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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

The Beaches of Ulsan

By Deirdre Madden

Beach culture in Korea is slightly different to what many of us are used to at home. Many Koreans only go to the beach during “swimming season” which is roughly the month of August. This month sees some beaches, like Haeundae in Busan, crammed to capacity with hundreds of thousands of people. You can rent sun-umbrellas, which are typically set up touching each other, so you can sit together with your friends in the shade along with the thousands of other people.

A nice, relaxing day at the beach, with 1,000,000 of your closest friends and relations

 

Ulsan’s beaches are less popular, and even in peak times will only have hundreds of people huddled together under their beach umbrellas. There is still plenty of beach available to those strange souls who want some space around them, or (gasp!) to lie out in the sun.

As a coastal city, Ulsan has a number of beaches that are well worth visiting if you’re in need of a dose of sand and salt air.

South of the city:

Jinha Beach is a beautiful, sandy beach just to the south of Ulsan’s petrochemical industrial complex, which was named Ulsan’s Best Beach in the “Best of Ulsan 2012” survey. The town of Jinha has been undergoing serious renovations in the last few years, and now boasts a number of swank-looking hotels and restaurants, as well as convenience stores and traditional fish restaurants. A huge walking bridge, meant to resemble two cranes, straddles the river to join Jinha to its smaller, fishing-village neighbor to the north.

Myeongcheon Bridge at Jinha

There is also an island, Myeongseondo, part way down the beach, which you can wade to during low tide.  At night, it’s lit up, which makes the view from a restaurant window quite lovely.

Windsurfers at Jinha

Jinha is close to Gangeolgot, the lighthouse on peninsular Korea’s easternmost point of land. This is the spot the sun touches first when rising on New Year’s Day, making it a popular destination for sunrise on both Jan.1 and Seolnal (Lunar New Year).

Looking out over Jinha

Behind Jinha, the walls of a Japanese fortress, Seosaengpo, sit atop a hill, overlooking the town. In the spring, the trees in the fortress blossom bright pink, as Jason explains in his article.

Due to its reliable trade winds, Jinha is also home to the annual Ulsan Profession Windsurfing Association World Cup, which attracts top international windsurfing competitors. The website windsurfaddicts.com refers to Jinha beach as “Korea’s windsurfing mecca”. The event takes place in May each year.

 

In the city:

Ilsan Beach is located in Dong-gu, between Bangeojin and Seobu-dong. It, too, has recently undergone a huge transformation. Gone are the cheap arcades and batting cages, the old-style, run down restaurants, and tacky “coffee” shops that sold Maxim pre-mixed coffee packets to couples looking for the romantic setting more than a decent cup of joe. It’s all been replaced with modern, up-market coffee shops and restaurants, from Angel-in-us at one end, to Starbucks on the other.  The convenience stores have expanded to offer more beach-necessities along with their beer and snacks.

The strip at Ilsan Beach

The beach itself is also being renovated. The northern end, which previously held a shanty-town of fishing shacks and boats, has been cleared up and cleaned out. While there are still some fishing boats in the harbour, there are also pleasure craft, like sailboats and jet skis. A brand-new fish market has been set up, too, with restaurants above it, which look out over the bay, towards the pine forested cliffs on the south side.

Garbage cans!

There are also trash-cans set up along the beach now, during peak seasons, and the road is lined with vendors selling food, including kebab, along with fireworks and cheap toys.

The cliff along the south side is home to Ulgi Lighthouse, the Pine Tree Forest, and Daewangam Rock, part of the 12 Scenic Sites of Ulsan. A set of stairs from the end of the beach will lead up into the forest, where you can wander along the cliff to the lighthouse, and out onto Daewangam rock. According to legend, upon her death, Queen Munmu’s ashes were placed on the rock so that her spirit would transform into a sea-dragon to protect Korea from its enemies.

Daewangahm

North of the city:

The north coast of Ulsan is quite beautiful, and offers many beaches. But rather than the golden sand of Jinha, many of the north coast beaches are pebble-covered. While this cuts down on the amount of sand in your picnic, it is less comfortable for walking or lying on. They are, however, less crowded, less developed and quite beautiful.

Hi Jujeon!

Jujeon Black Pebble Beach is another of Ulsan’s twelve scenic sites, and as such is the more crowded of the northern beaches. It’s a short drive from Nammok, and has lots of fish restaurants and pensions nearby. The pebbles are worn smooth by the waves, and hold the heat, turning the whole beach into a hot-rock massage spa. **Check out our article on Jujeon Beach**

Whale lighthouse at Jeongja

The Jeongja Coast makes for a lovely scenic drive if you have your own vehicle. Leave the newly constructed highway behind, and take the old coast road, which winds its way along the shore through sleepy fishing villages, and allows you to discover tiny secluded beaches and inlets, some sandy, others pebbly. You can still find old Korea out here; soju and makkoli tents poke their heads out between the newer hotels and coffee shops popping up along the way. And, of course, there are plenty of fish restaurants. Most are owned by or associated with the fishermen, so you’re getting the freshest seafood possible. The town of Jeongja has a large fish market, if you’d like to take some home with you, or buy crab from a store-front and have the restaurant upstairs cook it for you, side-dishes included. If you’re not a fish-eater, you might want to pack your own lunch.

Jujeon Coast

All of these locations are accessible by bus, though the journey can be long, and the buses infrequent. Check the Ulsan Online Bus Route info for more details. Vehicles will want to try either highway 14 or 31 south to Jinha, or 31 north to Jujeon or Jeongja. Road 1027 from Nammok will also lead you out to the Jujeon/Jeongja/Gangdong coast.

Or, you can join everyone else at Haeundae! It’s famous, after all.

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