Croatia, Destinations

An Apartment in Croatia: Scenes from a Beachfront Hideaway

June 25, 2012

Cafe cabana overlooking the Adriatic sea on the Croatian coastline

Had you asked me about travel in Croatia before this year of visiting countries around the world, I’d have given you a blank look. Aside from briefly memorizing the open-jaw jigsaw puzzle piece shape to pass my junior high geography course, I didn’t carry much context for the Croatian landscape, food culture, or travel scene.

Ask me now, after spending a week and a half renting an apartment in Croatia on the shoreline of the Adriatic, and I’ll tell you how this beautiful little country hugs the water, grows fresh vegetables, serves up tasty fish, and caters to travelers seeking peace and calm and beachfront hideaways (provided they know to come before tourism season kicks into full swing!).

Map of Croatia

Thanks to Landing Standing and their Lewis-and-Clark style scouting party a few weeks prior, we received a heads up and an invitation to join them at a sweet spot in Dalmatia, the lower region of Croatia’s seaside stretch.

Achingly long transportation legs (Days 137 &138 in the Daily Travel Journal) moved us from resting in Sirmione to taking the rails southward to Ancona, Italy, across the Adriatic on an overnight ferry (sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags!), arriving in at the port town of Split, hopping a southbound bus to Makarska and riding the final stretch with our landlord’s brother and father who were kind enough to pick us up at the station and look past our road worn appearance.

The end of the 24 hour travel session found us collapsed in a heap in our new little Croatian apartment, just steps away from the water in the sleepy 200-person town of Drasnice. The really amazing bit? Clothespins, chandelier, kitchen for cooking from scratch, wifi, blazing sunsets, and a pub/cafe directly down the flight of concrete stairs: eighteen euros a night during the quiet months.

Ted and his backpack among clothespins and green balcony plantings outside our Croatian apartment
Spare bedroom furnishings in Croatian apartment rentalColorful clothespins in Croatia; doing laundry while traveling and backpacking in Europe

The trick to finding discount stays in coastal Croatian cities: visit before tourist season kicks in and stay put for an extended period of time.

Our late spring stay: perfectly timed. Tony, Meg, Ted and I were the only four tourists most days, and the others who visited were a handful of Eastern European families bringing their kids to the coastline for a little sunny play. I’d imagine the scene changes entirely when the calm town swells from 200 to 2,000 during high summer, but in the meantime, we found a slice of peace and calm.

The town’s central church bell clanged at all hours: morning, midday, and sunset, and other random moments, too. We never got to the bottom of the schedule or found the culprit with the bell rope, but the oddly cadenced rhythm set the tone for the passing of time: a little off kilter, a bit different from day to day, but comfortingly calm.

Our apartment rental in Croatia: Biokovo Mountains and Drasnice Church Tower

Sidenote: Plant geek tidbit. The Biokovo Mountain Range in the background of the picture above is none other than the place where Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ was discovered. Turns out the evergreen species is the naturally occurring hybrid between G. dalmaticum (Dalmatia…get it?) and G. macrorrhizum… I labeled that little mat-forming groundcover countless times on planting plans when working at home in Oregon and always wondered where the name “Biokovo” originated. Now I know!

Wandering the rural streets leading up the hill and out of town, we came across little terraced gardens springing up all along western facing slopes. Hand-made, hand-tended. Our landlord’s mother even treated us to her homegrown greens a time or two.

How beautiful to see food growing with purpose, gathering life from the soil, and offering nourishment to those willing to tend the land.

Our apartment rental in Croatia: Stone Retaining Wall Vegetable Gardens

The sweetest discovery in Drasnice was the glimpse of the artist’s studio perched atop the hill, overlooking the Adriatic and its Croatian islands, where palettes and paint bloomed like flowers in front of the closed shop building.

Our apartment rental in Croatia: Seaside Views and Oil Paints
Our apartment rental in Croatia: Art Gallery Bench
Oil Paints and Bits of Nature: Our Croatian Hideaway

Yes, ask me now about travel in Croatia. Ask me about this little country surrounded by Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro and about its charming seaside towns. Ask me about spending time in Dalmatia and sitting to watch the sunset on this spare and simple coastline.

Our apartment rental in Croatia: View of the Dock on the Adriatic

Ask me, and I’ll tell you: studying in junior high geography doesn’t hold a candle to experiencing a place in person, feeling rocky beach pebbles between toes and smelling sea air, eating meals of fresh caught fish, passing Croatian kunas to the grocery store clerk, feeling the proximity of neighboring countries during local bus rides, observing people’s daily lives and backyard gardens…

The education of travel builds a vivid mental map. Shapes and letters shift to impressions and feelings; memories transcend memorization.

On this journey, again, the world comes to life.

We found our Croatian apartment rental through Tony and Meg’s recommendation. The little hideaway was our eighth Airbnb stay since using the vacation rental service on a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia back in 2010. We’ve now rented in North America, South America, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe, and I’ve already been busy perusing listings in Africa and Asia… If you haven’t yet used Airbnb, check it out! It’s great for foreign vacations and local weekend getaways. P.S. If you use this link to peruse listings and book a trip, you’ll put $25.00 into our coffee fund!

For more photos and tales, see Landing Standing’s selection of posts on food and travel in Croatia and the.ego.tripper’s Croatia Blog Week.

Have you been to Croatia? What are your best memories?

Which map-bound countries lives only as shapes in your head? If you could visit one this summer, which would it be?

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  • Reply Steve Whitty June 26, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I have never visited Split. However, I can recommend Pula. It is a pretty coastal town. The best known attraction is the Roman Ampitheatre.

    • Reply twoOregonians June 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Steve, I wish we would have had even more time to explore the other little coastal towns in Croatia. Pula sounds lovely!

  • Reply Dalene June 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Hey guys – like you – we LOVED Croatia, and it was so much more than we had bargained for. Their coastline is truly stunning.

    Any chance you are heading through Slovenia? We get there tomorrow! :)

    • Reply twoOregonians June 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Oooh! Slovenia sounds so mysterious. What a treat that you two get to go exploring and see it for yourselves! I’ll keep an eye out for your pictures. : ) We’re sadly through with our Eastern European visits for now – off to South Africa tonight. Seems nearly every door opened in the world reveals even more curiosities and places to enjoy. Have a wonderful visit!

  • Reply Liz Nichols June 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing your amazing notes and photos. Will be in Split on 11th August. Happy travels

    • Reply twoOregonians June 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      Liz, you’ll have such a lovely visit, I’m sure! Thanks so much for reading, and enjoy planning your trip : )

  • Reply Stephanie - The Travel Chica June 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I have wanted to visit Croatia for a long time. Although I want to see the “known” tourist destinations, I think exploring a smaller, lesser-known seaside spot like this in the off-season would be a great experience.

    • Reply twoOregonians June 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      We took some time later to explore Split and Dubrovnik, but the treat of staying put in a small, quiet town with beautiful scenery really was a treat.

  • Reply Kent June 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    We loved Croatia and can’t wait to get back. Your posts are fueling that desire :)

    • Reply twoOregonians June 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      Happy to oblige ; )

  • Reply Jennifer June 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    We live so close to Croatia and go each year at least once, yet I feel I know so little about it! We’re road tripping through Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia in August and I’m really looking forward to covering a lot of Croatia on that trip.

    • Reply twoOregonians June 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Oh, that sounds like a great trip, Jennifer! We took the bus through some beautiful scenery, and I think it would’ve been really fun to have the liberty of our own vehicle so we could stop in smaller towns and explore places off the highway. I’ll look forward to your guys’ pictures later this summer! : )

  • Reply How To Not Get Sick Of Travel June 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    […] were the only tourists in town (besides a special guest appearance by TwoOregonians) and lived 10 meters from the beach with easy access to beautiful sunsets every night and […]

  • Reply @TheBigBreak July 3, 2012 at 1:40 am

    We will surely have to make it to Croatia on our trip. Your photos are beautiful! I’ve often stood near Ancona and wondered what goes on across the sea. Thanks for the continual updates. So fun to follow you both!

    • Reply twoOregonians July 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      You’re so kind; thank you! : ) It’s funny, I’d spent time before in Greece and wondered “what’s up there?” when thinking about the countries to the north… So lovely to finally see it with our own eyes. Thanks for following along. How’s your itinerary coming together??

  • Reply Roxanne July 6, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    This is positively idyllic! I love staying in apartments for extended periods of time when I’m traveling, and when my schedule permits it. I’ll now have to put Croatia on my future travel map…

    • Reply twoOregonians July 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      I love having the time to sit still and discover the little things…like the painter’s workshop up on the hill. Just beautiful. I think I’ll always remember those bright, messy splotches of paint whenever I think of the country that was once so foreign to me. I hope you get the chance to visit!

  • Reply Choose Your Own Adventure, Eastern European StyletwoOregonians July 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    […] overland through Turkey, visit Istanbul, and fly south to Lebanon. But the decision to hide out at an apartment in Croatia nixed that route, as ferry companies didn’t offer the preliminary connection from Croatia to […]

  • Reply Tricia January 28, 2013 at 9:37 am

    My husband and I are contemplating staying in an apartment in Drasnice in the coming weeks, so I really enjoyed your lovely description and found it quite helpful. What mode of transport did you use – would you say Drasnice made a good hub for exploring the area?

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians January 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Hi Tricia! I’m excited to hear that you and your husband are headed to Croatia. I think you’ll enjoy being there in advance of the summer crowds. We relied on bus service and helpful tips (and a ride or two!) from our landlord’s family. More than a few times, communication was a challenge (at the bus station ticket counters, for example), so I’d encourage you to bring an extra measure of patience. : ) We explored the little town of Drasnice on foot, and we took buses from the hwy back north to Split and later south to Dubrovnik.

      We spent the majority of our time resting/working at our apartment; I’m not sure whether I’d say it was a great hub for exploring — if you’re planning to be out and about almost every day (and if you don’t have your own rental car), transportation options may be better if you base yourself in Makarska, just a bit to the north. It’s smaller than Split, but much more lively than Drasnice, and it has its own dedicated bus station.

      Hope this helps! Enjoy your travels : )

      • Reply Tricia January 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

        Thanks for your quick and informative reply, Bethany! We’ve decided to start out in Trogir (near Split) and work our way south from there. We’re actually on the lookout for an apartment where we can settle in to one place for a while and catch up on work (trying to make a digital nomadic lifestyle a reality, or at least continue to work abroad). We still might stay in Drasnice, as it sounds like a relaxing, authentic spot.

        I’ve been to Croatia once before, though only to lovely, but very touristic Dubrovnik. This time around, we hope to explore the Balkans a bit more thoroughly – and independently (no car). I’ll have to peruse your site to see if I can find any other gems in the region.

        Are you still globetrotting, or taking a vacation from the RTW? :)

        Again, thanks so much for your help.

  • Reply Desa Marijeta November 25, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Dear traveler,
    how amazing you have spelled your little journey around Croatia visiting Drašnice.
    I can also thank you for being my promoter, passing by my door took a beautiful pictures of the village and our atelier. I’m only sorry because you haven’t entered my door to see my opened arms inviting you for a cup of coffe. I, a painter, Desa Marijeta would like to invite you in here to spend some more time to discover interesting things about Croatia, too, from the first hand. I suggest you to see my facebook page:

    Let me know, I would be glad to hear from you.

    Best regards,
    Desa Marijeta.

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