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The facilities, the view, the beachbar and the young owners win our vote
The Croatian word for ‘sea’ is more. Which seems apt when it’s permanently glistening beside you on the 4,000-mile-long Dalmatian coast. The Adriatic Sea provides Croatia with its biggest income (from tourism, not fishing; the local fisherman with their tiny boats are no competition for the huge Italian vessels on the other side of the water). But before you imagine these shores to be a mecca of sandy beaches, a quick word in your ear: Croatia is a rather rocky, pebbly paradise.

Simply do as the natives do and throw down your beach towel on any spare bit of sea wall, concrete jetty or pebbly cove you can find. Such a free-for-all mentality means that everyone can get a spot, at any time of day. If this sounds too far removed from your personal comfort zone, wait until you see the incredibly azure-crystal bays where sea horses dance on the waves like sparkling diamonds. You’ll be sure to change your attitude. This country defines the word ‘picturesque’ and sunning yourself under its craggy cliffs in the mid-30°C heat is a heavenly pastime that is hard to beat.

To reach this patch of Croatia you can fly into Dubrovnik and catch three buses to reach the coastal road (it’s a lot easier than it sounds). Better still, arrive on a no-frills morning flight to Split, then take the scenic five-hour bus ride southwards along the coast. Grab a seat on the right-hand-side of the coach and, from your elevated view, be prepared for the visual assault of beautiful bays on every bend.

Right beside the bus stop at Orašac is Autocamp Pod Maslinom. Gently starting its descent to sea level, this hilltop campsite has been a labour of love for the owner, Božo, who grew up in this village and could, by all accounts, have been a successful gardener. His conversion of an olive-tree jungle into an appealing landscaped, limestone-walled holiday ground is an enchanting find.

Whatever size wheels you arrive on (bike, motorbike, car or bus) you can set up camp in the spacious privacy of the top, flat sections at Pod Maslinom. Down past the pristine washing blocks is a woody area that offers shade and sound-proofing from the traffic above. There’s room for 250 guests here, but they usually only allow 30–35 tents or motor homes in at any one time, so it never feels too busy.

The limits on numbers means that the vibe feels inclusively laid-back. Inside a reception cabin, which is manned by the duty manager along with any number of village friends who happen to drop by, there are ice creams and drinks for sale. Follow the road until it ends at a viewing platform; it’s a great spot to sit and idly watch the boats ferry people along their life paths in between the three small Elafiti islands opposite.

Most Croatian campsites are within a stone’s throw of a beach. Here, that stone is falling down down down, since there is a steep hill to a cove accessed only along a stony ridge. Tiny tots will deem this hill to be nothing short of a mountain, and pushing a pram up is not an option, unless you’re super-fit. However, any efforts will be rewarded with a private beach, offering you a bay to call your own. You can swim easy here knowing that without any buildings nearby, there is no sewage – the sea is as clean as clean can be.

Offsite, you’ll want to check out the UNESCO World Heritage City of Dubrovnik. It’ll become glaringly obvious why it was once a vital port of call amongst European glitterati and nobility. Modern campers on a budget will be equally fascinated by the city’s Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architectural mix, all framed by the shimmering ocean.

And, should you wish to see even more more, then wend your way back to Split by ferry, for a smashing view of Croatia’s coastline.

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