Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast (mostly)

Leaving Lake Bled in Slovenia we drove south-west (about 3 hours) to the coast to the historic town of Rovinj, in Croatia. There are a lot of beautiful smaller, lesser known coastal towns in the north of Croatia that are very similar to Dubrovnik; Croatia’s most famous castle city in the south.

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Given its proximity to Italy there are a lot of Italian influences in northern Croatia whether it’s the in the food or the amphitheatre you’ll find in Pula, but the towns still have a very strong Croatian feel. The Slovenian town of Piran also looked worth a trip and the whole drive through the Julian Alps to get to the coast offers lots of opportunities for detours to vineyards, waterfalls and hiking spots, if you have time.

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We stayed at Island Hotel Katarina, which has great views of the city and has a ferry to the mainland running all day. Unfortunately, it’s seen better days: the rooms are what you’d expect at a Butlin’s, everything is a bit run down and the pool wasn’t heated (which seems to be typical of all the hotels in Croatia in September). But, the views from our balcony were great and we found a great rocky cliff to enjoy sunsets from in the evening.

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The town itself was quaint but small and didn’t take long to explore, culminating in a church at the top of the town/hill. We wandered little alleyways and got a bit lost. Some bad weather and disappointment in the hotel had us in a bit of a funk, but we found a great little area in the harbour for some sundowners (around Bar Rivera) and had some amazing food at Rio Bar and Kantinon Tavern which really lifted our spirits.

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Having planned our trip poorly we drove back to Ljubliana in Slovenia to dump the car and hop a train to Zagreb, where we had one day, before flying to Split. Yeah, we planned it badly. The previous post says what we should’ve done. But, it did mean we got to see a bit of Zagreb and left us wishing we had more time there.

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We stayed centrally and squeezed in a self-guided walking tour to see the highlights of the city – including the Cathedral, Stone Gate and St. Mark’s Church – before stumbling on a food market in Zrinjevac park in the evening.

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We flew to Split and stayed at a great Air BnB apartment right in town as we had an early ferry to the islands. Again, after wandering the alleys and taking in its charm we wished we had more time there. We had dinner at the amazing Bokeria (make a res) before getting caught in a torrential downpour.

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At 6am we were up and at it, taking a golf buggy (best €5 I’ve ever spent) with all our crap to the harbour to catch our super early ferry to Hvar (1h). We bought tickets online in advance, so just showed them the PDFs and tried to get back to sleep.

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We stayed at Hotel Amfora, a short walk along a paved promenade, and they picked up our bags from the port. It’s a bigger hotel with pools, swim up bars and a beach club (Bonj les Bains) which was great for us – lots fo facilities and an easy walk to town. It was a great place to relax.

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Hvar is a great place to explore, with more lanes to get lost in and feeling brave one day we hiked up to the Fortica which overlooks the harbour and has amazing views! We were vey happy to have brought our hiking backpack with us!

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Hvar attracts quite a lively crowd, but they’ve tried to keep a lid on it and most spots in the centre are relaxed, with the clubs like Hula Hula and Carpe Diem out of town. Great for us and we enjoyed lounging with Aperol Spritzs in the harbour and more great food (Konoba Menego being of particular note. Go very early: it’s tiny and you can’t reserve). Very randomly we bumped into a couple we knew from New York who were on their honeymoon, so we braved it one night and had early drinks at Hula Hula. C was loving it!

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After a great three nights in Hvar is was back on the ferry to Dubrovnik (3h15) for our final leg of the trip. I wrote a lot about Dubrovnik previously in this post, so won’t rehash it all again, but it was great fun to re-explore the town with the family this time. We took in the Walls and stayed at the Sun Gardens, again.

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A few new things: we finally found Buza bar, set on the cliffs outside the sea walls where my lunatic wife decided to go cliff jumping! It’s the perfect spot for sunset, but get there a bit earlier to grab a table.

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We also took in a city and Game of Thrones walking tour, which was so-so, but gave the girls a good overview of the town, plus led us to an epic play park where C let off a LOT of steam.

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What. A. Trip. We loved Croatia and will definitely be back with the less visited islands of Vis and Korcula likely to be on the cards.

Until next time…

-MKC

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