Pelješac is passed over by most visitors to Dubrovnik but locals are drawn to its very lack of tourists, fine wines, long shingle beaches and, most of all, the best mussels and oysters in Croatia. They are farmed at Ston, one of two key destinations on the Pelješac peninsula, which sticks out 90km towards Korčula. The other is Orebić, a resort in its own right, a quick hop and a quieter alternative to Korčula. A windsurfing scene nearby gives it the younger edge that Korčula lacks. One road runs the length of the peninsula, and unless you have a car, your best bet is to head for Ston, where Pelješac meets the mainland, by bus from Dubrovnik, or cross from Ploče to Trpanj.
With your own transport, you can drive the 65km of vineyard-lined road, calling at wine cellars serving the famed Postup and Dingač reds.
Ston’s natural lake-like bay has hosted mussel and oyster farms since Roman times. In summer, locals sell 5kn oysters by the side of the road. Renowned restaurants from here to Dubrovnik feature Ston oysters on their menus. The Ostrea Edulis variety can only be found in Ston. Smaller than its Atlantic counterpart, it is served open on its flat side. The meat is also firmer and richer flavoured. It is also not cut off from its shell, so don’t tip it down your throat.
Excellent beaches stretch either side of the main road too. On the north side, Divna, near the tiny village of Duba, some 6km from Trpanj, is secluded and sandy. Prapratno, 3km west of Ston, is also sandy. On the south side, Žuljana, before Trstenik, is a lovely village in a bay where you’ll find several beaches. The most beautiful is Vučine, 15 minutes’ walk south.
Ston is really two towns in one, linked by hilltop fortifications. Ston, called Veliki (‘Great’) to distinguish it from its smaller sister of Mali Ston, has its own historic walls (now open to the public), built to protect the salt pans there. Half the 14th-century towers and walls remain, surviving the earthquake of 1996 that destroyed houses in both towns. Damage is still visible.
Orebić has package hotels and standard restaurants, but has more to pack into a weekend. A major trading centre until the late 19th century, it contains grand villas festooned with greenery, built by retired sea captains. Its main sight is a Franciscan monastery (summer 9am-noon, 4-7pm Mon-Sat, 4-7pm Sun; 15kn) on a hilltop 20 minutes’ walk from the Hotel Bellevue. Built in the late 15th century, it houses Our Lady of the Angels, an icon said to protect sailors in the Pelješac Channel picturesquely spread below. Before you reach it, another trail leads to the summit of Sv Ilija, with views from 961 metres high.
Locals come to Orebić and nearby for its beaches. The nicest one is Trstenica, sandy, with a few bars and a section for naturists. It’s a 20-minute stroll east of the ferry terminal. Boats make regular journeys to Viganj, a popular spot for windsurfing. Near here is Poboduče, a wine-producing and fishing village nestled in a secluded pebble-beach bay: a tranquil spot that’s well worth a visit. Campsite Liberan (+385 91 6171 666, www.liberan-camping.com) rents boards and has a windsurfing school; Perna (098 395 807 mobile,www.surf-perna.com), between Viganj and Orebić, specialises in kitesurf. The main diving club, OreBeach, outside Orebić (Šetalište Kralja Krešimira 141, +385 20 713 985, +385 91 1543 5532 mobile), is a modern centre with a hotel and restaurant.
Viganj has three churches. The oldest, the 16th-century St Liberan – more a chapel, really – sits on the main spit of beach that is the windsurfing hub. The other two, Our Lady of the Rosary and 18th-century St Michael’s, are on the way to a historic local point of interest: the Nakovana archaeological site, with evidence of the Stone Age.