Gradac
© Gradac Tourist Board

The 10 best things to do in Gradac

Gradac is a pretty coastal town with crystal-clear seas, superb restaurants and some of the best beaches in Dalmatia

Written by
Marc Rowlands
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A beautiful seaside town, perched right on the edge of the Adriatic, Gradac has been welcoming visitors for centuries. Accustomed to such visitors, it is now a justly popular tourist destination. Gradac is the centre of a namesake municipality comprised of five settlements - Brist, Drvenik, Gradac, Podaca and Zaostrog. The southernmost municipality in Split-Dalmatia County, it lies 40 kilometres south of Makarska and just over 100 kilometres north of Dubrovnik. It is famed for its mouth-watering presentation of sumptuous Mediterranean cuisine, pristine waters for swimming and some of the best beaches in Dalmatia to soak up the sun. Here are the best things to do while visiting Gradac. 

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The 10 best things to do in Gradac

Hit the beach
© Gradac Tourist Board

Hit the beach

36 natural beaches line the Gradac riviera, which spans 16 kilometres. You’ll find crystal-clear seas, oodles of space and plenty of pretty spots in the shadow of scented pine trees. The longest beach is Gornja Vala, popular in summer with locals and visitors alike. You can get active with a variety of water sports, sunbathe and unwind or sip cocktails at one of the cafes, bars and restaurants close by. A boon for beachgoers in Gradac? No need for planning or procuring provisions for a day trip, as beaches lie just steps away.

Immerse yourself in history
© Gradac Tourist Board

Immerse yourself in history

Inhabited since prehistoric times, Gradac still has some of the earliest remnants.rom stone mounds that date back to the Bronze and early Iron Ages to ruins of a Roman necropolis near the Laguna hotel. For a more dedicated search, nearby Zaostrog (7 kilometres) has the oldest preserved monastery in Split-Dalmatia County, its museum holding exhibits like the relief of the god Mitra. The monastery also has a library with more than 20,000 ancient books and a botanical garden. Just above the monastery, there are three churches worth checking out, with St. Roko's dating to the 17th century. You can find an old wooden statue of St. Roko himself at the Baroque church of St. Mihovil in the centre of Gradac, alongside three marble altars and a stone baptistery. Nearby Podaca (4 kilometres) has its own Baroque church, built in the 18th century and the church of St. Ivan, which houses some exhibits dating back to the 12th century.

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Get active
© Gradac Tourist Board

Get active

If lazing all day by the beach isn't for you or you want to work off some of the calories last night's luscious pasta dish gifted, get active in Gradac. The town has an exceptional sports and recreation offer. Tennis, table tennis, mini-golf, water polo, fitness, diving, sailing, water skiing, jet-ski, beach volleyball, football and basketball are all available, catering both for group fun or solo endeavours. Check out the 20 kilometres of well-maintained bicycle routes in the slopes above Gradac; some of the sections provide wonderful views. You can rent a bicycle in the town if you didn't bring your own. Fancy some river rafting or Croatia's most spectacular zipline? Head up to Omiš (76 kilometres) where the Cetina river provides both.

Check out some wonderful and weird events
© M Johansson

Check out some wonderful and weird events

Quite a few of Gradac’s best events are reserved for near the end of the season. The weather is still warm and the events calendar is packed, so Gradac is a great spot for a late summer or early autumn holiday. At the end of September, the Festival of St. Michael showcases music concerts, events for kids (such as puppet shows) and the ecclesiastical happenings. You can eat free fish at the annual Festivity of St. Stephen in Podaca (start of August), the Festival of Our Lady of Angels in Zaostrog is another event worth checking out in the same time period. There's a fun, fish stew-making competition in Gradac (mid-August) where you can try the Dalmatian specialty known as brudet. The braver can try bikla - red wine mixed with goat's milk - at the annual Bikljiada (late Sept) in Podaca (don't worry, there's a wider food and drinks offer, too), with similarly unorthodox fun having previously included a race in high heels.

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Walk among the clouds
© Jadranovo doo

Walk among the clouds

Situated some 40 kilometres to the north of Gradac, in Ravna Vlaška, the Skywalk is a viewing platform atop Biokovo mountain that features an incredible vista of the Adriatic, the seaside towns like Makarska and Tučepi and the islands of Brač and Hvar. It sits 1228 metres above sea level and extends some 12 metres out into the skies. You can check out an early video of the view from the platform here.

Be stunned by the topography of Neretva
© Alice Dias Didszoleit

Be stunned by the topography of Neretva

The Adriatic highway, locally known as magistrala, clings to the shoreline down the length of Croatia, affording dazzling views of the sea and nearby islands. But, just two kilometres south of Gradac, on the way to Neum and Dubrovnik, it suddenly veers inland. As the road rises, the sea view is replaced by a vast flood plain. Natural and managed pools of water run along the surface, separating a patchwork of agricultural endeavours. Standing in stark contrast to the uniform rows of olive trees and grapevines seen everywhere else along the coast, this is breathtakingly beautiful topography. This is the Neretva delta, which covers around 12,000 hectares within Croatia. Over 10% of the delta is strictly protected, for it is rich in river and wetland habitats essential to rare birds and fish. It is also the source of Croatia's famous Neretva Mandarins, which are protected at an EU level.

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Sample some of Croatia's most distinct dishes
© Boutique Hotel Marco Polo

Sample some of Croatia's most distinct dishes

There are great cafe, bakery, pizza and fast food options throughout the Gradac municipality, but if you're looking for something a bit special there are some unforgettable restaurant experiences too. In Gradac town, look out for the Nicolo Polo (pictured) and Marinero restaurants, as well as the most enjoyable tavern, Naše Malo Misto. All serve well-prepared Dalmatian mainstays, such as summer salads, easy-going pasta grilled fish and other seafood. In Brist, check out the sea views and extended terrace of Hotel Riva's restaurant. If you really want to push the boat out, a car journey to the Michelin-recommended Jeny in Tučepi is well worth the trip. Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, check out the village restaurants located around Neretva, which serve specialties featuring river fish, snails, eels and frogs from the wetlands.

Dip into freshwater
© Grad Imotski

Dip into freshwater

It's near impossible to get bored of the pristine seas around Gradac. But that shouldn't stop you from sampling the singular delights of the region's freshwater assets. The seven lakes which make up the nearby Baćina lakes cover an area of 138 hectares. A stunning sight year-round, these are called Ocuša, Crnishevo, Podgora, Sladinac, Vrbnik, Sipak, Plitko and Vrbnik. All of these bodies of water are interlinked except Vrbnik, which stands alone. If you're looking for an unforgettable freshwater swimming experience, take the drive inland to Imotski. The serenity offered by swimming the length of its Blue Lake (pictured) is worth the long trek down to the water surface.

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Watch the sunrise twice
© Gradac Tourist Board

Watch the sunrise twice

Zaostrog claims to be the only place in the world where the sun rises twice. At certain times of year, the sun first appears under Viter hill, then disappears again behind the rock for some 20 minutes before reappearing. To catch this spectacle, you'll have to get up early. Not to worry if you don't; every sunrise and sunset in Gradac is an epic experience, with the colours of the Dinaric Alps and the area's buildings seeming to change shades almost every minute, in response to the altering strength of the sun's rays.

Take an unforgettable day trip
© fjaka

Take an unforgettable day trip

The choice of day trips is wide and varied. The ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, famed as the backdrop for Game Of Thrones, lies 100 kilometres south of Gradac. The city of Split, with the Roman emperor Diocletian's Palace as its centerpiece, also makes for the perfect day trip. The highlights of each can easily be done in a day, although bear in mind these cities get swarmed by tourists in the peak season. If you're looking for a wilder nightlife experience than what Gradac offers, head to either of these cities, although you can also party all day at the youthful Buba beach bar in Makarska, before switching to Deep Makarska (situated spectacularly inside a cave) after dark. 

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