It was about 6 hours to our next destination (Makarska), a combo of highway and national road driving. The E65 (aka the Adriatic Highway), is the coastal road that runs down to Croatia’s most southern point and offers hours of viewing pleasure. Undulating around the rugged limestone coast, we drove by myriads of towns lining up the beachfront. And it was in one of these little towns that we paused for lunch, followed by an irresistible dip in the water. The arid landscape reminded us of southern France and the calanques, not to mention the vegetation. To our right the vast blue Adriatic seemed the perfect floating pool for Croatia’s massive islands (Krk, Brac, Hvar, etc..), that perpetually followed us to Makarska. The beachfront town would be our stop for the next three nights and we looked forward to taking advantage of its beaches and proximity to the islands.
The first night we got acquainted with the beautiful town and identified a few points of interest for the next day.
The morning greeted us with blue skies and hot temperatures, the perfect mix for a day at the beach. We opted for a more secluded area on the rocks (vs the regular beach). From there we had a great view of the town and its coastline. Directly behind town was an enormous white limestone mountains (Biokovo second highest in Croatia), that run for miles along the coast. The contrast between Biokovo and the clear blue sea was sublime. The scenery was magical and we owed it to our friend Natalia who’s pictures of Makarska lured us there (thanks girlfriend!). After the beach we enjoyed the afternoon walking around town and the St. Peter peninsula. It was a hot day but just as intense were the captivating views from the peninsula.
This was also where we captured the sunset while watching little crabs intrepidly march onto the rocky beach (and wondered what to do for dinner). Konoba Kalelarga would be the answer, a neighborhood spot where Croatians filled tables around us on the narrow street. There’s nothing like a locals’ favorite in an authentic setting. The meal also rocked – ink risotto for Brigitte and grilled whole squid for me!
The next day we’d set our adventure to the island of Hvar. The island is 42 miles long and 6 miles wide, and sits just 30 minutes away from the mainland by ferry. We caught the 9am car ferry which was the right move as we had to drive an hour and a half on the island to reach Hvar Grad or the capital and main point of interest (located at the opposite end of the island from where we disembarked). A week and a half ago we drove on the worst road ever, and now we found ourselves on the narrowest one. For the better part of the drive there was nothing but a serpentine 2 band road with absolutely no shoulder (not even a foot), or margin for error. The scenic views didn’t help much either when all eyes had to be peeled to the road.
We made it to Hvar Grad uneventfully and started our tour with the fortress which overlooks the town from up atop a hill. Spanjola as it’s known was built in the 16th century and served in defending the town. Today it makes for an historic tourist attraction and offers a spectacular view of the town below and the vast sea. We wondered around town admiring the Venetian architecture and keeping an eye out for a place to grab lunch. From Hvar’s main square and along its waterfront, there were tons of restaurant, bars/cafes that greeted tourists all day. Fishing boats, yachts and tourist boats uniformly lined the coast and gave us beautiful view of the harbor.
After lunch we located a small beach where we dipped and cooled off before heading to Stari Grad (an ancient town just 8 miles away from Hvar Grad). We walked around town locating the various historic sites left over from Greek and Roman times. The town also had access to a bay where numerous boats were docked. Most impressive were the intricate streets and stone buildings characteristic of the Venetian architectural style within the region. Stari Grad and Hvar undoubtedly brought their A-game on the charm score sheet. And to complete the tri-fecta we made a stop-over in Vrboska on our way back to the ferry (back to the mainland). The smallest of the three towns visited, Vrboska also shares some of the main features as its bigger sisters: a bay and the same architectural style. Wandering around we located a fortified church built from the same white limestone as most other buildings in town. Its imposing wall stood out leaving us to wonder whether it was in fact a church. It was the first of its kind that we’d come across.
Also first of its kind was Hvar, an incredible island (among more than 1,000 that are part of Croatia), feeding our voracious appetite for aesthetic beauty coupled with rich historic elements that are all still very much alive today.