The Marvellous Makarska Riviera

We were now into November in Europe and we were experiencing the downside to out of season travel in popular tourist destinations. We continued our journey east along the Dalmatia Coast from Split to Makarska. Makarska is known as the Riviera of the Dalmatia Coast, but in the off-season it is basically closed for business.

We had four full days in Makarska and stayed at a lovely apartment near the port for AUD$56 per night. We had planned two day trips whilst we were there. One was inland to Imotski where there are two large sinkhole lakes called Red Lake and Blue Lake. The Red Lake is 250 metres deep and gets its name from the red rock surrounding the grotto. Alas, though, when we arrived at the bus station to go there, we were told the buses to Imotski ended on the 1st of November and would not reopen until the end of winter – so we could not go.

This tied into the reason we could not go to our other day trip destination, the Biokovo Mountain and National Park – to get to Imotski you travel over and through the Biokovo Mountain, the road apparently is not easy to drive and is dangerous – hence it is recommended only experienced drivers take the road in winter. We were planning to go to the highest part of the mountain, Sveti Jure (1762 Metres), which is the highest mountain pass in Croatia. I then did further research and found the trip over the mountain on the website ‘dangerous roads’;  We needed to plan this better, but it was probably for the best we didn’t go up the mountain, as it rained every day and, some days, very heavily.

On top of this, Makarska is a ferry port with many islands off its coast – unfortunately most of the day trip ferries close for winter and only one car ferry connects all the islands, but that takes overnight – so we couldn’t get to the islands at this time of year.

So what did we do in Makarska? Well one day it was very windy and absolutely poured down. On this day, we blogged, read and I went to a bar and watched the English Premier League, call it a rest day.

The other three days we walked, a lot. We walked three ways; out to the port and turn left, out to the port and turn right and finally behind us as far the road took us to the base of the mountain.

Makarska is dwarfed by the huge Biokovo Mountain range and this all makes for some pretty spectacular scenery.

There are two distinct parts to Makarska; the port with the Old Town, and then the beach with all the resorts, hotels, bars, restaurants and the touristy stuff.

Port near Old Town

Beach area outside Old Town

The port is a horse shoe harbour with many luxury yachts, sailing vessels, cruisers, etc moored there. The port promenade is lined with palm trees and there are many restaurants and bars. In the off-season I would say about 60 percent of these restaurants were closed. The breakwater walk allows you to walk out and look back at the port city and the mountains in the background and I dare say it is one impressive view!!!

We walked out on to the breakwater to see the mountains drenched in rain and clouds, overcast and in sun shine – each trip was worth it.

The port is a beautiful spot and to be honest I prefer it to the beach, so on our first walk we went to the port and turned right, we walked around the port to the beach. The east headland of the port has the breakwater. The west headland of the port has a hiking trail to the statue of St Peter. At the statue there was also a lock shop (closed, of course, in the off-season) and along this part of the hiking trail there were thousands of love locks on the path railings.

The west headland used to have a bar out on the point – not sure what happened to it but it has been dismantled now. However, there is a cave where the bar used to operate from and that has a hole in the cave floor to the ocean water below. Walking down the steps to the cave whilst the ocean was rough probably explains why the bar was closed.

The hiking trail takes you over the headland to the site of an old church. The area around the church is from a church built in the 6th century, you have the original walls and gates – the original church though was destroyed. The actual church there now, the Church of St Peter, was built on the site of the original church, but was built in 1993 after the communists left.

From there you continue around the headland to the lighthouse.

All along this walk you have views out to the outlying islands. The hike around the port to the west headland and then around the headland to the beach, takes about 60 minutes.

I was also impressed that, on the port promenade, there is a statue dedicated to tourists – yep to us tourists. The statue shows a male and female tourist pulling along a suitcase with wheels – it appears that many real tourists have had their photo taken with the statue tourists, and the female statue tourists right breast, seems to have more ‘feeling’ shared with it, than the rest of the monument!!!!

From the lighthouse you now walk to the beach area and once again the mountain/beach/town/ocean scene is stunning.

The beach promenade goes for a couple of kilometres. This is your typical tourist hotspot and reflects any similar hotel, bar, beach area elsewhere – but the mountain backdrop gives it that certain special something!!!

On the day we walked along the beach promenade, the place was empty, I would say only 20% of the bars, cafes or hotels are still operating – I felt like I was in the scene of a zombie apocalypse, though Di assures me zombies are not real, whilst walking this deserted promenade with boarded up restaurants and bars. Eerie!!!

At the far end of the promenade at the Buba Bar, the promenade ends and you can cut to the main road. Once at the main road turn left, head out of town and about 800 metres along the road you come to Vepric and the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes – this place was very tranquil and lovely indeed – not to be confused with the place in France of course.

The grounds of Vepric

There is a church here with several little altars and some of these altars are in caves.

There are religious statues scattered around the grounds and it makes for a very enjoyable experience. I am not religious but I found this place was very calming and a pleasure to wander around – a highlight of Makarska.

We then headed back to the apartment – this walk was 12 kilometres and took a leisurely 4 hours with photo stops.

The next walk was to the east headland and then follow the walking trail there.

East Headland walk

We went along the rocky coastline and after about 2 kilometres we came to a sign that said there was a nude beach ahead – so we had to keep going didn’t we.

Sadly, or thankfully, depending on your view, the nude beach was nearly ‘peopleless’ – except for an old fully clothed bloke fishing at one end. This is a beautiful spot, pebbles rather sand on the beach of course, and we enjoyed the hike there.

There was a pile of clothes on the beach and Di saw a male swimmer heading back to shore – time to go she said!!! For your information the beach is called Nugal Beach – I think that translates to Nude Beach!

We walked back along the trail and then cut up to the trails inland. These were nice forested trails and they headed to the town of Tucepi. We followed the trail to a small church (churches everywhere in Croatia) and from there we got some great views of the coastline. It then started to drizzle so we headed back to Makarska by the inland trails. The round trip was 9 kilometres and it took just over three hours.

On our last day in Makarska the sun came out in the morning, so we set off directly up into the mountains. The street called Put Makra is just to the left of the main bus station as you walk out of the bus station. Put Makra takes you up to the mountain – be warned it is #@#$#@# steep and, after one hour of walking directly uphill, we had nearly covered 2 kilometres.

We walked….

At one point you come to a fork in the road – the way left is to Makar and the right to Mlinice, it does not matter which way you go as the road is a loop and will bring you back to the same intersection.

and we walked….

Still walking….

We went left and that leads to Ivan Krstitlj Church – the views down to Makarska are breathtaking!!

After the church we came to olive country and the olive trees are everywhere. Di was brave enough to pick one of the olives off the tree and eat it – but her face went all ‘cats bum’ and she spat it out!! ‘Yuck’ she exclaimed!!!! Better her than me I guess!!

These must be the right olives to eat

The road here flattens out as it traverses the mountain foothills. Wandering the quaint road amongst the olive trees and pomegranate trees and hearing goat bells clattering away was all so delightfully Mediterranean!  Then the constant view, one side the coast the other the mountains – delightful!!!

This loop road up in the mountain foothills was easy enough on this lovely November day – in summer the steep climb would be tough in the heat as that first part is all uphill. This walk was only 7 kilometres but took 3 hours, it was slow going uphill. The walk, though, was fantastic and a great way to spend a morning.

Di and I then settled into a restaurant called Timun on the Port promenade. The meals and alcohol in this part of Croatia are truly value for money. We had two very large pizzas, two bruschettas, I had three 500 mil bottles of Tomislav Dark beer (more expensive than lager), Di had cider and a coke and it came to AUD$44 – plus we had filtered views through the overgrown trees to the port – a bargain!!

I enjoyed Makarska, even though the time of year we visited was restrictive of things to do and see. I would imagine the place would be jumping in June, July and August and there would be so many more things to do – a tourist hive of activity.

One last point in regards to our accommodation, we only paid AUD$56 per night and the room was lovely. The host, who we only dealt with by phone, was very eager to help, any slight issue we had and the host would send his charming mother around to help us. His mother spoke no English at all. When we arrived in Makarska we had a little trouble finding the apartment. We rang the host and the next minute his mother arrived to guide us to the apartment. At the apartment there was a complementary bottle of red wine waiting for us. On the second night of our stay the mother showed up and brought us cake. We saw the mother in town the next day and she ran over and gave us both hugs. On our last night she came to our apartment to say good-bye, as she had to work the next morning, and she bought us some presents each – the hospitality was simply amazing!!!! We loved our host’s mother.

Do we recommend Makarska? Absolutely!!! Even in November.

We left the next day by bus to Dubrovnik.

The adventure continues……………..

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