When planning a trip around the Dalmatian Coast, don’t miss out Mljet.
With a population of only 1000 people, it is a great place to find a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of the other islands.
“Come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
When planning a two week island-hopping trip along the Croatian islands, we knew we’d be getting used to crowds of people. Our trip began at the beginning of the summer peak season, and Croatia is becoming a popular holiday destination for Brits, Americans and Europeans alike.
We aren’t huge fans of busy crowds, especially in the heat. But we were prepared to brave it, and we are happy we did. It’s a trip we’d recommend to anyone! But we wanted to make sure we visited one island that was less commonly visited by typical tourist routes.
Mljet was the perfect choice. Plenty of people take day trips to the northern tip of the island. Mljet National Park covers a third of the island at this northern tip, and is often visited on the route between Korcula and Dubrovnik.
We chose to hire a car and drive to the eastern tip of the island, allowing us to find a truly local experience of a quiet Croatian village. Endless ocean views, delicious food and the most amazing hosts provided the rest and relaxation we’d been hoping for.
Getting to Mljet
If you are travelling independently you’ll need to find a boat to get you to the island. We planned our entire trip using two ferry companies, Krilo and Jadrolinija. You can hop from island to island using these high speed ferries for about £7 per person, per journey.
Both companies offer routes to Mljet, typically picking up from either Korcula or Dubrovnik. A word of warning – make sure you book in advance! During peak season ferries are almost always fully booked.
Once you arrive in Mljet you’ll need to navigate your way from the northern tip of the island to the far eastern tip, which is approximately a 90 minute drive. It is possible to pre-book a taxi, but we liked the idea of having a car so we could explore during our three night stay.
You can hire cars or scooters from Mini Brum, the only car hire company in Mljet. We pre-arranged a mini bus to take us from the port in Pomena to the rental hire shop in the nearby town of Polace.
We knew we’d found a quiet spot when we prepared for the long queue to leave the ferry, which we had gotten used to while visiting the busier islands of Hvar and Korcula. We couldn’t help but grin at each other when we saw only a handful of other passengers get off with us. Peace and quiet, at last.
Getting around Mljet
After a hair raising 20 minute journey in the minibus, where the local driver was more than happy careering around hairpin bends with sheer drops down to the sea, we were very happy to reach Polace. A tiny seaside town, with a few cute little cafés offering the perfect place to cool down with an ice cream and admire the view. The Croatians really do know how to make good ice cream.
Picking up the car was nice and easy, with a little advice on the journey and a quick signature on the necessary paperwork. They’ll need to see your driving license and passport, so make sure these are accessible!
We hired a Fiat Punto Cabriolet, a little tired and shabby but on an island with only one main road it really doesn’t matter. We took the roof down and hit the open road. The journey to Saplunara takes you through the beautiful and relatively untouched forests of the north, along stunning coastal roads down to the eastern tip.
It’s pretty easy to drive in Mljet, without much other traffic to contend with. There are a few tight bends with sheer drops down to the sea, but we took it slow and steady and arrived without any hassle.
Where to stay
Saplunara is a very small town, with a few owner-operated accommodation options, as well as a few apartments. We stayed at Villa Mirosa, a real hidden gem. Gordana and her family run this eight bedroom ‘Pansion’, which could be described as a hotel but is really a halfway house between your own apartment and staying with a local family.
As soon as we arrived, a little hot and wind-battered, Gordana went out of her way to make us feel at home. A cold drink and a seat in the shade with a cool breeze was all we needed to reenergise.
Gordana then led us to Villa Mirosa’s showstopper. With a large salt water infinity pool in the centre of a chic set of sun loungers, the completely undisturbed view of the ocean was awe-inspiring. I spent many an hour floating in that pool with my arms hanging over the edge into oblivion. You cannot visit this location and walk away feeling anything other than at peace.
The rooms were large and airy, if not fitted with all the mod cons and furnishings of mainland apartments. They do all come with a fridge, which came in very handy, and your own en-suite. Plus tonnes of space.
They are also spotlessly clean, with comfortable beds and one of the better air conditioning units we came across during our Croatian trip.
What to do
A visit to Saplunara in Mljet is all about taking the time to slow down and relax. If you can force yourself away from the stunning infinity pool, complete with ice creams, beers and cold drinks, there are a few other things to fill up your day.
A steep set of steps leads you down from Villa Mirosa directly to a small ‘beach’. I comment on the beach, as if you haven’t visited Croatia before then you need to understand that sandy, or even pebble, beaches are incredibly unusual. Most ‘beaches’ are stone areas, with a stepladder into the sea.
You can swim right out to the nearby uninhabited Elafit islands – worth a quick swim! The water was beautifully clear, and due to the protected status of the island the marine life is particularly rich here. Everywhere I swam I was surrounded by shoals of tiny fish. We were also lucky enough to swim more than once without seeing a single other person. We’d found true isolation.“Come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned” #Mljet #CroatiaClick To Tweet
A five minute drive away, or a slightly hot and sticky fifteen minute up hill walk, we found Saplunara beach. Technically two beaches named big Sapluanara, and small Saplunara, they are picture perfect sandy lagoons leading into shallow waters that can be as warm as 28 C.
As one of a very small number of true sand beaches in all of the islands along the Dalmatian coast, we were surprised by how quiet it was. Don’t expect lines of cafes, watersports activities and vendors selling local goods here. Our neighbours for the day almost entirely consisted of locals enjoying a couple of hours of relaxation on the beach.
If you’d like to explore the coast a little more, we’d recommend hiring a boat for a couple of hours. There are a couple of stands in the town centre which are sometimes manned, offering boats for hire. If they look closed when you visit, leave it a few hours and come back. It was pretty magical taking a boat along the coast, stopping every now and then to jump in the sea and cool off.
Where time is never planned
To escape the feeling of tourism in Croatia, make sure you stop by Mljet. We laughed, joked and dozed in the sunshine for three days of true escapism. Plus – you’ll be craving a sandy beach after a few times of trying to get comfortable on a stone beach. Trust us, it’s worth the trip.
If you’re thinking about visiting Mljet and have any burning questions, ask us in the comments below.
BONUS: Don’t travel to Mljet without these in your bag
When planning a trip to the Croatian islands there is one essential piece of kit you must bring with you. Sea urchins live along coastal rocks in shallow water all across the Dalmatian coast. Stepping on one of those will require a painful trip to the medic as they remove the long spines from your foot. We did a little research before the trip and bought an affordable pair of water shoes each. They were invaluable, and actually comfortable enough to wear out of the water too.
If you like to snorkel, there’s endless opportunities in Mljet, and plenty of other places during your trip to other islands too. Saplunara’s beauty lies in its lack of touristy offerings. You won’t find anywhere to hire snorkels here! Again, we worked this out before we left and found a great snorkel that we’ll be packing on plenty of future adventures.
You can buy the exact ones we used below:
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