What to Do in Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm
Does a day trip from Seoul to Nami Island strike your fancy? Nami Island flaunts a stunning natural beauty while being only a couple of hours away from the bustling capital city.
I finally made my way to Nami Island in November last year. If you enjoy autumn foliage like me, Nami Island in Autumn will take your breath away! I will share a list of things to do in Nami Island below with photos for your inspiration.
Oh, and, while you are there, do not miss the nearby Garden of Morning Calm. I was mesmerized by this mystic garden on Chukryeong mountain full of colorful blooms and autumn foliage. If there is a garden for God on earth, this would be it.
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Where is Nami Island?
Nami Island is a half-moon shaped island sandwiched between two provinces of South Korea, Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do. This privately-owned island was created as a result of the construction of the Cheongpyeong Dam in 1965. Interestingly, the ferry terminal to Nami Island is in Gapyeong, whereas the island itself belongs to Chuncheon.
>> You might want to first read my detailed guide on how to go from Seoul to Nami Island, and from Nami Island to Petite France and the Garden of Morning Calm.
Nami Island in Autumn
No matter which season you visit, Nami Island boasts a stunning landscape and seasonally diverse natural beauty.
For fans of the K-drama <Winter Sonata>, snowy winter might be favored. And the Winter Wonder Nami Island light-up event makes it a popular destination in winter.
But for me, Nami Island in fall was too gorgeous not to call my favorite. Call me biased, but autumn is my favorite time to visit Korea anyway.
Last November, I witnessed a gorgeous autumn foliage coloring the entire island with golden ginkgo and red maple leaves! So I can vouch for its beauty in autumn from the personal experience.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Scrawl down, and you will see why I recommend going there in autumn.
Nami Island Map
What to Do in Nami Island
Welcome to the Nami Nara Republic! Hope you received a Nami Nara visa upon arrival. (By the way, this is just for fun. It is officially part of South Korea.)
Nami Island is 430,000 square meters in area and approximately 4 km in diameter. You can explore the entire island on foot. You can even rent a wheelchair or stroller. But if you don’t like to walk the entire area, you are in luck. There are a few well-known rides that are part of things to do in Nami Island (see below).
Admission (includes ferry fare): ₩13,000 | Youth: ₩10,000 | Children under 13: ₩7,000 | One year-term Passport (Annual Pass): ₩45,000
Location (Ferry Terminal): 1024 Bukhangangbyeon-ro, Gapyeong-eup, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do 12422 [Open Kakao Map]
#1. Eat Chucheon Dak Galbi and Makguksu
Although there are many restaurants and cafes on the island, eat Chuncheon Dak Galbi and Makguksu BEFORE you get on the ferry.
Chuncheon is famous for Dak Galbi (Spicy Stir-fry Chicken) and Makguksu (Buckwheat Noodles). While you can find these in other cities, you are going to miss out if you don’t try it so close to its home.
Across the wharf parking lot, you will see many specialty restaurants.
#2. Enjoy a Ferry Ride into Nami Island
When you purchase the admission, a round-trip ferry ride is already included. The ferry is frequently scheduled with 10-20 minute intervals during the day. It’s only a 5-minute ride, so you don’t have to worry about seasick at all. Just line up and you will be on Nami Island in no time.
On your return, simply line up at the same dock where you were dropped off. Since the ferry is the only way out of the island, the wait time can be longer on your way back. And many visitors tend to stay as long as possible, so late afternoon gets busier.
7:30 a.m. -9 a.m. (30 minute intervals)
9 a.m.- 6 p.m. (10-20 minute intervals)
6 p.m. – 9:40 p.m. (30 minute intervals)
#3. Get a Thrill Out of an Epic Zip Line Experience
For thrill-seekers, Nami Island zipline is an exhilarating way to enter the island.
Enjoy the gorgeous view of Nami Island from an 80-m high Skyline Zipwire tower. Scream from the top of your lung when you fly across the Bukhan River. Arrive on Nami Island with the adrenaline rush. What an entrance, eh?
The Skyline Zipwire has two courses: Adventure and Family Courses. For the Adventure Course, you will zipline into Jara island (640m) at the fastest speed of 80 km/h, then take a high-speed ferry into Nami Island. The Family Course is about 940m with the fastest speed of 30-40 km/h. Both rides take about 1 minute 30 seconds. (But I heard it depends on your weight.)
Nami Island zip wire is only available one-way (on the way in). When you leave the island, use your ferry ticket included in your admission.
Note that operation may be delayed or stopped in case of bad weather for your safety.
Fare: ₩44,000 (Includes admission and a return ferry ride.)
Hours: [April – Oct.] 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. [Nov. – March] 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
>> >> Book your Nami Island Zipwire ticket here. Don’t waste your time at the ticket office. (There is usually a long line at the ticket office even during weekdays.) The Zipwire fare includes admission and a ferry ride, so you don’t have to buy a separate admission ticket.
#4. Replicate K-Drama Scene on a Bike
Riding a bike is probably one of the most popular ways to explore Namiseom.
As shown on the popular Korean dramas such as <Winter Sonata> and <Discovery of Love>, couples riding a bicycle together along the tree-lined roads here became the thing to do in Nami Island. Especially in Spring and Summer when the weather is great, it is an excellent way to explore the island.
The only thing I would warn you is that the bicycle rental shop is in the middle of the island. That means you will need to walk halfway before getting on a bike.
Insider Tip: If you don’t want to walk to the Bike Center, take UNICEF Charity Train (see #5 below) to the Central Station. It’s only a few minute’s walk from there.
Boarding Site: Bike Center
[Single]: ₩4,000 (30 min) or ₩8,000 (1 hr) + ₩2,000 for each additional 15 min
[Tandem]: ₩8,000 won (30 min) or ₩16,000 (1 hr) + ₩4,000 for each additional 15 min
[Quadruplet]: ₩15,000 (30 min) + ₩5,000 for each additional 15 min
Electronic Segway Rates:
[Single]: ₩12,000 (30 min) or ₩24,000 won (1 hr) + ₩6,000 for each additional 15 min
[Baby]: ₩18,000 (30 min) or ₩36,000 (1 hr) + ₩9,000 for each additional 15 min
Sky Bike Rates: ₩3,000
#5. Take a UNICEF Charity Train
Unlike a bike, UNICEF Train is near the entrance for you to hop right on. It runs between Seonchakjang (the wharf) and Central Station. The train goes through the tree-lined railway.
Nami Island is officially a UNICEF Child-Friendly Park. As the name suggests, when you ride this charity train, a portion of the profit goes to UNICEF.
We decided to take the UNICEF Train to Central Station and walk back towards the entrance. When you look at the map, it may look as if the train takes you to the middle of the island, it actually covers 2/3 of the island.
I wasn’t too interested in petting ostrich (Bad idea, anyway! They got tempers.), or stopping by vegetable farms. It was fun to look past these sites on the train.
Boarding Site: Seonchakjang or Central Station
Rate: ₩3,000 one-way
#6. Learn about the Island on a Story Tour Bus
The story tour departs from the wharf and goes around the entire island. During the tour, you will hear the story of Nami Island (only in Korean).
For first-time visitors, it gives a great introduction to the island. After the short around-the-island tour, you can prioritize which spots to visit.
Boarding Site: Across from Naminaru Tourism Organization
Rate: ₩7,000 (20 min)
Heading to Seoul?
If you are traveling to Seoul, check out 20+ unique experiences in the capital city of South Korea. This list includes places to visit, food to eat, and things to do for your planning.
#7. Live Up the Fast and Furious Moment on Motorboat
Another way to tour Nami Island is to get on a motorboat. This is a unique way to see the island from the water.
This high-speed motorboat ride is the best water activity for late spring and summer. You will most likely get splashed with water. Note that it can get pretty chilly in winter!
Boarding Site: Nami Island Metanaru (Marina near the Metasequoia Road)
Rate: ₩40,000 (5 persons)
#8. Visit the Grave of General Nami
Nami Island seems like a theme park. So it might be odd to hear that there is a piece of history here. But Nami Island is, in fact, named after General Nami.
General Nami led a victory against the rebels under the realm of King Sejo, the 7th king of the Joseon Dynasty. From what I heard, General Nami was domestically expelled here until his death. Interestingly, General Nami was buried in Hwaseong. His grave you see on Nami Island is rather a memorial site.
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#9. Stroll Along Tree-lined Paths
Nami Island is famous for its gorgeous tree-lined roads. Most visitors come here for this very scenery.
The island used to be a deserted area back in the 1960s. The owner of the island bought this land and started planting trees and flowers. He made lots of efforts to create the gorgeous landscape you see today. There is also a grass field about 316,320 square yards in the middle of the island.
A few tree-lined roads you will want to check out:
It is perhaps the most well-known spot in Nami Island. The super-tall trees create stunning scenery all year around.
Gingko Tree Lane
This 80-meter-long lane is covered with the luscious yellow ginkgo leaves in fall. Although ginkgo leaves smell funny, it is arguably the most photogenic site. Unfortunately, I went there a day after a hard rain. I still saw lots of golden leaves on the island, but leaves had already fallen on the famous Song Gingko Tree Lane.
Cherry Tree Lane
When cherry blossoms bloom in spring, cherry tree lane becomes the star of the island. Be sure to visit this land if you visit Nami Island in late March – April.
Korean Pine Tree Lane
There are several Korean pine tree lanes on the island. While similar to pine trees, this particular tree is unique to Korea. If you have tried sujeonggua (persimmon punch), you may remember pine nuts afloat the drink. That is from this tree. You can’t miss the Central Korean Pine Tree Lane marked with hanging white balloons.
White Birch Lane
Perhaps best to visit in snowy winter, Nami Island boasts a white birch lane.
Tulip Tree Lane
Tulip trees? No, it’s not a mistake. Don’t expect to see tulips, though. The flowers from these trees resemble tulips in appearance, hence the name.
Maple trees are all over the island. It is not easy to miss maple trees in fall as autumn foliage tints the park with the lovely maple red.
#10. Meet Animals Roaming Free in Nature
Nami Island is home to many wild animals such as deers, ostriches, and other large aquatic birds. It’s hard to see these animals in Seoul, let alone see them in nature.
While I am not sure if this was their natural habitat, I can tell you that these animals are freely roaming around the island. Rabbits and deers hop around the island as if they own it. Chipmunks climb up the trees and run from one tree to another.
I saw a peacock peacefully perched on the wall. Supposedly there are turkeys, ducks and geese, and many other birds on this island, too. You may hear woodpeckers diligently work.
Maybe the only exception to such freedom is ostriches. I think ostriches have tempers, and due to the safety concerns, they are kept inside a fenced area. (But still, be cautious. They may jump over the fence if they are aggregated.)
#11. Let Your Children Play
If you want to tire out your children, Nami Island has many children-friendly areas. There are many outdoor playgrounds on the island for them to run around.
UNICEF Children Library offers children’s books. It also features a slide from the second floor to the first floor and a playroom with lego blocks, as well as pray room for Muslims.
#12. Join the Fun in the Festivals and Events
Nami Island takes pride in being a cultural island. It hosts many international festivals and events throughout the year, as well as exhibitions, performances, and activities.
Spring: World Book Festival
Summer: Rainbow Music & Camping Festival @Jara Island
Fall: Nami Island Aquatic Youth Festival
Winter: Winter Wonder Nami Island
As the schedule can change, go check the website for the dates and other event schedules.
>> I highly recommend joining this day tour to Nami Island and Garden of Morning calm, conveniently taking you to two gorgeous locations in Gangwondo. The round trip is offered from Hongdae, Myeongdong, or Dongdaemun, which might be more convenient for those who are not staying in Insadong.
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Garden of Morning Calm
The Garden of Morning Calm opened in 1996 as a private garden by professor Sang-kyung Han. It is a gigantic botanical garden and arboretum on the hill of Chukryeong Mountain.
I only went to the Garden of Morning Calm in lieu of Nami Island. However, I was blown away by its scale, natural beauty, and stunning landscapes in harmony with its surroundings.
I wish I had more time to enjoy a breathtakingly beautiful landscape there. Unfortunately, the garden closed at sunset. And the sun fell pretty early in the fall on the mountain!
Admission: ₩9,500 | Youth: ₩7,000 | Children under 13: ₩6,000
Location: 432 Sumokwon-ro, Sang-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do [Open Kakao Map]
Hours: 8:30 a.m. – Sunset
Note: No pets are allowed.
Garden of Morning Calm Map
Four Seasons at the Garden
- The Spring Festival (mid-April to May) is possibly the best time to visit the Garden of Morning Calm for flower lovers. From magnolia to azalea to tulips to cherry blossom, spring flowers bloom intermittently as groups.
- Iris Festival in June features a garden full of more than 150 kinds of iris in diverse colors.
- Hydrangea Festival in July showcases five types of hydrangea, including macrophylla, paniculata, arborescens, serrata, and quercifolia hydrangeas.
- During the Rose of Sharon Festival, the national flower of South Korea covers a hill with colorful varieties throughout the summer.
In November, the Garden still jeweled colorful autumn foliage and chrysanthemum. Even if you miss the official festival, I think it is still worthwhile to go admire the gradually changing landscape in the Garden.
- Wild Chrysanthemum Exhibition (mid-Sept. Through mid-Oct.) is the best chance to see 50 species of wild chrysanthemum.
- During the Maple Festival in October, the garden becomes a colorful canvas tinted with yellow ginkgo trees, red maple trees, green forests, and blue sky.
Don’t skip out the Garden of Morning Calm just because flowers wither away in winter. The snowy garden boasts a unique magnificence you may never experience before if you are lucky to see snow.
- Otherwise, join the Starlight Garden Festival (Dec. – March) as beautifully designed lights brighten up a cold winter night in the garden. Hours extended during the festival.
The star tree of Morning Calm, the well-groomed juniper is about 1,000 years old.
The Sunken Garden is filled with diverse flowers from spring to fall. During my visit in November, gorgeous chrysanthemums bloomed.
Located at the very back of Morning Calm, Pond Garden features a traditional Korean garden in perfect harmony with its surroundings. It was my favorite spot in the Garden of Morning Calm. This site reminded me of the Secret Garden of Changdeokgung.
J’s Cottage Garden
An English-style courage garden is filled with perennial plants. It is supposedly the most beautiful in summer. However, it was still gorgeous in fall, too.
Road to Heaven
The winding path up the hill is named Road to Heaven. The path is lined with colorful trees and blooming flowers.
Cafe and Shops
The Garden of Morning Calm also has a restaurant, bakery, snack shop, and coffee shop. I enjoyed a quick break at the hanok cafe called Good Morning Coffee. The coffee house serves an excellent selection of desserts, coffee, and flower teas.
For plant and flower lovers (or anyone with a green thumb), the Garden has many shops you can buy souvenirs. You can grab herbs, plants, flower seeds, etc. to plant at home. Or, go to a herb shop to pick up some organic skincare/body care products or aroma oil/candles for a house.
What to Do Next in Seoul
- Fun Things to Do in Hongdae
- What to Do & Shop in Insadong
- 20 Unique Experiences in Seoul
- How to Eat Korean BBQ Like a Local
Korea offers many beautiful cities featuring different sceneries from Seoul. Add my favorite cities to your Korea itinerary:
Now, tell me if you are still not convinced to make a day trip to Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm. I would be curious if you have enjoyed autumn in Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm as much as I did. If you visit another season, let me know how you liked it.
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