All eyes may be on Game of Thrones' real-life locale, Dubrovnik, but there's more to coastal Croatia than this walled city. Islands buzzing with beautiful beaches, pristine national parks and vineyards producing some of the Mediterranean’s best wine are just a ferry ride away.
Join the locals at these hidden coves and off-the-beaten-path eateries for traditional fare served up Croatian style in 10 of the best coastal getaways the country has to offer.
Catch the sunset at Buza Bar in Dubrovnik — Photo courtesy of Lane Nieset
Drink Cliffside in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik’s “hole-in-the-wall” Buza Bar is literally just that–a cliffside bar perched over the sea that’s only reachable by walking through a hole in the city walls. Don’t expect to find a sign. Instead, follow the stream of locals heading here for daytime dips (the bar extends right down to the water) and cool glasses of rosé come sunset.
Make your way along the walls from Ston to Mali Ston — Photo courtesy of Flickr/Steve Sadowski
Walk the Walls of Ston
About an hour north of Dubrovnik on an isthmus connecting mainland Croatia with the Pelješac Peninsula lies one of Europe’s longest fortifications. Walk the 3-mile-long medieval walls on an hour-and-a-half journey connecting the salt-producing town of Ston with its little sister, Mali Ston, an oyster hotspot since the time of the Romans.
Visit the oyster farms by boat off of Mali Ston — Photo courtesy of Lane Nieset
Visit Oyster Beds by Boat off Mali Ston
While in Mali Ston, hop on board a boat and set off to visit the oyster beds in the bay firsthand with the farmers. Family-run Bota Šare offers a sailboat tour of their islet farms - which ends with an oyster party that rages 'til dawn.
Road trip through the vineyards on the Peljesac Peninsula — Photo courtesy of Lane Nieset
Vineyard Hop on the Pelješac Peninsula
Continue driving past Ston and you’ll reach Pelješac, a 44-mile-long peninsula covered in slopes of sandy soil prime for growing Postup wine, one of the best in Croatia.
The wine haven is scattered with vineyards of the indigenous Plavac Mali grape. Head to Potomje for samples at wineries like the father-and sons-run Miloš.
Sample local specialties at the taverns on Korčula — Photo courtesy of Lane Nieset
Eat with the Locals in Korčula
A stunning ferry ride from Dubrovnik drops you on the island of Korčula, the rumored birthplace of Italian explorer Marco Polo.
It’d be so easy to spend days at the many waterfront restaurants here. But peel yourself away and head inland for the more traditional taverns, or konoba, just a short drive away in the island’s hill country.
In the village of Pupnat, family-run Konoba Mate feels like you’re dining at an old friend’s home. Don’t leave without trying the house specialty: homemade pasta crafted with eggs from the family farm, topped off by fennel-infused cream.
Rent a boat and island hop off Hvar — Photo courtesy of Lane Nieset
Island Hop Around Hvar
Perhaps the most jetset of Croatia’s islands, Hvar is known for its Saint Tropez-style parties and mega yacht-filled port. (David Beckham and Brad Pitt are just a few of the celebs who have partied on these shores.)
But the everyday traveler can enjoy cruising Pakleni Islands even without a mega-yacht. Rent a motorboat (no license required) for as little as $80 a day.
Go snorkeling off of Vis in the Green Cave — Photo courtesy of Yacht Rent
Cave Dive Off Vis
Off the coast of Vis lies two of the island’s most visited attractions: the Green Cave (Zelena Špilja) on Ravnik, and the Blue Cave (Modra Špilja) on Biševo. Named after the color of the glowing sea, these natural beauties are best reached by row boat.
Time is limited in the Blue Cave and you can’t jump off for a swim, but you can spend as long as you want snorkeling when you visit the Green Cave, swimming under the light peeking through the top of the grotto.
Split's palace within the old city walls dates back to the 4th Century — Photo courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board/Ante Zubović
Soak Up Split’s Culture
The largest city in Dalmatia, Split is a great jumping off point for islands like Hvar, but don’t leave until you’ve soaked up some of the 17-century-old city’s culture.
Snag a pillow on the Peristil steps in the center of the palace at Lvxor Kavana, rumored to be Split’s oldest café, or try a traditional Dalmatian dish at Buffet Fife.
The tavern sits just past the Riva promenade in the Matejuska cove and has become something of an institution in Split, known for budget-friendly fare like pašticada, a beef stew cooked in white wine and served with gnocchi.
Mljet National Park borders two lakes on the island — Photo courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board/Mario Romulić & Draen Stojčić
Get Close to Nature in Mljet
The forested island of Mljet is a popular stop-off on sailing trips through Croatia or day trips from Dubrovnik.
Legend has it Odysseus spent seven years in a cave here on the southern part of the island, which you can cruise through by row boat.
The western part of the island is covered by the Adriatic’s oldest national park, the perfect place for a nature walk or cycling trip to the two lakes that link to the sea.
Zlatni Rat beach in Bol — Photo courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board/Ivo Pervan
Bask on Brač’s Hidden Coves and Beaches
The triangular-shaped beach Zlatni Rat, or “golden cape,” in Bol is not only one of the most beautiful sandy shores on the island, it’s also constantly rated one of the top in the world.
Changing direction with the current, Bol’s beach also draws windsurfers to its waters. To truly feel like you’re the only one on the island, set off and explore one of the many hidden coves accessible only by boat.