Sado Island: Beautiful Town, Crystal Water, and Dinosaurs?

Sado Island is one of those locations that you have probably never heard of, but won’t regret visiting. While the beaches are not intended for swimming, no one is stopping you so go ahead, kick off those sandals and run in the water because it doesn’t get much cleaner than this. However, you might find yourself as the only one splashing about…

Sado Panoramic

wait a minute… did you read that correctly?

In a country known for its intense population density, and characteristic “pushing culture,” you might be the only person on the shore!? Yes, Sado is definitely not what you expect.

My first sign that this was going to be something special happened on the ferry terminal on Yeosu, one of the southern most tips of South Korea (here’s a map). I paid for my ticket and stepped on to the ferry platform in front of a huge boat. It looked like a yacht.

Yacht to Sado?

“Wow,” I thought, “A bunch of people must be going.” Then… I slowly turned and saw our real boat!

Ferry to Sado (Real)

It was hard to even see the boat coming out of the water. “Was this overgrown canoe sea-worthy?” Was my thought as I made sure to know exactly where the life jackets were, just in case! Nonetheless, this is exactly what I love about traveling, when I find myself in a situation where I may not have all the comforts, but I know this is definitely the road less traveled. Indeed, besides Sidney and I, there was only one other visitor on the tiny boat. The other four people seemed like residents of the other islands on the ferry’s route.

Passengers to Sado Island

Considering how Sado is a potential world heritage site, I expected a lot more tourists, but its relative isolation was a welcome surprise. We didn’t need an announcement when our stop arrived as we saw two huge dinosaurs waiting, welcoming us to their island.

Dinosaurs in Sado

You see, the main reason why I wanted to visit Sado is because it is one of the few places in the world with preserved dinosaur tracks. While my days of wishing to be a paleontologist have long passed, I am still fascinated by fossils and the like, so I was pretty excited to finally see this site after four years of living in Korea.

The only ones that I am sure were dinosaur tracks.
The only ones that I am sure were dinosaur tracks.

Sado Island Dino tracks

Can you spot which ones are dinosaur tracks? I’ll be honest, I couldn’t either. There are a few that I was pretty sure were tracks, but the place is barely marked at all, making it quite difficult to distinguish a real track from just erosion. What I found instead though, made the trip worth while

Turtle rock on the south side of the island.
Turtle rock on the south side of the island.

The island is filled with nothing more and nothing less than absolute tranquility. Peace is a location, and an elusive one to discover at that, especially in an overcrowded country like South Korea.  Ah, there is also this really really really big rock.

I was lifting it, you just can't see it.
I was lifting it, you just can’t see it.

I swear this was the biggest rock I have ever seen!!!

Bumbling about the island was confusing but rewarding. We got lost so many times in the the tiny alley ways and never once complained. The corridors that connect the town like an ant farm were one of the most interesting features of Sado Island.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another fantastic natural phenomenon is that in certain low tides, this island actually links up with neighboring Chu-do Island (which also has dinosaur tracks). There is a yearly festival where people walk across the water to the other island much like the Jindo “Moses” Festival. You can clearly see the line where the sea parts all year long, and again, if you attempt to cross it any other day, no one will stop you! Check out Google’s satellite view of the islands.

Logistics:

While I dont normally include logistics, I feel like Sado is complicated enough to warrant some.

 

1) Getting to Yeosu

For starters, you need to get to Yeosu city in the southern part of the country. The KTX bullet train now goes there if you are in a time crunch, but there is also a more economic and slower train available which requires a transfer (reserve early as the cheaper trains book fast). The train station is called “Yeosu-Expo” as it was the site of the 2012 World Expo (spoiler: it sucked).

Alternatively, you could also take a bus to Yeosu Bus Terminal.

 

2) Getting to the Ferry Terminal

From here, take a bus (either from the train station or the bus terminal) to Yeosu Ferry Terminal. There should be plenty of information booths upon arriving to show you the way. There are actually two ferry terminals, one closer, and one MUCH farther. Go to the closer one.

 

3) Tickets and Schedules

Buy a ticket to Sado-Island. The ferry itself actually goes from Yeosu to Dunbeyong making 7 total stops. Sado is the 6th stop. The ferry only leaves at two times a day, at 6:00 am (which actually goes to Dunbyeong directly, and you have to get off at Sado on the way back) and at 2:20 pm. Given that the same ferry that drops you off is the ferry for the return, you either get on that 6:00 am ferry or plan to stay at least one night. I highly recommend the latter as the sunset is quite something.

Complete Ferry Schedule

a)Yeosu (6:00) -> DunByeong (7:10)

(non-stop)

RETURN (same boat)

Dunbyeong (7:11) ->Yeosu (9:15)

(stops at: NangDo, SaDo, SangHwa, HaHwa, MoJeon, YeoSeok,  BaekYa)

 

b) Yeosu (14:20) -> DunByeong (16:20)

(stops at: BaekYa, YeoSeok, MoJeon, HaHwa, SangHwa, SaDo, NangDo)

RETURN (same boat)

Dunbyeong (16:21) ->Yeosu (17:30)

(stops at: NangDo, SaDo, SangHwa, HaHwa, MoJeon, YeoSeok,  BaekYa)

 

4) Accommodation

The only places to stay are  in a ‘Minbak / 민박’ which is a Korean style motel. It is essentially a mom and pop motel with no bed (Koreans traditionally sleep on the ground.) We did find one minbak, however, that did have beds, but at a higher price. We were charged 50,000 won a night, which is pretty average for this arrangement in this location. Almost every minbak  was booked for the weekend, so if you can, book in advance. I went during the Chuseok holiday (Korean Thanksgiving) which might have been  peak season, but there are only about 7 places to stay in total (with 4-5 rooms each). Everyone else seemed to have come for fishing and we really didn’t run into any other visitor the whole time.

These kinds of places don’t usually speak English, but since Sidney is Korean, it has never been a problem for me. Koreans in general are very hospitable, so they will make an effort if you need to book accommodations.

There is one other option I can think of. Do like this guy did and bring your own tent.

Tent in Sado Island

5) Food (BRING STUFF!!!)

There is a single convenience store on the whole island, which only sells ramen and ice cream (essentially, maybe some drniks too). Since we went on a holiday, it was closed. I had never in my life been in a position where there wasn’t food for purchase, so let me tell you, it was not a good feeling. Thankfully, our minbak owner offered to make us traditional Korean food (this is really common, not a special deal or anything, just ask) for 8,000 won each. The entire island only had 2 places that sell prepared food, and neither was open. Suffice it to say, bring your own food if possible!

The only convenience store

Follow Me

Julio Moreno

Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
Follow Me

Latest posts by Julio Moreno (see all)

9 thoughts on “Sado Island: Beautiful Town, Crystal Water, and Dinosaurs?

  • Pingback: #Traveltip – How to Enjoy Yeosu, South #Korea

  • January 28, 2016 at 12:57 am
    Permalink

    My son and I are fascinated by the description of Sado Island. We will be making our first trip to Seoul in March 2016 and we plan to make a trip to Sado. Is it possible to have the contact and the directions of the place you stayed at? Do we need to make reservation?

    Thanks 🙂
    PS: We can’t speak Korean

    Reply
    • January 28, 2016 at 1:39 am
      Permalink

      Great! The island is tiny, with only a few roads in a labyrinth and I don’t recall the name of the minbak (motel room where you sleep on the floor, no beds). I searched “minbak / 민박” on google maps and got this https://goo.gl/maps/oBCCSpdouVu. There is a map near the dinosaurs pictured.

      For accommodation, we just showed up but because it was Chuseok weekend (korean thankgiving, busiest time of year), the welcome center was closed and most places booked. I think it might be best to book if you already know when you will arrive in terms of ferry times. The link of google maps has a few places with phone numbers and really, they are all very similar. No one on the island will speak English, so to book, it I would call “+82-2-1330” 82 is the korean country code, and that is the number to tourism help (they will be glad to help, also a good number to have, just dial 1330 if you rent a Korean cell phone in the airport). Ask them how you can book this place and they will surely help you out. In fact, they got me the ferry times listed above.
      All of these places are cash only on site, so no issues with giving a 3rd person your card AND you could have a print out (in korean) of the place you booked and show it to people in town. It is incredibly tiny so this shouldn’t be an issue.
      Otherwise, you can just show up with a translation book (many good apps online) and just wing it.

      I want to reiterate that the single restaurant on the island was closed when I came so it is best to bring your own food. However, minbaks often will sell you prepared food for abour 8,000 won a person ($7, worth it). Just buy it in Yeosu when you get there.

      I listed the logistics above and let me know if you have any more questions.

      Reply
  • Pingback: Traveltip – How to Enjoy Yeosu, South Korea

  • Pingback: Yeosu City Guide - Island Hopping - Hedgers Abroad

  • Pingback: Unexplored Places in Korea That Spices Up Your Itinerary

  • April 4, 2017 at 3:29 am
    Permalink

    I visited Sado 8 years ago in Winter. Super fun trip but the reason you didn’t find the migration footprint patterns is because only 1-2 days of the year the water recedes between the smaller island across the way and the tracks are all below the water. Paleontologists only come during that time 🙂 Hope that explains why you didn’t find more.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge