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Driving Around Jeju Island by Scooter | South Korea Travel Story

Driving around Jeju Island by scooter
Written by Duke Stewart

Driving Around Jeju Island by Scooter

Sometimes a place or scene will take me back to times almost forgotten. Every time I’m riding with the ocean at my side, there are memories of the first trip Christina and I took together. During our first job in Korea, we get a two-week vacation that gives us enough time to visit South Korea’s most famous destination and go driving around Jeju Island, by scooter.

Jeju at a Glance

Jeju Hamdeok Beach

Jeju is a beautiful place full of imaginative landscapes and heart-warming encounters. The island is known for many things and before the international travel boom took off, Koreans used to flock here as their ONE destination off the mainland. Newlyweds and tour groups would clog up the island during the peak season but today, foreign tourists and couples are catching on while Koreans are going elsewhere.

Peaks and Valleys

Jeju countryside

Our vacation comes just outside the summer peak season so aside from Jeju City, the roads are sparsely populated. Riding along the main highway, we find beautiful coastal views and glances at the nearly omnipresent Mt. Halla, home to South Korea’s highest peak.

 

Jeju Sunrise Peak

I can name so many great things we do or encounter while riding around. After ferrying south from Wando on the mainland, we relax at the guesthouse near Hallim Park before seeing the lovely beach nearby. Anywhere people find themselves on Jeju, a nice place to swim and get some sun is always close.

Weird Museums

Jeju Geumneung Eudomwon Beach

Following a DIY breakfast and some coffee, we jump on the scooter and pick a spot on our map and go there. Among the greatest hits are waterfalls, cliffs, caves, and museums galore. I’m not entirely sure why but each museum on the island has a competitor. There seem to be two of each with the most memorable focusing on sex and chocolate to name a couple.

KDramas and Soju

Jeju Loveland

At the end of each day, it’s back to the room where we sit on a mat and watch Korean dramas with the old lady who was either staff or the owner. She always seems to have an enjoyable evening with some sort of fruit to pass out. There are also innumerable empty bottles of soju resting on the ground nearby. Maybe that explains her kind demeanor?

Relaxing Atmosphere

Mt. Halla, taken from the botanical gardens

That place always has a relaxed atmosphere and that feeling surrounds our entire visit to Jeju. Everywhere we go, there’s no hustle and bustle found on the mainland. For once, I can stretch out my arms without them getting hit by a car or old lady rushing through. Beaches are so empty that I feel like finding a flag to claim them as my own. Driving around Jeju Island by scooter is truly a dream for me.

Camp on the Beach

Jeju Island Beach

We check out of our guesthouse a day early by mistake and camp on the beach. It’s generally prohibited here. Sand makes for a nice bed and the crashing waves contribute a lovely soundtrack to sleep through the night. I wish that this vacation will never end. I hate to be completely and overly positive but seriously, I want to go back and go driving around Jeju Island!

Walking around Sangumburi

 
Ever gone driving around Jeju Island? What did you think of this wonderful Korean island? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below:) 

About the author

Duke Stewart

As a recovering Expat, I write about Life through Travel and want you there with me through captivating stories followed by guides on how to do the same. My work has been featured in various magazines throughout Korea and in online publications including the awesome Hipmunk.com. I am also a nerd and love to point out a situation's similarities to any of my favorite movies, books, or tv shows. You've been warned:) Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates.

61 Comments

  • Jeju looks great. I remember seeing it on a “New 7 Wonders of Nature” poster at Ha Long Bay and I’ve wanted to go every since, but for some reason nothing else about Korea interests me (even though I’ve got a friend there who I should visit). I nearly got a job teaching English there a few years ago but ended up in Taiwan/Singapore instead, I’m sure I would have liked it if I actually lived there.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jon. If you visit Jeju, you’ll truly feel distanced from the rest of Korea. This place is (cliche necessary) unique and worth a visit. Some people might disagree with the “7 Wonders” bit because there was some controversy over bribes and such with them getting UNESCO status. I had a really uncomfortable class once when I wanted to talk about Jeju and didn’t realize there was some bad feelings surrounding that event.

      Teaching in Korea is a mixed bag, with lots of fun stuff in between:) I hear lots of people sort of move on to Taiwan afterwards and really enjoy it. How was your experience there?

  • I was introduced to Jeju Do by my ROK Army Counterpart in 1981. Jeju Do, he informed, meant Jeju Island and until reading your story, I’ve repeated the name phonetically without hint of accuracy.

    Our late afternoon ferry boat trip to JeJu Do began to where the host would be my friend Suk Park’s father and family. It turned out that Mr. Park — Suk’s father and revered mentor — had retired as President of Seoul University to become a “common farmer”.

    We rode a undulating two hours to a ever darkening shore-side port that was as foreign to my companion as was I to his nation and their island. Earlier on the docks before departure we had been introduced to the unique freight being delicately loaded into the hull of our hydro-wing-assisted Ferry. I recall all people present anxiously judged the concern most passengers might expect when they learn the cargo was honey bees and their mission was to help pollinate Jeju Do. Fear not, my friend toned, as tens of thousands of “beeblob” swarmed upon the shipmate’s hands that was literally feeding them smoke and sugar…”they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them”. Suk was right as rain which now pelted our departure with intermittent “plops” piercing the lingering mist.

    We landed in port as the clouded horizon disappeared all light for the evening. Our cargo mates simmered with a buzz despite other passenger’s continued gyrations several moments after the end of our pulsating voyage. We boarded a small bus to points unknown to me and Suk called out a destination I could not discern. We disembarked deep into a forested highland as dark as night itself only to discover Suk’s clear anxiety…this was not our destination, merely a place where “lost” was very understated.

    It was there and then that I learned my companion had not been to this place ever before and that his family’s farm was as new to them as was the entire journey had been to both of us. Thank you for our lighters which gave light to near-comical torches as we rambled through the hillside in search of, and the ultimate discovery of a friendly neighbor willing to upset his evening to guide his new, young neighbor to the farmland far away.

    The journey had just begun in the dark and anxious place and we hadn’t yet seen the beauty you’ve shared here with your magnificent pictures!

    • Wow, this was such a wonderful story to read. I truly appreciate you stopping by to leave a comment. How long were you in Korea? I recently met a man who was stationed here in the late 70s and wonder if you two might’ve crossed paths before.

      Anyway, I look forward to keeping in touch. Take care.

  • Jeju looks like a wonderful place! The pictures are fabulous. But I had to laugh when I read that you and your wife spent the evenings at the guest house watching Korean movies! That sounds like so much fun! But this certainly looks like it is still very much a destination!

    • Thank you so much for commenting, Jacquie! Jeju is certainly wonderful but yeah, our guesthouse atmosphere was pretty cool too. After a long day out, we spent a lot of time there relaxing and resting up for the next day. Hope you get to make it someday. Jeju is truly worth it!

    • Thanks Heidi! Jeju is definitely in the top 5 of places to visit while here. So many beautiful sights and things to find. Thanks for stopping by! Hope you liked it.

  • Wow, such beautiful pictures. I imagine it was truly wonderful to sleep on the beach. Sometimes mistakes or accidents can have wonderful outcomes. I also imagine that riding on a scooter must have been a great way to see the sites!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Erica! Sleeping on the beach is probably the best but here, it’s hard to do when in-season. There are usually designated areas that are less desirable so if one can pull off camping directly on the beach, then that’s a much better alternative.

  • You write so well and post such beautiful pictures. I had never thought of Korea as a holiday place but it seems that you have found all the hidden treasures.

  • Jeju looks like a beautiful place and your descriptions allowed me to feel the wind and hear the surf from the chair I sit in. I do think indirect triggers happen to me quite often. For some reason, I’ll think of something long forgotten, buried deep in the past and wonder what the trigger was or why I’m supposed to be remembering it. To be able to relate the scooter to your memories is even better, for I bet you’ll continue to hold those Jeju memories closer from now on.

    • Thank you for your comment. Triggers can be good and bad. I’m not too big of a fan of sharing the bad ones so great memories like Jeju are always nice to pull up.

  • Lovely photos! I met an ESL teacher when I was in Seoul. He lives and teaches on Jeju. I really enjoyed my visit to Jeju, I wonder what it would be like to live there?

    • I also wonder about that. Not sure how long I could take being on the island, as it is a bit secluded and far away from the mainland. Jeju City seems to have most things found in a normal city in Korea and when we visited, there was even foreign food to be found.

  • I’ve been to Jeju twice and really enjoyed both trips. There’s really so much to do there that you can’t see it all in just a few long weekends. Well done on traveling around by scooter. I’ve always lived in bigger cities and couldn’t imagine riding one here. How is it in Yeosu?

    • Apologies for the delayed reply. Been a disastrous past 2 weeks for my computer.

      In Yeosu, the people drive slower than in the cities but with much less intelligence. For some reason, I feel safer on my scooter at times. For the windy more country roads though, I’ll go with the car.

      I’d say Jeju is much safer than Yeosu when driving.

  • Sounds like a fun time. Currently the lack of cheap fruit keeps reminding me of vietnam and Bali. Luring me away from Korea (among a few other things) I don’t think I’ll ever be making it to Jeju so it is nice to see it through others perspectives.

    • Ah, it’s too bad you haven’t had a chance to visit there. Jeju is such a nice place but understandably, requires a long vacation to truly appreciate. I hope that someday you get an opportunity to go there. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Of course it happens to all of us! Sometimes a certain smell or sight can transport me to another place in time on our travels. That’s one of the great things about travel, right?

    We went to Jeju for our honeymoon in October so it was a different experience at that time of year. I’d love to go back in the summer and hang out on the beach!

    • Yeah, we were lucky to have visited just outside of the summer season. I’m not sure going in the middle of the summer would be best, as it might be too crowded. Worth a shot though!

  • As always your photographs are amazing. I think the volcanic ones were my favorite, thought the top picture is beautiful too. This has been a real eye opener about Korea I have to say.

  • Beautiful pictures! I’m heading to Jeju next month, I’ll refer back to this for some inspiration! Do you recall the name of the guesthouse you stayed in? I haven’t looked into accommodation yet; I probably should so things don’t book up.

    Loved the pictures as well, that beach where you camped looks like a great spot!

    • Ah man, I tried finding the place but had no luck. We stayed in the Halim area which is near the beach with all the volcanics that I showed in the post. Sorry that I couldn’t locate the exact place. Hope you have a great time though!

  • Beautiful photos Carl, but I can’t say that JeJu reminds me of Hawaii! Laugh! But no matter…it sounds and looks like you had a beautiful vacation…right down to the Korean owner who shared her evenings with you! I Love that! I’m so happy that scooter triggered this wonderful memory that you could share:)

    • I agree with you, based on talks with people from Hawaii. It was a very chill and memorable experience. Certainly one I hope to have again.

      Thanks again for commenting.

  • Those pictures are enticing. I especially like the black boulders on the beach, and those huge rock formations. What an amazing place.

  • So lovely. I will make it to more islands one of these days and manage to really get the island experience. The time allotted by the cruise ship I was on in the Mediterranean wasn’t conducive to a “real” island experience 😉

    • I’ve wanted to go on a cruise lately but was hopeful that time off-boat wouldn’t be restricted. I’m guessing you were wanting more time away?

    • It’s definitely worth a trip. You should organize your own transport though so a scooter/car is almost a must if you want to see different places.

  • That’s a great post Carl. I am gathering the island of Jeju is no small atoll. Not with a museum dedicated to sex. I noticed even the rocks are kind of phallic. I know what you mean about the fear of swinging your arms around. Must be nice to regain some space in your life.

    • Thank you Tim. I really appreciate the kind words. Jeju is one of a kind among all the islands found here. It might not be Hawaii but certainly close when considering some of the alternatives.

  • What a beautiful place! So glad you shared your experiences with those amazing photos. Our favorite sushi chef in town, is from Korea! His entire family is here now. This let’s me now say to him next time, I’ve seen the beauty of his country. On YOUR blog. Thanks.

  • What amazing memories you have of this place. Thanks for sharing. I so love the images the beautiful landscape and all the things you encountered. And to think, all it took was that scooter to bring them all back. I love it when something like that happens. The fact that you have so many great memories is a blessing. Each, I would think, you would consider each a special gift.

  • Hi Carl. All I can say is… 구경거리의 … spectacular! Your experiences of Jeju very much remind me of ours on the island of Kauai, scenic all the way around, pristine beaches, and great weather.

    FYI, your slider pop-up rises over the Pin it button, preventing a share to Pinterest.

    Kind Regards,
    Bill

    • Thanks for the FYI, Bill. You must be referring to the caption that pops up. I’ll take a look at that and see if I can fix it.

      Jeju is a great place. If you ever get a chance to come to Asia, please mark it as a goto destination okay?

  • Hi Carl – love your photos – the ones of the deer statue and the waterfall in JeJu were my favourites. These are wonderful stories and I think the Korean Tourism Industry should be made aware of how much you do for their tourism.
    Lenie

    • If only Korea Tourism knew how much I love their country, I’d probably have my dream job. But all I can do is continue writing about this marvelous place, I suppose.

  • When you consider just how amazing your memories of Jeju are it’s startling that it took the scooter to bring them flooding back, but then our minds are built to help us cope. Given the beautiful expanses and interesting things you are encountering on a regular basis, it’s no surprise your mind has decided that flooding you with those memories on a regular basis would not be ideal. This way you get an unanticipated treat with each recall and you can take the time to appreciate each memory for the rare jewel it is. Thanks for sharing your treasures with us.

  • Hi Carl; thanks for sharing your memories, and yes that is all it takes for a thing a noise a scent a voice to remind us of our favorite times. it does sound like you are due another trip to jeju. and you ar right all vacations should be about finding sunsets and a few sunrises. 🙂 Your post makes me want to get out my shorts and flip flops, put some jimmy buffet on the mp3 player and fill the blender. wonder where I put it anyway? 😉 keep the posts coming, Max

  • Your time in Jeju sounds awesome! We will be heading there in two weeks, provided we can find a ferry and I am all the more excited for it now! Thanks for sharing 🙂