Just over a month since we left Croatia to explore Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia, we were back on the beautiful Dalmatian Coastline. As we had been inland for a few weeks, and covered quite a few miles, including surviving some crazy back roads in Bosnia, we were ready for some well earned R&R.
As with most of the route, we hadn’t really planned exactly where we were going. We simply looked at the Croatian coastline in Google Maps, where we would probably enter from Bosnia, and then chose the Pelješac Peninsula based purely on how remote and coastal it looked on the map. We wouldn’t be disappointed, and as we began weaving our way up the peninsula, with the countryside wrapped in never-ending vineyards, and very little development, we knew we were heading in the right direction.
We had identified a cluster of cool looking campgrounds around the town of Orebić, which was about an hours drive from the turn off to the mainland and the coastal Highway 8 (the lifeline to the coast if you are in van). This would be our first stop on what was effectively our "Sail Croatia" (unfortunately Gary couldn't swim so we had to stick to the coastal roads).
Our first port of call was Orebić, which offered a huge range of campsites, dotted along water's edge, and nestled amongst little cafes and restaurants. The town itself had an aura of authenticity and rustic Croatian feel to it, whilst also juxtaposed with modern offerings that were directly impacted by the recent flood of tourism (including a large modern supermarket).
We had chosen a campground called Nevio Camping which had great reviews (4.6/5). It was however expensive, huge and to be honest a little sterile. Sure it had it's own beach, a pool, beach bar, modern bathrooms etc, but at €33 per night for the lots right at the back and quite a walk to the beach through hundreds of plots, it wasn't quite what we were after. It's really designed for families who want to park up there for a few weeks. Nevertheless as we had constantly been moving, having two nights back to back meant a well needed day off on the beach with a few beers.
The next morning on his now ritual "burn off the beer" run, Dan had noticed some smaller little campgrounds only 2km away, in the heart of the town, and right on the water. We considered moving but given we just arrived and couldn't be bothered packing up and setting up again, we decided to just make do. That night following a lovely dinner we prepared in Gary, we biked into town as Brigid hadn't yet explored the town. With a gelato in hand, we wandered along the waterfront, popping into little stores along the way and finishing the evening sitting out on one of the piers with a few beers, watching the moon glistening on a glass-like Adriatic ocean.
Less than 3km across the water from Orebić you can clearly see the town of Korčula, situated on the southeast corner of Korčula island. In summer there are regular vehicle and passenger ferry services between the two towns. Initially we thought we would head out there - however upon looking for good camping spots in park4night, we quickly noticed there were almost none available. As we were already on a beautiful coastline and a bit over logistics, we instead decided to keep meandering along the peninsula's coast instead.
We had flagged a number of cool little campsites right near the sea dotted along the coast heading north from Orebić. However upon approaching the sites we were instantly put off by how packed in the plots were, so we decided to head to the end of the road, right at the tip of the peninsula, to a little town called Lovište.
As we climbed the hill just past Viganj, we had to pull over to take in the view (and give Gary a small break to catch his breath!). The coastline here was simply mindblowing, and the view across the channel to Korčula was stunning. We were transfixed for a few moments watching the wind-surfers and yachts braving the strong winds funnelling down the channel.
As we descended down into Lovište, our decision was instantly rewarded. Pulling into the little village, the road quickly turns into a small twisty pavement which feels like you are driving along a footpath, amongst the local restaurants and shops. We then arrived at Camp Denka (4.6/5) and were thrilled to see a front plot available right by the sea and shaded by palm trees. At ~€18 / night incl. electricity, not only was this more the type of spot we were looking for, it was almost half the price of the last spot! We immediately manoeuvred Gary into place, with the doors opening straight out to views of that tranquil Adriatic ocean nestled amongst this peaceful little bay.
There was one other main campground available in the bay (Camp Lupis, 4.5/5), which offered far less privacy, less plots on the sea, less shade and was more tightly packed. So Denka was definitely our recommendation! Furthermore this was another one of those brilliant moments in the trip were our itinerary was completely open. While we knew we would stay at least two nights, we could stay a whole week if we wished... which is exactly what we did.
The village featured a small fresh vegetable stall and mini-market (right by an ATM too), all of which was a short walk or bike. So we could buy everything we needed to stay as long as we wanted, and at relatively good prices considering how isolated we were and the monopoly they had. It really was quite enjoyable just popping into the shops in the village whenever we needed anything. The local little coastal road was great for morning runs and evening walks. This spot really was perfect.
Throughout the week we noticed several Sail Croatia boats pop in for the afternoon or evening, coming from or heading to Dubrovnik which was just down the coast. Several of our friends have done this, where you spend a week on yacht partying along the Dalmatian coastline. While we had initially planned to do it ourselves, we quickly realised that €350 (low season) to €600+ (high season) per person just didn't make sense given we already had the van, could essentially get to the same locations, and didn't have a place to store Gary whilst we were sailing. We would later do a day cruise out to Brač from Split, but more on that later. Overall we were quite enjoying creating our own Sail Gary experience, where we could go at our own pace, and enjoy each location as long as we wanted. The dream.
On the final night we treated ourselves with a well priced dinner at a local and friendly restaurant called Konoba Mirce (4.7/5). About 1km along the road from the campground, this is literally the end of the road. Following a lovely feed of Octopus we wandered back to Gary to get a good night's rest before we packed up and moved on to the next magical spot.
To get back to the mainland we had to back-track along the main peninsula road towards Ston, which is right at the beginning of the Peninsula, and where we would jump onto Highway 8. As we had hit the road at at pretty good time, we pulled over for a quick break and to pop into the little town which we had noticed as we passed through a week earlier.
Initially we just went for a quick wander through quaint little streets, but very quickly and predictably, Dan had decided that we simply must climb Ston's old walls and have a look at the castle... For ~€10 per person it was pretty reasonable, as it offered unique views down towards the mainland and salt flats, where salt has been harvested for over 4000 years! Wow! (Thanks Saltworks Ston). Upon reaching the higher points of the oddly laid out walls, you could immediately see why such as stronghold was positioned here. The whole loop takes about 1.5hours (albeit does involve some steep stairs, which Brigid was naturally thrilled about).
Jumping back in Gary, we quickly joined onto Highway 8 and began heading north up the coast. Our time on Pelješac Peninsula was a great reminder to try and get more off the beaten track when in a van. Just heading that little bit further away from the main roads and coastline, often means less and less people, and the more remote and beautiful the location will likely be. We absolutely loved our time on the peninsula and specifically in Lovište, but after a week we were ready for a new adventure!
Next up, we would find another hidden gem along the coast on our way up towards Spit. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Sailing Gary along the Dalmatian Coast.
Bidi & Dan :)