A trip to one of the many famous islands is a must if you are ever to come to Croatia. We picked Brač, just outside Split. Ferries leave from Split to Supetar several times a day and take around 50 mins (price was around 150KN/car and 30KN/person, the same price range goes for most Jadrolinija ferries around the coast). From Supetar we drove straight across the hill to Bol where we arrived at around 11pm and hadn't made any bookings but still had no trouble finding a lovely apartment to stay in. Very handy!
We had a couple days to discover the gorgeous island. The weather was a stark contrast to the cool (cold) mountain climate of Plitvice - sunny & hot! We passed the first day walking around the city of Bol, the pine tree lined beach walk, lounged on the famous tongue shaped Zlatni Rat beach (great smoothies there too!). The evenings we continued our trip tradition of Croatian "tapas": local salami & prosciutto and some wine.
The next morning went on a "off-road" bike tour.. Less off-road than we had hoped but was a fun way to discover the island. In the evening we continued on four wheels: cruising with a quad around the fun dusty roads and the hills of Brač!
On both trips we also stopped by at the top of the island (supposedly the highest "island mountain" in Croatia) and could enjoy some spectacular views of Brač and especially the Zlatni Rat beach.
There's loads to do on Brač and the island is full of stunning little towns and coves so make your way out of Bol or Supetar if you're staying there! If you do end up in Bol I'd recommend the Moby Dick restaurant for a romantic dinner with possibly the best "dinner with view" on their second floor terrace.
Other islands you may want to visit: Hvar for party people. Mljet if you like nature. Korcula, Vis and Lastovo are also easy to reach on ferries. Our next stop however was on the Pelješac peninsula...
While touring Croatia we tried to find some nice, peaceful, interesting places with lots of nature and we ended up going to the Pelješac peninsula - it was also conveniently "on the way" from the island of Brač to Dubrovnik. To get back to the mainland we drove from Bol to Sumartin and barely made it to the ferry leaving to Makarska (and possibly made an island record with those mountain roads as we noticed the ferry schedule a bit too late). The view of Makarska from the sea is quite impressive with the Biokovo mountain range looming right behind the city, going from 0 to 1700m in altitude within quite a short distance. Makarska looked like a lovely town too - shame we couldn't stay everywhere!
From Makarska we drove the picturesque coastal road to Ploče where we would get on another ferry to Trpanj, on the Pelješac peninsula (nothing to see in Ploče btw, an industrial town). Another short, one hour ferry ride and we were on the peninsula's northern side in Trpanj from where we continued straight to the southern side of the peninsula, to our next destination: Orebić.
"Orebić has the best beaches of Southern Dalmatia" says the Lonely Planet. The town is lovely, more quiet than Bol (with its outdoor nightclubs) and there are beaches left, right and center. We had another superb apartment right in the center, close to all the lovely restaurants, old stone buildings and the turquoise blue sea.
You can get around the peninsula by car, bike or as we found best, with a quad. We had the quad for one full day and drove around the western part of the peninsula, discovering all the quaint seaside villages and hidden beaches. The Duba beach (watch for a small sign with a picture to "U. Duba" on the road between Orebić and Lovište) was possibly the best on the trip, partly because of its hard-to-find location, and the obvious white pebbles, clear as ever water and silence... The odds are you may not be completely alone but as close to it as is possible even in the highest of high seasons. Would make it to my top ten list of beaches!
Besides all that, Pelješac is know for for fresh fish & seafood so eat plenty of that - usually restaurants offer their best fishes at "per kilo" prices. You can also do hiking and frankly it was a shame we didn't have the time to climb on top of the range - next time definitely, the views are stunning! Also if you're into windsurfing or want to learn it then this is the right place. There are lots of surf camps and they host even some serious competitions in Viganj.
Even if you may have not heard great things about Croatian wines, I can tell you I was pretty delighted with all the wines we tasted. Pelješac is one of the best places to do some wine tourism and we also did some wine tasting on one of the nuuumerous vineyards there. The local wines are very easy to drink and there were lots of pleasant surprises to be found. Most families still live a very modest farming life, growing all they need for their own use - this includes making their own wines for friends & family. And some offer these wines for sale as well and you can pop in for free tastings. If you're traveling with a car just keep looking at those "vino" signs for a one you like and stop by - you'll be a welcome visitor at the small local wineries (all in all, Croatians seem to be one of the most hospitable and friendly people I've come across!). Just remember not to drink & drive!
Special tip: there's a fun side-trip you can do on the Pelješac peninsula by driving though a tunnel (created for the farmers?) from Potomje to the south side of the mountain range! Great views of the vineyards and the bays!
We also stopped by in Ston for a quick lunch and views of the 5km long walls going up the hill - impressive! From Ston you can get back to the main part of the coast and we continued our trip to Dubrovnik......