The amazing metropolis of Seoul, despite its many challenges, has so much to offer for families with small children, and I’ve found over the past year and a half we’ve lived here that there’s no shortage of fun things to do. However, sometimes, we just need to get out of the city, breathe some fresh air and relax so we planned a camping trip to the small town of Gapyeong, just 90 minutes drive east of Seoul for Memorial Day weekend. We invited some friends to join us, and since we were traveling with camping newbies, we decided to go to a campground that we’ve been to before–just to keep things simple.
Camping in Korea is not quite like camping in the U.S. There are two different types of campgrounds: national parks and privately owned grounds. I haven’t tried camping at any of the national parks, so I don’t know how easy/difficult it is for foreigners to reserve a spot, but camping at privately owned campgrounds couldn’t be easier. If you’re a camping pro with all of your own equipment, sites range from 15,000W/night to 35,000W/night, but if you’re new to camping, don’t want to invest in all the equipment or you left your camping gear in storage back home, fully equipped campsites (tent, sunshade/tarp, tables, chairs, gas grill, gas lantern, and cooking gear) are 100,000W/night to 150,000W/night.
For our recent trip, we went to a campground called Allyman Camping. This is our third trip there, and we really love the place. Compared to other campgrounds that I’ve looked at, this site is the most secluded and private, although this observation comes solely from photos of other campgrounds I’ve seen online. 😉
The drive out there was a tough one. We left the city around 10:30am, along with what seemed like every other single person living in Seoul. We were on the Gyeongchun Expressway (Hwy 60) for nearly 2 hours, at times going less than 10km/hr. Ugh… And when we stopped at the Gapyeong rest area for lunch, it was packed. On the bright side, I randomly ran into a friend and her family at the rest area, which was a nice treat! A trip that should have taken approximately 90 minutes ended up taking 3 hours. So, note to self: leave the city EARLY to beat the Saturday traffic! Thankfully, all the children kept it together, and when we finally arrived at the campgrounds, they were elated, running out of the car straight to the trampoline.
Our campsite was fully prepped and ready to go when we arrived. Three tents, a very large sunshade, tables, chairs… You really can’t beat arriving at a campsite and just kicking your feet up!
Aside from the trampoline, there are water sports available right at the campground: motor boat rides (20,000W for 20 minutes), kayaking (20,000W for 1 hour rental, both 1 and 2 person kayaks available), wake boarding, banana boat riding, and peanut boat riding. I’m not really sure what the last two are, but I think they involve riding a banana/peanut shaped float while being pulled by a boat. If you’re not into water sports, but just want to sit and enjoy the view of the river, the dock has a shaded area with tables and chairs so you can sit, drink and enjoy.
If you’d rather stay on dry land, then there’s plenty to do in the Gapyeong area such as taking a trip out to Nami Island, riding the Bike Rails (post to come), eating ddalkgalbi (spicy chicken stir-fry, the regional specialty), ATV rentals, bungee jumping, and more! The only downside to Allyman Campgrounds is that it’s a bit of a drive to reach any of the local attractions. Nami Island and the Bike Rails are approximately 45 minutes drive away.
We had originally hoped to ride ATVs, but the manager of the campground told us that he couldn’t in good conscience recommend the ATV rental place nearby (it’s on the way to the campground), especially not for small children because there isn’t a set trail. Instead, he recommended we take the kids to the Bike Rails, which turned out to be a huge hit (post on the Bike Rail coming soon!). If you’re interested in riding ATVs and don’t have small children to consider, pricing tends to range from 10,000W to 15,000W for a specified distance or time.
The Bike Rails are just what the name infers. Old, out-of-commission railroad tracks have been turned into a fun family activity. You rent a bike (either 2-person or 4-person bikes) and you get to pedal yourself along the old railroad tracks, enjoying the beautiful riverside scenery along the way. To make it more fun (and less work), uphill climbs are motorized so you can stop pedaling, and downhill rides are well, just fun! There are several locations to ride the Bike Rails in the Gapyeong area, and my boys made us promise to take them again to the one where they get to pedal through a mountain tunnel. 🙂
The second night we were there, the weather was not in our favor and the day’s occasional rain showers turned into a torrential downpour. Fortunately, the large sunshade/tarp kept us dry, and after we got the kids in bed, we spent our evening sitting by the fire, drinking beers and listening to the rain. Not a bad way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Allyman campground is nearly impossible to find if you don’t have a GPS (or a reliable map/app on your smartphone). The address is: Gangwon-do, Chuncheon-si, Nam-myun, Gwanchun-ri 383 (or 380). My Woori Navi (English navigation) system had difficult time locating the address because there’s really nothing out there, so be sure you have a good idea of where you’re going before you get in your car. You can copy and paste this address into Naver Maps to pinpoint it: 강원도 춘천시 남면 관천리 380
The price depends on when you’re going (weekday v. weekend and off-peak v. peak season).
If you’re bringing your own gear: Mon-Thurs: 25,000W/night, Fri-Sun: 30,000W/night or 35,000W/night during peak season
If you want the full set-up: Mon-Thurs: 100,000W/night, Fri-Sun: 120,000W/night or 130,000W/night and 145,000W/night during peak season, respectively.
The dates of peak season are generally the end of July and the first couple weeks of August.
- If you’re interested in reserving a spot at Allyman Campgrounds, you’ll need to enlist the help of a Korean-speaking friend. The manager doesn’t speak any English, and payment is required in advance via bank transfer. If you don’t have a Korean bank account, you can go to an Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) branch and deposit payment into the Allyman account.
- Saturdays are generally booked well in advance, especially during peak season (July and August). If you can swing a mid-week camping trip, then chances are you’ll have the place to yourself.
- Bring your own firewood. Firewood is available at the campground, but it’s approximately 3 times more expensive if you purchase it at the site. On previous visits, we purchased firewood at the campgrounds and spent over 150,000W on firewood alone for a 2 night stay. This time, we wised up, purchased firewood in advance and took it with us. We purchased from Chamnamunara (website in Korean only), and the best part? They deliver (within Seoul) for free! Be sure to order it a few days in advance if you’d like to have it delivered. We purchased 8 cords at 10,000W each (plus, Chamnamunara threw in a huge bag of kindling for free) and brought 3 back with us, so 5 cords of wood should be enough to keep your fire going for a 3 day/2 night camping trip. One thing to keep in mind though–firewood takes up a lot of space! Taking your own firewood is great if you have the space in your car, but if you don’t, then just mentally prepare yourself for the cost of firewood at the campground and work it into your camping budget.
- Fires are only allowed in the designated fire pits (provided), and they come with a rack that allows you to cook over the fire. However, grill grates are not provided. You can purchase disposable grill grates at Emart (5,000W to 7,000W, depending on size). Also, if you intend to cook over your campfire, don’t forget to bring your own tongs!
- Bring your own bedding, food, drinking water, and toilet paper! There’s plenty of running water–men and women’s restrooms as well as a separate shower room for both men and women. There’s also an area for washing dishes; however, you’re on your own for drinking water. Also, the showers are Korean style, meaning it’s just one large room with several shower heads. No stalls for privacy! So if you’re not comfortable showering in a space where someone can walk in and see you in your birthday suit, be prepared to be stinky or just shower really early in the morning when all the Koreans are sleeping off their night of soju consumption. 😉 And ladies, guard your toilet paper. Don’t leave it in the bathroom with the intention of sharing it with your camping neighbors. Someone will take it.
- Bring your own gas canisters for the gas range and gas lanterns. You can find them at Emart or Homeplus. We took a 4 pack, which was plenty.
- You are responsible for separating your trash–paper, plastic, glass, cans, regular trash, and food trash. The best way to do it is to take extra plastic bags and separate as you go. Collect all your food trash after each meal and dump it into the food trash bin immediately. While we haven’t seen or experienced any wild animals at the campground, there are plenty of bugs and birds looking to get into your garbage. There’s also a designated area to dispose of the embers/ashes from your fire pit.