Whilst this was our first time with the kids to Croatia, Tyler and I had been twice before: once on a cruise ship for the whole, one-day-in-Dubrovnik stint, and then on a river cruise to a more Northernly town called Vukovar.
For many, Dubrovnik is the real highlight of Croatia (and Game of Thrones being filmed there has certainly upped the pop culture appeal of the city), so skipping out on visiting it could feel like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower; it’s absolutely fabulous and you should definitely go. That said, I was so excited to have been before as it allowed us to be in other parts of the country without feeling like we’ve missed out on something major.
By the time I got to booking the Croatian leg our our trip, I had booked over three months of European accommodation in about seven days which sucks the fun out of travel planning. All I cared about at that point was getting hotels or Airbnbs locked down, and assuring our stay was on one of the islands as a.) you can’t really go wrong if there’s a beach, when travelling with a toddler and b.) it sounded like good travel street cred to have stayed on the Croatian islands. No kidding I went on Pinterest, typed in “Best Croatian Island” and the town of Bol, on the island of Brac turned up — that’s the amount of work that went into it, and Bol did not disappoint!
We stayed in a one bedroom apartment (the whole town seems to be apartment rentals, so they should be easy to come by and relatively affordable compared to the rest of the Europe), a five minute walk to the downtown core, and then from there, we walked along a wide, stone boardwalk (smooth for strollers or cycling) that is canopied by trees for about 20 minutes to the island’s main beach — a pebble peninsula out into clear turquoise water. You can certainly drive as there is ample parking available near the boardwalk, or there is a little shuttle bus/train that goes back and forth from the downtown core to the beach, but it’s such a pretty walk that we preferred the scenic route. For about a week, we just bummed around, really! Rented bicycles (helmets and child seat adapters were available), swam, played with the stones on the beach and embraced the opportunity to breathe out and feel good about doing nothing.
To me, Bol is the kind of place where you say, “could we do it? Is this the place that we could be convinced to move for?” My answer is, if we had liquid cash I would DEFINITELY BE LOOKING TO BUY A SECOND HOME IN BOL. The place is crawling with tourists but everyone is in a good mood and laid back. No one is hustling you on the beach trying to sell you crap, it is clean, and the views are amazing. The only downside we found was that there was no where you could buy a pastry AND a coffee — you had to make two stops. No kidding folks, that was the only downside to visiting Bol. But to that I say, “business idea!” and it only strengthens my interest in selling it all and moving to the Croatian beauty of an island to run a croissant and latte combo special, and be beach bums forever.
I would love to go back for a holiday where we focus our entire time on the islands to see more of them. A Croatian friend of mine says there are over 1000 islands and they all offer something different — so Hvar is certainly a hot spot, Bol is my only point of reference and that leaves 998 others to research and discover!
I should say, I am writing this from Split, in a beautiful apartment where we’ve had another great experience. It’s definitely got a “gap year” vibe going on with lots of young people (where the island was family.family.family.older-couples-group-holiday.family). If I were to plan your trip for you, I’d say to go to Split for two nights to say you’ve seen it (ditto on Dubrovnik), and then head to the islands and do as much exploring, or as little of nothing as you like! The ferries are reasonably priced and frequently run for walk or drive on options, and whilst you don’t require a car (we parked ours the whole time we were in Bol, although it is a 45 minute drive from both ferries we used so you’d require a taxi), the roads are well maintained, and the drive is scenic and calm.
We have a few other trips we want to do first, but we’ll be back to Croatia, 100%!