The clocks have gone forward, the evenings are getting lighter and we have one thing on our minds, holidays. We want to explore new areas, stay in boutique hotels and try the best cuisine. So we decided to head to the beautiful Croatian city of Šibenik and the surrounding area, our guides were Jonathan and Megan owners of new boutique hotel, The Admiral Zaton. So if you like island hopping, crystal blue water, fresh seafood, wine and stunning scenery read on…
Where to Stay
When Californians, Jonathan and Megan first visited Croatia they fell in love with it, so much so that they packed up their life in America and returned to the sleepy seaside village of Zaton (10km from Šibenik) to open their first boutique hotel – The Admiral Zaton. With views out across the picturesque bay, The Admiral Zaton brings together a clean, simple design with a sense of the coast, adventure, a touch of California cool and a dash of boho. Home to 15 rooms, it’s all white walls, splashes of bright turquoise, touches of copper, wooden flooring and detailing in bold geometric prints rugs. They’re the sort of rooms you see on Pinterest that you pin to your dream interior boards. We stayed in The California Suite – we suggest you do the same. First of all, you have the king- sized bed, then you have the rain shower and your own sitting room, which has a nod to California in the form of the state flag. Of course, there are the standard touches such as robes, flat screen tvs, wifi, room service and a gourmet mini bar. When it comes to eating, there is the Konoba Kaliformija restaurant, opening this spring it will serve up coastal cooking and for cocktails there is the El Capitan Bar. The Admiral Zaton also owns its own brig and Landrover and part of its charm is that it can organise trips and adventures around the islands, from bespoke culinary trips to island hopping and private days on their boats.
Prices start at €45 a night for a twin room, we stayed in The Californian Suite which starts at €90
The Oldest Native Croatian City on the Adriatic Coast
Lying 80km north of Split, Šibenik is not as well-known as Dubrovnik or Split, yet it’s the oldest native Croatian city on the Adriatic coast, first being mentioned in 1066. With its winding alleyways, cobbled labyrinths, pretty squares and old stone buildings, it’s easy to see why it was chosen as the setting for Braavos in Game of Thrones. When you go make sure you visit St James’ Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s largest church built of stone without brick or wooden support – which is impressive in itself and even more so given it was built in the 15th century.
Traditional Croatian Cuisine
From the outside, Konoba Vinko looks little more than someone’s house, sitting unassumedly on the side of the road, it’s very much a case of, if you didn’t know it was there you wouldn’t look twice at it. However, it’s a fine example of don’t judge a book by its cover and it’s what’s inside that counts. An example of a traditional tavern, it’s a little rustic round the edges, long, dark wooden tables stand on stone floors, the walls too are stone and beams run along the ceiling. They serve up traditional dishes including Peka, which, if I was given the daunting and almost impossible task of choosing my favourite meals of all time, would make it into the top five. A simple dish of meat (in our case, pork, veal and lamb), vegetables and potatoes; it’s made by putting everything in a bell-shaped pan called cripnja and left to cook in the embers of a fire for several hours. The result? The most tender, meltingly good meat you’ve had and potatoes that have absorbed the flavours and juices so that they are like none you’ve ever tried before. It’s good. Seriously good.
For Stunning Scenery
Spanning around 109²km and just 10km from Šibenik is the national park KRKA, named after the river KRKA flowing through it. As well as being breathtakingly beautiful, the park is home to over 800 different types of plant, 200 different bird species, 18 types of bat and many amphibians and reptiles. You’ll also find one of Croatia’s most recognisable sights, the awe-inspiring, Skradinski Buk, a collection of 17 waterfalls which open up onto a wide pool, which come the summer is a prime swimming spot. Get there from Šibenik by heading to the town Skradin just outside the park and then catching the ferry up towards the waterfall. If you can prise yourself off the beach for one day, then we highly recommend the park.
Sitting just outside Skradin and a stone’s throw from Krka National Park is the family-run BIBICh Winery. You won’t find many details on the website – just an email address, but do your own research and you’ll see positive review after positive review. They host their own wine pairings, where, despite not having their own restaurant they serve up beautiful dishes alongside each wine and you can also stock up on their other produce including olive oil, charcuterie and lavender hand cream. Outside is a pretty little courtyard, with a pergola, which in the summer would be a beautiful setting for an alfresco feast filled with plenty of wine.
Last year, Šibenik restaurant, Pelegrini was voted the Best Restaurant of Dalmatia and Best Restaurant of Croatia and chef Rudolf Štefan was voted Chef of the Year by Dobri Restorani. Their philosophy is all about bringing tradition and innovation together with a good dose of charm. On the menu you can expect to find the likes of mussel gnocchi, monkfish tripe and Dalmatian bruschetta. A must is the murex (sea snail) black pasta as is the ceviche and the gorgonzola and peach pudding. When it’s sunny, we suggest getting a table on the terrace.
After spending several days island hopping, lazing in the sun full from delicious food and soaking up the culture in Šibenik, it was time to return back to London with a little bit of our hearts left in the sleepy village of Zaton.