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Camping in Dalmatia

Stunningly beautiful, the Adriatic curves gracefully along the Dalmatian Coast’s islands and tiny bays. Villages hug the cliffs. Fascinating historic sites left by Venetians and Romans stand waiting to tell their story. And the laid-back friendliness of the Croatians makes you want time to stand still. Just pitch your tent under the pines at the edge of the sea and soak in the breathtaking setting.

Camping is safe. The sites are well maintained, beautiful, and reliably open June through August. Having a car makes camping easy. You can buy food from shopkeepers or farmers and share cooking aromas mingled with laughter with local families on vacation.

The drive to Rijeka from Italy or Hungary takes only a few hours. Highways are good, and the scenery is outstanding. From Rijeka to Split, however, much of the highway is two-lane and congested, so it’s best to take the Jadrolinija car ferry to Dubrovnik with stops on the exquisite islands of Hvar and Kocula.

After enjoying the wonders of Dubrovnik, drive up the spectacular coast to Split, stopping once or twice to camp. Reboard the car ferry at Split for a picturesque trip back to Rijeka.

Dubrovnik is a UNESCO world heritage city, completely walled and magnificent. UNESCO supervised the restoration after the Serb shelling in 1991. There is a tiny, very basic but safe and nicely located camping place at the fishing boat harbor off E65, north of town. Watch for signs at Rozat. Otherwise, go south from the ferry landing to the Lapad peninsula and look for signs.

Reminiscent of California’s Big Sur area, the road back to Split hugs the sea. Craggy cliffs tuck in tiny bays and lovely beaches. Acacia in full golden glory covers the mountain side of the highway; the air is perfumed with the aroma of pines. Here and there are lovely red-roofed little villages. On E65, across from the island of Hvar and south of Pogora in Zivogosce, Camping Dole (011-385-21-628-749), terraced to the beach, has warm showers and is well maintained.

An enticing Venetian city, Split is filled with colorful flowers and shade trees. Diocletian’s Palace is a tiny town in itself. Drive up the hill to the sculpture garden and the home of Mestrovic, Croatia’s most famous sculptor.

Camping in Croatia is inexpensive, and food at the morning markets is plentiful and cheap. If you share a car rental with one other person the travel cost is low and you have the luxury of being able to go when and where you want. Transporting the car on the ferry costs the same as one person. It’s not hard to do the whole trip on an average of $40 per person per day.

Driving into Rijeka, just follow signs for the ferry, (011-385-51-211-444). Convenient public parking and a good morning market are at the south end of the ferry loading area. Pick up your ticket at the Jadolinja office, right at the waterfront, Riva 16. If you didn’t book a cabin but plan to stay on deck at night, bring warm clothing, blankets, and inflatable pillows. Bringing your own food and beverages is nice, whether you have a cabin or not.

This itinerary will only give you a taste of the gentle beauty waiting in Croatia. Go now before the word gets out.

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