Rovinj, Istria: so much to see and do, yet very chilled out

by Heidi Jackson

The pretty coastal town of Rovinj in Istria is such a chilled out place with cycling and easy boat travel. Hotel Park is in a superb location between the old town and Punte Corrente forest park

In the pretty coastal town of Rovinj in Istria, Croatia, is located an excellent hotel – the brilliantly designed Hotel Park with amazing views of St Katerina’s Island, the old town, the marina and the hotel pool from the  seaview balcony rooms.

Wherever you are in Rovinj, be it in Punta Corrente, the old town, the main square or at the harbour, there is always a good, chilled out atmosphere. In the month of June it was a lovely daily temperature with a slight breeze to stop you getting too hot. Most evenings provided lovely sunsets.

My husband and I spent many of our days cycling, and swimming from the rocks in the sea, in Punta Corrente (otherwise known as Zlatni Rat or Golden Cape), which is the beautiful forest park to the west of Hotel Park. The water was so calm that it felt like swimming in a lake. There are even a few café-bars in the park - we particularly enjoyed sitting at Cjenik when having a snack and a drink as this is in a fabulous spot by the sea and is so chilled out.

Rovinj has many places where there are cycles for hire with prices ranging from 30 kuna (under £4) per bike for a couple of hours to around 50-70 kuna (£6.50-£8.50) to hire a bike for the whole day and most of them are modern and in very good condition.

Cycling in the Istrian countryside was wonderful, calling at little countryside konobas (local speciality restaurants) for a nice refreshing drink and a spot of lunch. We came across Španidiga, at Stancija Milić, where we had a delicious lunch of pasta and chicken/gnocchi in a beef and tomato sauce. We recommend this lovely little konoba if you are out cycling.

During our holiday we caught Pedro’s 10.30am boat, the Maris from near Dolphin (Delfin) roundabout. This was a lovely, relaxing, chilled out mini cruise around the many little islands around Rovinj, first stopping outside Vrsar, then sailing part way down Lim Fjord and then arriving at Porec for a 3 hour visit. Porec is a lovely little place with many nice restaurants. We sat upstairs, outside in Corso where we had a gorgeous pizza and tzatziki. This mini-cruise was a wonderful day out and we highly recommend this trip.

In the old town, St Euphemia’s Cathedral is interesting. You can climb the steps up to the bell tower, although coming back down is a bit scary (due to the narrow wooden steps). However, it is well worth it for the good views from the top all over Rovinj and the surrounding islets.

At the harbour near Dolphin roundabout you can easily catch the boat, ‘Rubinum’, to Red Island (Crveni Otok) which takes only 15 minutes and costs 30 kuna (£3.75) for a return crossing which you buy on your return journey from a little office on Red Island near where you catch the boat. This is a lovely little transfer to another island and there is a nice hotel there called Hotel Istria. You can easily walk around the island. On Red Island you will find the connecting little island of Maskin which is also lovely to walk around. There is a temple at the top of some wide steps which is worth seeing as it is in a beautiful setting with trees surrounding it. Maskin is also popular with naturists.

Only 5 minutes by boat, from the harbour at Dolphin roundabout, St. Katerina’s island is worth visiting. We caught the 11am boat which costs only 20 kuna (£2.53) for a return ticket (bought at Hotel Katerina’s reception before leaving the island). Hotel Katerina beach bar is a restaurant set in a lovely spot by the water’s edge with tasty food.

It cost us around £4 each for a single bus ticket to Pula from Rovinj. The Amphitheatre is worth seeing and costs 40 kuna (£5); although for us the highlight was the Forum. We sat in the Forum at a lovely outdoor restaurant called Sirena which is opposite the Temple of Augustus. The tasty food (large warm ham and cheese sandwich) was served by friendly staff. The Forum to us was the best part of Pula and away from all the traffic and noise of Pula city. Another nice sanctuary was being inside the monastery which cost only 5 kuna to get in (63p!)

I was lucky enough to discover a lovely local white wine on the first day of our holiday – Malvazija. As for food, we had a lovely lasagna bolognaise at a lovely trattoria called Dream at J Rakovca, in a quaint setting in the old town. Being one of our favourite restaurants, we ate here twice.

We had a good meal at Konoba Veli José, in the old town, of Istrian minestrone soup followed by gnocchi with goulash and malvazija (very nice), which came to a total of just 185 kuna (£23.40).

Sidro, situated at the harbour on Obala Alda Rismonda (leading to the main square), is in a good spot for people watching and serves lovely meals. We had a litre of white house wine (Malvazija!) and chose two lovely local dishes. On our second visit we had a lovely dessert – it was simply called Parfait – and it was gorgeous!

My husband chose scampi, when we ate at Ancora (beside Santa Croce restaurant) in the old town, which although a bit messy, tasted delicious, and the waiter had already provided a bib!

A lovely area in the old town consists of Balbi, a restaurant where we enjoyed a meal of fresh seabass. Right opposite Balbi is a lovely bar, which plays classical music, where you can sit outside drinking and people watching.

Another one of our favourite spots to eat is Stella Di Mare which is a lovely Italian restaurant set right by the sea, next to rocks. We had seabass/tagliatelle carbonara, along with wine, and the bill came to 285 kuna (£36). You will find it if you follow the harbour round and it is next to a lovely bar called Café Bar Molo Grande where we often sat in the evening drinking malvazija and pivo, as this is in the same good location, right by the rocks and the sea.

Because the marina is immediately in front of our hotel my husband and I would often watch the activities of the boats on the water. The location of Hotel Park is perfect – to one side you have the approach to the old town (you never tire of strolling alongside the harbour to the old town where you will find many pretty, colourful, pastel buildings), and to the other side there is a truly beautiful National Park – Punta Corrente.

Hotel Park has 3 pools – two outdoor and an indoor pool; many sun loungers; spacious outside seating; many lovely bars and pizzeria etc.; helpful staff; a lifesize chess board; table tennis; piano bar and limited evening entertainment. It was always fun at breakfast time watching the seagulls swooping down from the trees above to the unattended tables looking for ‘left-overs’!

Heidi Jackson

My husband and I love holidays - both in Great Britain and Abroad. We have always loved Greece and Italy but discovered Croatia in 2006 which is like a cross between the two, so of course we also love Croatia. Further afield we have been on Safari in Kenya, and to Egypt, and on a Nile Cruise. Luckily we have always enjoyed our holidays and have stayed in various accommodations ranging from studios to All Inclusive Hotels.