We were mostly based in the Opatija area, which as I mentioned has a lovely Miss Havisham way about it. Lots of crumbling villas but lovingly maintained gardens and walks. It’s an extremely rocky, but beautiful, beach so pack those aquasocks and be prepared to rent chairs and cushions in the beach area. But the best stuff is just soaking it all in so bring a good book and an appetite for people watching!
1. Pansion Stanger – our whole extended family took up residence at this little Pansion about 10 km outside of Opatija in a town called Louvran. The rooms are simple but clean and well-kept and most of our rooms opened up with a window and balcony out onto the water. Pretty much a winner on that merit alone, except for they also had a lovely terrace that faces the water for breakfast which is included. They have a very good restaurant as well and when you see the fish being prepared tableside and the flaming desserts in the video, that was here as well.
2. The Strand – I’m calling it that as I’m not sure what else to call it. But in and around Opatija is a wonderful promenade that follows the water and weaves in and out of parks. There are artists and musicians, and little boats docked and people singing opera…A big part of the day is just exploring that with frequent stops at the little bars and cafes for refreshments. My grandmother is – incidentally – wheelchair bound and if you have a stroller or someone with mobility issues, there are some rougher patches, but for an Eastern European area, there actually is still a large part which is smooth pavement.
3. Retro Fun – One of the fun things along the promenade is that there is still some very old school retro fun to be had. For example the little electric boats (should electric boats be in the water carrying toddlers? not sure, but she had a blast), or the “hamster balls” pictured right behind her. There are also electric cars and other fun little things that you won’t have seen in years and probably saw pictures of your parents doing. It’s all part of the charm.
4. White wine – Anything local, served cold. Go for it – it’s all going to be good and it’s all going to go beautifully with that grilled fish you ordered…And that sunset you’re watching….And just about anything else you choose to eat or do on the coast here.
As detailed here, Cres was where we spent a large part of our day long road trip. It’s a less visited and less inhabited island but wonderfully dramatic in its views.
1. Getting there – there is a system of ferries around between the Opatija area and the surrounding islands. The hotels can set you up with schedules and ports but give yourself plenty of time. Those curved roads take longer than you think and since many of them are single lanes in each direction, it can get congested, especially in peak times or high season. But once aboard, those car ferries are great – get out on the top deck to enjoy the ride.
2. Hibernicia – I’m not sure that there is more than one restaurant really in Lubenice, the village at the top of Cres, as we were there not in high season but whether it’s one of one, or one of many, it’s definitely worth a stop. If there are groups around, my guess is that this place isn’t going to be the quickest but then again, if there are no other places, what does it matter. It’s a local place to stick to local things and keep it simple and I think you’ll find it delivers exactly what you need…
3. Cres Marina – in the town of “Cres” right on the island. Really just such a charming little port – the Marina is definitely worth a walk around and definitely worth a stop for Gelato. You’ll forget whether you’re in Croatia or Italy or some place in between.
4. Enjoy the Road! This island will pretty much redefine hairpin turns for you. And many roads are just barely that so you’ll be surprised how long it takes to get from points A to B sometimes. But the views and isolation are very worth it – budget lots of time to get around so that frustration doesn’t eat up the wonder.
1. The Rijeka Stadium: Near Opatija is the city of Rijeka, much larger and while there are definitely things to see in a more citi-fied sense, it’s not quite as high on the charm. However, this stadium that’s built seemingly right into the ocean caught my eye. We didn’t see anything but this seems like it would be an excellent way to pass a warm weathered evening watching a soccer match or perhaps even a concert. If you’re in the area, ask to see whether anything is on.
2. The Zagreb Airport and Playground – We flew into Zagreb and drove the rest, but in waiting for my family to arrive, diplo-tot and I were pleasantly surprised when we discovered this charming playground literally right outside the airport, across the street. It helps pass the time waiting for flights as there isn’t much in the terminal to do and it’s still a tiny airport (which I appreciated in so many ways) . This would also be a good place to have the kiddies get their energy out while one of the adults picks up or drops off the rental car or similar, and I wish more airports would incorporate nice, clean, safe green space so close by.