The small seaside town of Cavtat in Croatia was recently nominated for a 2019 Best European Destination Award – highly deserving, but I had this weird desire that it not win. Cavtat feels like our little secret, this magical, breath-takingly gorgeous town that was blissful in its lack of tourist crowds. Thankfully it was beaten by Budapest and came in a measly 8th.
We spent 10 days in Cavtat with our 2 daughters (age 3 and 6 at the time) and my mom and stepdad, who had been there before. This little town far exceeded my expectations and made for the perfect multi-generational family destination.
So what’s so special about Cavtat?
1. Location, location, location
Cavtat is about 30 min car ride from Dubrovnik, or an easy ferry or bus trip. In addition to numerous trips to Dubrovnik and its surrounding attractions, we also did day trips into the Kotor fjord region of Montenegro and to Mostar in Bosnia.
Cavtat is also a mere 5-minute drive from Dubrovnik’s airport. Bonus joy for young children: numerous planes flying directly overhead every day.
We really enjoyed the use of the car that we hired, but my mom equally enjoyed the slower pace of spending more time in Cavtat, and there is plenty of public transport to get into Dubrovnik.
2. Quintessential Croatian old town and architecture
The Greeks first settled Cavtat in the 4th century BC, and were followed by a Roman settlement. While Cavtat doesn’t contain the ancient ruins that can be found in other areas of Croatia, it does has a beautiful old town which contains a 17th century Baroque church and gorgeous alleyways to explore.
The mainstay of many towns along the Dalmatian coast, the Riva – a stretch of sea front lined with boats in the water and restaurants, bars, and space to meander while eating ice cream on land. Cavtat’s Riva was the first we experienced, and every other Riva was judged against it – very few matched up.
4. Beaches – and that Adriatic blue
Photos struggle to do justice to the colour of the water in southern Croatia, but swimming in the warm blue waters is the stuff of dreams. Cavtat has a fantastic variety of beaches:
- A small “town beach” which allows views of the old town while you swim
- A big beach 10 minutes walk out of town with beach bars, water park and loungers for hire
- and a number of little beach coves to discover.
But our 2 favourites:
- “mud beach”, which is muddy and not for sun-bathing, but perfect for letting toddlers toddle in the shallows
- “find your own little patch of non-beach”: a foreign concept for us Africans with strong waves that would smash you into the nearest rock, but in Croatia the best swimming spot is often just the closest patch of water to where you are, clamber over a rock or 2 or down a ladder and you’re swimming in the Adriatic.
Yes, most of Cavtat’s beach are rocky, so water shoes are a good idea. Before our trip I spent time researching sandy beaches in the area, but within a day or 2 my kids had decided that they loved the stony beaches as they didn’t get covered in sand. My eldest complained the first time we went to one of Cape Town’s world-renowned beaches afterwards, saying that she missed the stones of Croatia.
5. Sladoled!! (= ice cream in Croatian)
Deserving of its own point because it was just so good! We were fans of the guy half-way down the Riva, but most ice cream we tasted in Croatia was Italian in quality but far cheaper in price. A cone was pretty much an everyday event, sometimes a second – and mom and dad may have on occasion had a sneaky extra cone during an evening stroll while granny babysat.
6. Convenient shopping
A small seaside town may seem like an idyllic vacation spot, but parents of small kids usually also appreciate being not too far from decent shops so they can get what they need for their kids. Cavtat has a nice array of small bakeries and grocery stores. But it was also great to be 20 minutes away from a mall with a full -sized grocery store, pharmacy and more (get there by car or bus, on the road to Dubrovnik, near Mlini). I even found a Frozen-themed birthday cake for my 3 year old in the freezer aisle. (A frozen Frozen cake, but not an ice cream cake; yes, there were many silly comments around that from the grown-ups)
7. Croatian sculpture on the hilltop
The old town section of Cavtat is built on a hill-peninsula. A climb to the top of the hill is rewarded with gorgeous views, and also a cemetery containing a mausoleum built by one of Croatia’s greatest artist and sculptors, Ivan Mestrovic.
8. Natural beauty and Sunsets
A quick scan through the photos in this post should convince you that Cavtat has a wealth of natural beauty. But it came into its own at sunset, whether from the Riva, the beach bars or from your own accommodation if you can get one with a view. I don’t think there was a single one of our 10 nights there, where I didn’t stop to look and photograph the sunset.
And our favourite spot: the beach (and its beach bars) at the big beach. As the sun sets, you also get to watch the lights of Dubrovnik twinkle in the far distance across the bay.
For all these reasons, Cavtat made an absolutely perfect family-friendly vacation destination for us!
For these reasons and more, Croatia stole our hearts – rest assured this is not the last post on Croatia that I have planned 🙂
Q: How do you amuse a 6 year old?