Rocky Coves, Fresh Oysters and Local Wine: Living the Best Life in Dubrovnik

Rocky Coves, Fresh Oysters and Local Wine: Living the Best Life in Dubrovnik

White-marble streets and historic buildings, with rocky coves and crystalline waters just a stone’s throw away make Dubrovnik the perfect mini city break.

continues to top summer holiday hot lists. Since their
war of independence to leave the former Republic of Yugoslavia
between 1991 and 1995, the country has embraced a booming tourist
economy and seriously bounced back. Dubrovnik alone sees two
million visitors each year. And no wonder, when the country has so
much to offer. Regions from Istria in the north to Pelješac further
south serve up an array of specialities, from wine and olive oil,
to oysters and the freshest fish. The Adriatic also hosts some of
the clearest waters in the world, sparkling in the brightest shades
of aqua marine and sapphire – when it’s 35 degrees and the sun
beats down, those crystal currents are irresistible.

The Old Town in Dubrovnik is one of the prettiest urban spaces
I’ve ever seen. With the best-preserved city walls in Europe,
shining white-marble streets (scrubbed clean each night), striking
historic buildings and ornate drinking fountains from the 15th
century, this mini city is astoundingly beautiful. Buy a Dubrovnik
Card and you can make the most of the sights while avoiding hefty
queues. Just before sunset is the perfect time to walk the city
walls, when the terracotta rooftops glow ember and the sun is less

When I first entered the town through Ploče Gate, I was
near-blinded by that dazzling marble. My priority was to grab a
coffee from Cogito Coffee, an import from Croatia’s hip capital,

and well worth the not-so-straightforward route to find
it. Baristas blast indie music through windows looking out onto an
arched tunnel outside, so you can sip your drink with a breeze and
a soundtrack. There’s also a sort of outdoor “cat sanctuary” just
next door, complete with plants for shade, beds and food. You’ll
easily lose an hour watching the fat, lazy felines stalk past in
search of some TLC.

Satisfyingly caffeinated, I headed to the port to take a
15-minute boat ride to Lokrum. This uninhabited, forested island is
known for its peacocks and wild rabbits and makes the perfect
escape from tourist-heavy Dubrovnik. Locals and travellers come
here to swim in the gorgeous sea and relax under in the dappled
shade. While basking on the slanted rocks that lead down to the
Adriatic, a brown bunny nonchalantly hopped past; Lokrum is wild
and unspoilt – and hard to tear yourself away from.

In the evening, I drove out to Srebreno to stay at
One Suite Hotel
. I ate mini doughnut-like bread with melty
lardo draped across it. I tried Dalmatian soparnik, a homemade
pastry filled with swiss chard, and drank mala mevina wine from one
of Croatia’s finest vineyards. The hotel oozes style with its
sparkling exterior, latte art and extensive drinks list. In the
evening, I lazed in the glass-sided rooftop pool and drank a
cocktail as the sun went down. The staff, like all Croatians, were
exceptionally friendly and by the end of the night we were sharing
drinks and stories at the bar. Away from Dubrovnik, there are fewer
people, free parking and prices are lower.

I’d heard that
Hotel Villa Dubrovnik
was the finest place to stay in the city,
so I decided to stop by for lunch on their beautiful, bleacher-like
beach spot. Having descended in a Bond-style elevator from the road
above, I was welcomed by futuristic water features and staff in
chic white uniforms. The food was impeccable; baked octopus salad
followed by the daily catch, a huge sea bass. The octopus was
succulent; the sea bass, soft and fluffy with skin grilled to
crispy perfection. Croatia has very few sandy beaches and the
hotel’s all-white seaside made a welcome change from the burning
rocks I’d lain on the day before, and a pleasant place to digest

That evening I drove to Pasjača, a “secret beach” next to the
rustic village of Popoviči. I had ordered a picnic from Dubrovnik’s
cleverest foodie enterprise, Piknik. Alex Cram, the
company’s Canadian owner, set it up three years ago and runs it
from her home near the Old Town. Having built strong relationships
with local suppliers, Alex curates the most spectacular feasts.
Croatian cheese, sweets, fruit, fresh bread, wine, herbs and
vegetables from her garden, and Italian hams with sweet melon were
all tightly packed into a hiking bag, complete with cutlery, wine
glasses, plates, place mats and a blanket. Three scented tea lights
added a special touch.

Alex’s bespoke service includes asking you what sort of picnic
experience you’re looking for. Brunch? Romance? Adventure? Sunset?
I asked for the latter and, boy, did I get it. I was given
directions to Pasjača and, while hiking down to the steep path to
it, had to stop, jaw touching the ground. Swallows darted in and
out of the cliff-face; the horizon was the deepest shade of blush
fading to mauve; the water was more turquoise than I thought
possible in Europe. We were the only people there and it was

I decided it was time to visit a vineyard. Just an
hour-and-a-half’s drive from Dubrovnik is the Pelješac peninsular,
famous for wine and oysters. We booked a tour at one of Croatia’s
best wineries, Saints Hills.
When I arrived, the sun was setting just behind the valley. All
around it was practically silent. The surrounding countryside was
lush. That night I ate a fabulous meal paired with wine. Cheese
from the island of Pag, where animals eat herbaceous grasses coated
in salt from strong winds coming off the sea; the creamiest risotto
I’ve ever tasted, topped off with chocolate soufflé. The chef at
Saints Hills interned at Noma – and you can tell.

The next day I made my way to Mokalo beach. The sea was so clear
against the dove-grey stones, it looked like someone had filled it
with Evian. Pelješac is a popular holiday destination among
Croatians and the nearby caravan lot was filled with the laughter
of family and friends. On my way back to Dubrovnik, I voiced a
desire for a glass of white wine and some local oysters. As if by
magic, a shack appeared in the road ahead. “Fresh Shellfish” was
written on its side and a dappled roof was being attached above the
decking that jutted out over the water. We were in Ston Bay, the
place where Dubrovnik gets its oysters. Having asked for eight of
them and a carafe of local white, I watched 15-year-old Nikolas
hurry down to the water to quite literally fish our order out. He
brought bread that had just been baked and charged us less than a
pound per oyster. The men on the table next to us had their fill
then lazily strolled down to the pier’s edge and flopped in. That
is life in Croatia.


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