The Suncheon Bay Garden alone is enough reason to visit this city! Here’s a full guide on what to expect when you do.
So, this is a bit embarrassing. For the longest time when I heard people talk about the Suncheon Bay National Garden, I always assumed they were talking about a small section of the actual Suncheon Bay, and I just missed it. It never crossed my mind that they were two separate entities until maybe late last fall. I know, I know, #muchtraveler, #muchkoreaexpert.
By then, winter was near, and I wasn’t in a hurry to visit a whole garden when most of it would be dead anyway. While you might find some pretty, snowy photos of Suncheon on the Internet, I can assure you snow here is pretty rare! There were maybe one or two days this year that it snowed enough to stick! My students were pretty shocked when we had maybe an inch on the ground for half a day.
Anyhow, I’ve been waiting for months to visit the garden, and as soon as spring was in full bloom, I suggested to some friends we go one morning before we all had work. It was definitely not enough time, so Stacey and I just went again while her friend, Mystique, was visiting from South Africa!
I’m probably going to go at least one more time before the summer heat keeps me hugging an aircon for two months, but until then I thought I’d write out this guide to convince you to visit!
Suncheon Bay Garden + Its History
Okay, so Suncheon’s biggest attraction and what it’s most known for around the country is Suncheon Bay. I wrote all about the Bay in this post, and it was one of my favorite visits way back in 2015 when I went for the first time. It’s an ecological wonder, home to hundreds of species, and it’s even considered one of the top coastal wetlands in the world.
Well over the last two decades, it’s become more and more popular to the point that the number of visitors had grown higher than was sustainable. According to Dong-a Ilbo, Suncheon Bay went from about 100,000 visitors in 2002 to 3 million in 2010. With all the car emissions and crowds, the Bay and its wildlife were beginning to suffer. (Source)
And, as I’ve said with all the love in my heart, Korea is the country definition of extra, so what did locals do to help curb this problem?
They created the Suncheon Bay Garden.
The garden itself is massive. I’ve been twice now for a few hours each time, and I still haven’t covered the garden in its entirety.
The idea is to have visitors instead visit the Garden, and then, if they want, take the Sky Cube over to the Bay itself, thus creating a healthy buffer area between tourists and the wetland.
It’s working too. While the Garden has been growing in popularity, the Bay has been decreasing ever so slightly, thus returning to a more sustainable and manageable state.
See what I mean when I say extra? Instead of just limiting visitors to the Bay or making prices higher, they literally created an entire, massive, gorgeous garden as a buffer zone. Stuff like this is why I can’t help but love this country sometimes.
A Guide to the Suncheon Bay Garden
Because this place is so big, I thought I’d do a (not so quick) guide to all the different attractions and exhibits.
There are actually two entrances, the East Gate of Earth and the West Gate of Light. I recommend going in through the East Gate first. If you take a taxi, this is where they’ll drop you off. On the east side, there are a number of beautiful gardens and exhibitions. I’m going to go through them from left to right!
The main area, and the one you see aerial views of is this lake area that’s designed to represent Suncheon! The spiral hills are Bonghwa and Haeryeong while the bridge is Dongchun river. The entire lake portion represents all the flat areas.
For some reason, this is called “Ivrigging Garden” on the map, and I’m pretty sure it’s a misspelling of “wriggling.” It’s just a small area that’s definitely meant for kids, but the tunnel is fun to look at! I just wish it was taller so grown-ups could go through :p
World Garden Area (Pt 1)
Once you pass by the Wriggling Garden, you’ve entered into one of the main zones, the World Garden. Within this zone are little gardens that represent different countries around the world. There are also some random ones throughout.
The Thai Garden
The Thai garden might be my favorite just because it packs so much in one small area and does one of the best jobs of making you feel like you’re getting a taste of Thailand. Apparently, there is or was a Suncheon garden at Thailand’s own expo back in 2012!
3 Gardens You’ll See Nearby:
- The Rock Garden
- The Hydrangea Garden
- The Japanese Garden
The Turkish Garden
This garden is pretty, but definitely doesn’t do Turkey justice when it comes to how extravagant and detailed those gardens can be!
The Spanish Garden
We missed this one, so I’m not too sure what it looked like exactly! The website says it features a line of citron trees to represent Spain’s orange trees since the latter doesn’t grow in Korea.
The Italian Garden
I really enjoyed the Italian garden! It reminded me of a smaller, simpler version of the Getty Villa in LA, which, of course, is based off an Italian villa in Pompei.
The British Garden
The British garden is meant to resemble an idyllic Victorian garden with its beautiful promenades.
Down by the Spanish Garden, there’s an entire Metasequoia path that kind of borders the World Garden zone. It’s very pretty, and there’s a fun heart thing in the middle for photos.
On the other side of the Metasequoia path is the Wetland zone. The different parts of it are:
- Forest of Sharing
- Seasonal Flower Garden
- Biotop Wetland
- Flower Plantation
I think we went into the Biotop Wetland a bit from one side before turning back towards the World Garden Zone.
World Garden Zone (Pt 2)
If you enter the wetland zone from the left side, just pop out on the right side of the Metasequoia Road, and you’ll find the rest of the World Garden Zone. These include:
The Dutch Garden
Windmill. Check. Tulips. Check. Oversized clogs for photos. Double check. :p
The Dutch Garden is probably the most popular in April when all the tulips are in full bloom, and you can pretend you’ve hopped over to the Netherlands for a bit. Just be warned, though, as soon as tulip season is over they’re completely gone. When we went the second time, the halmonis were already planting whatever is in bloom next!
The German Garden
The German garden is based on Karl Foster’s sunken garden in Potsdam, and it’s meant to be as natural and simple as possible. Bonus, there’s a random yellow car hanging out in the entrance!.
The Chinese Garden
The Chinese Garden is definitely another favorite, and it’s by far the most popular as a whole. The city of Ningbo worked with Suncheon and designed the garden around a Chinese folktale called “The Butterfly Lovers.” Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai are China’s Romeo + Juliet.
Some other places I didn’t really go into:
- The American Garden
- The Jangdokdae Garden
- Haeryeong Hill – you can climb this
- Herb Garden
- French Garden
The Rest of the East Side
The other gardens on the East side are:
- Rose of Sharon Garden
- Lugworm Path
- Hope Hill
- Hooded Crane Maze
- Urban Forest
- Maple Path
- Rose Garden
The East entrance is near the rose garden. I’d save this area for last if you’re doing a big loop because right by the Chinese Garden is a bridge to cross over to the west side of the garden.
The dream bridge is a very cute bridge connecting the two gardens over Dongchun. It’s built with all these colorful tiles. The outer ones are different Hangul blocks, and the inner ones are tiles where students have drawn their dreams and goals. Apparently, there were over 140,000 students from 16 different countries who made them!
Royal Azaleas Garden
If you’re up for a mini-hike, you can climb up through the azaleas in late-April/early-May!
The Korean Traditional Garden
You’re probably already going to visit plenty of temples and traditional Korean areas while you visit this country, but if you can’t get enough, then you can also spend time in this garden.
Some other areas:
- EcoGeo Green House
- Bonsai Arts Theme Park
- Tree Plant Book Ground
- Suncheon Bay WWT Wetland
- Maple Path
- Sky Garden
- Suncheon Bay International Wetland Center
Sky Cube + To the Bay
When you cross over the Dream Bridge, you’ll also immediately see an area called the Sky Cube. It’s a pretty ride that’ll take you along the river and drop you off at the Suncheon Literature Hall Museum.
From the museum, it’s about a 1.2km walk to the entrance of the Bay. There’s actually a guy who will be there for you to buy tickets, and from there you can visit the Bay Museum, the reed fields, and hike up to the observatory.
A Quick Guide to Visiting Suncheon Bay Garden
- Korean Name: 순천만국가정원
- Address: 전라남도 순천시 국가정원1호길 47 (오천동)
- English Address: 47, Gukgajeongwon1ho-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
- Cost: 8,000 KRW for adults
- It’s only 4,000 KRW for Yeosu residents and 2,000 KRW for Suncheon residents though!
- The Sky Cube is 8,000 KRW round-trip, only 6,000 KRW for Suncheon residents
- Parking: Free
- May-Sept: 8:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
- Mar-Apr + Oct: 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- Nov-Feb: 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
How to Get to the Gardens
It’s actually super easy to get to the gardens! I recommend just grabbing a taxi from the train station, especially if you’re with 3 people. It only cost about 4,000 KRW, and a local bus ride is 1,350 KRW.
If you do want to take a bus, then use Bus 101 and get off at the Suncheon Bay Garden stop.
For More Suncheon Travel:
- What to Do in Suncheon: A Local-ish Guide
- Suncheon Drama Set: A Step Back in Time
- How to Visit the Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve
- Hiking Jogyesan
- Naganeupseong Folk Village