A number of small islands surround the southern coast of South Korea, but few compare to the unique natural beauty of Oedo Botanica, a former bit of barren rock that has been wholly transformed into a diverse botanical garden.
In 1969, a man named Lee Chang-ho took shelter from a squall in the lee of Oedo, a tiny heap of rocks sticking out of the green waters of Hallyeohaesang National Park off the southeast coast of South Korea. Lee saw potential in the rocky little spot, and in that same year, moved he and his wife, Choi Ho Suk, to the island. At first they tried to harvest tangerines and raise pigs, but neither crop took to the land, so they began thinking about simply transforming the whole island into a botanical garden. After getting approval in 1976, Lee and his wife started growing what would eventually become a stunning botanical garden coating the entire surface of the island.
After almost 30 years of growth and development, the little island now sports, trees, flowers, shrubs, and even cactus, and rare species of agave cascading down the island’s gentle slopes. The carefully manicured paths and precisely sculpted topiaries add a fantasy element to the setting, making it all seem a bit unreal. All of this, grown under the couples’ loving care.
The island has been completely transformed into a little slice of paradise, its flower-covered hillsides and perfumed air are popular with Korean vacationers and tourists from around the world—those fortunate enough to learn about the island from locals at least. The Oedo Botanica is accessible by ferry from the nearby port of Gujora, and continues to be hailed for its picturesque statuary, hiking paths, scenic vistas of nearby Geoje Island, and thousands upon thousands of species of lush plant varieties. Not a bad place to take port in a storm.