Makarska, Croatia’s Secret Beach Haven

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CROATIA | Split and Dubrovnik are the most visited seaside cities on the Croatian mainland, but neither have many beaches and both tend to be swarmed with tourists in summer. In between these two holiday destinations is the less known of Makarska, which represents all the best bits of Croatia. It is far smaller than Dubrovnik and Split, is surrounded by both busy beaches and hidden coves and boasts some of the best seafood restaurants and wine bars in the country. This year, we at The City Lane were fortunate to visit this hidden gem again, thanks to Sail Week Croatia.

Here, we offer a game plan for exactly how you should spend your time in Makarska, be it with friends or on your own.

Makarska By Day

Each day should start with someone running down the road to grab some takeaway coffees and a whole assortment of pastries. You’ll find great cafes dotted all around the town but do be sure to treat yourself to some extra delicious cakes at Café Romana while you’re visiting.

And as Makarska is known for its stunning beach life, you should be spending most of your daytime both basking in the sun on the pebble beaches and floating about in the water. If you’re feeling up for a lively beach atmosphere, then head straight for the main beach, located right by the small market stalls selling inflatable toys, souvenirs, gelato and beer.

Mark out your territory early in the day, either under the shade of the palm trees lining the coast or head right for the sunniest spots to soak up all the rays. Your day should then include stagnant runs to the nearby stores for cold beers and water as well as the occasional snack. Lunch should come in the form of mixed antipastos, again from the surrounding supermarkets. You’ll find the best deli section within the Studenac store across the road. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be there on right day to find an old man walking up and down the beach selling fresh fruit from his cart. This guy will bring you some fresh and sweet watermelons, mangoes, cherries and oranges. Perfect for those too sleepy and sweaty to run to the shops.

We also recommend you get yourself a blow up lilo for your frolicking and napping in the sea. Laying on your back, looking back at the mainland, you’ll see what makes Makarska such a beautiful place to visit. The notoriously clear blue waters of the Adriatic lay beneath you, the shore is full of kids playing some form of beach hacky sack and right behind them stands the enormous Croatian mountain ranges carving sharp lines through the sky as if someone had delicately drawn them by hand. And as the sun sets, these mountains will turn hues of red, orange and pink. Such a sight cannot be missed.

But for those who want something more private and relaxing, you need not worry. You just need to walk a little bit further to find the smaller coves hidden just outside of Makarska. You’ll walk north along the coast with the beach on your left for about 30 minutes. The path starts out as the smooth white stones, before turning to normal bricks, then concrete and finally pebbles and dirt. As it changes, you’ll know you’re heading in the right direction.

You’ll see the beaches getting smaller and less busy as you go. Also, the ratio of boobs to bathers will dramatically change with more and more nudists springing up. Again, you’re going the right way. You’ll eventually hit a small forest bordering the coastline. Head inside and make your way along the small path. You’ll quickly find lots of small little coves with people relaxing with their dogs and such. You might need to scale down some steep little paths to find the empty beaches but it’s well worth the effort.

And fear not the nudists. You can either join them with your naked freedom or stay in your swimmers. It’s up to you. Everyone’s too chill to really care.

And once you feel the desire to drag yourself off the beach, you can make the walk back to town and head to the main park in Makarska, Suma Sveti Petar, to go cliff diving. The adrenaline rush is exactly what you need to wake up and get moving again. There is a short jump and a terrifyingly tall one as well which are both safe enough as long as you don’t try to do any foolish flips. But if you’re not so into the whole adrenaline rush activities then simply wander around town until you find a nice bar overlooking the water or within the old town. Along Put Cvitacke, you’ll find countless bars overlooking the water with brilliant views of the sunset. Any of these will do for sunset cocktails.

Makarska At Night

Next up is dinner – the most important meal on a holiday – and Makarska does not let you down on this front. Just be wary of all the usual tourist traps. Stay off the main promenade and try to find the smaller spots hidden down some of the quaint alley ways. Our favourite spot would have to be Konoba Kalalarga which offers a totally different menu each day. They rarely bother to even write a menu, instead allowing the waiters to read out all the daily specials before taking orders. It is all dependent on what was best at the market that very day. You can hope for a superb black squid ink risotto, grilled scampis in a garlic sauce and as much fish as your heart desires. It’s also very reasonably priced.

But if you’re wanting to treat yourselves to a special dinner then Restaurant Rivi offers some great outdoor seating in their luxurious courtyard. You will pay a bit extra but get phenomenal service, one of the greatest fish platters for two and a great selection of wines. The same can be said for Bounty Bar, situated right on the water with front row seats to Makarska’s sunset. The food is exceptional but is equally expensive.

And if you wish to make a night of it, you can search for more late night bars dotted around the city. The best wine bar in town would have to be Spina Bar. This little establishment has a few seats inside by the bar and plenty more small stools and cushions sprawled out along the laneway. The waiters know their wine list back and front, serving some of Croatia’s finest tasting wines. Plus they also do a mean margarita.

And if you’re wanting to party then look no further than Deep. This bar is located within a cave, and boasts its own private pebble beach. It is often full of tourists from several tour boats including those from Sail Week Croatia, making for some fairly crazy nights of dancing, drinking and late-night swimming.

You can easily spend four or five nights in Makarska, simply swimming, tanning, eating and drinking around town but Makarska’s central location also makes it the perfect hub for exploring the rest of Croatia’s magnificent mainland towns and nearby islands. The famous Zlatni Rat beach is just a short ferry ride away while full-day trips can also include visits to Hvar Town, Korcula, Vis and other parts of Brac island. If you have the time, then such a trip is a must.

You can reach Makarska by flying into Split and then taking a 2 hour bus ride or taxi down along the winding coast. Buses from all other major towns in Croatia will also pass through Makarska and regular ferries can get you from most of the popular islands dotted about the Adriatic.

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Andrew
Andrew
Andy is originally from Melbourne but has been living in London for the past 2.5 years. He’s obsessed with travel, eating out, and indulging in a few cheeky cocktails around Hackney and Dalston before realising he’s spent all his wages within the first week of the month. Having written for magazines such as The Resident, Absolutely London, 1883 and Men’s Health, Andy has now turned to focus on The City Lane’s Food, Drink and Culture sections. Expect to read about the best new and established restaurants and cultural haunts around London, with a focus on the East.

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