pictures of the doors. We weren’t aware of the rules. In Seoul, there’s a hanok village that was so frustrated with tourists that its residents have put restricted visiting times. Clicking photographs in Korea has strict rules for locals. Most foreign visitors aren’t aware of them.

    1. These marine national parks are stunning. I wish we had a couple of days to take a ferry to the smaller islands. We might consider going back. 🙂 We saw our first windmill in Suncheon Gardens. It was a Dutch theme or something. 🙂

  3. What is evident from your pictures is how organized travel industry in S.K. is. every place is so orderly unlike the chaos here.

    1. Hmm… actually the main tourist spots (Geoje being one of them) are relatively easy for self travel. The public transport system is very efficient and you don’t need to rent a car. However, there are many scenic spots in Korea that are very difficult to reach and language becomes a big barrier. Information is scarce and sometimes even food can be a problem. 😦 Most Korean tourism revolves around K-Pop and K-Dramas. Anything outside these trails is very hard to reach.

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