After more than 100 days of lockdown in England, Mitch and I were thrilled to grab one of the first flights into Croatia on July 1 for a quick summer getaway. Luke was visiting family in the U.S., so we spent three nights celebrating the survival of quarantine and Mitch’s 46th birthday!
Split is a coastal city in the middle of Croatia and we had visited there on our trip around the world in 2016. It’s a great hopping off point to several of the thousands of Dalmatian islands off the country’s coastline. Hvar is the largest of the islands with easy access from Split via car ferry. We landed, picked up our rental car and scooted over to the Old Town, which is right on the water and centered around the historic Palace of Diocletian and an impressive marina filled with ferries, yachts and sailboats. After a quick outdoor lunch at local bistro Konoba Varos and a gelato from Luka, we drove onto the ferry for our two-hour journey to Hvar.
Sadly for the economy of Croatia, but lucky for us, tourism was only at 1% of its normal capacity for July because of the pandemic. It was a silver lining to be able to experience the best time of year in a place that is usually uncomfortably crammed with people on vacation. We were often the only guests in the restaurants and although many hotels were still closed, we were able to book a beautiful apartment and feel safely socially distanced.
The ferry arrived in Stari Grad, the second largest town on Hvar next to its livelier big sister, Hvar Town. The locals were welcoming and we quickly eased into island life, jumping into the sea to relax and enjoy the first of several perfect sunsets. Seafood was on the menu every night, and we dined on freshly-caught and grilled John Dory fish under the stars at Kod Barba Luke for dinner.
We enjoy having a rental car at our disposal whenever we visit Croatia. The islands are full of quiet swimming coves and beaches that are only accessible via winding roads and adventurous spirits. We spent our first full day discovering small inlets of crystal blue water and smooth pebbled beaches. After lunch we visited the most well-known winery on the island, Vina Tomic. While normally booked up a year in advance, we found ourselves with a private tasting in their stunning underground tasting room, drinking whites and reds under barrel-arched, stone ceilings modeled after Roman cellars once found in the area. For dinner that night we followed recommendations for a little family-owned restaurant, Jurin Podrum, known for its seafood stew. It was a great find…probably our favorite meal!
We arranged for a private boat tour around Hvar and the smaller islands on Day Two. We departed from Hvar Town with Ante, a young entrepreneur happy to have his first customers of the summer in what is usually his busiest season. As the temperatures rose into the 90’s, we island-hopped to see blue grotto caves, abandoned submarine shelters and hidden coves perfect for a swim and a cocktail. We could have spent days on the boat enjoying the rhythmic bounce of the waves and salt water air, but this was just a quick trip, a taste of normal in what has been a very abnormal year.
We revisited our favorite sunset spot, and after a swim we sat at Tramonto for cocktails as the sun dipped under the horizon. The trip seemed to end just as quickly as it began, but it was 72 hours of heaven. A perfect summer getaway!