Overview: Things to Do in Nami Island, Autumn (Day trip from Seoul)
“You must go to Nami Island! It’s beautiful in Autumn,” my sister in law recommended.
Snippets of memory came to mind. A pair of lovers walked down a frosty white lane and slow music played in the background. It must be magical walking down the wintry lane lined with thin tall trees stretching out their bare branches coated in snowflakes. The scenes from the Korean drama, Winter Sonata 겨울연가 (2002), made the impressionable young me fell in love with winter.
On my first trip to Korea ten years ago, I got a chance to visit the Winter Sonata scene at Nami Island. However, the thought of squeezing with the torrent of drama fans made me shelved my plans.
I was hoping that after all the Winter Sonata hype has died down, there will be less crowd. And even though it’s not winter, Nami island is highly raved as a beautiful place to enjoy the autumn colours. So off we went!
About Nami Island
Initially, Nami Island was simply a Winter Sonata filming location to me. But having been there and learning about its background online, Nami Island is so much more than its K-Drama appeal.
Culturally: Naminara Republic
First and foremost, Nami Island is a micronation that’s officially known as Naminara Republic. It declared independence from the Republic of Korea in 2006 and has its own flag, currency, passport, stamp, and national anthem. You will also need to get an “entry visa” before you can board the ferry to Nami island. Even so, according to Wikipedia, this independence isn’t recognized by world governments or major international organizations.
The flag of Nami Island has a star and a crescent, and together they resemble the symbol for Islam. And seeing how there were many muslims at the prayer rooms and at Asian Family Restaurant Dongmoon (Halal), I would think that there’s substantial Islam influence on the island. See the photo at namisum.com/en/dish/restaurant to get an idea of what I meant.
Nami Island (translated from Nami-Seom) is in the middle of the Han River and was formed by seasonal rain. The construction of the Cheongpyeong Dam in 1944 sheltered it to become a permanent island.
It is now shaped like a crescent moon and only ~4km from one end to the other. Hence you can easily explore the island as a day trip from Seoul. Depending on where you are in Seoul and the transport mode, it generally takes about two hours of travel.
Directions: From Seoul to Nami Island
From Seoul, you first have to get to Gapyeong Ferry Wharf. Thereafter you can either take the slow ferry to Nami Island or zoom your way there by zip-lining across the waters.
For a step by step guide of getting to Nami Island, refer to my “From Seoul to Nami Island” post.
(Unrelated to Nami Island, you can skip this long section unless you want some juicy travel stories)
Juicy Tale (Part 1): Missing Hubby
“Did you see where daddy went?” I asked Evangeline in desparation and she blinked back. We were at Gapyeong train station, and the plan was to catch the shuttle bus for Nami Island’s ferry wharf. Now, I was at loss of what to do.
Earlier on, I was adjusting the baby carrier on me while Evangeline stood on the stone chair before me. The train had zoomed away and the the alighting crowd scurried past us for the escalators. Hubby was supposed to be beside me by now, but perhaps he was busy handling the bags.
After I buckled Evangeline into the baby carrier, I turned around. The hairs on my head stood. I waited for the crowd to thin. My heart pounded faster and faster. As the bustling and crowd died down to silence and emptiness, I stared at the stroller on the empty platform and froze. No bag, no money, no handphone, and no idea of hubby’s temporary Korea number.
I looked behind me and back to the stroller, and back again. Picking up the folded GB Pockit stroller, and carrying Evangeline, I scoured the platform. Did hubby lost me in the crowd and went searching without the stroller? Was he abducted because he had all our valuables?
I headed down to the ticket gantries and waved desperately to catch the attention of someone, anyone out there. But everyone was busy talking. Finally one girl spotted me but she pretended to ignore me as I mouthed “help” and wildly gesticulated to the guys in uniform. I was exasperated.
Later I realised, I could have easily exited the gantry because unlike in Singapore, the gate was unlocked. Anyway, after some back and forth, I was finally directed to a station staff who spoke fluent English.
Juicy Tale (Part 2): Finding Hubby; Hubby Found
“Viewing of CCTV footage is only allowed if you make a police report.” And the staff was super reluctant to contact the police and simply asked me to wait, assuring me that they had contacted the staff before and after this station.
I was indignant and helpless. I wanted to see from the CCTV if hubby went back into the train or got abducted. Every minute was crucial if he was abducted. On hindsight, I seemed to be making a mountain out of a molehill. But in moments like these, I prepare for the worst.
I could only suck thumb and wait. After perhaps half an hour or so, a staff informed me that my hubby was spotted in the next station and should be arriving in this or that timing. Then after waiting for another half an hour, a staff called me out of the office.
“Is that your husband?” He pointed to a distance, a man with two big bags was frantically running around.
The staff hollered to get hubby’s attention.
Hubby ran towards us and gave us a big hug. “I was so scared something might happen to you two.” Hubby hugged us again. I heaved a sigh of relief. One to two hours meant for Nami Island was lost, but we were glad we were all unharmed.
Turned out Evangeline had waved to hubby who re-entered the train to get the ticket stubs (which he thought was required). If only she had started speaking. He got off the next station and bought a ticket to return to Gapyeong station. He didn’t inform any staff about me, and yet the staff was sharp to observe him and his purchase and deduce he is my husband.
What a scare. But this incident made our love sweeter.
Transportation within Nami Island
As soon as our first steps landed on Nami Island, the sky started to drizzle and then became heavier in mere seconds. Along with many others from the same ferry, we rushed to the nearest shelter, NamiShop, and crowded the souvenir/provision shop’s entrance and surroundings.
We were contemplating whether to buy the S$20 umbrella, or to wait for the rain to subside. In the end, we decided to forge on without an umbrella, making up for the lost time from the “missing hubby” incident. I simply shielded the sleeping baby with a nursing cover and donned on a hoodie. But the rain did stop eventually, but we had a slightly hard time navigating the baby stroller on muddy grounds and puddles.
“Should we take the UNICEF train? Probably a good way to explore in the rain.” I pointed to the ticketing booth. A one way ticket for one pax is ₩3,000 (S$3.70).
Hubby shook his head. “It’s more interesting to explore on foot.”
Walking did allow us to take photos as and when we want. Renting and riding on bicycles could also give the same flexibility. We saw young men riding bicycles on wet grounds after the rain had stopped. But if bicycle is too ordinary for you, you can also rent electric tri-way, sky-bike, and story tour bus to get around Nami Island.
For boarding points, pricing and telephone numbers of the different transportation: namisum.com/en/information
Exploring: What to Do on Nami Island
Walking from NamiShop, we walked past a pine tree lane and sought shelter in Seomhyanggi restaurant.During the heavy downpour, we satisfied our hunger with barbecue meat and stew. Will share my review of this restaurant and dining options in my next post.
Miraculously, the rain stopped after we finished our meal. Beside Seomhyanggi restaurant, we took a walk around a small pond. Golden leaves gently floated in still waters and fallen leaves gloriously peppered the wooden platform.
Central Korean Pine Tree Lane
The pine tree lane we walked through to reach the restaurant is the Central Korean Pine Tree Lane. It’s near to the ferry wharf and modestly lined with green tall trees. Wasn’t this supposedly the magical lane of Winter Sonata? My heart sank. Although there was a row of bright yellow trees beside it (as photo below), this was not what I had in mind.
I was upset that we made a wasted trip – the leaves had yet to fully change colours. The green is underwhelming, so don’t go during summer. As we walked along the pine trees sheltering us from the rain, we didn’t know that a lane dressed in autumn beauty would soon awe us.
Gingko Tree Lane
“Wow! Look at that!” I couldn’t contain my excitement. We did not make a wasted trip after all. The Gingko tree lane near the restaurant was glowing in a beautiful yellow. The bright yellow accompanied by falling leaves is such a beautiful interplay between melancholy and jubilee. This is what autumn rave is about.
Although this is not the filming location of Winter Sonata, it still has the vibes to it. We took photos from all angles — far, near, squat and stretch. Sadly, there were just too many people to photobomb or block us. I overheard that the crowd burgeoned in the afternoon. It could also be because everyone came out to play after the rain. Regardless, visit Nami Island as early as you can, before the throng of tourists descend upon the island.
Other Tree-Lined Paths of Nami Island
I wasn’t expecting autumn colours lining the path because I didn’t know that there were more than one tree-lined path on Nami Island. In fact, there are fifteen walking lanes marked on Nami Island’s map! Spot them in the Nami Island Brochure: (Chinese Version) (English Version).
Visit Cherry Tree lane for spring blossoms or Metasequoia lane for Winter Sonata’s Couple Statue and filming location. In autumn, reed woods lane that meanders along the shore is said to create a beautiful backdrop for photo enthusiasts. Too bad we didn’t have time to visit this lane.
Other than tree-lined paths, there are also tree clusters of orange, yellow and red in different parts of the island. Sujaewon Garden beside Gingko tree lane was cloaked in a beautiful yellow as well and less crowded than the lane. So if you want to take some photos with less stress, you might want to consider this area.
From there, we strayed to a less-ventured area and found a blanket of fallen leaves. Angled the camera and Evangeline seemed to be walking on the sea of autumn.
On our way back to the ferry terminal, we detoured to Baekpungmilwon Maple garden and picked up a few red maple leaves as souvenirs. A pretty red place to take instagram worthy photos too.
Along our way back, we also saw various photo points such as the one in the photo below. I should have joined the others sitting on the autumn cushion and pose as if I was rolling in the leaves. Instead, I tried to throw leaves to capture a falling leaves effect, but epic fail. So I hastily left the scene in embarrassment.
If you have the time to explore Nami Island, you might find secret gardens to enjoy. This quaint garden in the photo below has an old palace garden feel. We rushed past it because we were catching the ferry. A pity we had no time to stroll around the garden to take in its beauty nor take a brief respite in the small hut.
After the many photos with beautiful autumn colours, we did not have time left to search for Winter Sonata’s filming spots. I should have armed myself with Nami Island’s map (CH, ENG) when we explored. We were so near to a few of the spots but just didn’t make that short detour.
Look out for the director’s camera logo on the map:
- First Kiss bench
- Life-sized couple statue
- Meta wharf
- Naminara Republic Weather Station
- Tree lanes: Metasequoia lane, White Birch Lane and Central Korean Pine Tree Lane.
- Big snowmen that alluded to the first kiss scene of Winter Sonata, although they are dressed up creatively in an unrelated way.
Forest Adventure Treego at Treego Village
If you have enough of photo-taking and need some adrenaline, you might be thrilled with the adventure facilities of Forest Adventure Treego at Treego Village. Adults and children get to try zip-line, trampolines, swings and even walking from tree to tree in a fully netted bridge.
- All-Inclusive: ₩20,000 (S$14.40, US$18)
- Forest Zip-line : ₩10,000, (S$12.20, US$9)
- Forest Trampoline : ₩10,000
Creative: Handicraft Studio, Galleries, Song Museum
Or if you are not the outdoors type, how about getting some creative juices going? Handicraft Studio is engaged in making ceramics, glassware, wood crafts, dye crafts and paper crafts. Or walk around the art gallery. Or shop at Artshop Imagine Korea for crafts made by craftsmen based on Nami Island.
If music appeals to you more, there’s the Song Museum that exhibits about Korean pop music and chronicles its history through pictures, memorabilia and songs of famous Korean singers. There is also “The Liu Collection of World Folk Musical Instruments” on display. Song Museum encompasses musical instrument practice room, music stage, recording studio and many more.
Nami Island for the Children
There are interesting spots on Nami Island that are dedicated to children’s play, for example, the Picture book library. To prevent this post from getting any longer, I will list down these spots and the nursing room in a separate post.
In conclusion, I would have loved to spend a whole day on Nami Island – taking photos, reveling in the nature and letting Evangeline roam around the children’s facilities. But depending on preferences, some might only prefer two hours for bucket list sake, while others like to spend the whole day capturing the beauty of the island. There’s also a hotel, Hotel Jeonggwanru, for those who like to take their time to savour Nami Island.
If you want to cover as many grounds as possible, joining a day tour is a good choice! Nami Island tours usually include other places like Petite France:
- Ktourstory: Nami Island, Petite France, etc
- Ktourstory: Nami Island, Garden of Morning Calm, etc
- S.A Tour: Nami Island, Petite France, etc
Be sure to bookmark my South Korea (Seoul and Jeju) Itinerary.
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