CONTRIBUTED BY KELLY GONZALEZ
Sorry, beach lovers. Herb Island is not an island at all. It’s a mix of herb and botanical garden, amusement park, and educational facility nestled in the mountains in Pocheon. The park is centered around and highlights all the lovely things about herbs and nature in an “It’s a Small World” sort of way. Hang in there, it will make a bit more sense by the end.
The park is loosely divided into Greek, Italian, German, and French mini villages to highlight different ways that herbs are used. The scenery and architecture are a bit cartoonish in their bright colors and small size, but it’s easy to enjoy. There is a museum showcasing how herbs have been used for millennia. A separate “plant museum” is closer to a botanical garden and is a nice stroll. There are restaurants and cafes utilizing herbs as tasty ingredients and small shops for herb infused products like candles and soaps.
And that’s where any continuity ends. A recently completed dino park has animated dinosaur models for kids to explore. For ₩3,000 they can ride a walking dinosaur steed around the gift shop. Although closed for the winter season, there were several huts with fossil activities for kids to do as well.
At the mini zoo, which was mostly farm animals, there were donkey rides for ₩3,000. We opted for the cup of carrots to feed them instead for only ₩1,000. There are even gondola rides. While we were there, the ice on the loop was being broken, so it’s not seasonal! I highly suggest getting a bag of breadsticks that you’ll see everyone eating. They are garlic herb with honey and they are very worth a try!
The park was obviously not blooming for our visit in January, but that didn’t limit the stuff to see. I don’t know if Santa’s Village is seasonal, but it was a decent collection of Santa and reindeer decorations. Everything was covered in lights, and the park was filling up as the evening approached for romantic walks in the twinkly lights. The majority of Herb Island is dirt paths though, so be aware of possible muddy conditions and fancy shoes.
It’s worth noting, although we didn’t actually stay there, that there are two pension hotels at Herb Island. One is an “herb experience” pension. Rooms are aromatherapy-centered. The other hotel is a fairy tale themed. Stay in mermaid, Cinderella, Snow White, or Alice in Wonderland styled rooms. What fun for a young girl’s birthday! The herb healing center offers spa and health treatments to hotel guests and day visitors alike.
The herb theme isn’t carried very well through the park, but that doesn’t make it a bad afternoon. It’s a great spot for easy walks to enjoy nature. It’s quiet and open. There are just enough kid activities to keep them entertained and happy without the craziness of a big amusement park. It’s a uniquely Korean location for sure!
Hours: Open 365! Sun-Fri 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., Sat and holidays 10:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Cost: ₩6,000/adults, ₩4,000/kids, under 3 free
Payment: credit card or won accepted
Address: 517-2 Samjeong-ri Sinbuk-myeon, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
GPS Coordinates: 37.96534339999999, 127.13165119999996
Directions: Take Hwy 3 north out of Dongducheon. As you reach the caveman arch on the edge of town, take Hwy 368 on the right. About 15 minutes later, take a left onto Samjeong-ri and the entrance to Herb Island. It was about 25 minutes from Camp Casey or two hours from Seoul. You can also take subway line 1 to Dongducheon station and transfer to bus 57-1.
Parking: Follow the traffic guides to free parking areas on the compound