With Ston’s city walls, Mali Ston’s fresh, fresh seafood and more wineries and wild beaches than you could possibly visit, there’s no shortage of things to do on Croatia’s Peljesac Peninsula!
“Reeeeady!” I yell convincingly from the bedroom of our AirBnB.
Of course, that isn’t true. I don’t even have a shirt on yet.
“You sure?” Boyfriend yells back from the living room downstairs. He’s finished washing the dishes from breakfast on the terrace and is now lounging on the couch. I think I hear Nat Geo floating up the stairs.
“Yeeees!” I manage to stretch the word into five distinct syllables as I steal a glance out the floor-to-ceiling window. Komarna’s sparkling little slice of the Adriatic winks at me. Distracting little minx.
“Meaning if I come up there, you’ll have your shoes on?” His voice carries a drop of amusement, almost as if he knows I’m just reaching for them now. Dammit. Quickly I tug the heal of my white Adidas sneaker onto my right foot.
“I have my shoe…” I crash onto the bed in a hop gone awry. “On!”
Hey, I said shoe, not shoes. That counts.
But from the silence below I can tell the TV’s off, which means I’m officially out of time. Any second he’ll be up at the front door, ready.
And I’ll be busted, not ready.
“Do you have your driver’s license?” I call through the blue-and-white kurta currently obscuring my face.
“Your license,” I repeat, head and arms now successfully through their respective holes.
“Uhh…” His rubber soles slap on the marble stairs and I know I’ve bought a couple more minutes.
“And the water bottles I put in the freezer this morning? Can you grab them, too, baby?” I rush to locate my purse and sunglasses, shoving gold studs in my ears before hurrying to open the door so I can beat Boyfriend to the—
“OH!” I startle like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man on the bedroom threshold. At which all six-foot-one of him is already standing. And laughing. Sneaky bastard. “Um… ready?”
I start to push past him — on principle, I’d still love to beat him to the front door — but Boyfriend catches me with that look. You know the one: That wide open, baby blue, warm-as-a-summer-day, adoring look.
I feel my pulse trip and tumble against my neck. Goddamn. He’s wearing his Clark Kent glasses this morning. And the Calvin Klein shirt I got him earlier this year.
Why he gotta look so CUTE? Cheesy grin incoming in three… two…
“Oui, babe,” he says through a grin of his own. “Are you?”
“Mmhmm,” I reply, pulling him into a lingering kiss before we head out the door. “Ah, wait! My camera!”
Boyfriend turns to show off my DSLR already dangling from its blue floral strap on his shoulder. This earns him another kiss.
“You da best,” I tell him and lead the way up to our little black Fiat.
“So we’re going to… ‘Ston’ today? Right?” Boyfriend asks pulling onto the main road.
“Yep. We’re gonna climb walls and eat oysters all day. I hope you’re prepared.”
“Oh, babe. Babe.” He laughs as we pass a police car on our left. “Don’t worry about me. Whatever you want, I’m prepared. Just give Gus the oysters and he will be happ—”
“SHIT!” I slap the armrest under my window and Boyfriend’s head jerks to the passenger side.
“What?? What happened?” he asks, eyes sliding back to the road once he’s satisfied I’m not dying.
“Gahh, I totally spaced!” My fingers fly to my hair. “Crap, crap!”
“Baby!” he demands. “‘Shit,’ what?”
I groan. “We have to cross into Bosnia & Herzegovina to get to Ston.”
“Bosnia & Herzegovina, Babedoll. We have to cross the border.”
“Oka— Ohhh.” Boyfriend sighs dramatically as he expertly executes a U-Turn on the narrow road. “So those passports we left… on the kitchen counter… Sounds like they’ll probsies come in handy then, hmm?”
I shake my head, smile inching into my cheeks, frustration dissipating fast. “Oui, my love,” I answer, knowing he used my silly slang word for precisely this purpose. He really is da best. “Probsies.”
Moral of this little anecdote: Don’t forget your passport if you’re driving south to the Peljesac Peninsula or Dubrovnik! (Or north from those places to Omiš, Makarska, Hvar or Split, for that matter.) About a 15 km stretch of that coastline belongs to Bosnia & Herzegovina. There is an official border crossing, and you will get an official stamp. But don’t worry! For us it was quick and painless. And who doesn’t love getting a fancy new stamp in their passport, right?
Tip: There’s a chance your rental car company will try to charge you for teeeechnically “leaving the country” for this border crossing. So my advice? Don’t tell them. I mean, obviously if you plan to take your rental deeper into Bosnia & Herzegovina or nearby Montenegro, tell them. Pay the ~$50. But if you’re just crossing in to cross back out? Don’t let yourself get screwed 😉 (Check out Frank About Croatia’s Top Car Rental Tips for more info.)
The Peljesac Peninsula has so much to offer those who are craving a change of scenery from cute coastal cities! We took a few days to explore, and found that these were Five Things You MUST Do on a trip to the Peljesac Peninsula:
1. Climb the Ston City Walls
As soon as you make the turn off the highway onto the Peljesac Peninsula, the energy shifts. You’ve been flirting with the Dalmatian Coast for days. Yes, she’s gorgeous. But, let’s be honest: you need you some strange at this point, right?
So when the city wall between Ston and Mali Ston comes into view, high on the mountain ahead, you get a little thrilled. You follow the road a few kilometers, craning your neck as much as you dare in order to keep the stone fortification in sight. You park just outside of Ston next to the public restroom (hey, it’s surprisingly cheap). You make a pit stop at the Konzum for a large bottle of water. Then you run to the wall.
Some people say this wall experience is even better than the one in Dubrovnik. I personally think they may be hitting the Bosnian ganja a little too hard if they think that. But I will say the Ston city walls are spectacular in their own right. And calmer. And cheaper.
Be sure to brace and pace yourself for the climb! It’s steep AF, the sun is high, you’ll sweat, and you’ll be winded. But don’t worry, it’s not a race. You’ve got ~5 km* to explore. You’ve got pretty flowers to smell. You’ve got so many quiet alcoves to make out in…
Point is, just have fun! There will be pros literally running past you in ergonomic spandex, and there will be others dragging and laughing at themselves for eating that extra muffin this morning. Enjoy the views of the Peljesac Peninsula along the way. You’ll be in Ston’s sister city, Mali Ston, before you know it.
* Unfortunately — or fortunately, from the perspective of my quads — the upper portion of the wall with the steeper, longer hike is closed for refurbishment at the moment.
2. Treat Yo’self in Mali Ston
Mali Ston! AKA Oyster Paradise! Can I just live here forever??
Mali Ston (or “Little” Ston) is located right on a bay that is filled to bursting with fresh shellfish. Mussels, shrimp, clams… and of course the silkiest, butteriest oysters we’ve had in a long, long time! Paired with a glass of local Pošip wine, I can’t think of a better Croatian treat. I’d been looking forward to this moment our whole trip. So when we arrived Boyfriend and I chose the Bota Šare restaurant right on the water, and we weren’t disappointed.
Tip: If oysters aren’t your thing, we had an absolutely scrumptious dish of the house seafood risotto along with our oysters! However if seafood isn’t really your thing at all, wait to eat until you get back to Ston. There were a handful of super cute restaurants below the wall and in the main square offering happy hours with wine and Dalmatian charcuterie!
The cool thing about Bota Šare is they offer an oyster farming experience where they take you out on their boat and teach you about how it all works! In fact, the more I looked the more oyster farms I found in the Peljesac Peninsula offering this kind of thing. Unfortunately it’s more of a high season deal, as the weather in the shoulder season can be unpredictable. But it’s definitely an experience I’ve marked on my Next Time list!
Tip: On our way back to the wall that would bring us back to Ston, we passed a small roadside restaurant… with $1 oysters! (below) It wasn’t on Google Maps, but was so easy to find we were kicking ourselves for not finding it first and saving room to sample. At the harbor, just follow the water to the right, past Villa Koruna’s big salt barrels, and you’ll see it on your right. Then come back to this blog post and tell me how amazing those suckers were. Go ahead. I can take it! (:sob:)
Once you’ve finished exploring Ston + Mali Ston, you’ll probably spend the night somewhere nearby (we stayed in a dreamy AirBnB on the beach in Komarna). Then you’ll be fresh and ready to head deeper into the Peljesac Peninsula.
3. Go Wine Tasting for the Day
I had a bit of a challenge finding information about this rich wine region. In fact, I ended up clicking around on Google Maps to settle on the two wineries we’d visit in the area. Our first stop was Miloš Winery… at 11 AM.
Hey, it was 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
Miloš is a family-run winery, currently in the hands of two young (my age) brothers! We did call ahead to let them know we were coming, but their website says they’re open every day from 10 AM — 7 PM and I believe it. All you had to do was ring the bell. We were brought into a pretty tasting room where we paid to try three different wines, including one that had been aging for ten years. It was DELICIOUS. Though I have to say to most surprising for me was the rosé, because I’m not a rosé fan but it, too, was DELICIOUS.
One of the brothers (I can’t believe I’m blanking on his name!) took us through it, offering lots of fun information about the terroir and the vineyard’s history. Because the Peljesac land is so steep, they must do everything by hand. Having just come from harvest season in Bordeaux, we felt for the Croatian vignerons. The land in Bordeaux was mercifully flat enough to be plowed and tended with help from machines. To own a vineyard in the Peljesac Peninsula is to be willing to go out and do all that work yourself!
The second winery I chose was more spur-of-the-moment. As in, we drove around a bend in the road and were greeted by the sun beginning to set over the bay ahead. I spotted a little white building with a little white patio on a little rocky inlet. I screamed, “THAT ONE!” from behind my camera. And Boyfriend swerved to catch the road that would take us down to it.
Grgić Winery turned out to be one of two Grgić Wineries, the other located in none other than Napa Valley, California! The founder, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, is an inductee in the Vinter Hall of Fame, and you can read more about his story of achieving his American Dream on the website. We tried Grgić’s Plavac Mali (red) and Pošip (white), both of which were very nice, and our bartender was very friendly, even if she didn’t speak much English.
But the best thing about this place, hands down, was definitely the view. We sat for a while soaking up the sun before finally continuing on our way out to Orebić, where we would be spending the night.
4. Go Wild Beach Hunting
I’d become a pro at locating wild beaches at this point in our trip. Wherever there’s a tiny beach town you can bet, if you’re willing to hike a bit, you’ll find a pebble beach you can have all to yourself.
After Miloš the sun was hot and high, and I was feeling both wine- and birthday-tipsy! So I navigated Boyfriend to a little town wayyy off the main road on the water and found us a parking spot. The town was called Žuljana, and it looked like the perfect tiny town in which one would summer away from the city. However in the shoulder season, the place was completely deserted.
But no matter! We strolled past a row of boats still bobbing in the harbor, made a left and took a short hike through the forest. In no time we made it to not one, but two small isolated beaches…
SWARMING WITH MOSQUITOS!
We quickly stripped and dove in where they couldn’t reach us. And it was lovely. Quite shallow so not great for snorkeling. But lovely 🙂
Tip: BRING BUG SPRAY TO CROATIA! It’s cheap and it works to keep those suckers away. Nothing like a gajillion itchy welts to ruin a beach vaca!
5. Try Some Juicy, Smoky Peka for Dinner
Ohhhh, wow. Peka <3
In the limited research I’d done, I’d come across the term a few times. Peka is a signature Croatian dish of meat and potatoes, arranged in a pan and baked to COMPLETE perfection beneath a bell-shaped dome while buried under the cinders on an open fire. And for my birthday dinner, it was what was on the menu!
Like a champ, boyfriend drove us all the way back the way we’d come to Family Farm Antunović. Again, I found this place by clicking around on Google Maps, and I’m so glad I did. The restaurant is located in a tiny town in the middle of the wild vineyards of the Peninsula. Like the seafood restaurant we loved in Omiś, Antunović had the kind of authentic cosy home-kitchen vibe we love. We made a reservation and were welcomed and served warmly, like family, the whole night <3 If you want to try peka look no further than Antunović for a wonderful experience!
Tip: The peka meal is a set price that includes a delicious appetizer of charcuterie and cheese from the farm, unlimited wine and bread, an aperitif and digestif, and of course the peka, itself.