A treasure on the Dalmatian coast set in the middle of a riviera of the same name, Makarska is one of the Adriatic’s most alluring locations.
Situated between the better-known UNESCO pearls of Split and Dubrovnik, the town of Makarska is known for its unequaled beaches, towering Biokovo mountain background, palm-fringed promenade, and vibrant historical attractions that adorn its old town. Makarska is the biggest town on the Makarska Riviera, fixed between the St. Peter peninsula and Osejava cape. However, the riviera stretches much longer (or over 60 kilometers), decorated with 15 tourist towns from Brela to Gradac.
It is arguably one of the most popular summer resorts in the country, though that is not surprising when its beauty rivals that of the far more famous French or Italian rivieras.
It is believed that Makarska was named after the nearby village of Makar, located above the town at the foot of Biokovo, with archeological findings dating back to 6000 BC. However, the first inhabitants of today's Makarska were the Illyrians, who founded a settlement called Muccurum in the 4th century. After Slavic rule in the 7th century, the Battle of Makarska took place between the Venetian Republic and the Neretva Principality on September 18, 887, which the Neretvans won.
Many empires ruled Makarska in the centuries to come, like the Ottomans and the Venetians. The name Makarska is first mentioned in a document from the 16th century during the Turkish conquests. After the fall of Venice, Makarska also fell under Napoleon's rule at the beginning of the 19th century. However, it was Napoleon that encouraged culture and built roads that connected Makarska with other coastal cities. A monument to Marshal Marmont, today known as Napoleon's monument, was erected at the western entrance to the town.
But which empire was responsible for bringing tourism to the town, you may wonder? The Austro-Hungarians, of course. Namely, the first hotel was built in Makarska in 1914, which marked the beginning of tourism in the town. While tourism slowed during World War II as Makarska’s port was used for the Central Adriatic Naval Command headquarters and Croatian navy, Makarska experienced growth again during Yugoslavia, with the population nearly tripling during that time! Makarska’s stunning landscape paved the way for it to become one of the Adriatic’s most popular destinations, which in turn resulted in a construction boom of holiday homes and hotels to accommodate travelers from near and far.
Where to anchor
Makarska may not have a big marina like other tourist resorts, but the Makarska Marina does suit the needs of boaters passing through. But at just 20 berths available, you’ll need to plan ahead. The Makarska Marina boasts some amenities, like a fuel station and sanitation services, while plenty of restaurant and shop options can be found nearby. Boaters can also find nautical supplies just half a kilometer away, while those looking for a pamper day can even delight in a spa!
Where to eat and drink
New on the dining scene in 2021 is Castellum, located on Kačić Square in the heart of the town. The oversized terrace makes it a hotspot during the busy summer months, but their modern take on Makarska cuisine is what really attracts visitors. The culinary experience is completed by a carefully-selected local wine list and live music!
This family-run gem is set away from the harbor and accepts walk-ins only to enhance its hometown flair. Located in a square of the same name, the Hrpina menu mixes Dalmatian delicacies with contemporary creations, with a generous selection for fish and meat lovers alike.
Tempera Street Food & Bar
There is no better spot than Tempera if you’re looking to spice up your Dalmatian dining experience. Located on Makarska’s waterfront, Tempera’s unique menu boasts standout sushi rolls, teriyaki chicken dishes, bao buns, burgers, and Croatia’s best craft beers!
And to drink? You’ll want to head to Spina Bar, where cocktail maestros craft exotic sips, coupled with Dalmatian tapas and chilled-out tunes.
Where to beach
The famous Makarska beach is on the western side of town, which spans some two kilometers long! Just off the palm-tree-lined promenade in Donja Luka Bay, around 10-minutes from the old town, visitors can enjoy plenty of amenities with their family and friends, from watersports to lounge chairs, while cafes and restaurants dot the pebbled beach and produce carts serve up fresh fruit for a refreshing snack during the hottest summer days.
Located in the Osejava Nature Park between the towns of Makarska and Tučepi is Nugal, accessible only by boat or on foot through the dense forest. Situated at the base of a stunning cliff around 2 kilometers from the Makarska harbor, this secluded beach is shaded by tall pines adorned with white sand. And if you choose to swim in your birthday suit, it is also a paradise for naturists!
This newly renovated pebbled cove has become one of the most happening beach bars on the Makarska Riviera. Offering sun beds and parasols, libations, and DJs that heat up after-beach parties, Buba is a foolproof beach day if you’re looking for a bit of summer fun.
But what about if you’re looking for something a bit further away from the summer bustle?
Cvitačka & Ramova
Cvitačka beach is located at the northwestern end of Makarska, with cafes, restaurants, and water sports on offer without the city beach crowds.
Not far from Cvitačka Beach is Ramova Beach, on the way to the locality of Krvavica in Baška Voda. Shaded by dense pines, this beach even has a designated dog area so that you can take your four-legged friends for a swim!
Should you wish to explore beyond the town of Makarska and into the pearls of the Riviera, you’ll encounter some of Croatia’s best beaches. Don’t miss out on Tučepi Beach, Punta Rata in Brela, Baška Voda, Velika Duba in Živogošće, and Garma Bay.
Makarska Old Town
Makarska’s biggest attraction is the quaint old town itself. Romantic cobblestone alleyways and ancient squares make up the historic center, with Kačić Square known as the town's soul. The terracotta-rooftop of St. Mark's Church is the square’s main attraction. At the same time, the 18th-century statue dedicated to Croatian poet Andrija Kačić Miošić and a Venetian fountain built in 1775 are its other selling points.
You also can’t pass up a stroll on Makarska’s famous waterfront promenade, perfectly manicured with palm trees, a thriving cafe society, and views extending to Central Dalmatia’s most popular islands. If you make it to the end of the promenade, you’ll be rewarded with the Fence of Love, decorated with padlocks from lovers around the world, with some dating back to WWII.
Malacological Museum of Makarska
One of the most unique treasures of Makarska is the world’s most comprehensive collection of shells and snails in the Malacological Museum of Makarska. Founded in late 1963 by scientist and monk Friar Jure Radić, this unusual museum is located in the St. Mary Franciscan Monastery, protected as an ancient architectural monument in Croatia, and displays more than 3000 shell species from the Adriatic and all over the world!
Biokovo Nature Park
The colossal Biokovo Mountain Range sits behind Makarska as Croatia’s second-largest range, with its highest point at 1,762 meters! One of Dalmatia’s favorite attractions for adventure tourists, Biokovo Nature Park is a designated mountain area that is best-suited for walkers and hikers. Vosac peak is just 1.8 miles from the town of Makarska, while you can trek to its highest peak Sveti Jure in another two hours from there.
Otherwise, Biokovo Nature Park is unique in that it boasts a botanical garden in the village of Kotišina, over 400 speleological objects or caves, and the tallest church in Croatia!
And if you want to be rewarded with breathtaking Adriatic views but don’t feel like putting your legs to work, the newly opened Biokovo Skywalk is the perfect solution. Newly opened in 2020, this semicircle glass lookout protrudes beyond the cliff some 1228 meters above sea level for outstanding sea views you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.