Sokcho is probably best known for the Seoraksan National Park, and although many people visit the park directly from Seoul, we can recommend spending a few days in Sokcho while visiting the park if your time allows. For more on Seoraksan National Park, read about our visit here.
Sokcho itself is a laid back town, with a lovely long stretch of beach and short coastal walkway linking the beach to the fishing ports. The city also hosts a few annual festivals, including a "Bare Hand Squid Fishing Festival" in Jangsahang Port!
The small island that is home to Abai Village is in walking distance from most of Sokcho. You can reach the village either from the South via the Pink Seorakdaegyo Bridge (pedestrian access only), from the North via the Blue Geumgangdaegyo Bridge (pedestrian access only) or most traditionally via the hand-drawn Gaetbae raft boat from downtown Sokcho. Abai Village was formed in 1950 when a group of around 6000 refugees from North Korea escaped south and set up shelters on this sandbar in Sokcho. The name Abai comes from the Refugee's local dialect and means "Uncle" or "Aged Person" and refers to the large percentage of the refugees who were of elderly age. Although the inhabitants of the island are much more diverse today, the nickname has stuck. Today, much of the island's tourism can also be attributed to the filming of a local Korean Drama Series which took place here in 2000. There is a small fee to ride the Gaetbae boat and you will be expected to take turns in assisting to pull the hand-drawn raft across the waterway. This is good fun and worth the small fee just for the novelty aspect!
Once in the village, we would say that you should prepare to be underwhelmed by the village itself. There is one alley lined with restaurants all trying to sell you the local speciality dish of Abai Sundae and if it is not yet peak season, then the area can feel rather abandoned. Abai Sundae is a squid stuffed with a mixture of clear noodles, tofu, vegetables, and squid. We chose to meander through and around the village for a bit and enjoy the small and peaceful beach on the East shore of the island. Be sure to climb to the top of the Pink Bridge (or take the elevator) to get an aerial view over the village before leaving.
If you're looking for a good place to take a walk or cycle while enjoying the beautiful lake views, then Yeongnangho Lake is the place! With a circumference of about 8 km and a great cycle and walking path all around, you can't ask for much more. Don't expect much in the line of lakeside resting stops (there are a few more along the northern shore), but the lake view and mystical tale of dragons more than makes up for that. Be sure to try and climb up Beombawi Rock, one of Sokcho's eight scenic attractions, which is located on the shore of Yeongnangho Lake. This rock is said to resemble a tiger (beom in Korean) crouching over the lake. The path up was closed when we were there due to a recent fire.
This ‘lake’ is actually more of a marina. None the less, it can be a very pleasant place for a stroll from the ship docking area, along the Cheongchoho Recreation Area, past the Sokcho Expo Tower, through the Migratory Bird Eco Park and Cheongchoho Lake Park to the Cheongchojeong Pavillion, which is probably the most scenic point of the Lake.
We stumbled upon this beautiful and unique tower while walking around Cheongchoho Lake. The tower is a little less than 75 m in height (conflicting info on exact height!) and has an observation deck that can accommodate about 100 people from which you can enjoy panoramic views over Sokcho.
The once calm and tranquil port has become a vibrant and busy area attracting many tourists to the modern fish market and Daepohang Sashimi Center. While here you can also check out the views from Seorak Sunrise Park.
Sokcho Beach is probably not the most beautiful beach you will visit, but it is a nice clean 1.2 km long stretch of sandy beach with soft lapping waves. You will also find a few photo art pieces that seem to change annually and in the summer there are water activities aplenty. At the South end of the beach, the Bada Hyang-giro Trail leads around the cliff point to the Oeongchihang Port. This short 850 m walkway is very scenic and we best enjoyed it just before sunset. And of course, Sokcho Beach is a great place to enjoy the sunrise!
Pronounced "soondae", a sundae is traditionally cow or pig intestines stuffed with seonji (blood), minced meats, rice, and vegetables. Abai-sundae and Ojingeo Sundae, which are specialities in Abai Village and Sokcho, make use of fresh squid as the outer casing.
If like us, the sundae doesn't quite appeal to you, be sure to try Sokcho's other speciality, Dakgangjeon. These deep-fried pieces of a whole chicken (usually with bone and all) are drenched with a sweet and spicy sauce. The sauce is laden with flavours of garlic and ginger and the chicken will often be sprinkled with chopped peanuts to give it some extra crunch. They say that the secret sauce keeps the chicken fresh for a few days, so even when they tell you it’s not spicy, trust us that it is! Luckily it is equally tasty and delicious and well worth sweating through! And that comes from someone who doesn't generally enjoy spicy food at all!
EAT RED SNOW CRAB
You literally can't walk down the street without falling over restaurants selling these Crab. Apparently these red snow crabs from Sokcho are just as tasty as their siblings living in the sea of Yeongdeok but much cheaper.
A favourite Korean combination of Korean chicken and beer (mekju) can be found in many bars and Chimek diners, often for a set price for either a whole or half chicken and beer.