What is it? A family beach getaway in mid-August.

Where? The island of Brac, the largest of the islands which make up the Dalmatian Coast. We spent seven nights at Bracka Perla, a secluded four-star hotel near Brac’s biggest town, Supetar.

Description: [coast.jpg]Often billed as the “New Greece,” Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast has become a hot spot for beach-hungry travelers. Delia Lloyd recently took her family to the island of Brac to see if the area lived up to its reputation

To get some much-needed rest and relaxation at the height of the summer holidays.

Loads of swimming at our hotel pool and adjacent (sandy!) beach. A visit to the famous Zlatni Rat beach in Bol is a must.  And Bracka Perla can organise an afternoon of rafting for about L45 per person. Non-beach possibilities include a hike (or drive) up to Vidova Gora, the highest peak of the Central  Dalmatian islands (on a sunny day you can see to Italy).  Or hike 2km down a scenic ravine to take in the ancient monastery Blaca. You can also arrange for a guided tour of the famous “dragon caves” near Bol – ask your hotel to help. Or take a quick ferry/catamaran from Bol to neighbouring island Hvar. 

Once you leave the major towns, Brac is relatively quiet at night. But there are plenty of restaurants which stay open quite late in all the major towns. The more ambitiously minded may wish take a ferry over to Split and enjoy the abundant nightlife opportunities there, but be sure to catch the last ferry home! 

Although we didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, Bracka Perla was happy to book a sitter for us and other hotels can make similar arrangements.

Bracka Perla has a sauna, exercise room and full array of massage opportunities. Don’t miss the free, poolside “Happy Hour” Massage  Tuesdays at 4 pm. Check before you go to see what your hotel has on offer.

Local activities: See above.

Wish we had known: How far the airport bus leaves you from the ferry dock. With two kids and four bags, it was a real schlep to make it to our ferry. For not terribly much more money, we could have taken a taxi directly to the dock. You also can’t buy ferry tickets onboard, so we had to make a mad dash to the ticket office and nearly missed our boat.  Our hotel offered to arrange all of this for us (e.g., taxi to/from ferry)  ahead of time, and I wish we’d taken them up on it. We certainly did so on our return and things went much more smoothly.

Our top tip: Bring shoes for wearing in the sea as most beaches have stones. Croatia is MUCH cheaper than the UK, so if you don’t already have Crocs or something similar, you can pick up a pair for about three quid at one of the many open-air markets.

Kids say: “Can we live in this hotel?” asked Allie. “It’s nicer than our house!” After three days of non-stop swimming in ocean and hotel pool, Isaac said, “I just want to repeat our day all over again!”

Getting There: Easy Jet and Croatia Airlines both fly direct to Split from London, starting as low as L67 (Easy Jet) and L189 (Croatia Airlines) round trip (but obviously more during holiday season). Book early to get good seats and fares–by the time we booked our seats in mid-June, Croatia Airlines was full! Instead, we flew via Prague on Czech Airlines to save some money and took advantage of the long lay-overs to explore this stunning European City. I highly recommend this option, especially if you’re willing to stay an extra night in Prague (we stayed in the conveniently located, modernist Hotel Tranzit by the airport in a L75 family suite). Hotels in Brac can be pricey in high season. Bracka Perla starts at around  L240 per night for a Superior Suite (King sized bed plus pull-out sofa for children) during summer holidays, but food, transport, etc is much cheaper than in the UK. There are also plenty of less expensive options. The following websites can introduce you to a variety of accommodation options: http://www.bracinfo.com/ and http://www.islandbrac.com/.

About our stay: If you’re like me and spent much of the early 1990s reading news about the war-torn Balkan region, you’ll be surprised – and delighted – to discover Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. In the last decade or so it has undergone a touristic reawakening, offering (nearly) endless sunshine along with fewer crowds and better value than its more well-known neighbors, Greece and Italy. We stayed on Brac, the largest of the islands in this region, which is located just off of the coast of Split. Brac boasts 240 sunny days a year. Although we’d been craving a lazy beach holiday for ages, after rainy London I worried that it might actually be too hot. But as soon as we touched down at Split and took in a glorious Mediterranean sunset sweeping across this ancient Roman city, my fears were allayed. [beach.jpg] Not only was it not too hot – the temperature hovered around 28 degrees the week we visited – but the weather proved to be the perfect inducement to stay in or around a body of water for the next seven days. With my seven year old son, Isaac, this meant braving the “waves” (more like gentle swells) of thedeliciously warm Adriatic several times a day. And with my four year old daughter, Allie, it meant endless hours riding the “gulf stream” (small jetty of water produced by filter) in our hotel’s luxurious outdoor pool. The highlight of our stay was our hotel, Bracka Perla, located in a cove approximately one km from Supetar, the town where the ferry alights from Split. If you are drawn to all-inclusive resort-style hotels with multiple swimming pools and pre-programmed kids activities, Bracka Perla is not for you (though loads of such hotels exist on the island). But if you are looking for a secluded, tasteful beach retreat that is completely family-friendly while also retaining a boutique feel, then you need go no further. The hotel has only 11 rooms, each of which is decorated with a colorful theme inspiredby the island’s local flora: e.g., grape, fig, agave, and so on. We stayed in the bright red pomegranate suite, which had a large double bed in one room and pull-out sofa bed for the kids to share in the other. Each suite comes equipped with a small kitchen.  Although there are several restaurants within walking distance, we took advantage of thed eceptively large supermarket nearby and ate on our terrace overlooking the Adriatic most nights. You can also use the hotel’s private “chimney” (outdoor grill), where Jerko (yes, Jerko) will help prepare Dalmatian specialties, or sample local wines and cocktails at one of the hotels’ many summer parties. The staff at Bracka Perla speaks excellent English and was on hand  24 hours a day to answer questions about the hotel facilities and nearby attractions (listed below). But our kids were happy most days to play in the sculpture garden with the assorted badminton rackets, Frisbees and draught sets that the hotel conveniently supplies…and, of course, swim. As easy as it would have been to spend the entire week lounging around our hotel swimming, there are loads of things to do on Brac. Supetar has a range of small shops and outdoor markets that are perfect for window shopping (for example, we bought our daughter a small, inflatable swimming ring for the equivalent of L2). You can also catch a quick 50-minute ferry ride to Split. Once just a stopover on your way somewhere else, Split has now become a destination in and of itself. A number of guests in our hotel spent an afternoon/evening there exploring the Roman Diocletian palace, people-watching along the many boulevards, and doing some last minute back-to-school bargain shopping. [Ally.jpg] It is also well worth renting a car (or catching a bus) for at least one day to take the 40-minute drive over to Bol, a port on the opposite side of the island from Supetar. Bol is best known for Zlatny Rat, a delicate 400-metre sandy finger that pokes out into the Adriatic and is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. We stopped to view the ancient monastery Blaca on our way. But beware! While it is a scenic 2km climb down to Blaca, the trip back up is less fun. So be sure to plan your hike for early or late in the day when the sun isn’t as strong and wear proper footwear. We also visited Sutivan, a ten-minute drive from Supetar. Sutivan is an old fishing village, but the large palm-tree lined pedestrian boulevards give it a much grander feel reminiscent of Old Havana. We ate our best meal of the week at the charming and memorably named Restaurant Dora (at least for those of us with little girls!). For older children, there are also banana boats to rent off the cove of Supetar, the dragon caves near Bol (note: requires a one hour climb each way!), and the Museum of Brac in Split. Brac is also famous for its beautiful white stone, and if we’d stayed one more day, we would have gone over to Pucisca to tour a stone cutting studio that’s still in operation. As we reclined by the pool on our last day in Brac, listening to the lapping waves of the Mediterranean and  breathing in the scent of lavender, laurel and rosemary, it was easy to forget rain-drenched London.  But now that we’re back – wellies and raingear in tow – we are at least secure in the knowledge that Brac is just a three-hour flight away…

Created: 2008-09-17 19:57:39.583

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