A Family Holiday at Crvena Luka Hotel & Resort, Croatia
Leaping from wooden jetties, snorkelling in search of tiny fish, crabs and starfish, going for a jaunt in a two-person kayak, bouncing on the water trampoline or just splashing away in a bay of shimmering shallow waters that’s especially ideal for toddlers… The setting of Crvena Luka Hotel & Resort is a children’s paradise.
You can join in the fun, of course, or you can set up camp on one of two sandy beaches (a rarity in Croatia) or at the beach bar and watch your offspring play blissfully and safely in the sheltered bay.
Crvena Luka is upmarket but not off-puttingly luxurious. For instance, you can expect a luscious bay-view outdoor infinity pool together with a fairly small but very good spa, including a steam room and an indoor pool. Accommodation starts at 2-bedroom apartments and works its way up to a super-sleek 5-bedroom villa with a private pool. There are also 2 hotels, with stylish rooms that can sleep up to 2 adults and 2 young children.
The buildings are all low-rise and well-spaced out around the bay, against a backdrop of pine forest through which you can stroll or cycle to the nearby town of Biograd na Moru (about 10 minutes by bike). Biograd is home to food shops as well as a small but compelling history museum, 'Semisubmarine' rides to see the underwater life of the Pasman Channel, and some great cafés and restaurants including Restoran Riva with its fantastic squid-ink risotto and all-too-moreish Ferrero Rocher cake!
Our Standard apartment was just the ticket: bright, fresh and minimalist, with a balcony, a spacious living area with a kitchenette, and a washing machine. If you don’t fancy full self-catering, Crvena Luka has a buffet restaurant, a very good pizzeria (don’t miss the versions with local truffle), an à la carte restaurant, and a coffee shop with home-made ice cream. Breads and pastries can be ordered too, and the breakfast should you choose to have it is a very good hot and cold spread. Otherwise, there’s no grocery store on site, but you’ll need to hire a car anyway to make the most of this gorgeous but relatively untouristy area of Croatia’s Adriatic coast, or alternatively you can make use of the good-value local taxi service (atlas-croatia.com).
We can thoroughly recommend a boat-trip (sailingcroatia.hr) around the Telašćica and Kornati islands from nearby Bibinje/Sukošan, stopping off at Dugi Otok for its sheer cliffs and salt lake (Lake Mir) – and perhaps some simple but delicious food at waterfront Konoba Tilago. Wildlife you might spot here includes falcons and a species of snail endemic to the Telašćica Nature Park. Another must is a stop-off to swim at Lojena Beach on Levrnaka - an island that though uninhabited has a wonderful harbourfront restaurant where you can pick out your own lobster for the pot. Trips start at €500 for a full day with a skipper, traditional snacks, and fishing and snorkelling equipment.
We also loved the history-drenched city of Zadar, half an hour’s drive from Crvena Luka and home to the nearest airport (served by Ryanair and Easyjet from several UK destinations and from Dublin). Today Zadar is best known for its Sea Organ (below), a series of tubes set into large marble steps at the end of the promenade, which play atmospheric whale-like music as sea water flows in and out of them. The experience is best appreciated during one of Zadar’s spectacular sunsets.
There’s plenty else to see in this fascinating city, including an impressive cathedral with a belltower and various Roman ruins, some of which kids are free to just clamber all over. A local tourist board guide such as Paula Padovan ([email protected]) can give you a great insight into Zadar's dramatic history. Don’t miss, too, lovely Perivoj Kraljice Jelene Madijevke park with its alfresco bars and evening music, or the city beach, Kolovare, with diving platforms, beach volleyball, pedaloes and a floating aqua-park. A real locals’ affair, it’s a place with an ‘all human life is here’ feel: old men play pétanque or chess in the shade, kids and teenagers congregate after school. Round off your Zadar tour with some of the incredible fresh seafood at Restoran Kornat and you’ll have had a pretty much perfect day.