THE ADRIATIC’S TRUE BLUES – The Coast of Croatia
From lavender-scented islands, secluded coves that look straight out of a James Bond film, to sunny cafes, fashionable nightlife, and stunning yacht-filled marinas, Croatia’s coast is a gorgeous Mediterranean treat.
This lovely, lavender-covered island is dotted with secluded pebbly beaches and coves. And, everyone wants a piece of the action in the sunniest and most happening of the Adriatic islands. Outside of Dubrovnik, Hvar is the epicentre of travel in the Dalmatian region. Holidaymakers come to be around the yachts lined along the harbour of the namesake capital and among the revellers forking out more than top dollar (in Croatian terms) to party into the night. A massive overhaul of key hotels here in the Sunčani Hvar chain has been followed by a slower stage of development as the town comes to terms with its stardom.
The hub of it all is Hvar town harbour. In high season this pretty, petite Venetian capital of 3,000 locals on the island’s south-west tip overflows with 30,000 visitors every day.
They swarm the attractive waterfront and adjoining main square, Pjaca, doing coffee, and the nearby market by morning, the beach by day and the bars by night. Prices now match those of fashionable hotspots elsewhere on the Med. Sunčani Hvar’s Amfora Hotel broke new ground when it opened, its conference centre containing an outdoor meeting area and cascading pool area lined by bars, restaurants and gardens.
A burgeoning cafe-and-gallery vibe fits well with the low-key attitudes of Stari Grad and Jelsa, further east along the coast. Both are fine examples of old neighbourhoods where stone houses, ornate colonnaded balconies and winding pedestrian promenades, polished by centuries of travellers, take top billing over discos and clubs. In Jelsa’s serpentine alleyways, for instance, quality eateries have sprouted.
Nearby Vrboska is also a delight with its tiny stone bridges, two marinas and just enough restaurants and bars to keep the yachties happy. There’s a sense in these towns that, except for a few mad weeks, it’s just you, the locals and ancient stone decor.
For a real insight into the history of this island, go inland to Humac, Dol, Maio Grabje, Velo Grabje or Vrbanj. Now mostly uninhabited except for the odd konoba, the original islanders built their old stone houses safe from the pirates of Omiš and worked the land.
Stari Grad is also the point of entry for car ferries from Split. It was here that Greeks from Paros settled in 385 BC. Invading Venetians then shifted the centre of power (and the name) to the west coast port of today’s Hvar town. The elegant loggias and main square in Hvar town owe their look to Venice. Beaches line each side of the bay, the southern one towards Borić less crowded; and Jelsa has child-friendly Mina. Taxi boats run to the Glavića peninsula and the nudist beach on nearby Zečevo island.