Gapa Island (가파도), the second southernmost point of Korea, sits just 5.5 kilometers off the coast of Jeju from Moseulpo Port (모슬포항) in Seogwipo. The island isn’t as famous as Mara Island the southernmost landmass of Korea, the other island accessible via the port, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to enjoy there and there. With far less people taking the ferry over, it’s the perfect island to get away from the touristy crowds and enjoy some alone time, or couple time, with nature. The island is rather flat with the highest point only reaching 20.5 meters which makes walking along the Jeju Olle 10-1 path rather easy. Even better though, is renting a bike at the shop near Gapa Port and biking along the paths that circle and criss-cross the land.
Low lying houses sit along a narrow road that runs down the center of the island and fields walled in by lava rocks stacked together spread out from there. Gapa is special in that it is a carbon-free island, the first in the country, and solar panels and wind turbines collect energy for the residents.
People have inhabited the island and started cultivating barley there since 1842 and the fields are especially nice from late winter to early summer. The coasts of the island are lined with rocks that make walking out to sea rather easy, though be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Pools of water collect between the rocks and make for a great place to take a swim and cool off in the heat of the summer. If you plan the ferries correctly, you can hop over to the island to grab some lunch and bike around before getting back to Jeju. Be sure to have your Korean prepared to order some delicious fishy delights, but also perk up your ears to listen to some pretty strong Jeju dialect.
The women of the island are strong, diving into the ocean to collect seafood for their meals, but they are very friendly and even when the restaurants are not technically open, they will gladly fill your belly with a hearty meal if you can ask. On our trip out, we asked an older grandmother to point us in the direction of a good restaurant as we hadn’t eaten breakfast and were pretty hungry. She showed us to one, but finding that the door was closed and no one was inside she went and found the owner of the establishment, brought her back and told her to make us some food. Little did we know, the owner really had nothing prepared in the back and after ordering we peered around into the kitchen to see that she was on a mat on the floor making noodles for our soup from scratch. Suffice it to say, we ate them all up as they were delicious and worth the wait.
She made us two kinds of soups to enjoy: spiral shellfish noodle soup (보말갈국수) and sea urchin noodle soup (서게갈국수). The kimchi was especially spicy, but a nice break from the soup on the palate and we were grateful she’d taken the time to feed us.