To kick the School Summer Holidays off with a bang this year, we decided to take ourselves off to Cavtat in Croatia. You probably wouldn’t believe us if we told you that we hadn’t actually planned to go globetrotting this year, however when we were given an opportunity to go via Sharon’s work we took it!
You also probably wouldn’t believe us if we told you that Croatia wasn’t even on our list of places to visit, however after seeing a number of our favourite travel bloggers visit the country, as well as a number of friends and family, it went straight to the top of our list. In fact, after researching locations, I was actually quite surprised that Croatia wasn’t on our list. Not only are we big Game of Thrones fans, Croatia appeared to be everything we look for in a country; absolutely beautiful with heat, history, culture and good food!
Located deep in the Mediterranean, Croatia is nestled between Slovenia, Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and separated from Italy by the Adriatic Sea. This means the country is a hot one! Whilst now famous for being the set of GoT, it is also famous for having some of the most stunning coastlines, delicious wine, as well as a decent football team (apparently!)
Our location of choice for this visit was the village of Cavtat (pronounced with a ‘S’ and not a sharp ‘C’!) which is located in the South East of Croatia; close to the historic city of Dubrovnik. For the first time, our holiday was going to be good 11 days long – our longest holiday yet – therefore this post is going to summarise what we got up to, as opposed to detailing each day like we did when we went to Corfu, Greece.
For easy reading, we’ve also placed some helpful anchor links to allow you to go to your subject of choice – including a quick rundown of our holiday if you’re in a rush!
Just straight to…
Another first for us was getting a ridiculously early flight from Gatwick (like, 6am early), which was certainly an experience. We decided to stay at the on-site Premier Inn the night before, which maximized the amount of sleep before travelling, however I’m still torn as to whether arriving at your holiday destination super early is a false economy. On one hand you get to your destination early, and it feels like you have an extra full day, however with our hotel we couldn’t check in until 3pm so we couldn’t really go that far. Plus, we were all super tired, so exploring was off the cards anyway.
We had access to our swimwear, so in hindsight I probably should have just got changed, but it kind of felt like we were in limbo so I, personally, couldn’t fully relax. The boy, however, fully immersed himself into the holiday lifestyle and got straight in the pool as soon as his last foot fell into his sliders which is why I’m not going to completely write early flights off the cards just yet! I clearly need some practise.
Getting to Croatia took around 3 hours, which didn’t feel that long – especially with the views from the plane. It was a really clear day when we travelled so we got to view The Alps from one side of the plane and Paris from the other. The airport in Dubrovnik is also really efficient, which meant in no time we were in our transfer car and on our way!
The hotel we stayed in was situated in Cavtat, around a 20 minute flat walk from the main town which was perfect. I’ll leave a link to the hotel here, however we probably wouldn’t recommend it if I am being completely honest. Whilst in a great location, with good links to the airport and Dubrovnik, the hotel was pricey for what it was and the food was mediocre at best. Due to the food, we often ate out (which wasn’t a bad thing, but not something we had necessarily planned for as regularly as we did).
This is obviously based on our own personal preferences and opinions, but when we go all-inclusive we expect a certain standard and this did not meet that standard; especially for what was meant to be a four-star hotel (if it was placed as a three-star, though, we probably would recommend it). For this reason, we won’t be posting many photos of the hotel or it’s rooms as we don’t wish to promote it here. We certainly wouldn’t people to have a naff holiday based on our recommendations!
That being said, the hotel was very welcoming and we felt safe as an LGBTQ family, so it wasn’t a complete downer – far from it. It was a great place to lay your head after a busy day or chill out for the day by the beach (the pool was okay but, again, another issue we faced was other guests placing towels on loungers before 9am; which often ruined the expectation of feeling relaxed!). The views, however, were pretty spectacular and sunsets came in abundance.
Located South East from Dubrovnik, sits the coastal town of Cavtat. By boat, it’s around 40 minutes away from Dubrovnik and by car it’s between 25-30 minutes depending on traffic. Cavtat can only be described as being similar to a French Riviera, with luxury yachts docked at the marina and beautiful palms lining the paths. Restaurants dominate the main road, but are complimented with local shops and ice cream parlours. It has a very relaxed feel, and we’d often find ourselves just sat on a bench just watching people or boats.
We walked from our hotel to the town centre almost every other day as it was such a pleasant place to be. Not only was the walk flat, but the views are incredible no matter where you are.
Those staying in Dubrovnik often commented that they would go out to Cavtat for some fresh air as the city can feel like an oven, and they’re not wrong. Whilst still featuring the Croatian heat, Cavtat has a breeze and such crystal clear waters that you’re tempted to go for a dip every few minutes.
During our visit, as well as regular walks into town to pick up water (and Ice Cream!) we dedicated three whole days to exploring the town. For our first visit, we explored the markets and shops, and generally found our feet (as well as the cheaper places for bottled water!), but the next two visits were dedicated to something a bit different.
At either end of the town are two circular coastal walks that allow you to not only see the town from different angles, but allow you to go off-piste a little. The first walk we did was Šetnica oko Rata that takes you round the north of the town; through wooded paths (see above). The second was Sustjepan that takes you around the south side of the town. The second one is more off-road than the other; with uneven ground; thanks to rocks and tree roots, dirt tracks and overhanging trees, however it was easily completed in sandals (see below).
If you can, we highly recommend giving at least one of these walks ago. There is a slight incline on both, however there are plenty of benches and opportunities to stop and take in the views. For us, we found it perfect for burning some of the boy’s energy. When walking on the Sustjepan route we even found a decent children’s play park!
If, however, exploring the food is more your thing, Cavtat has some excellent cafes and restaurants. Catering for all and varying in budget, we found it very easy to find somewhere to eat as a family. Our most expensive meal was our last night which cost us in the region of £100, however a lot of this cost was dedicated to the 2 G&T’s we had each! Being on the coast, fish obviously dominates the menus; however it was Cavtat where I found a decent Vegan restaurant.
We only ate at a few restaurants and cafes in Cavtat during our holiday, but here are the ones we visited whilst in Cavtat that we HIGHLY recommend: Ivan Restaurant, Restaurant Zino, Konoba Toranj and House Of Ice Cream for literally the best Ice Cream.
Dubrovnik (Old Town)
I don’t really know where to start with Old Town Dubrovnik. When you explore the streets it’s like you’re stepping back in time. I spent a lot of time looking up, as that was where you’d often find old stone or windows, or just something that still remains from centuries ago. Dubrovnik dates back to the 7th Century, with the architecture featuring Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.
For our visit, we stayed within the Old Town area, but there’s tons more to explore in Dubrovnik once you leave the city walls – like, Pile Bay (also known as Blackwater Bay) and Velika and Mala Petka Forest Park. One thing we did get to do, outside of Old Town, was take a trip on the cable cars. Although a little pricey (around £22 per adult and £5 per child for a round trip), it did offer absolutely incredible views of the whole of Dubrovnik. You can also stay up there as long as you like, which is made easy as there’s a gorgeous little restaurant at the top.
As well as exploring Stradun; the main esplanade, we made every effort to venture up and down the various alleyways. Not only did this offer tons of shade, but it was often where we’d find the best restaurants. Because a lot of the restaurants are somewhat hidden away, Dubrovnik Council (?) place signs on all street corners detailing what restaurants can be found up that alleyway. This is a great way of finding places to eat or new sights to see.
Dubrovnik City Walls
An absolute highlight from our visit was walking the city walls, which is where you see the most of what Dubrovnik Old Town has to offer. As well as incredible, 360 degree views, you also get to see the effects of the siege of Dubrovnik during the Croatian War of Independence. The different coloured roof tiles, for example, show what was damaged during the war. We decided to walk the walls by ourselves, but other folks could take walking tours which can be arranged separately.
The City Walls are 1.2 miles in length and the tallest point is around 25 meters. If you’re afraid of heights, the height is obviously something to think about, however the walls protecting the path are roughly waist to chest height, so you don’t have to look down if you don’t want to! The floors are mainly stone, which can get a bit slippery if too wet or dusty, but we didn’t find them too hazardous and Sharon is incredibly accident-prone!
Although the city walls open at 8am, we arrived at the walls around 10am which was perfect as there was no rush at the entry point. It also meant we were leaving just after the hottest part of the day, which we found to be between 12:30pm and 2pm. The walls can obviously get a bit busy, but we didn’t find them crowded at all as people are walking and taking the walls in at their own pace. Everyone is really relaxed.
Tucked away on the wall are also a couple of cafes offering drinks and ice creams (and toilets!). You don’t know they’re there until you venture onto the walls, however they’re a welcome sight – especially if you decide to walk the walls during hotter parts of the day.
It took us around 2 hours to walk the walls, however this included several stops.
As you can probably tell, we took most of our pictures on the City Walls as the views are just breathtaking. We left this visit towards the end of our holiday, in case we (read: Sharon) hurt herself and we couldn’t do anything else, however in hindsight I wish we’d done them sooner. This is because they allowed us to find more places to visit that we weren’t aware of before, for example; Lovrijenac, Fort Bokar and Crkva sv. Lovrijenac (Lovro).
That being said, this has only given us juice to plan another trip to the city.
Although the City Walls were the priortity of our visit to Dubrovnik Old Town, we also managed to squeeze in a lots of other visits to other local attractions.
This included Dubrovnik Aquarium, which is a really sweet little Aquarium that offered plenty of respite from the sun! This cost us less than £20 for the three of us (if you know how much our Aquariums cost, you know!) and allowed us to check out some of the local sea life and aquatic plants. We also visited Dubrovnik Maritime Museum which offered a fascinating insight into Croatia’s nautical history as well as some stunning views across the port.
An Overview of Our Holiday
Arriving at 10am on Sunday, we got to our hotel within 15 minutes once we were collected by our transfer. As mentioned, check-in wasn’t until 3pm, therefore we spent our time waiting in and around the hotel. The boy wasted no time and got himself changed and went straight to the pool. Sharon and I hung back and tucked into the all-inclusive drinks.
Once we checked-in, we unpacked and had showers, and then grabbed some dinner before hitting the sack. It had been a long day.
The next day, we decided to take it easy and spend the day by the pool as well as explore the local area. Around the hotel were a number of bars and restaurants, as well as a couple of shops to buy supplies such as water (and pool toys!). These acted as great places to explore when we didn’t want to go too far or as a way to punctuate the day.
Throughout the week, we spent a number of days either at the beach or by the pool, or both. These days were usually placed after longer days; such as ones spent in Dubrovnik or Cavtat. They were also vital for recharging. For us, the beach was our preferred choice when it came to more relaxed days. It was a little quieter, it was breezier and the waters were perfect for swimming in. On one day, we decided to set up camp on one of the many flat rocks that compliment the shoreline. This sounds pretty dangerous, but if you find the right spot it’s the perfect place to relax as a lot of them are covered by palms and pine trees.
At the beach were also options to rent sun loungers and accessories, as well as water activities such as Pedalows, Kayaks and Paddleboards. Whilst you were welcome to relax on the beach, the beaches aren’t sandy, therefore it’s ideal to rent a sun lounger. This cost us 120 Kuna (approx. £13!) for two loungers with cushions and a parasol for the day.
Tip: If you’re planning to visit the beach and go into the waters, make sure you get yourselves some beach shoes. Although efforts are made to move resident Sea Urchins, the tide will naturally move them onto rocks.
Our more active days in Croatia were spread across Dubrovnik and Cavtat, with 3 days being solely spent in Dubrovnik inconsecutively. Cavtat we spread even further with trips ranging from a brief morning to a whole day. It was really useful spreading visits out across our holiday as it meant we didn’t overheat or overdo ourselves. On the hotter days at the beginning of the week, we often had to retreat back to the hotel earlier than planned. Although we don’t like admitting defeat, this worked out to be a good idea as it meant we could take our time exploring.
As mentioned, we spent a good 3 days visiting Dubrovnik; accessing the city via the sea taxi that picked up from a dock near to our hotel. This allowed us plenty of time to explore the streets, including all the different museums and churches, as well as the Cable Car and City Walls.
During our visit, we visited the following museums and churches:
Tip: For our last visit into Dubrovnik, we decided to purchase the Dubrovnik City Pass to save on entry costs. Purchasing this allowed either free entry into a variety of museums, including the city walls, or offering a decent discount. The pass also allows for free public transport, as well as certain discounts at restaurants and shops too!
The pass can be purchased as a day pass, a three-day pass or a seven-day pass.
When it came to food, there really is something for everyone. Being on the coast, fish is the main cuisine of choice; with live lobsters and oysters featuring regularly on the menu. But don’t be put off, there’s plenty of opportunity to find other Mediterranean food; ranging from Pizza and Pasta to Risotto and Steaks. As a vegetarian, there was also plenty of choice for me.
The only issue we found was finding menus that included options for children. Whilst we didn’t struggle as such, we often found ourselves ordering adult meals for the boy as the only option was a pizza or pasta (and by the end of the week, the boy was a little tired of that), or we’d share our main with him. It would have been a welcome sight to perhaps have the option to make “half-sized” portions of the main menu. That being said, this issue only really occurred at dinner time. Lunch time was a lot easier as we would either share a pizza with some drinks or simply order a salad (or omelette for T!).
As expected, by day 5 the holiday was flying by, and in no time we were getting ready to go home. That being said, I genuinely don’t think we could have squeezed anything else in (okay, maybe one more ice cream!). Whilst we didn’t meticulously plan our holiday, what we had planned was perfectly timed around the weather and for a seven year old. We had a wonderful mix of relaxation and exploration. We felt we had thoroughly seen what Cavtat and Dubrovnik Old Town had to offer. We had such an amazing time and we’re already discussing different towns and cities within Croatia.
Croatia is absolutely beautiful, with the waters being their piste de resistance. They’re so unbelievably clear, with lots of wildlife swimming around whilst you’re swimming. There’s views for days – I was often found several feet behind, taking photos. Everyone is also so warm, welcoming and friendly – we felt incredibly safe as an LGBT family in Croatia.
Thank you, Croatia! Until next time.
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