Croatia’s reputation as a go-to European destination is partly thanks to TV blockbusters such as Succession and Game Of Thrones showcasing its magnificent landscape and stunning coastline. It has also grown in popularity among the A-list jet set, with the Beckhams and Beyoncé among recent visitors.
But away from the bustle of Split, Zagreb and Dubrovnik is one of the country’s best-kept secrets – the serenely beautiful port town of Makarska on the Dalmatian coast, which is hugged by pine forests and the impressive Mount Biokovo, and is renowned locally for its beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. Having taken a trip to the seaside town, OK! rounds up some of the reasons why you should too…
On the doorstep
Do as we did and make the historic old town your sightseeing starting point. It’s based around the buzzing Kacic Square, dominated by the late baroque church of St Mark and surrounded by a web of alleyways, where yet more bars and restaurants wait to be discovered.
The early 17th century Franciscan monastery, founded by Bosnian monks, is another must – head for the Malacological Museum in the basement, which claims to house the largest collection of snails, shells and mussels in the world.
Enjoy star-spotting of the non-celebrity kind? Head to Makarska Observatory, an astronomical complex built at a Second World War memorial.
For some quiet contemplation, visit Svetiste Vepric, a holy, if rather spooky, grotto, with beautiful statues of the Archangel Gabriel and Virgin Mary. A site popular with Instagrammers is at nearby Brela on the west side of Punta Rata beach, where the magnificent Brela rock emerges from the crystal-clear sea.
A place to stay
The Aminess Khalani Beach Hotel is the latest jewel in the crown of Jet2’s stunning Luxe Collection. We were given a charming welcome at the five-star resort before being led to our spacious room, which offered dramatic views of the deep blue Adriatic. Other rooms look out towards the mountain standing guard just outside town.
Up on the rooftop terrace we enjoyed sundowners while watching the rocky horizon become tinged with pink. It was hard to choose between the four restaurants, which have an uber-cool Dalmatian vibe, but the beachside Half 8 à la carte restaurant hit the spot.
During the day, we could be found at one of the idyllic pools, surrounded by elegant palms, with a pool bar serving up thirst-quenching pina coladas. There’s also a state-of-the-art gym and spa, plus fun daily events in the kids’ club to keep younger guests happy.
Once you’ve had enough relaxation, walk, jog or cycle along the pretty promenade just beneath the hotel. The town centre is an easy 20 minutes’ stroll away.
Makarska is a hiker’s paradise. Biokovo, standing at an incredible 1,762m, is Dalmatia’s highest mountain and part of the protected Biokovo Nature Park.
Expert guides run tours with a chance to brave the Skywalk – an adrenaline pumping glass walkway. A more gentle trail takes you through the Osejava Forest Park, which connects Makarska with the nearby small town of Tucepi.
You can also catch a boat from Makarska harbour to Brac island, home to the famous Golden Horn beach.
The entire Dalmatian region boasts incredible seafood, meats, vegetables and the most delicious garlic and olive oil, but two restaurants truly stand out.
Restaurant Castellum, run by glamorous Martina and her partner, is in a gorgeous historic building in the heart of Makarska old town. The fresh seafood – risotto, octopus and saffron prawn linguine – paired with fabulous wines, is outstanding and easily deserving of a Michelin star.
In Tucepi, Freyja Restaurant serves both local and international cuisine. Charming chef Josip stopped for a lengthy chat and gave great recommendations, including a delicious Caesar salad and exquisite truffle burger. The marinated langouste and bruschetta with anchovies and smoked mussels were food of the gods. It’s a place we dream of to this day.
How to book
ATOL-protected package holidays with Jet2holidays at the five-star Aminess Khalani Beach Hotel are available from £1,006pp for seven nights’ B&B, based on departures from Leeds Bradford Airport, including 22kg baggage allowance, return transfers and free resort flight check-in.
To book flights visit jet2.com; for package holidays visit jet2holidays.com or call free on 0800 408 5594. For the restaurant recommendations see Freyja Restaurant, freyja.com.hr, and restaurant-castellum.com
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