We spent an amazing and HOT week in Rovinj the first week of July exploring the beautiful town, beaches, and surrounding area of Istria, Croatia. Having visited Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian coast last summer, we were determined to visit Croatia again having such a wonderful time there. We planned our second Croatia trip to the nearest point drivable from Germany, as with having a 3 month old, we were not quite ready to take to the skies. Istria, a peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic, is more known for its Venetian architecture, truffles, and olive oil than its beaches (though they were pretty amazing in our book)!. During our week in Rovinj we explored the local area, the Roman town of Poreč, medieval hill town of Motuvun, and four beaches in the area.
Let me just say Croatian beaches can be pretty hard to find. We always do our internet research for locations and addresses and are not bad with directions. We also always use our Apple or Google iPhone maps as insurance. Given that, we still ended up in the middle of a construction site (with foreman asking us to leave), on a private resort FKK (look that up) beach, and on a secluded rocky beach with no amenities…before we figured out actually where to park and/or walk to the beaches we planned on visiting. Below is a little more on each adventure.
By far our favorite beach, it is set on a cove of crystal clear water directly south of Rovinj. To access the beach you drive and park at Zlanti Rt park and walk to the northwest. It is about a 10 minute walk and there are very few signs in general and no signs specifically to Lone bay. You just have to use GPS or trial and error. Needless to say we hiked at least a mile in the heat before finding it, but it was certainly worth it!
Lone bay offers both plastic chairs for 30 kuna (about $5) and very nice wooden chairs with umbrella for 200 kuna ($30). There is a snack bar with drinks, ice cream, and our ham & cheese sandwiches which were a hit with our 3 year old Daughter. Best part of the beach is the family friendly setup with small pebbles and the ability to sit right along the water with your kids. Most efficient for us!
Having wanting to visit Valdaliso, we first ended up at the construction site and after a U-turn instead took the turn at the Konzum which takes you to an excellent shaded parking area next to Rovinj beach bar. Our landlord, Ante, said this was technically Figarola beach. The shore was a combination of some natural rocky with plenty of pebbly areas for kids. The view of Rovinj from the North is just spectacular. The sun is very hot on this beach so it is recommended to get there early to get some of the shaded spots under the pine trees. We actually lucked out when a family packed up and left one afternoon after we arrived. With barely any clouds in the sky and 88 degrees every day, the shade is necessary!
Beach bar Rovinj is a full service bar and restaurant. We even had dinner there one late afternoon, complete with scallops, tuna salad, pizza, and spaghetti. Delicious, like all the food in Rovinj, and not very expensive! Most meals were about 30 euros for our family of two adults and two kids.
We found this beach after the wrong turn to the FKK campground, but left after a short time because it was not the cleanest and did not offer a great setup for families. Mostly rocky with only one pebbly area without any shade.
Porton Biondi Beach
Best view of Rovinj, just a stones throw away from old town. Not much shade here and not the prettiest beach. We snapped some pictures and had lunch at the pizza restaurant which was typical of the area.
Highly recommended! Motovun is the most famous of the Istrian medieval hill towns. We arrived by 0930 and parked as high as possible, at the grass lot under the cemetery. The weather was hot and 1/2 mile walk up not the easiest, but because of the narrow streets most of it was shaded. The town is not very stroller friendly so we were happy to have our 3 month and 3 year old in carriers for the day. We found a great restaurant with a view that was open, Montona Gallery, where we had chocolate pancakes and sandwiches with an amazing view. From the town you can see 360 degrees for miles! We enjoyed tasting olive oil and seeing the town sights including town gate, church and square, town wall, and birthplace of Mario Andretti (note this is hidden down Ul Borgo street then a left turn).
Had the weather been cooler or a different time of year we would certainly have visited the other hill towns of the area including Grožnjan and Oprtalj.
Rovinj Old Town
We walked around parts of old town twice with another “Kuna binge” shopping spree (only because rest of Europe uses Euro and we are not sure if we will be back), and I was able to get two early morning runs through old town during the week. The town is just amazingly striking to look at with the pastel colored buildings, beautiful harbor, and St. Euphemia church tower high on the hill. In terms of the town itself it was nice, but difficult with small children to do the hills during the summer heat. We stayed mostly along the harbor with our daughter Indi picking out the country flags on the boats (she is a big fan of the Croatian flag). We also did some shopping at the markets entering the town. Not much else to say except wear your walking shoes and go either early or late in the day.
For a change of pace, we spent a 1/2 day in the Ancient Roman city of Poreč, 35 minutes up the Adriatic coast from Rovinj. Poreč is much easier to walk because it is basically flat, so we were able to cover most of the city in a morning. We had lunch outside of the Basicalla and did some shopping, picking up our girls Croatia dresses and some Christmas ornaments. Rovinj is definitely larger and prettier to look at, but Poreč is very much recommended because of historic aspects and ease to get around.
Istrian food is so diverse and there is a little bit for everyone! I personally enjoyed the seafood options on every menu, unlike Germany, and just about every corner has a steak or pizza grill that is open from 10 to midnight every day. This makes mid day meals much easier for us, where in other countries like Italy or Germany there is the dreaded “downtime” between lunch and dinner. Olive oil is very popular here with government subsidized farms everywhere around Istria. We came home with five bottles!
To summarize, we absolutely loved Istria as a drivable destination from Germany to visit amazing beaches and historical towns. With weather over 85 degrees F (30 C) and days full of sun, it is a perfect summer getaway from the weather of Central Europe most of the year. We hope to visit Croatia again soon! To see more, check out our trip video…a new tradition we have: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxBZIgu5YwI&sns=em