Top 5 Mljet: Best Beaches on Croatia's Greenest Island
TCN continues looking at the best beaches in Croatia on April 16, 2018.
Today we take a look at what is considered to be Croatia’s greenest island, home to a National Park and a place that also saved a shipwrecked Odysseus for seven years – Mljet.
Known as the southernmost of the easternmost islands in the Dalmatia region, Mljet lies south of the Pelješac peninsula – boasting 37 kilometers in length. Covered by pine forest, olive groves, and vineyards, the Mljet National Park makes up most of the island – and two saltwater lakes, a Benedictine monastery natural anchorages, and fortifications preserved from the Illyrian period drive visitors to Mljet every year. As you might assume, not many people live on the island, and with a population of around 1,000, it’s not surprising this green island oasis is kept unspoiled.
According to the Mljet Tourist Board, the island saw its first inhabitants, part of the Ardiaei Illyrian tribe, some 4,000 years ago. The first historical records of the island, however, were by Greek sailors finding refuge in the Mljet bays while they traveled to their colonies on Korčula, Vis, and Hvar. Though the Greeks never settled on the island, Mljet was their go-to to take cover from poor weather conditions.
Once known as Melite and Melita, Mljet was under Roman rule in 167 BC, and the Neretvans built the first Slavic settlement on the island named Vrhmljeće (above the current village ‘Maranovići’). The 12th century saw the Benedictines become the feudal lords of the island, though they renounced their rule in 1345, keeping just one-third of the land then. The 16th century saw the first Mljet Congregation which gathered all of the monasteries of Benedictine monks in the Republic of Ragusa, though the Benedictine monastery on the island began to lose its importance. Though Mljet remained under Dubrovnik rule until the end of the Republic in 1808, 1809 saw the rule of Napoleon, followed by the arrival of the Austro-Hungarians. Occupied by Italians in the first World War, Mljet also saw a German occupation in World War II, and eventually became a part of Yugoslavia and the independent state of Croatia.
With lush Mediterranean vegetation, sparkling seas, beautiful bays, and thriving sea life, this untainted island has it all – including some of the best beaches to boot. Here’s a look at five Mljet beaches we find particularly inviting.
Located in the southeastern part of the island is Saplunara – a white sandy beach that got its name from the Latin word meaning sand. The Saplunara cove, which is about 1 kilometer in length, is divided into two beaches – large and small Saplunara. Reachable by taxi or bus from Sobra, the area actually only inhabits a couple of dozen people – and this beach doesn’t see many visitors, either. Surrounded by thick pine forest, Saplunara is also home to plant species you won’t find anywhere else in Croatia. As you might imagine, there is no restaurant occupying this beach, and finding a kiosk is also a shot in the dark. Visitors to Saplunara do, however, have access to a mobile toilet – and there is a single cafe bar open to visitors where deck chairs are also available for rent. Water sports are also not prevalent at this beach, so if you’re looking for an active beach day – look elsewhere. The ideal beach to relax in the calm and quiet of nature with a packed picnic and all the beach day necessities you might need – Saplunara is considered a pearl of Mljet island.
If you’re already at Saplunara, you’ll be happy to know that just 20 minutes away in Limuni Bay, another sandy oasis awaits – Blaće. A hidden bay that doesn’t attract many visitors, Blaće is accessible by a narrow dirt road leading from Saplunara. We might suggest getting here by Vespa or by foot as your best option. A protected bay with shallow waters, Blaće is ideal for families with small children, though it is best to come prepared – you won’t find much of anything on offer here, either. Another beach without the bells in whistles, if you’re looking for water sports, a pickup game of picigin will have to do to pass the time. Visitors to Blaće can find drinks and snacks at the single cafe bar on the beach, and umbrella and lounge chair rentals are also available for those interested.
Located outside of the National Park in the central part of the island sits Sutmiholjska beach, between the villages of Ropa and Babino Polje. A great beach for families with small children, Sutmiholjska is easily accessible by a tight, 3 kilometer road from Babino Polje. While no public transport will take you to this beach, visitors could take the local Pomena-Sobra bus that stops in Babino Polje and grab a taxi (or scooter ride) from there. If you’re looking for a beach with a bit more on offer for your day by the sea, look no further as Sutmiholjska is equipped with a restaurant, cafe bar, small shop, and rental agency.
Located on the northern shore closer to the south of the island you’ll meet Okuklje – which is also an increasingly popular destination for Mljet tourists in the peak summer months. Already known to sailors throughout history who have used this bay as a sanctuary during poor weather conditions, Okuklje is a seaside village that not only is a flourishing tourist town with apartment rentals and restaurants, but you better believe there are more than a few good swimming spots for your beach holiday. Not recommended for families with small children, swimming at Okuklje is not as accessible as the rest of the town as there are no expansive beach areas in the bay. There are, however, many rocky points and concrete slabs, and even stairs that lead to the sea in others. Bringing everything you need for a beach day at Okuklje is highly recommended as there are no real facilities nearby. But don’t fret, there are some restaurants and shops inside the town if needed.
Polače Bay is situated on the northern coast of Mljet. Known as the largest and safest bay of the island, similar to Okuklje, Polače is also a safe sanctuary for sailors due to its sheltered position on the island. The village itself inhabits around 100 people and the town boasts ancient ruins from the 1st to 6th centuries. Perhaps the most popular attraction in the area is the famous 5th-century ruins of a Roman palace. This bay does offer some fantastic swimming spots, including the central and sandy beach of the town. Great for families with small children, Polače beach is surrounded by shady pine trees, and the gastronomic charms of the village are never far away. Boat and canoe rentals are also available for the more adventurous types, and there is a diving center in the town for those looking to go a bit deeper. While we are unsure if umbrella and chair rentals are available here, most all of the amenities you might need for a beach day can be found inside the town. Poljevina beach in Polače is also favorite among visitors.