Good weather, figs, apricots and plums in season, clear blue water for swimming – we’ll try not to bore you with too many of the details of our trip down the Croatian coastline, but suffice to say that the soundtrack playing in our heads was that of our summer holidays.
We like camping in the wild, but we also like a good, small family run campsite and in Croatia we stumbled across five fantastic ones, easily spaced for a run of days of cycling south. Check out our route map for locations of the places below.
Kamp Zoma, Lukovo Sugarje
This campsite was built around a house in a tiny bay in one of the inlets of the Adriatic, the water sheltered by the island opposite. We camped on a grass terrace under fig trees, with glimpses of dark blue water against the stark rocky landscape of Pag island in the distance.
As dusk descended, the landscape took on the tints of early colour film, and I started dreaming of screenplays which could take advantage of the vivid backdrop – it could be the setting of a slow art house film. The night we stayed there was a camper who had stuck his German flag beside his tent in support of the world cup games, the marina had two tiny boats in it, and the site owner sat on a low stone wall keeping an eye on the holidaymakers. We jumped in the sea, were hypnotised by the stark landscape and took our cups of tea down to the marina as darkness fell, completely at peace.
We cycled inland for a day before rejoining the coast, spending a night in a partly constructed ecotourism development near Medvida. We had asked the bemused owners after finding no suitable places to camp anywhere else. While it was slightly odd sleeping on the foundations of a holiday home, it was more so when the two established homes on the sight filled with paying guests just when we were sitting on the ground cooking dinner on our gas cooker.
A campsite still in development, but the most hospitable camp owner we have met to date. Our arrival interupted dinner, and after showing us where we could put the tent (stony ground, in the front yard of the house but with rakes and hammers provided) we were asked how far we had cycled, then promptly invited for in for dinner, given two courses and wine while overlooking well tended vineyards at the back of the house. We shared the campsite with a German – Polish couple and a group of Belgium students on our first night. After a day of walking around the Krka waterfalls we returned to find the place to ourselves. A tiny, simple place but well placed for visiting Skradin (less than 2km away).
Camp Mini – Primosten
As we cycled down the coast from Sibenek to Split and saw the sign for this place, we had to check it out. A campsite for tents only and set out in a steep terrace below a jumble of stairways surrounding a few apartment buildings, the site was so special that we didn’t think twice about cycling around the coast to follow a stone path to the bottom of the campsite, then lugging our panniers and bicycles up a couple of flights of stairs to get to our terraced pitch. Imagine a campsite created by Esher with comic book style signs sprinkled liberally throughout it and you might be able to grasp some of the quirkiness of the place.
We had dinner on a terrace overlooking a tiny beach. The swimming spot was deep with a ladder to pull you out and there was a bar with an outstanding view of the setting sun. We only realised how lucky we were when we took a late night walk to the other end of Primosten, only to find a throng of people strolling among the usual hat/sunglass/shell stalls with a background of bad house music to complement their seaside resort experience. We ate icecreams, watched the end of a world cup game and swiftly retired to our quieter end of the beach.
If you can avoid it, we wouldn’t recommend Camping Stobrec-Split. Its 10 km out of Split itself, and when we were there it was full of large groups of teenagers imported from Belguim and France to smoke cigarettes and straighten their hair in the bathrooms. However we did meet Gerhard, a German cycle tourist travelling with a hammock who gave us invaluable information about routes into Bosnia and introduced us to a non-touristy restaurant in Stobrec.
Before this campsite we’d diverted from the busy coast road to cycle up the Cetina gorge near Omis. Hard work but beautiful cycling, interrupted only by the occasional rafting van driving past.
We didn’t know that the campsite was brand new when we stood at the top of the turn off and debated investigating. We knew it would be at the bottom of the hill, and if it was expensive we would waste a valuable chunk of the evening cycling down there. After a kilometre steep downhill, we came across a man sitting at an outdoor desk, who gave us a reasonable price before showing us a pitch next to a raised terrace with umbrellas, tables and chairs. We walked down to the beach for a swim and cooked a civilised dinner, deciding to stay put for another day because it was so nice.
Just as we were about to eat, a familiar voice said hello – it was an Italian called Mario, who we had met with his family in Starigrad a few days earlier. We spent an enriching evening in their company and caught up with them again the next day swimming with them and their kids. The following evening we met a group of French students driving to Istanbul and talked with an Australian couple who had travelled by campervan through some countries we are considering cycling through.
We had one last night in Croatia before heading into Bosnia. The campsite wasn’t on the coast but up a huge hill, which broke our ‘never push bikes up huge hills in search of campsites rule’. Justin went on foot to investigate and came back with the cheapest camping price yet, but when I arrived at the top I was slightly dismayed. It was a tiny caravan park, with ten pitches and no obvious room for a tent. We waited for a staff member to attend to us next to two Bosnian men who had only an overnight bag with them, not sure what to expect. With their help we found out that the price of renting a caravan was the price quoted to Justin for the night, so my mood immediately picked up. Sure it was nowhere near the ocean and up one of the biggest hills we had seen since Italy, but we would be sleeping in our own private caravan! Later we discovered a fully working kitchen for guests use, including glasses, plates, cutlery and pots and pans. We slept very well indeed.