by Staff Sgt. Eric Burks
2nd Combat Camera Squadron
8/7/2011 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Summer is here, and as temperatures rise, it's a perfect time to "hit the beach!"
There is no shortage of shoreline on the Korean peninsula, and two of the most popular tourist destinations are beaches around the city of Busan and Jeju Island. However, for those interested in visiting the sand less traveled, several national parks in the ROK feature expansive beaches, hiking trails and unique cultural experiences.
Taeanhaean National Park was the first coastal park I visited, and is relatively close to Osan AB. The park covers a total area of 326 kilometers, including 230 kilometers of shore - and 26 beaches - along the west coast of the peninsula.
The name Taean translates to "big comfort," according to the to the Korea National Parks Service Web site. The area earned this name as it historically hasn't suffered major natural catastrophes, features a mild climate and an abundance of food, thereby offering a "non-weary life" for local residents.
To reach Taeanhaean, I took expressway 40 west from Pyeongtaek to expressway 15 south, then exited at national road 32 and continued west toward the cities of Seosan and Taean. Arriving at Taean, you can either keep driving west, turn north, or head south - each direction will lead to different beaches in Taeanhaean. I turned left on national road 77 to search for Baramarae Beach, located at the southernmost corner of the park.
According to the KNPS Web site, Baramarae isn't a well-known beach, and is typically not crowded. National road 77 also stays close to the coast, and features signs and directions to several other Taeanhaean beaches.
I decided to make a quick stop at the first such beach along the route: Mongsanpo. Ultimately, this would be the widest and sandiest beach I'd visit in the area. It was also one of the most developed, with a large campsite near the beach itself, and several restaurants and motels within walking distance.
The next stop was Cheongpodae Beach, just seven kilometers south on national road 77. The terrain was very similar - a wide expanse of sand, as well as similar groves of pine trees - and the beach could almost be considered an extension of Mongsanpo.
Back on the road, I followed national road 77 until it basically dead-ended in the community of Gonam-ri. I had not seen any signs for Baramarae, so I turned west and followed the harbor's narrow streets down to the water. I found fishing boats, fresh seafood markets, and even several pension communities, but no Baramarae Beach. It was now nearing sunset and shafts of light broke through a glowing, overcast sky, creating a very postcard-esque scene, empty fishing boats and all. I continued north on the local route along the shore as long as I could, stopping every few minutes at each new sweeping vista to take more photos. Eventually, the path turned away from the sea, winding through a few neighborhoods before merging back with national road 77.
Finally, as dusk settled in, I stopped at one more beach near the town of Sinya-ri. I didn't see an English translation for this beach, just a sign with a picture symbol and arrow. I parked and walked down a short hill to the beach as the surf crashed around me and the last colors of the day began to evaporate behind an island in the distance. There were only two others left on the beach - a Korean couple taking photographs. It was very peaceful and serene, and a great ending to a day of beach-hopping.
Heading back to base, I retraced my route north on national road 77, then east on national road 32 at the city of Taean. The interchange for expressway 15 is a short distance past the city of Seosan. Heading north on the expressway, it was about a 30-minute drive until I turned east on expressway 40 for Pyeongtaek. The round-trip distance was 338 kilometers, and tolls came to just 4400 Won. There were no entrance or parking fees at any of the beaches, so a day trip to Taeanhaean can be very inexpensive.
(Editor's Note: This is the seventh article in a series highlighting national parks in the ROK.)
8/9/2011 10:40:18 AM ET Since most of us on Osan are unaccompanied without access to a POV it would be awesome to get some tips on how to get to these places using public transportation. I'd love to see this beach but I have no idea how to get there.