Whether you’re searching for sandy beaches, rare wines or Marco Polo’s supposed birthplace, there’s no shortage of things to do on the island of Korčula!
Phew. Korčula. The trickiest leg of our trip!
Now well into the back half of October, it’s safe to say most of Croatia had snuggled into hibernation mode by the time we made it down here. The ferry schedule was light as a feather, the bus schedule even lighter. But we would not be deterred! Babedoll had been driving the entire trip, and we were craving a day without the car.
So we got to the Orebić harbor in the morning, following a tip that ferries would leave every hour. Well. Turned out they did leave every hour… Except for the hour we arrived.
We had no choice but to roll with it.
Good thing Boyfriend and I are professional rollers! As a former full-time backpacker dating a former customer relations PM for AirFrance, to quote the Farmer’s Insurance ad I’ve seen too many times this football season: “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.” And knowing all we know, it takes a lot to upset either of us when it comes to travel plans.
So we passed the next hour at a quiet café, sipping espresso under the shade of swaying pines on the water. When the ferry finally arrived we quickly scurried to the open top to enjoy the dazzling views on our way to spend the day on the “Emerald Isle.”
If you’re taking a day trip to Korčula, too, be sure to make the very most of it:
1. Catch an early ferry from Orebić (or anywhere else)
Because we were coming from the Peljesac Peninsula by car, we decided to make Korčula a day trip. However, there are many people who opt to spend a night or two on the island, itself. It just depends on how much time you have, and what kind of vacation vibe you’re seeking!
So I have to say this: I get the feeling Korčula used to be more of a hidden gem a few years back. Now? I’d say it’s firmly on the tourist track. One too many Insta features, I guess 😉
Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean Korčula’s lost any of its charm. Perhaps just a smidge of its calm?
And this rise in popularity does have its perks. Namely: Croatia’s big Jadrolinija ferries can get you to the island from numerous locations — even big cities like Split and Dubrovnik! Just be sure to catch an early ride in order to take advantage of Korčula’s calm before the city* gets overrun.
*I use the term “city” very loosely here!
(Psst: If you’re looking for a slightly different vibe…)
The last thing I want to do is burst anyone’s bubble, but I really do believe Korčula (as of October 2019) is a medium-high tourist island now. The number of souvenir shops with Marco Polo bobble heads in town is proof enough of that.
SO. If you really want that über-quiet locals-only does-anyone-even-live-on-this-gorgeous-island vibe, I recommend checking out Dugi Otok (near Zadar), Pašman (also near Zadar) or Šolta (near Split).
OR. If you want to be off the tourist track, but not so off that you feel like you could be on the Castaway island, check out Mljet (near Dubrovnik) or Vis (near Split). (Or stop at Omiš!)
(For busier, more luxurious islands with ample tourism, you’ll want to visit Hvar or Krk!)
Next time we summer in Croatia I plan to see many, many more of these Adriatic islands that had me swooning during my research!
2. Head out to one of Croatia’s ONLY sand beaches
If you don’t know going in, you’ll quickly find out: There is almost no sand in Croatia.
Instead you’ll find pebble beaches all along the coast. Everywhere. Anywhere. Wherever you want there to be a beach, one probably exists. (If you’re willing to take a little walk to get to it, that is!)
However :drumroll: Korčula has a sand beach! In fact, it has not just one, but TWO sand beaches! Only about a fifteen-minute walk from each other.
There’s just one thing: Vela Pržina and Bilin Žal are ~8 km away from Korčula’s Old Town where the passenger ferry lets you off. Even further from the town where the car ferry drops its passengers.
(You have a few options when it comes to getting around Korčula)
1. We heard you can rent a scooter; however we didn’t see any companies renting them. (To be fair, we didn’t look very hard.)
2. You can rent bicycles; but it was already midday and we didn’t really have the time. (Plus, I fall off bikes just by looking at them.)
3. You can hire a taxi (though the price may cause a piece of your soul to perish).
4. Or you can take the bus.
During the high season the bus runs quite a bit, both to and from Lumbarda where the beaches are. However we were in the shoulder season. Which meant the bus was running once an hour until 3, and then not running at all. Hey, at least it was still running!
Of course, by the time we’d figured all this out at the Tourist Center we had, oh, about two minutes to haul ass to the bus station! Literally. So off we took, hustling down narrow alleys, squinting around corners to spot the station. Thankfully our bus was still there loading its final passengers when we sprinted up.
Side Note: The fact that we actually made it should clue you in to just how small Korčula’s Old Town is 😛
3. Sun at Velo Pržina Beach
Our ride deposited us at its final stop: smack in the middle of Korčula’s vineyards. If we’d had more time y’all know I would’ve dragged Babedoll to a winery. Korčula is the only place in the world that grows a crisp white grape called “Grk,” thanks to the area’s sandy soil and abundant sunlight. But since we only had a couple of hours we chose the right fork in the road that would took us down to Vela Pržina beach.
Side Note: The left fork would’ve taken us over to Bilin Žal on the opposite side of the island. Same distance!
Vela Pržina’s long strip of sand, usually packed to the gills with families in the high season, was blessedly quiet. Quiet enough for some topless tanning time! The water was surprisingly shallow so snorkeling was a no-go, but we had an amazing time sunning instead, the sand warm and gritty on our bare skin. We even managed to wrangle a couple of local beers from the miraculously open beach bar.
Tip: We got to chatting with the bartender at Plaza Pržina, the beach bar/only open establishment for. miles. She laughed for a full minute when I mentioned that, according to Google Maps, a bunch of nearby restaurants should’ve been open. So, yeah, I guess don’t trust Google Maps’ “hours of operation” in Croatia’s shoulder and low seasons!
4. Visit Some Gorgeous Wineries
As I mentioned, Boyfriend and I weren’t able to go wine tasting due to the time constraints of shoulder season. But it was originally on my list of things I wanted to do in Korčula, and it should definitely be on yours!
Many people opt to rent bikes for precisely this activity! After all the trail from the port through the vineyards is beautiful and apparently not too strenuous.
But if you’re like me and have a :ahem: toler-hate relationship with bicycles, you can do what we did and take the bus to the cute beach town of Lumbarda. Just up a small hill behind it are two vineyards waiting to be visited!
Vinarija Grk and Popić Winery are idyllic Instagram-perfect spots at which to sample Korčula’s fabulous vintages. Both family-run businesses, the hospitality is said to be as wonderful as the wine itself. Have a glass of Grk (white), rosé or Plavac Mali (red) with a shared plate of fresh fruit and/or charcuterie. Then come back to this post and tell me it’s just so wonderful that I simply must go back and visit sometime 😉
Fun fact: The origin of the name Grk is a bit of a mystery. Locals believe it may have come from the Croatian word “grk,” which means “tart” or “bitter.” Personally I don’t buy it because the Grk grape is anything but tart and/or bitter. But they also believe it may have been named for the Greeks who planted the vineyards in the 3rd century B.C. That, I buy!
Another fun fact: Plavac Mali is always planted with Grk on Korčula. Why? Well, as it turns out, Grk is a female plant with only a female flower. Therefore, it requires another flower’s :ahem: pollinator to grow! Enter Croatia’s studly Plavac Mali grape. 😉
Hey, the more you know, right?
5. Explore Korčula’s Tiny Old Town
Did you know Marco Polo was born on Korčula? No? Me neither, and that’s probably because he almost certainly wasn’t! But the locals like to say he was, so you’ll see his likeness around town as you explore. Poke your head in his museum or his supposed birth home, if you like.
Or, if Marco Polo doesn’t get your juices going, just have a wander! Korčula’s Old Town is so tiny you can do several laps in a half hour.
After we did just that, Boyfriend and I were starving (the beach bar’s kitchen was already closed for the season). So we went for happy hour (2-6 PM) at an adorable waterfront restaurant, Popina. 60kn (~USD$8) each got us pints of beer and burgers the size of our hands.
Well, my hands. Boyfriend’s hands are huge.
A couple hours of window shopping and kitten petting later (Croatia is home to many, many stray cats) we found ourselves with two more hours to kill until our ferry back to Orebić. I can’t stress enough how small Korčula’s Old Town is! But we were in luck: Located in one of the tiny alleys was the cozy little LoLe Wine & Tapas Bar. And it was just opening for business for the evening! Finally — FINALLY — I would get to sample the Grk…
And boy am I SO GLAD I got to sample the Grk!! Crisp, dry, aromatic, with ample acidity that somehow managed not to overpower — this grape was everything I love in a white! If you ever get the chance to try it, if it somehow turns up on a wine list somewhere during your adventures, YOU MUST.
(P.S. If you’re staying in Orebić…)
We MUST recommend the restaurant we went to for dinner: Konoba Andiamo. One of the best meals we had in Croatia, both of us ordered pasta dishes after learning the specialty pljukanci pasta (aka fuži) was homemade and hand-rolled. I got Croatia’s version of zuppe di pesce with fresh shrimp, calamari, mussels, and clams. Boyfriend got braised wild boar. My God. It was all divine. (Not to mention VERY fairly priced!)
But what really put this place over the top were the people.
Our AirBnB host in Komarna had previously gifted me with a (we later found out) very expensive bottle of wine for my birthday! But our vacation was coming to a close and we hadn’t found the right time to open it. So we stopped by Konoba Andiamo and asked the proprietor if we could bring our bottle to dinner. He replied “OF COURSE” with a huge smile.
And later that night when he and his buddies were all enjoying an after-hours peka, he brought out several bottles of his father’s vineyard’s wine and waved us over to join them.
And when he found out it was the day after my birthday, he gifted us a bottle to bring to Dubrovnik! We had a seriously fantastic night hanging out with our super chill new friends well into the wee hours.
So if you’re on the Peljesac Peninsula — especially if you’re staying in Orebić — and you’re searching for a place for lunch or dinner, we highly recommend Konoba Andiamo. Its outdoor patio is right next to the water, the atmosphere and view are perfect, and we guarantee you’ll be mmmmm’ing over every bite!