Where to Stay
Rovinj was our Istrian base – the perfect choice. As well as its stunning good looks, close proximity to the sea and historical sights, there were restaurants, bars and beaches galore. The other sights and towns of Istria were an easy drive away and the airport at Pula was a mere 40 minute journey.
We flew with Croatian Airlines on a scheduled flight to Pula. Everything ran smoothly – aside from the white knuckle turbulence after take-off. The flight from the UK took just over 2 hours – Son slept throughout. Turbulence does not seem to bother him – he takes after his father. Pula airport was small, basic but adequate. On the plus side we cleared passport control and security easily and quickly. The downside was not much to do/see/eat while we were waiting for our return flight. Don’t get there too early! The drive from Pula to Rovinj took around 45 minutes – a quick and easy transfer, major plus with a younger traveller in tow.
Everywhere in Rovinj is walkable, we also hired bikes (very cheaply) to explore a little further afield around Zlatni Forest Park. Taxis were extremely reasonable if you wanted to go further afield. If you do intend to explore properly though you would need a car. We hired a Renault Twingo with air conditioning for a bargain price. There were numerous small, local hire car companies in Rovinj – we used one of those and it worked brilliantly. They charged us half the price we had been quoted on the internet before travelling, threw in a child seat for good measure and we were all set. Driving was a breeze – the roads were well signposted and never too busy.
When To Go
We visited the first 2 weeks of June – it was hot and sunny, and much more bearable than the higher temperatures that are the norm later in the summer. If you can travel out of peak season, it makes for a very pleasant experience – apparently in August the restaurants can be crowded and the beaches really busy. We saw none of this.
There were no sandy beaches, all were rocky/pebbly and hard on the feet, so rubber shoes were a must. We bought some in Rovinj – cheap and plentiful. We also splashed out on padded cushions (for a bargain price) which made sitting on the rocks much more comfortable.
The waters here are some of the cleanest and clearest you can imagine. Lots of the beaches fly Blue Flags and most have natural shade with pine forests stretching down to the bays. The land is seldom privately owned, so most beaches are public. They rarely face the open sea, are sheltered and have shallow water which is just ideal for young kids to paddle safely. There are few (if any) lifeguards at the beaches or pools.
Eating out is very cheap, the food is great and really child friendly. Like much here, it is Italian style cuisine. If all else fails with picky eaters, you can get delicious pizzas everywhere. Soft drinks are quite expensive, water is reasonable – Son drank plenty of that. Beer and wine are cheap – Husband and I drank plenty of those. Every town has an ice-cream parlour or two, all of which sell cheap, wonderful, gelato style ice-cream. We all had plenty of these.
Language was no problem here, most people spoke English and everyone was friendly and eager to help. We visited in the days of the kuna, before Croatia joined the EU. Then, everything was remarkably cheap, I don’t know what the Euro has brought in the meantime though. Lots of little bars and restaurants did not accept credit cards – make sure you have enough cash.
Croatia is a very safe country for tourists. We went out walking at all times of the day and evening and always felt completely relaxed.