I’ve laid on beaches, I’ve swam in salt water, I’ve watched gorgeous sunsets . . but I have never seen anything like the Croatian coast. You could pinch me till it hurts and I’d still find it hard to believe that this is real. The Adriadic Sea (or ‘na more’ as locals call it) is sheer paradise.
Crystal clear turquoise waters wash up on rock beaches with a picturesque mountain backdrop. Red roof houses are perfectly perched in the rolling hills surrounded by lush green tropical foliage. Olive, pomegranate, and fig trees (with ripe fresh fruit for the taking) are everywhere you look. Produce stands are overflowing with bright, juicy fruits and veggies (especially amazing are the watermelon served ice cold in the 40 plus degree heat). And best of all – the sun shines every damn day!
Our arrival at the sea was filled with a certain degree of unease as the family member we were staying with in Vodice could not be contacted. Thank goodness for our amazing taxi driver (Frankie) who was so unbelievably patient while we first drove up and down streets for what seemed like an hour trying to locate the apartment in the dark, only to realize it was empty with no way of getting inside. We later learned that our host was in the critical care unit of the hospital in a neighboring city. The amount of support and help we received (from complete strangers) from this point on truly restores my faith in humanity. Here we were, three girls with no place to stay in the middle of the night, luggage in tow and exhausted from traveling all day. Frankie turned the meter off and took us to a lovely hotel for the night to deal with the everything in the morning. The five-star Miramare Hotel was expecting us upon arrival. The front desk went above and beyond; discounting our hotel room, bringing us drinks on the house to lighten the mood and making phone call after phone call to the hospital for Kristina so she could better understand what was going on. Frankie returned the next morning to pick her up in the taxi and the two of them took a 20 minute drive to the ICU in Sibenik. She returned to the hotel a couple hours later with good news and the keys to the apartment. We enjoyed a delicious complementary breakfast at the hotel, thanked the hotel owner and helpful staff, and made our way to our new home for the next three days.
A lot of the houses in Vodice have been separated and turned into ‘apartmani’ (rental suites). The homes have quite a lot of character with mature grape and flowering vines climbing up the front.
Our home was within walking distance to two beautiful beaches, the main centre (filled with amazing restaurants and nightlife), and a tiny supermarket. Although we did buy some produce to eat at home, the fresh seafood was too good (and too cheap) to resist from the plethora of restaurants along the water. Vodice is where we started our search for the best mussels (dagnje) in Croatia. We tried them in garlic sauce, tomatoe sauce, white wine sauce – all served with fresh bread, house wine and a million dollar view.
Late dinners led to late nights in the beach bars where crowds of people (vacationers and locals) drink, dance and then keep dancing. I loved it! The DJ’s play a mix of Croatian and North American house music, the bars are open all night, and the stars shine bright overhead in the open air concept buildings. I learned that in Croatia, ladies don’t drink beer in public. We drank Karlovacko (local Croatian beer) with a straw when we were buying because it was the cheapest thing on the drink menu. The guys dress up really nice to go out and the girls wear big, beautiful costume jewelry.
Our days in Vodice were spent nursing hangovers on the beach. Men walk around with tiny vials of olive oil to improve any tan, cooked corn on the cob is sold from coolers, and gelato stands are everywhere you look. Beach bars played dance music all day while we alternated between sunbathing, cooling off in the salty water and enjoying Turkish coffee seaside.
My best day in Croatia was spent at a National park called Krka. We hired a taxi for about $60 CAD return to drive us the 30ish minutes each way to the park entrance. Here, we bought a $15 CAD entrance ticket which included a free boat ride to the island. I took so many photos on the boat ride alone, the scenery was so pretty and I had no idea what I was about to experience.
When we arrived on the island, there was a raised wood boardwalk that led us in a 4km loop around the perimeter of the park. Waterfalls came into view, romantically cascading into each other and then into the emerald green (surprisingly warm) water. We couldn’t help but take a dip – unreal. There’s a certain tranquility in the sound of running water, and eating lunch in this park was so relaxing!
Within a few days Vodice became very comfortable and familiar. It’s a pretty small place and, (for once) I actually knew where I was going! We opted to move south down the coastline to check out a new spot.
The drive was a beauty beyond what I can explain. Like a picture on a postcard of a paradise you think you’ll never actually see in person. . .
We briefly stopped and watched the cruise ships come into port in Split.
Within a couple hours we were dropped off on the side of the road (mid day this time – we are learning!) in breath-taking Baska Voda. If I had thought Vodice was complete bliss, than this place was heaven on earth. The scenery. The sunsets. The giant mountain range meeting the sparkling sea. The Main Street was lined with outdoor patios boasting cheap happy hour drinks and seafood dinners in the evening. In the distance we could see Hvar and Brac (islands only 15 Km off the coast).
We found a travel agency (there’s literally one every second shop along the strip) and got an apartmani in the centre of town for 20€ each per night. It had everything we needed; a patio, a fridge, a decent bathroom and it was steps to main drag.
Days were spent meeting new friends in hammock chairs at the relaxing beach bars, always staying to watch the sunset turn the sky a vibrant coral like I’ve never seen. One night after dinner, we brought wine and mineral water to the beach. We sat under the stars with our spritzers and talked for hours with other vacationers (the sound of waves crashing in the background). Pinch me, I’m dreaming!
The party scene had died down in Baska Voda by the time we arrived (best time is before August 15th), but masses of people are not necessary to have fun. We headed Makarska; a neighbouring town about 10 minutes drive away. Here we danced to Croatian music until 3am, shared a slice of pizza and laughed so hard it hurt on the drive home (arms waving overhead) in a top-down convertible. The wind was salty and warm, the stars were so bright, and the song ‘Are You With Me‘ made for a moment I will never forget (I get goosebumps just writing about it now). We got dropped off on the centre close enough to walk home; immediately Kristina walks left, I walk right. . . . absolutely no idea where we live. Some things never change. 🙂
My time on the sea was unforgettable. Minutes turned to hours and then days seamlessly floated by; life just felt so incredibly easy. The only word that comes to mind is PEACE. Complete sunny, seafoody, sunsetty, SPARKLY peace. ✌️