Without a doubt, the ultimate summer destination is Croatia - its easy temperatures, fresh food, crystal clear water and amazing history. But looking for a place with less crowds and over pricing, then I have the perfect little secret island hideaway.
If there is space on your bucket list please put Croatia on it. It is everything a simple relaxing summer holiday should be. Warm sun; perfect temped ocean (minus any scary nasties), fresh food and amazing wine. Not to mention – great value. I have a gem of an island that I don’t really want to share but I can’t stop talking about it to my poor friends. This perfect destination is a magical little island only 5km off the coast from Dubrovnik, but is a world away from summer time crowds and hustle. This little island has no cars, so it’s perfect for the kiddies with no road sense. The only vehicle to watch out for is the golf buggy picking up hotel guests from the ferry. A narrow footpath traverses up the hill from the main port and village through olive and citrus trees, past a beautiful ancient church along a ridge to the other settlement on the island. This little village has a little stone building that sits right down on a small sandy bay and which is actually a family run restaurant.
The first time my friend and I stumbled upon this local eatery we were greeted by the man we then referred to as The Angry Man and had many of the traits of the Seinfeld TV character “the soup Nazi” (Google it if you don’t get the reference). He was angry and rude (and that was just in Croatian) and there were rules that we just didn’t understand - we sat on his plastic chairs after we had just gone for a swim! We think his wife scolded him and told him off as the next time we went back (yes we did go back) he offered us his homemade brandy, which was basically weeds, from his garden soaked in vodka! We took it as a peace offering and not that he was trying to poison us.
Yet this man fired up the best BBQ fish I have ever tasted in my whole entire life. Cooked over a wood fire (he would keep the fire glowing all day by blowing a hair dryer on to it) he would slap the fish with a stick of rosemary dipped in olive oil and garlic and smeared with salt. It was cooked to perfection. It was crispy and was the only thing you needed to eat. It was washed down with the delicious Croatian beer that tastes so good on a hot summer day. We spent four weeks on the island one summer and returned the following year. Our friendly restaurateur actually remembered us gave us more of his brandy, so I guess he wasn’t that bad after all!
My good friend found this little paradise online and we took off on a mums and kids holiday (the first time there I had a 2, 3 and a 5 year old - yeah what was I thinking right?). But it was truly an amazing adventure for them because they could run around outside half naked chasing butterflies, picking figs and berries and swim in the clear waters of the Adriatic. Because we loved it so much – and our husbands were jealous they missed it - we had to return the following year.
The biggest expense on the island is ice cream for the kids (maybe a butterfly net or bucket from the only grocery store) and a wine or really good coffee for the folks. There are a couple of sandy beaches on one side of the island and rugged cliffs with deep emerald water on the other side. Canoeing around the island is a lovely 2-3 hour adventure or rent a stand-up paddleboard from the main hotel on the island.
If you’re a hiker there are many tracks that meander through beautiful pine forests and take you past hidden coves. If you’re a keen diver the visibility in the water is so clear you can see many metres. Once you’ve explored this island, you can take the ferry to many of the other, bigger and more crowded islands for some great day trips.
To get your food supplies you really need to take the 30-minute ferry into Dubrovnik and stock up, as there is only a basic little general store on the island and some items, like bread, sell out quickly. Sometimes the customer service was not always super friendly – not sure if it was a language barrier or a hangover from the 1991-1995 Croatian war of independence (remnants of the war are still evident in one of the buildings on the island which housed solders during the conflict).
The family run accommodation was basic but when you’re outside all day what else do you need? It had all the kitchen, laundry and bedding needs for a family. Plus one friendly homeowner gifted us with homemade Limoncello, the popular lemon liqueur that is perfect with ice on a hot summers day.
The summer season pretty much ended in late August and the weather became windy and rainy so make sure you get there in the right season. For a family trip, which was basic, with beautiful nature and yet close to amazing history, without the crowds, of Dubrovnik you really can’t miss this destination.
This Island has a name but I am not sure I can really share it and spoil its peace! Send me a message and I'll share it with you. Or even better see if you can guess??