We were up at 7am to find some breakfast before our 9:30 kayak tour along the town walls and out past Lokrum. We stopped at a small restaurant in a side street off of Stradun, I’m not sure I ever saw the name. We had eggs, ham, bread and bacon. My eggs were runny despite asking that they be cooked through…a constant annoyance when I travel. I hate runny eggs! Croatian bacon, however, is delicious. It looks so thin and unassuming, but it packs some serious taste.
After breakfast we headed out of the Pile Gate dressed in our swimming gear and headed to a small pier below the fortress where we congregated for our kayak tour with Adventure Dalmatia.
We packed our belongings into a dry bag and a tiny watertight barrel on the two-man kayak and climbed in from the little jetty. We had a rough start, neither of us having kayaked before. We quickly fell behind the group, zig zagging all over the place and struggling to keep up. The guide had to keep coming back to encourage us. We were very glad to group up for a short rest and a little story about Dubrovnik.
The sun on the water was so beautiful and being out on the sea gave us beautiful views of Dubrovnik’s Walls and the mountains behind. We circled Lokrum Island, where we planned to head for the afternoon after the kayak tour. We pulled in at a beautiful cave where the water was a brilliant turquoise. We bobbed there for a 10 minute break and then headed out carefully navigating the jagged rocks where the waves crashed around us and tried to pull us off course.
Finally getting the hang of things once we realised we could get extra leverage from planting our feet more securely in the kayak, we moved to the front of the pack and glided ahead. Our next and final stop was a cave near the city’s harbour for a quick prosciutto sandwich and some snorkelling. We also passed Dubrovnik’s medieval quarantine, credited with Dubrovnik having never suffered a plague.
It was hard getting out of the kayak and back into the water to swim due to the sharp shingle (wear waterproof shoes if you have them!). The sea was freezing cold but it was nice to have a break from paddling to explore a bit. Just 20 mins of paddling and a slightly scary crossing of the harbour’s mouth bad is back on the jetty and headed back to our room in the centre of town still in our soaking wet clothes.
Having been tantalisingly close to Lokrum, we decided the best use of our afternoon would be to head back to the island to explore. We headed to the harbour to catch the boat (on the hour and half past – 140 kn which includes your entrance fee). It’s about a 15 minute crossing to Lokrum giving you beautiful views back to Dubrovnik.
Lokrum is a nature reserve meaning no one can stay on the island overnight so it’s a tranquil paradise even with all the visitors. The smell of pine and the other shrubs hits you as you disembark. It’s a welcome green space after the beautiful but entirely paved Old Town. We headed across the small island to see the ‘dead sea’, a salty pool which is in fact fed by an underground chamber from the sea (apparently a skilled diver can make it between the two) although it looks like a tiny land locked sea.
We also wandered around the partially ruined monastic complex where we stumbled across out first rabbit.
I knew Lokrum was famous for its peacocks and rabbits but I had been expecting the little grey rabbits you see on verges in the UK, but these are huge, luxuriously fluffy rabbits like you’d keep as a pet. They know that people feed them so will happily come scampering over to investigate you, especially if you have a bag which might contain food, although they’re quick to run off again when they realise there are no treats in store.
The monastery complex contains a small cafe / bar area in a beautiful garden that looks out to the sea. A peacock with a huge tail was wandering between the tables trying his luck for a snack. He had the biggest tail I’ve ever seen and I stalked him through the garden photographing his plumage until he picked up some speed and disappeared through an opening in the walled garden.
Our last visit of the day was to the Napoleonic fortress on the island’s highest ground, started during French occupation of the island in 1806 and finished under Austrian administration in 1835 . It is up an incredibly steep, rocky path, which just seems to keep going as the end of the path is obscured by the trees each side.
The views from the top more than make up for the effort expended in climbing to the fortress. You see a complete panorama around the island with other islands and the coast off in the distance and Dubrovnik’s walls to the other side. It really gave me a sense of how far we’d kayaked that morning!
Lokrum has plenty of other interesting sites including a botanic garden and church. You could easily spend a whole day here (or even visit more than once if you were in Dubrovnik for a while)- take a picnic and your swimming stuff, there are even volley ball courts.
We headed back to the harbour, stopping briefly to watch more rabbits and peacocks in Lokrum’s olive grove. The boat heads back to Dubrovnik at 15 and 45 past the hour, with the last two boats leaving at 17:15 and 18:00. If you get caught on the island after 6pm the fire department come to rescue you…at your own expense.
For dinner we had a reservation at 360 Restaurant, one of Dubrovnik’s upscale restaurants perched on the city walls near the Ploče Gate entrance to the Old Town. The sunset views across the harbour were a lovely way to say goodbye to Durbrovnik. The meal was about £65 a head for two courses and an alcoholic drink we each – we saved our money and had an ice cream on the way back to the room for dessert.
The wine list, however, is excellent if you have a few thousand to spare, plenty of Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Latour and Margaux on offer! We started with a great amuse bouche, but the food was disappointing as the meal went on, beautifully presented but not quite ticking the boxes in the flavour department.