Touring Croatia in a motorhome is just a delightful way to see this incredible country. Beautiful in every way, it will certainly have you returning for more!
Very often, we catch a snippet of information on our travels, that we can’t ignore, inspiring future trips.
This is exactly what happened, in the most unexpected conversation, outside the entrance to an Austrian campsite!
If you’ve travelled through Austria, maybe, you’ll know, that campsites close for a good couple of hours over lunchtime. Because we’re British, we forget, that everyone isn’t at our beckon call throughout the day!
However, although a little bit annoying, this soon turned out to be an act of fate! Our Austrian campsite had just closed for the owners lengthy lunch. We, therefore, had ample opportunity, to get chatting to a fellow camper owner.
This happened to be a Swedish lady, who was also waiting in the queue. Due to her returning from an annual Summer trip to Croatia, or rather touring Croatia in a motorhome.
Her vivid description of Croatia, caught our imagination, describing the coast as having turquoise blue waters, along with unrivalled tranquility. Moreover, she continued to say how unspoilt it was, with low key coastal towns, fabulous campsite facilities and friendly locals.
“You must go and see for yourselves” she proclaimed! So for us, that was it, our next country to visit, in the motorhome.
One year on and we were on our way! Having travelled through Germany, Austria and Slovenia, the blistering July heat now beat down on the van. Before long, the fabulous waters of the Adriatic came into view.
We were two and a half hours from our previous nights stop at Lake Bled, in Slovenia. Ready to enter Croatia, in a very long queue at the border control at Koper. This was one large industrial looking town bordering Slovenia and Italy.
We didn’t want to miss out on this amazing coastline. We, therefore, decided to gradually work our way along the coast.
Passports shown and back on the only motorway, we drove to the exit, a few miles further at Umag.
After a quick drive around the town, we followed the well signed campsite signs. Pulling in at our first campsite, Camping Finida, 4km from the town itself.
The heat was intense, we hoped there would be a pitch free for us at the campsite. Because of the Summer sun, we really needed a shady one!
In luck we were, there was only one space left in the July peak season. Thank goodness, it was large with shade and just a minute from the cooling waters of the Adriatic.
There is supposedly no wild camping allowed in Croatia, or any type of Aire system, therefore, campsites are really the only option.
We were told this is due to the war of the 1990’s. When Croatia was then part of the former Yugoslavia. The devastating conflicts during this period left the possibility of landmines being present in some areas. Because of this, we weren’t wanting to risk driving off the beaten track!!
Some campsites do offer motorhome parking outside their main campsite grounds. Usually located at the entrance, however, you do still have to register and pay with the campsite reception.
The Camping Card International or similar aren’t accepted, therefore, all campsites take your passport. They keep these for the duration of your stay. This is because the authorities want a record of you and where you have stayed the night!
As it happened, for us, it was just too hot to opt for a campsite car park! We needed the shade that campsites offered, with their rows of mature pines and immediate access to the water.
We soon discovered, just how big the campsites are. Covering miles of coast and feeling more like a village. It didn’t feel as if we were even on a campsite!
Not knowing what to expect from a typical campsite in Croatia, we were pleasantly surprised. Immaculate, modern facilities, large pitches, cleaning continuously in the toilet blocks, throughout the day and extremely friendly, English speaking staff.
Too hot to do anything but slouch by the sea, the rocky beach beckoned for the rest of the afternoon.
Several water cooling sessions and showers, followed. Afterwards, we cycled into Umag for a meal, arriving dripping wet from the humid evening air.
We had a choice of waterside restaurants, in the busy, but charming old town. Full of character, with old stone lined streets and squares. Umag, was a great introduction to what was to come on our trip, also, well worth the stop.
Cycling back in the dark, perhaps, wasn’t such a good idea. There were no dedicated cycle paths, meaning, cycling back on the unlit roads.
The following day, came the realisation that driving or sightseeing, would have be done early in the day! The heat was just so intense.
Driving on with the windows down. We headed further South along the coast to Porec.
Driving was easy. Simply because you just couldn’t really get lost, due to lack of main roads! Venturing off a main route, wasn’t an option for us, in the big A-Class. Realising quickly, that most roads disappeared into dirt tracks.
Arriving at Porec, we approached Camping Zelana Laguna with a bit of “pot luck” attitude. We hadn’t booked any sites at all, so had our fingers crossed, that a pitch would be free.
This was peak season, and luckily, we were having no issues getting a pitch. Soon, we were discovering a pattern at each site though. Reception staff were instructing us to walk around, so that we could choose a pitch. This was easier said than done!
Simple in many countries, but here the sites were huge, covering big distances. Walking in the searing heat, was exhausting stuff. We were then encountering a bit of a problem, because of the sheer size of the campsites! We were choosing our pitch, arriving back at reception with the pitch number, only to be told that someone else had just done the same!
After this, we lived and learned! The only way to do it, was for one of us to stand on the free pitch that we found. Whilst the other person went back to reception with the details. Bingo!
Here’s a useful link for campsites in Croatia. https://www.camping.hr/best-camps
Positioned beside the glorious, crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, the campsite offered everything you could need.
Firstly for us, was the campsite supermarket, to buy those essential beach shoes. The coastline was a mix of rocky and pebble beaches, so, sea shoes were the only way to protect those feet!
Open spaces and shady pine trees gave the campsite a laid back feel. With a choice of tourist train, bus or water taxi into Porec, it couldn’t have been better placed.
Once the sun disappeared for the day, we opted for the water taxi and sped off across the sea, with the wind in our hair.
Porec is beautiful, with an array of narrow stone laid streets. Restaurant filled squares and pavement cafes gave a true Mediterranean feel. enhancing the ambiance of the Venetian styled architecture. The basilica here is listed as UNESCO, so plenty of culture surrounds you too.
For us, a motorhome is perfect for driving on every couple of days. With all those home comforts attached, it’s such a good way to capture that next must see place.
Further down the coast, we were doing just that. Approaching Rovinj with some excitement, because, the last time either one of us had visited, it was pre-war Yugoslavia.
Here at Rovinj, Camping Polari, attracted our attention. Another huge site with beautiful beaches, where a nudist camping section, covered a large proportion of the site! This is common practice in Croatia, nudist areas are usually marked FKK. Make sure you choose a pitch that isn’t FKK, if you want to keep your clothes on!
We quickly learnt that a surcharge was added for short stays on campsite’s, although, the amount of days varied. With this in mind, and the fact that we had our son with us, who was charged as a 3rd adult. We were finding camp site fees fairly expensive, averaging between £40-£50 per night.
Eating out made up for campsite costs, sometimes a main course was just a few pounds each. Croatia doesn’t have the Euro, so currency is in the Croatian Kuna, therefore, making a novel change!
Campsites were immaculate and really well maintained. Also, all were modern with excellent amenities and fabulous private beaches. Those high season prices became worthwhile in many ways and were soon forgotten!
From Camping Polari, a bus was provided for the 3km ride to the centre of Rovinj, and a bargain at just £1.50. In lower temperatures, we would have walked.
Clinging to the shade of the medieval narrow streets, it became apparent that Rovinj hadn’t changed a bit in the 30 years since the last visit!
Perhaps this is the appeal of Croatia, due to the war years, over development just never occurred, therefore, it remains beautifully preserved, in its somewhat natural state.
Croatia doesn’t have high rise, densely packed hotel resorts. Instead, accommodation is low key, and in harmony with the surroundings.
Rovinj itself is simply perfect, with a quaint harbour, crystal clear waters and the old town rising up from behind. We found ourselves walking the maze of picturesque, narrow, cobbled streets.
Surrounded by tall, tightly packed Venetian style townhouses, and little tunnelled alleyways, leading to the water’s of the Adriatic. Here, with the sea, lapping up against the backdrop of these romantic looking walls, we were in another world!
Venice is within easy reach for a day trip, from one of the many boat excursion operators along the Istrian coast. Although, we chose to give this a miss, and save it for a separate trip.
A walk up to the church along the winding streets, brought a welcome view point across the town and the blue bay, bringing many of the small islands into view.
You could spend a lot of time around Rovinj, but after a couple of days, mostly spent having to cool off on the campsite beaches, we moved on to Banjole.
Located just outside of Pula, Camping Indije, provided our first vacant sea front pitch. Setting up camp on a superb large, grassy plot, just a stone’s throw away from yet another private beach.
Although facilities here, at the time of our visit were dated, we weren’t complaining! A rocky beach, overlooked a superb bay of small islands where boats adorned the water.
With no bus on offer, reception staff ordered a taxi for us, to take us the 5 minutes into Pula itself, costing £12.50 each way, it brought us right into the heart of this Roman town.
Pula seems to be a town of two contrasts. Firstly there’s an industrial outer area, consisting of a large busy port. Secondly, there’s the town itself, which has a beautifully intact Roman amphitheater, with remarkable outer walls.
Presiding majestically over the town centre, the Amphiteatre, certainly has the most incredible presence. Towering above, the hustle and bustle of peak season tourists.
The Roman square, boasts The Temple of Augustus, so whilst we, took a rest in one of the outdoor restaurants, we allowed ourselves to go back thousands of years. Imagining, the Romans walking through the Gate of Hercules alongside the imposting town walls.
At the tip of the Istrain Coast, just south of Pula, lies Medulin. A popular tourist town, due to its proximity to glorious beaches and islets, it’s accessible only by boat.
If you don’t have your own boat, they can be hired both at campsites and various towns along the coast. With its calm, clear, sheltered waters, it’s a boat lovers paradise, throughout the whole region.
Camping Kazela, just 10 minutes out of Medulin, was somewhat quieter than other sites on the trip so far. Although, completely superb in every way.
The usual immaculate toilet facilities, large grassy sunbathing areas, shady pitches and several small plunge pools were alongside extensive beaches. Providing us with an afternoon of relaxation. This was, until the heavens opened and the most horrendous storm force winds, got us diving for the awning and everything else!
Once the storm had passed, we took a stroll around the town. Small and with more of a modern feel and a selection of shops and restaurants, it was a nice place to spend the evening.
With Croatia consisting of over 1200 islands, it didn’t take us long before we were tempted to take a ferry crossing over to explore one!
Leaving Istria behind us, we were now entering the Kvarner region, on the only inland main road to Brestova from Medulin. Here, we joined the queue along the quiet approach road, to the small ferry port, just north of Labin.
The Island of Cres was to be our first island destination from the mainland. Paying the £45 fee for our motorhome and 3 passengers, we had a short wait in the blistering sun. We were soon boarding the ferry, and a pleasant 30 minute sailing to Porozina, on the North Western tip of the island.
We were a little concerned to begin with though. Greeting us were steep, narrow and busy roads. Fortunately, the roads soon spread out, into more manageable stretches of mountainous and largely unpopulated terrain, provided a scenic journey.
Cres is famed for one of the world’s largest flying birds, The Eurasian Griffon Vulture, now a protected species. Unfortunately, we didn’t come across one during our trip.
The views across the coastline, as we approached Cres Town were stunning. We were arriving late in the afternoon, so we were lucky to find a spare pitch at Camp Kovacine. A beautiful location, hugging the clear blue waters, it was just too tempting to miss!
Straight into the sea we went, the waters here were like a warm bath, coupled with a beautiful sunset, it was a superb start to our sightseeing here. Luckily, a cycle path alongside the sea, connected the campsite to Cres Town, an easy 10 minute bike ride away.
Cres Town, is lovely, plenty of harbour front restaurants, quaint, narrow streets and interesting little shops provide a low key, but lively atmosphere. It also attracts the big super yachts, one of which was proudly docked alongside the quay for us to admire.
Heading further South, a small bridge connects the next island, Losinj to Cres. The main town, Mali Losinj is a lovely harbour town. Our campsite, Camping Cikat, was situated about a 15 minute walk away.
Pitched under the shady pine trees, with a view across the sea, the location here, was again just stunning. More clear waters, large rocky sunbathing areas and a paradise for snorkelers, fish took centre stage beneath us as we swam in the crystal clear sea.
The town of Mali Losinj is the largest on all these Croatian islands, but it’s still fairly small compared to many holiday resorts. It retains a charming, rustic, appeal and pastel painted character buildings surround the bustling harbour front. It’s a great place to stroll come the evening, when the numerous harbour side restaurants and shops come alive and the boating fraternity arrive, to enjoy the Summer nights under a balmy sky.
An extra few nights here, would have been the icing on the cake, but to see more of these beautiful islands, we needed to move on.
We were ready to drive back, on the one main road to catch our next ferry, from the very small port of Merag, just outside Cres Town. However, we were greeted with a fairly large queue and a wait of a couple of hours.
The roll on roll off ferry, took just half and hour and cost £47 for the 3 of us and the motorhome. Having not booked anything before hand, we were just pleased to be able to get on board!
Disembarking at Valbriska on Krk, was easy enough. It’s one of the most easily accessible of the Islands, boasting a 1430m long bridge to the mainland at Smrika, south of Rijeka, as well as an airport. It’s an island with a mix of flat, low lying land in the north and mountains to the south.
We were heading to Krk Town and another coastal campsite attracted us, the newly renovated Camping Krk was a delight. It had the advantage of a path along the coast, taking about 20 minutes to reach the centre of Krk Town itself.
As with many parts of the infrastructure here, the path wasn’t pristine. Taking a route along a dusty, rocky section and through pine woods, with just the odd section of paved path. It was also unlit, but this didn’t deter us, as we headed off with our torches to guide us.
Originally a Roman town and boosting the largest marina on the Adriatic, we entered through a large gateway into this unusual, charming walled town. Full of narrow streets, alleyways and squares, all bustling with the summer tourists. A cathedral blends in, with the stone walls and turrets, its bell giving away its presence above the tightly packed roof lines.
Further south to the tourist hub of Baska, another coastal campsite allured us in. Taking a quieter grassy pitch away from the beach, Camp Zablace, in the centre of the town, meant a couple of minutes easy walking to the main area.
The beach here was very crowded, 1.8km in length, it really drew in the tourists, but accessibility to the town, made up for the masses. The campsite lacked the finesse that our other sites had, but it was spacious, spotless and friendly.
Baska, is the oldest resort on the island, and probably the more rowdy of all the towns seen up to now. A fun fair blasted out music all day, and into the night. With crowds along the quay, and more noise than we could cope with, it wasn’t really a place for us!
The town itself though was unspoilt. With typical Croatian facades of simple stone, and narrow streets, where steps of stone took us down to the restaurant lined harbour and quaint fishing boats dominated the walls of the old quay.
Our final island hop came from Krk to Rab and was also the most expensive crossing, at £83 and taking one and a half hours.
Having driven back up to the port of Valbriska, the journey on the open top deck in the hot breeze, proved very relaxing. Docking outside the town of Loper, this island looked stunning from the calm waters on the boat. It has a reputation of being the most beautiful of the Kvarner Islands and it wasn’t to disappoint.
An easy drive led us south, to the famed Rab Town and Camping Padova 3 at Banjol. We couldn’t believe our luck, when we found a pitch just beside the beachfront and the mix of leisurely lunch, quick dip in the shallow, clear water was just perfect.
Also, a huge bonus, was the cycle path and walkway that led from our pitch along the coast, where 30 minutes later we arrived at the fabulous, medieval centre of Rab Town.
Rab Town is full of character, nooks and crannies everywhere, narrow streets and glorious little squares, with park areas rising out above the sea. View points look out across the town and the blue sea. Flowers draping over stone ballustrading and the ever beautiful Adriatic, lapping up against the walled construction of the town peninsula, meant, this was our favourite place on the trip.
Waterfront cafes, elegant architecture and boat trips to the gorgeous waters and unspoilt beaches around the island were available. We chose to just watch the world go by amongst the street artists and locals, selling their hand made crafts.
A water taxi took us back to the campsite, the perfect way to mark the end of our island hopping venture. Stopping at several places en-route, it was a magical way to return to base.
Leaving our last night behind us, the ferry from Rab to Stinica on the mainland beckoned. Another easy roll on roll off trip for £37 across the narrow channel of water, brought us back on to the one main coast road from where we’d be heading back north to Rijeka, Croatia’s largest port overlooking the Kvarner Gulf.
This stretch of coastal road, varying in height along the route, but boasting the most impressive views across the islands, made us realise that we’d only just skimmed the surface of this beautiful, unspoilt country. Passing superb small campsites along the way, each with outstanding little bays of blue, blue waters, we knew, that the was going to be the first of many future trips to this part of Europe.
Reaching the industrial town of Rijeka, we left this stunning coastal vista behind us, as we headed inland to the Sovenian border and the journey back home.
Mileage from Calais – 2500.
Fuel £650, Tolls £200 (we had to have a GoBox for Austria, as we were over 3.5 Tonne).
Number of Nights stopped from Calais to Croatia – 5 Nights: Gravelines, Nord Pas de Calais, France; Deidshiem, Germany; Salzburg, Austria (2 nights); Lake Bled, Slovenia.
Number of nights stopped on Return – 5 nights: Lake Bohinj, Slovenia; Faaker See, Austria; Ossiacher See, Austria; Bad Aibling, Germany; Sierck Les Bains, Moselle, Germany.
Campistes in Croatia: Umag, Camping Finida £44; Porec, Camping Zelana Laguna, Bijela, £44; Rovinj, Camping Polari, £51; Pula, Camping Indije, Banjole £43; Medulin, Camping Kazela £40; Cres, Camp Kovacine, Cres Town, £39; Cres, Camping Cikat, Losinj, £46; Krk, Camping Krk, Krk Town, £41; Krk, Camp Zablace, Baska, £40; Rab, Camping Padova 3, Banjol, £47.
We were travelling with our son, who we had to pay adult prices for, time of travel was July an August.
Peak season penalties applied at all campsites for staying less than their requirement, e.g 3 night or 5 nights.
Croatia is not in the Euro, the currency is the Kuna.
Note: this Croatia trip was taken a few years ago, in our previous A-Class Carthago motorhome.