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coast

Family Travel

Croatia’s Islands and Coastline: Camping, Calamari and Compulsive Swimming

4 October, 2013

We came to Croatia primarily because someone told me once that National Geographic had voted it the “most beautiful country in the world” – oh yeah, I thought… You sure? Because I have seen quite a few beaut things in my life, and like, who are YOU, some kind of AUTHORITY on countries and landscapes and geography and that?

Within the first hour of crossing the border from Slovenia we were muttering at the mountains and coastline “Wow. Yep, it is alright this place.” After our first full day we were hyperventilating with all the stunning scenes making our lungs compress and eyeballs water. A week in and we were saying to each other “That National Geographic most beautiful country in the world thing? Hello, UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR.”

Turns out those kids (actually I imagine them to be Teva-toting bespectacled old fellas) Know Stuff.

Our 25 days camping through Croatia are very nearly up. We weren’t sure how we were going to cope, spending all that time with a toddler and a baby in a tent, but we are so SO glad we pushed through after the catastrophe that hit Betty the Campervan in Italy. The weather has been kind, we have had sunshine, and therefore swum, everyday apart from 2. At least once a day we are gobsmacked by the outrageous postcard perfection of the coves and bays and marinas and the way the oceans just pull you in.

I was on holiday with my folks in New Zealand many years ago when we came across the most breathtaking little waterfall with a plunge pool. We scrambled down to it, like children rushing upon the Turkish Delights in the Snow Queen’s palm. We stepped in to it, up to our ankles. My mum though, she kept stepping. She stepped in up to her knees… her waist… then she dived in, every bit of clothing on including her precious watch. It says a lot about my free-spirited, frolicsome mum. But also about the water. Some rivers, lakes and seas poke a Swimming Button, they unleash an overwhelming urge to jump right on in. Here in Croatia, this water is EVERYWHERE YOU LAY YOUR PEEPERS.

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After visiting the National Parks, Plitvice and Krka, we headed down to Split and jumped on a ferry to the Island Korcula. We resisted the swim compulsion at the port – too chilly at 8 am- resisted it on the beautiful ferry trip – too fatal- and resisted as we drove along the Island shore in search of a campsite – too anxious as campground upon campground seemed to be non-existant or closed. We finally found a little camp in a place called Prizba but the man showed me the sign he was about to erect “CLOSED UNTIL JUNE 2014” Nooooooo! But, pity upon us he took, we built the tent under the olive groves and DASHED down to the sea to finally yield to the tug of clear-as-glass turquoise waters.

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The beach at Prizba is sheltered from any wind, and looks out towards a couple of tiny Islands. There is the funnest slide into the harbour, just a couple of bays along from where we camped. And within half an hours drive there are hidden coves with rocks to clamber, each one clamouring for position as Most Beautiful Beach In Most Beautiful country in the world. (Pupnatska Luka and Bacva were our favourites although the latter at the end of a pretty treachourous windy trail! Vucine on the Peljesac Peninsula then popped along and blew even these two out of the water.)

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Most evenings we’d wander down to the tiny marina and chuck in the lures and line we had foraged from the bottom of the sea, joining the local nuns (honest truth- nuns in full habits- with a daily fishing habit, hoo hoo tee hee) in a dusk calamari search. Apparently they were there, and indeed one morning Ramona came running back from a walk with Tim absolutely bursting with a story about the octopus they spotted in the sea! They had shown a local Grandad who came over! And caught it right there in front of them! And then it got free and tried to use its legs to creep back in the water! But the old man got it back! And octopuses change colour on the rocks so noone can see them! It was pink! Then it was brown! As you can imagine Tim was gutted he didn’t catch the bugger. I was, throughout the telling of this adventure, trying my utmost not to boff. Ugh. Octopuses.

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We felt like we had finally found the swimming idyll that we had secretly been hunting for throughout this whole trip. No wonder we stayed there for a week and then moved to the Peljesac Peninsula for a further 4 days.The campsite owner didn’t think much of my Squatters Rights stance. (Jokes.) We left with resigned reluctance, a bank of memories and a small flock of fleas courtesy of the mangy cats who were part of the Mangy Cat Sanctuary he ran alongside the camp that would rampage through our tent each time we turned our backs.

But back to all this beauticiousness. From almost every point on Croatia’s Islands and Coast you can see other islands; hundreds and thousands of them. Round like blobs of paint dripped perfectly into the sea; scattered like a giant kid blew the candles out on his birthday cake spitting billions of soggy crumbs of crisps everywhere…

Or like “God’s tears” as someone more, er, elegantly put it…

After the peninsula we trucked into Dubrovnik for the day, which hands down must be one of the coolest old cities ever (yeah, in fact UNESCO gave it that award a few decades back, turns out.) An ancient town of beautiful architecture, ruins and cathedrals, inside walls you can walk on (we spent a happy 3 hours doing it!) inside another layer or rocks protecting it from the clean, deep ocean- rocks you can bomb off into, yep, water that just compels you in.

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We had heard terrible things about the crowds; cruise ships that bustle up and take over the town but we must have been there in off season as it felt calm and peaceful and free from those pesky tourists. *cheeky smile*

We are now staying in Campsite Serina outside of a little town called Omis, south of Split. It is on a little peninsula, with lots of little coves for swimming straight into the ocean. It must be one of the best campsites ever, with an acoustic folk duo playing on camp each night and the host family welcoming everyone like kindred souls. But, we probably need to leave soon so we can actually get some sleep- the extreme, noisy winds make it feel like there is a giant trying to blow his birthday candles out all over our tent…

PS Come over to Instagram and check out more of our snaps, I’m @lulasticblog