There are four popular types of camping in Korea—glamping, campsite camping, Noji camping (wild camping) and Chabak (car or trailer camping). Out of these four, Noji camping and Chabak are my favorites.
I camp to surf. So, the most important consideration for me is how close I can stay to the beach, not how nice or convenient a camping site is. I also prefer budget options as I come to the beach every weekend.
Glamping is the most expensive option of these four, but the most convenient and luxurious. You can sleep in a tent as well equipped as a hotel without any preparation or camping gear. Despite the high price, it is a good option for anyone who values convenience and has little experience of camping. Glamping is especially popular among families with little kids. I’ve never done it before but listened to my friends’ glamping stories with a little bit of envy. I would recommend glamping if you want to take a sip of camping before buying the gear. Most glamping sites are on mountains or riversides rather than the beach. So, it’s even better if you prefer mountains or rivers to the beach for a getaway.
Campsite camping and Noji camping sound different but have many things in common. If amenities available at camping sites are necessary for you, including showers, restrooms and electricity, then you should go with a campsite. If you want to experience real nature or have a different purpose other than camping like me, I recommend Noji camping despite some hassle.
Noji camping can be difficult without enough knowledge about the area you intend to camp in. First and foremost, you need to figure out public or open restrooms. Second, make sure everything you bring can be used with a portable power station. Also, you might accidentally pitch a tent in private land or public land prohibited for camping by regulations. Some study about the area is essential before you leave for Noji camping.
If you can figure these things out, my recommendation would be strongly Noji camping over campsite camping. I understand—it requires a bit more work. But it is a priceless experience to live in pristine nature and restore your link to it.
I was lucky enough to sort these issues out and started Noji camping in Namae 1-ri, which I have been doing for over two years now.
Though I have many memories as a surfer in Namae-ri, this location gave me a lot of memories as a camper too. These two can’t be separated because the reason I camp is to surf. There was one time when I arrived to ground covered by snow with street cats around a heater in the winter. One summer night, I had to evacuate everything in my tent due to heavy rain.
There are three great beaches within Namae-ri where I camp: Namae 1-ri, Namae 3-ri and Namae Gaet Maeul. So, I have pretty good flexibility in choosing a surfing spot based on the chart. After surfing all day long, my tent gives me a cozy rest separated from noise from camp sites. Like Seorak beach, Namae-ri is right off South Yangyang interchange.
Gaet Maeul beach is small and quiet. There was no convenience store until recently. But you can have the best waves in summer among all the beaches in Gangwondo. In general, beaches with shallow water have good waves when the wave height is low. A campground is available in the summer. You can use it at a cheap price inclusive of restrooms and showers. One shortfall is the lack of restaurants nearby. But if you want to surf (or camp to surf), it’s top on my recommendation list.
Namae 3-ri is the busiest beach of these three. It is the largest among the three and has the greatest number of facilities including restrooms and convenience stores. But there is no campground, meaning you have to do Noji camping. Unfortunately, Noji camping is temporarily blocked due to COVID-19. If you want to just have some fun during the daytime, Namae 3-ri is the most convenient option.
There is Namae harbor between Namae 1-ri and Namae 3-ri. It’s such a peaceful place. Towards Namae 3-ri, you will find accommodation options and amenities. Also, there are shelters to avoid a sudden downpour. This place is not that busy with just the right number of ships coming in and out. There are always a lot of fishermen sitting at this harbor. This harbor is walking distance from all three beaches in Namae-ri. When you get bored with the beaches, it could offer a good refresher.
Namae 1-ri is my favorite. It’s the quietest beach out of the three. When I first visited Namae 1-ri, there was literally nothing. No store, restaurant or coffee shop. It’s a little bit more developed now. Namae 1-ri has the deepest water of the three beaches, so it might not work for you if you are scared of deeper water. For anyone who wants to enjoy the beach without being disturbed, Namae 1-ri is one of the best beaches you can find in Korea.
Moreover, you can get amazing waves when wave height is over a meter given the depth of the water. Namae 1-ri has fast and curly waves. So, it is better for short boards than longboards. Even if it’s not as quiet as it used to be, you can still enjoy surfing with less crowds than other spots.
I camp to surf in Namae 1-ri as I am so in love with this peaceful beach despite the few amenities nearby. You can always find me here over the weekend, chilling away from the stresses and competition of work during the weekdays. Sometimes I need to compete against other surfers here for better waves, but it’s not the same as what I experience at work. I compete with fellow surfers to live a less competitive life.