One of life’s simplest and greatest pleasures is taking a nice car out for a spin and watching the world go by.
Better yet if you are on a road trip to extend that feeling of exhilarating freedom of going wherever you want, at your own pace. That alone is often the appeal for many intrepid travellers.
Now combine that with a destination that delivers all the best things about a vacation, and you have your ideal next holiday.
Jeju Island, Korea’s top tourist spot and Unesco World Heritage Site, offers plenty of peaceful drives traversing beautiful landscapes, and an excellent highway network including numerous scenic roads and two cross-island roads.
Traffic is usually light except in Jeju City and Seogwipo, but driving conditions there are still very manageable.
If you intend to hire a car, you need not worry about your carbon footprint, as the island is home to some 5,629 electric cars — more than half of registered electric vehicles nationwide.
You can choose your rental electric wheels from an impressive range of international brands such as KIA, Renault Samsung, BMW, Nissan, Hyundai, GM and Tesla.
Charging your rental car is just as easy, with 219 out of 311 quick charging points dotting Jeju island located in public areas.
Here are the top coastal and inland courses, with recommended sections and stops:
Take Iljuseo-ro Road from Jeju City to Hallim, and turn towards the ASEA Broadcasting Station in Hagwiri. Enjoy views of the black lava shoreline, emerald beach and rare wild flowers.
Then head to the observation platforms or cafes to relax as you watch the waves crashing over the rocks. The picturesque scenery will take your breath away.
MOUNT SONGAKSAN—MOUNT SANBANGSAN
Drive up Mount Songaksan and take in the peaceful ocean scenery and fabulous views of Hyeongjeseom Island and Mount Sanbangsan. Then stop by Yongmeori (Dragon Head Shore) for some souvenir snaps.
At the Hamel Monument, learn about Hendrick Hamel, a shipwrecked Dutch sailor who spent many years in Japan and Korea in the 17th century before he returned home and wrote Europe's first report about Korea.
On Road 1132 going from Pyoseon to Seongsan, pass by the SK fuel station, then hit the coastal road to Sinyang Beach, Seopjikoji and Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak).
Stop for a stroll at the fishing spot in Jongdal-ri and look out for what appears to breakwaters but are, in fact, stone towers built by those hoping that their special wishes will come true.
To enjoy the best of Jeju Island’s flora and fauna, include a few short hikes in your driving itinerary.
Look out for Tokkiseom Island, located about 1.6km from Sehwa and about 50m from the beach. You can walk to the island at low tide, but take care not to get your trousers wet when wading back to the mainland.
From July to September, check out the beautiful crinum tiger lilies in full bloom.
If you continue 2km further up the road, you will reach the well-known bird habitat at Hadori, where storks, spoonbills and other rare birds spend the winter from September to December.
In autumn, the road from Seongsan Ilchulbong to Seongeup Folk Village is lined with tall silver eulalia reeds on both sides, swaying gracefully as you drive by.
Seongsan Ilchulbong, an impressive cratered volcanic cone on its own little peninsula, looms dramatically before you as you approach it. Scale the stone stairs up its side for unforgettable sunrise views.
The autobahn of Jeju connecting Pyeonghwa-ro (Route 1135), 1100 Road
(Route 1139 and the 516 Road (Route 1131), Road 1117 offers a delightful drive with endless ocean views and rippling silver eulalia fields in fall.
Gwaneumsa Temple, located midway between 1100 and 516 roads, is particularly spectacular during autumn nights, with fall foliage framing the beautiful temple.
At 1,950m, Mount Hallasan is Korea’s highest peak and one of its most spectacular sights.
For the ultimate view of the mountain that the locals call Mount Yeongjusan (which means “mountain high enough to pull the galaxy”), take this scenic route connecting Jeju City with Seogwipo. At Seongpanak Resting Place, located 720m above sea level, you will be treated to picturesque views.
This road leading to Road 516 is especially romantic, with majestic cryptomeria trees on both sides of the road. Be sure to stop for a romantic stroll with your partner.
Jeju Island is a riot of colour throughout March and April, as yellow rape flowers emerge in full bloom. To check out even more dreamy fields of gorgeous blooms, hit Road 1136 from Seongeup Folk Village to Namwon, and turn right at the sign for Jeongseok Air Museum.
FUN IN NUMBERS
If you prefer to share the driving experience in Jeju Island, a self-drive convoy is the way to go.
Organised by Automobile Association of Singapore in partnership with the Korea Tourism Organization, AUTOVENTURE (AV) is a driving holiday where you will be part of a group of 10 to 15 cars, with the benefit of an experienced guide.
Being part of a group enables you to enjoy a road trip without the fear of getting lost. Moreover, you have alone time with your loved ones, as well as the opportunity to make new friends. On selected itineraries, you get to drive at your own pace and meet at pre-set destinations along the way.
Walkie-talkies are provided to drivers to keep every group member updated on road conditions and driving directions so everyone will always know what to expect.