Muuido, (Korean: 무의도), also known as Muui Island, is a small island in South Korea. It is south of Yeongjong Island, thus very close to (even visible from) Incheon International Airport. It is served by a car ferry from the Jamjinnaru ferry terminal, which crosses the narrow channel separating the island from the mainland.
The island's name, Muui, means "dancer's dress" in Korean hanja (한자). It was the filming location of the 2003-2004 Korean soap-opera Stairway to Heaven. Muui-do is popular with casual tourists and day-trippers, who like to explore the hills and visit the beaches.
Muuido is hilly and covered in vineyards. The shores are alternately craggy, reddish rock and soft, golden sand. On the west coast, there are two main beaches, Hanaggae Beach in the south and Silmi Beach further north. Silmi Island is a smaller uninhabited island off the northwest coast of Muuido.
Flora and fauna
Seaside, there are many shellfish; you may find endless small snails and hermit crabs and of course, ambiguous seagulls. In the wetlands, you may see egrets. Because locals live in houses with yards (contrary to small city apartments), there are many larger dogs tied up outside, all very friendly. Trees are mostly pine, and grapes are grown in small patches everywhere.
As in Seoul, Muuido experiences warm springs and rainy summers and autumns. Temperatures stay mild into October, although, being seaside, feel chilly when cool breezes pick up. Winters may be too cold to enjoy Muuido's beaches.
From Incheon International Airport's Departure terminal (3rd floor), exit at gate 5 and board bus 222 (a T-money card will work for this bus). Bus 306 also takes you to the port, but it is a 10-minute walk from this bus stop to the ferry. The 222 route is a shuttle (back and forth), so it is simple to reach the Jamjinnaru ferry terminal. This car ferry runs every 15 to 30 minutes, from 7AM to 8PM (last ferry departure: 7:45PM) and you will be able to see it shuttling between the two ports. On foot, visit the building to the right, housing ticket counters. You can walk right along the pier to the ferry, and will be directed aboard. Your tickets will be taken, as you do not need them to return. The ferry ride takes about five minutes. There are public buses at the port of arrival, servicing the entire island.
Fees and permits
The ferry to the island costs ₩3,000 each for an adult on foot, and is free to return to mainland. Normal busfare of ₩1,000 (no T-money) applies for any route. You will be charged ₩2,000 each to pass the gates onto Hanaggae Beach on foot, since it is a park (유원지, yuwonji).
Public buses access all areas of interest on Muui-do, and there are few taxis. The bus from the port of arrival does a clockwise route around the island, heading southeast, then winding back up and over to Hanaggae Beach in the west, then to Silmi Beach, then back to the ferry. If you arrive at night, there will be smaller beige vans in lieu of green buses. You can call the bus and van operators at 010-3045-4493 for pick up. From Silmi Beach to Hanaggae Beach, transfer at the ferry stop (additional fare). The main green bus takes T-Money; the vans do not.
Recreationally, there are many hiking trails, and horses (on Hanaggae Beach) and ATVs (on Silmi Beach) to rent on the beach. It is a hilly but pleasant place to bring your bicycle.
Hanaggae Beach is a wonderful place for a laid-back weekend vacation. The entire island is quiet but beautiful, and easy to explore. Muui-do is an ideal place to get away from Korea's noisy cities, and just relax.
Down on Hanaggae Beach past the gates, there are sometimes horses to ride for ₩10,000 to the left, and ATV rentals to the right or on Silmi: ₩25,000 for 30 minutes. Further up from the water there is a small cluster of buildings resembling a shanty town, with signs boasting more seafood restaurants, and even a noraebang.
Often, an impromptu game of kick-ball will break out between ajumas and ajeossis, older Korean men and women. You will most likely meet other weigukin, foreigners living in Korea.
Bring playing cards or dice in case of rain!
Small convenience stores sell very basic camping, shellfish-harvesting and hiking gear. You will also find ramen noodles, canned goods, chips and refrigerated beer, soju and makgeolli, and ice cream bars. Most stores close before 10PM. If you arrive and it's quiet out (no other tourists staying), expect things to be closed even earlier.
On Hanaggae Beach, there is one convenience store on your right as you enter the gates and are close to the beach. Look for the picnic table outside and giant jugs of hot water for ramen. They have ramen, beer, soju, snacks, and even sandals. They do not sell cigarettes, but you can find these in one of the restaurants down the beach on the right, next door to Yung Jun's Food Court (the restaurants with patio seating).
You will be hard-pressed to find anything but seafood on the island. Restaurants can be more expensive than in the city, and serve the usual Korean staples of squid, shellfish, and even shrimp and starfish. Once summer has passed, many restaurants remain closed or vacant.
There are outdoor barbecues in front of the beach huts on Hanaggae Beach, which you may use to cook your own food, if you bring coal, grills and raw food. You may also eat a very cheap convenience-store meal on the picnic tables, next to hot water dispensers.
There are no bars on the beaches, but in true Korean style, there is cheap alcohol available in convenience stores and restaurants. Only Korean brands of beer are offered, so BYOB if you want anything else.
On Hanaggae Beach, there are many small beach huts available to rent. Some are amongst trees and include facilities, but the rows directly on the beach come highly recommended. These are like miniature minbaks on stilts, with many windows, and heated floors much like that (온돌, ondol) in traditional Korean houses. Thus, they are comfortable in the cooler months of spring and autumn. You are provided with used pillows and yos (Korean quilt-mats) to sleep on, but may want to bring more blankets and a mattress pad or something for comfort as it's just a hard floor. These huts only measure about 2 m², and therefore sleep a maximum of four people (like sardines). One of these huts costs ₩30,000 a night, plus a ₩10,000 key deposit (refunded to you when you check out). There are many vacancies in the spring and autumn, and although the counter posts hours of 2PM for check-in, the owners are often willing to let you in earlier. Check-out is at noon. This is a popular destination for foreign EFL teachers, so it may be busier during school holidays.
Near the port of arrival, there are family pensions. Camping on the beach is also an option. Bonfires are not permitted on Hanaggae Beach.
Buses run regularly from all the beaches. The car ferry is free to board to return to Yongyu, and bus 222 will take you back to the airport.