We traveled around Croatia by bus and boat. I'd recommend pre-booking your most important bus trips a day or 2 in advance because in peak season they fill up fast, also make sure you know what time the buses and boats come because they run a lot less regularly than we thought they would. On our way to Hvar island we got stuck in Split's port for 4 and a half hours because there were only 3 ferries a day. Transport around Croatia is relatively cheap with most 2/3 hour bus trips costing around $10 au. The ferry to Hvar was around the same.
Dubrovnik was my favorite place in Croatia, it has everything the rest of the country has to offer with added history and a thriving town. The beaches are beautiful, the views are amazing and the gelato is cheap. Getting there from Split was an easy bus.
Where to stay
Stay as close as you can to the old town as that's where all the action is and where you will spend most of your time. Dubrovnik's city lies at the base of a massive hill so the closer to the water your accommodation, the better. We booked our's semi last minute and it was one of the most expensive places we stayed on our trip. It was also a 15 minute walk down (and up) the massive hill to the old town and beaches.
Where to explore
Go to Cococabana beach on the new city side of Dubrovnik. We rode our scooter here and it was about a 15 minute drive from the old town. Its main attraction were the inflatable water toys that floated just off the beach. Although they were meant for kids we still had heaps of fun. The cost was about $5 per person for 45 minutes.
Don't bother with Lokrum island. We went on a scorching hot day and found there was nowhere comfortable with shade to sit. The ferry there costs around $25 per person and if you don't bring food you'll go hungry. On its upside the island is swarming in peacocks which is pretty special and if you like cliff jumping, has heaps of places to leap from into the ocean.
Make sure you pay the $20 to walk around the old city walls, it was my highlight. I did it at 7pm just as the sun was beginning to set and just before it closed. This gave me an hour to explore and meant far less people and avoiding the hot sun plus the light from sunset filtering over the city was super beautiful.
Hire a motor bike and explore the coast surrounding the old city. It cost us 25 euro a day and made exploring the city so much easier (and they are soooo much fun) You can hire one as long as you have an Australian driving licence. For the best views head up to the far left of the city near the highway entrance at sunset.
There are 2 bars/cafes on the water behind the city walls, one called buza bar. There you can cliff jump and swim off the rocks into the Adriatic (or have a cocktail or 2).
Banje Beach was one of my favorite places to swim in Europe, the colour of the water was an insane aqua and the bright beach umbrella's made it look like something out of a movie. You can find the beach just to the left of the old town and it is definitely worth a visit.
Explore the old town until you cant walk anymore! This place is seriously special and was a filming location for Game of Thrones. It is a maze of sandstone architecture, cute cafes and tabby cats. Don't forget to visit the gelato store near the main entrance to the old town (the drawbridge). It was cheap, delicious and went perfectly with the hot weather.
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