Jutting out from the Dalmatian coast around 30 miles north of Dubrovnik, the Pelješac Peninsula extends gracefully into the Adriatic Sea, reaching out to touch the island of Korčula at its westernmost point. Unlike Korčula, however, a favorite of cruise ships well-known for its charming towns and landscape of vineyards, Pelješac hasn’t yet become a stopover on the average visitor’s itinerary.
Add it to yours, however, and you'll encounter picturesque towns like Ston, with its extensive fortification walls, some of the longest in Europe, or its salt flats, still in use and open for tours. Farther west, sleepy Orebić is an embarkation point for ferries to Korčula, but it's also the center of the peninsula’s wine industry.
If you’re a fan of fresh seafood, you’ll find that Pelješac’s restaurants put even Dubrovnik’s to shame. This peninsula is known for its shellfish, and you can go practically anywhere - no prior research necessary - and find a cozy tavern or waterside eatery serving up oysters and mussels just pulled from the ocean and grilled for prices that seem like a steal, even for a relatively affordable country like Croatia.
Planning Your Visit
Unlike Istria, Croatia’s better-known peninsula, Pelješac is small enough to cover by car in a day. In fact, at 40 miles long, stretching from the town of Ston to the cape of Lovišta, it’s small enough to be covered in an hour or so. But that would discount all the stops you’ll want to make along the way, especially at the peninsula’s vineyards.
If you don’t want to bring your own car, consider renting bikes in one of the towns to explore the surrounding area. This quiet, sparsely traversed peninsula is perfect for navigating on two wheels, and the Svet Ilija mountain range just north of Orebić is great for hiking.
When to Go
Like most of the Dalmatian Coast, Pelješac offers a consistently mild climate with balmy temperatures that spike in July and August. Since this remains such an undiscovered area, there is really no tourist high season, which means you can escape the cruise ship hordes in places like Split and Dubrovnik by coming here.
As with most destinations in Croatia, you can expect festivals and crowds of revelers during the two major holidays – Easter and Christmas – in its bigger towns. Businesses like restaurants and grocery stores will be closed on the holiday itself and may be closed on surrounding days, so plan accordingly. The salt harvest, one of Ston’s most anticipated yearly events, takes place in July and August.
Here’s more on the best time of year to visit Croatia.
Getting There & Around
Pelješac has no commercial airport of its own, so most visits here will start in one of Croatia’s other major cities, including Dubrovnik, by far the closest, Split, and Zadar. Most major airlines, including Lufthansa, KLM, and British Airways, service Croatia from other parts of Europe, and you can also catch reasonably priced and last-minute flights from popular budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet, as well as the country’s own Croatia Airlines.
Buses make the one-hour trip to Ston from Dubrovnik, and ferries run from Ploce on the coast to Trpanj in the peninsula’s north, or from Dominče on the island of Korčula, a key stop on any Dalmatian Coast cruise, to Orebić. Keep in mind that most of these towns are not built for foot traffic, especially travelers hauling suitcases, so the best option by far is to rent a car in advance and take it with you (most transfers are on car ferries).
Highlights & Activities
Unlike other parts of Croatia, Pelješac is known and treasured for its out-of-the-way feel. An alternative to the constantly buzzing, highly trafficked vibes of Split and Dubrovnik, Pelješac is how most of Croatia felt before the rest of the world started coming here.
If you’re like most visitors, you’ll probably start in Ston, the city that marks the place where the peninsula connects with the mainland, and your first stop if you’re coming by car. Best known for its 14th-century walls, which still include twenty out of an original forty towers, Ston is actually split in two: the town of Ston, which includes Pozvizd Fortress and its neighboring Mali Ston, a centuries-old defensive settlement that includes Koruna Fortress and an old port. Using the walls to walk between the two is a great way to travel in the footsteps of history and take in views of the hills and sea.
The town also has plenty of churches and religious buildings including a Gothic Franciscan Monastery, the Romanesque St. Nicholas Church, and St. Blaise’s Cathedral. Among its many attractive stone buildings are several palaces, including Sorkocevic palace, Dordic palace, and the Rector’s Palace, a Gothic-Renaissance landmark.
Ston’s other biggest asset, its salt flats, are located just outside of the town center: aerial images show eerily beautiful squares of blueish white that reflect the sunlight as they dry. Every year in summer during the salt harvest, visitors can actually volunteer to help out. At most other times of the year the salt flats, or Solana Ston, are open to visitors who want to take a look around and buy souvenir bags of salt to take home.
At the other end of the peninsula, Orebić is the heart of Pelješac’s wine country. The town itself offers plenty of great seafood restaurants and wine tavernas, but it’s also a gateway to the area’s many vineyards, which are mostly small, family-owned, and importantly, never overrun with visitors. Start with Korta Katarina, a winery located directly in the town center, offering multi-course meals with views of the Adriatic Sea. Another well-known winery close to Trpanj, Saints Hills is among the newest, and offers a high-end restaurant and several suites for overnighters. Many more are scattered throughout the hills in the area of Dingač and around the village of Postup. In addition, the town's Maritime Museum is full of artifacts from centuries of seafaring around the peninsula, as well as old atlases and paintings of ships that will delight children, or anyone with an interest in nautical history.
If you’re here for the beaches, check out the isolated, lovely Prapatno, located at the top of a small inlet just south of Ston. At the other end of the peninsula, Vučine beach overlooks a small bay with underwater caves that attract diving enthusiasts, and backed by the lush vegetation of forested Uvala Vučine. If you’re coming with a family and prefer to be closer to facilities like a bar, restaurant, and bathrooms, pay a visit to Mokalo beach close to Orebić, which is connected to a nearby campsite. Finally, the classy, lively Trstenica is one of the peninsula’s most beloved for its sunchair and day lounger rentals, as well as pedalboats and kayaks that are perfect for a bit of summer frolicking.
Where to Stay
Thanks to Pelješac’s relatively tucked-away status, it remains underdeveloped to this day. You’re unlikely to encounter mega-resorts, brand-name luxury hotels, or even many upscale boutique hotels, but what you will find is a wealth of small-time vineyards that rent rooms, family farms or Agroturizams that will offer you a bed and a truly unforgettable meal for a reasonable price, and tiny town guesthouses that will rent you simple accommodations close to the beach. For many who visit the area, this exactly the kind of vacation they’re looking for.
Accommodations in Ston tend to run the gamut from dusky old stone houses with red roofs in the town center that have been renovated to accommodate travelers, to newly built properties that have patios, gardens, and in some cases, pools. Some have modest cafes or on-site restaurants, while others offers visitors full kitchens to cook in (great if you’re an avid chef who wants to take advantage of local produce and fresh seafood).
At the Orebić end of the peninsula, hotels get a bit more luxurious, with pools and private beach access. Check out the Aminess Grand Azur Hotel for an experience that will be more like the mainland for its luxury, with sun loungers around a swimming pool and a restaurant serving breakfast and dinner. The old-timey Boutique Hotel Adriatic presses right up against the beach and includes a wine cellar showing off some of the peninsula’s best varietals. Finally, the peninsula’s two most elegant vineyards, the Korta Katarina and the Saints Hills, both offer luxurious accommodations for wine-lovers.
Where to Eat & Drink
If you’re coming to Pelješac, you’ve most likely got wine on your mind; as outlined above, the entire peninsula is speckled with small, family-owned vineyards. Pelješac's ideal growing conditions - sun, salty sea air, and moist soil - produce countless well-known varietals as well as a few – like white Rukatac and red Plavac mali – that are specific to this one tiny area, or Dingač and Postup, named after the specific coastal areas they’re from. Although the two big names have been mentioned already – Korta Katarina and Saints Hills – you can have an extraordinary wine holiday just by navigating the peninsula’s tiny roads, stopping at farmhouses or roadside stalls to sample and buy local bottles, sometimes directly from the people that made them.
Check out the Peninsula Wine Bar & Shop close to Saints Hills for a wide range of glasses and bottles that you can sample along with fish and meat just off the grill, or closer to Ston, the Miloš and Marlais Wineries, both small, personal businesses that take their duties as regional wine ambassadors seriously, offering tours and tastings that will enchant your tastebuds and give you an education in local wines.
Pelješac is famed for its fresh seafood, and the restaurants, beachside shacks and tavernas are so plentiful here, it’s nearly impossible to eat a bad meal. Since the vast majority of these places get mussels, oysters, and fish directly form the waters around the peninsula, it all comes down to preference: do you want your seafood served directly from the grill, perhaps at a small, family-owned spot with a view of the beach, or would you rather experience the creative interpretations of a master chef? The high-end wineries mentioned above offer multi-course tasting menus that combine fresh seafood with the best local wines.
For other memorable experiences, try Kapetanova kuća in Ston, a white-tablecloth restaurant consistently ranked one of the country’s best, named after the captain who oversaw the city’s walls and fortifications. It serves artfully arranged raw platters and seafood dishes with local farm ingredients. Restaurant Stari Kapetan is part of the Boutique Hotel Adriatic, and serves up massive platters of fresh fish with views of the beach in Orebić. The out-of-the-way Luka’s Taverna in Kobaš overlooks the small inlet that leads to Ston. It serves fresh mussels, oysters, octopus, and fish just pulled out of the water by local fisherman in a fun, shabby-chic interior with a shipwrecked, Robinson Crusoe vibe. Also in Kobaš, the enchanting Gastro Mare is run by a local chef who applied techniques learned over many years in America and Scandinavia to ingredients from the sea and the restaurant’s own garden.