Earliest records show that a settlement was built here in 1631 by King Injo of the Joeseon dynasty.
In the 1980s, Mukho-eup, Myeongju-gun, and Bukpyeong-eup, Samcheok-gun, were merged and promoted to the city of Donghae due to their urbanization as a thriving heavy chemical industry, fishing base, and trading port. The name is derived from the nearby East Sea.
Bus is the most convenient public transport around Donghae for most people. The bus terminal is a 20-minute walk north of the downtown area (5 minute cab ride.) There are frequent buses to the Express Bus Terminal in Seoul (takes a little over 3 hours), and less frequent buses to Dong Seoul (East Seoul.) There are also buses leaving every 10 minutes for Gangneung (35–40 minutes) as well as buses to most other cities in Gangwon Province. There are 3 overnight buses to Busan.
The Yeongdong line goes through Donghae, stopping at Donghae Station (south of downtown) and Mukho Station (north of downtown). There aren't a lot of trains, however, and those there are don't go to too many places that are appealing to tourists, making the bus more convenient for most tourists.
Donghae serves as the main access point to Ulleungdo, (₩51,000 each way) with regular ferry service throughout the year (usually once or twice a day in each direction, more frequent in the summer.)
Ferries leave from Mukho Port, a 5-minute drive north of downtown.
Highway 65 ends in Donghae and connects the city to Gangneung further north. From Seoul take highway 50 to Gangneung which then leads to the 65. The trip from Seoul takes about 3 hours when there is little traffic.
South Korea uses a toll system for their inter-provincial highways. Seoul to Donghae costs ₩11,400 one way in tolls. However, if you are a group of people (at least 3) driving is a cheaper option than the bus.
For visitors who want to go to other places in Donghae City, local buses can be a good way to get around. However, the number of buses that run after 18:00 decreases, so visitors looking to catch a bus should be aware of this.
Compared to the bus, it's more comfortable and less time-consuming. The base fee is 3,800 \, with a 20% night surcharge from 00:00 to 04:00.
- 1 Cheongok Natural Cave (천곡 황금박쥐 동굴), 50 Cave-ro, ☏ . 09:00~18:00. This cave is unique as it is located under the city streets of Donghae. The cave is 400 million to 500 million years old, and visitors can sight rare stones that are rich in academic value. Adult ₩ 3,000. Teenage&soldier ₩ 1,500. Child ₩ 1,000.
- 2 Dojjavigol Sea Observatory (도째비골 해랑전망대), 13-48 Mukhojin-dong. 10:00~22:00. Does not open when the weather is bad. Admission free.
- 3 Daejin Beach (대진 해수욕장), 204-7 Daejin-dong.
- 4 Chuam Candle Rock (추암 촛대바위), San 69, Chuam-dong (near Chuam Beach), ☏ . 9:00~18:00 (March~October), 9:00~17:00 (September~February). It is called Candle Rock because the shape of the rock is like a candlestick. Free.
- 5 Nongoldam Road (논골담길), 2 Nongol 1-gil, ☏ . You can see murals on this road. Free.
- 6 Mukho Lighthouse (묵호등대), 289, Sunrise-gil, Mukho Route Sign Management Office, ☏ . 6:00~20:00 (하절기), 7:00~18:00 (동절기). You can see the sea from Mokho Lighthouse.
- 1 Mureung Valley (무릉계곡). This is a fantastic valley with several hikes of varying difficulties. You can hike to waterfalls, temples or up mountains. Admission to the valley is ₩1,500 for adults. The valley can be reached by taking any of the city buses numbered 12-something (e.g. 12-4.) The bus fare is ₩1,000.
- 2 Mangsang beach (망상 해수욕장), Mangsang-dong, ☏ . Popular beach area 8 km north of the town. Very crowded in the summer, with a very small amusement park area with a batting cage and a few rides.
- 3 Chuam Beach (추암 해수욕장), Bukpyeong-dong, ☏ . Open only July and August. A less popular but more picturesque beach a few km south of town. Free.
- Donghae Cuttlefish Festival. Late September, for three days. People can make special memories by partaking in a wide array of events in the summer ocean. Tourists can participate in contests of catching cuttlefish with bare hands, while local fishermen take part in the cuttlefish cleaning and cooking contests.
- 4 Hansom Beach (한섬 해수욕장), Cheongok-dong. Open only July and August. There is a 2.2km sea path, so you can walk while looking at the sea. There is also a photo zone where you can take pictures in the Hanseom Light Tunnel. Free.
- 5 Yuchunji by Mureung (무릉별 유천지), Igi-ro 97 Ie-ro, 2nd parking lot of Yucheonji by Mureung, ☏ . 10:00~17:30. You can enjoy sightseeing by riding various experience facilities (Sky Glider, Alpine Coaster, etc.) and trains by Mureung. Adults ₩6,000 (June–September), ₩4000 (October–May) Senior citizens, people with disabilities, and national merit ₩4,000 (June–September) and ₩3,000 (October–May) Children and teenagers ₩3000 (June–September) and ₩2000 (October–May) Infant ₩2000 (June–September), ₩1000 (October–May).
- 6 East Sea's Do-Jebi-gol Sky Cycle (동해도째비골 스카이사이클), 2-109 Mukhojin-dong, ☏ . 10:00~18:00 (Closed on Tuesday). You can experience cycling from high altitude and returning to the air. ₩15000.
E-MART is the only big chain retailer in town. They offer everything from food to clothes and electronics (think wal-mart). Apart from them, there are a number of shops in the downtown area offering your usual services. English will be limited however and bargaining is not too common in the retail stores.
Donghae has limited food options but "Soma" is quite good. there are actually 2 locations located about a block away. They offer Korean food with a slight western twist (like pizza ddockboki and pork cutlet with pepper sauce), worth a try. The fast food options are limited to KFC, Dunkin Donuts and Lotteria (the Korean McDonalds). They have good pizza at Buena Pizza (try the bacon cheeseburger). Moreover, there are of course the ubiquitous galbi and kimbab restaurants. However, those hoping for authentic western food may be disappointed.
- Pizza Hut. There is a Pizza Hut on the 2nd floor of a building in view of Lotteria and Dunkin Donuts
- 1 Donghae Bakery (동해 제빵소), 126-1, Hansom-ro, ☏ . 8:00~22:00. It is one of the famous bakeries in the East Sea.
- Ottugi Restaurant, 220-1, Balhan-Ro, Donghae, Gangwon-do, ☏ . Spicy noodle soup and dumpling soup are typical dishes, and visitors can experience what the locals eat.
- 2 Hosan Bakery, 117, Daedong-ro, Donghae, Gangwon-do, ☏ . Breads like glutinous rice doughnuts and twisted bread stick are a favorite and relatively inexpensive.
- 3 Cafe Hyunsangso(카페 현상소), 20 Nobongan-gil, Mangsang-dong, Donghae-si, Gangwon-do. It has an antique look with a European vibe and outdoor tables to enjoy the natural scenery. And almost everywhere is a photo spot.
Most of the options here are Hof and Soju bars that are all pretty much the same - they offer beer by the truckload (₩2,500 for 500ml) and soju. Many of them will expect you to order food as well since this is Korean tradition. Just politely say "no thanks" and most will leave you with you beer. Those looking for cocktails have to go to a cocktail bar and these are priced very highly. Your best bet is to head to E-Mart and get a few bottles of cheap booze if you want liquor.
- Love Motels. As with everywhere else in South Korea, there are love motels abound and Donghae is no exception. Don't be fooled by the name however, some of them can be seedy, however some can be quite special with huge beds and themed kitsch. Try the hotel "very six". A room with a pool table can be had for ₩90,000. Most rooms go for ₩50,000 a night (more on weekends).
- Jjimjilbang (찜질방). Donghae has a few of these as well. You can sleep in them for ₩6,000 a night (give or take). However its a communal experience and those looking for privacy won't find it here. For those that are willing to try a more authentic Korean experience, they are clean, safe and really cheap. The one close to the very six hotel is the best in town (near E-MART)
- Beach Camping. You can set up tents in the designated camping area at Mangsang Beach, which is 8km North of Donghae City. Camping is free.
- Take a ferry from Mukho Harbor to the island of Ulleungdo.