Crystal clear waters, wild (&nude) pebble beaches and the majestic Biokovo mountains are only a few of the things to see on Croatia’s dazzling Makarska Riviera!
The Makarska Riviera snakes down the Croatian coast beneath the towering Biokovo mountain range from Omiš to the Naretva River. And when I say “snakes,” I mean it!
Thankfully Boyfriend was an incredible sport and, because I still can’t drive a manual car (many have tried to teach me, many have failed), I was free to navigate while he maneuvered the curves and CONSTANTLY-changing speed limits!
I’ll be honest: I didn’t have a major plan besides “find a beach” for our day of driving down the dazzling Makarska Riviera. But once again Google Maps provided me with juuust enough information to pick a few stops en route that turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.
1. Have a swim at Brela Beach
As our first stop of the day, Boyfriend and I hesitated before paying the (admittedly small) entrance fee required to access Brela Beach. We weren’t planning to swim yet, we had a lot more road ahead, we didn’t know what to expect…
But, damn, are we glad we went for it! The minute we pulled up to this quiet pebble beach, flip flops in hand, our jaws hit the ground. The water at Kamen Brela was clear as literal glass, the pebble bottom visible as far as we could see. Sunbathers, snorkelers, families, couples — everyone seemed just as enchanted as we did as we walked along the path above this colorful spot.
Unfortunately we’d left our bathing suits and snorkel masks in the car. I know. Face palm. So next time you’re in the area, please do us a favor: Have a swim for us!
2. Visit St. Peter’s Lighthouse in Makarska
So Makarska, itself, was… a city. A pretty busy city. And, apologies, not a very charming city… at all. But I get it! It was clearly a tourist hub, a place with a ton of hotels, restaurants, and information centers. That’s necessary.
Just not what we were looking for.
But we continued on, all the way down to the Makarska harbor… and finally found the Dalmatian charm we sought.
The port itself is full of gently swaying boats, big and small, owned by both locals and out-of-towners. Following the adjacent path to the Sveti Petar (St. Peter) peninsula, Boyfriend and I made our way slowly through St. Peter Forest Park, up to St. Peter’s Church and out to St. Peter’s Lighthouse. When we arrived we were treated to a spectacular view of the Biokovo mountains, with Makarska sitting pretty below them.
Have a drink or a sunbathe on the flat rocks next to the water. Or jump into the Adriatic in front of the lighthouse if you’re hot from the hike!
3. Pack a picnic and stroll through Park Osejava
I don’t know about you, but when I visit a new city one of the first things I spot on Google Maps are the green areas. Park Osejava was one such green area.
Located just south of Makarska and stretching down the Makarska Riviera to the resort town of Tučepi, I knew right away this was the place I wanted to swim. And since it was lunchtime, Boyfriend and I stopped at the Lidl just out of town, picked up everything we needed for a picnic (at this point after living in both Paris and Brussels, we’re pro’s at this!), and drove down to Tučepi to enter Park Osejava.
Now I’m a pretty baller researcher. Hell, I used to do it for a living! But I could not for the life of me find any source explaining how best to get into the park. Well let me tell you, trying to get in from the beach in Tučepi is not. the. way. Boyfriend and I lugged our Lidl bag with us for three failed attempts before we found the entrance we sought.
(TIP: On Google Maps, locate “Kraljev Gaj” beach in Osejava Park. See where the main road above the green park curves up? Turns out you can actually park on the side of the road at that dip and walk right into the park from there. Voilà!)
Then it was magic. The forest enveloped us, sun winking through the green pines. We strolled the well-worn dirt paths, down to several wild beaches. We spent the rest of our daylight hours at Nugal Beach (see below) before heading back to the car through fields of flowering anise covered by tiny escargots.
4. GO NUDE
At Nugal Beach! Or Kraljev Gaj Beach! Or Solarić Beach! The thing about Osejava is it’s dotted with wild beaches, and at these wild beaches you can choose to be “in the wild” yourself. In other words: Clothing is optional. In fact, I’d say at Nugal in particular it’s kind of rude to be wearing clothes. Everyone’s nude… y’all really wanna be that one person who isn’t?
Hey, if nude beaches aren’t your cuppa I totally get it. I happen to be a fan, but I also loved my experience at a nude German spa down the road from Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria! The other wild beaches I mentioned, Kraljev Gaj and Solarić, have visitors both suited up and suited down. Kraljev Gaj is where we enjoyed our picnic (clothed)!
But if you’re at all curious, go ahead! Do as the Mediterraneans do and take it all off! Swimming au natural is an entirely different (totally free) feeling.
NOTE: Nugal Beach, like Hvar‘s Zaracé, was an AMAZING snorkel spot. The amount and variety of wildlife present and curious living beneath the water below the high cliffs was breathtaking! Squids, giant crabs, iridescent fish… wow, WOW.
5. Sit back and enjoy the scenery
Really, folks. It’s gorgeous!
NOTE: Although we didn’t take the time to go, many people have a great time spending the day visiting the Biokovo mountains (pictured just above)! There is a Tourist Center in Makarska where you can get information about hiking it, or you can even drive to several lookout points on your way to the peak of St. Jure. There’s a small entrance fee, but the views look lovely. Tip: BBQBoy and Spanky have an excellent blog post (thoroughly) detailing everything you may want to know about Mt. Biokovo.
Alternately you can simply climb to St. Ivan Church (“Ivan Krstitelj” on Google Maps) from Makarska’s Old Town for a lovely (if much lower) sea view. Apparently it only takes ~1 hour to reach!
ANOTHER NOTE: If I’d seen The Amerikanka’s blog post about the time a hot local brought her to Kotišina Fort (“Kaštelet Kotišina” on Google Maps) on the back of his scooter sooner, I absolutely would’ve made the stop with Boyfriend! Close(-ish) to Makarska, these old castle ruins built into the mountains and their accompanying botanical garden are the kinds of off-the-trail places we love to visit. Next time!