Zaton lagoon near Dubrovnik
© dbajurin

The 10 best things to do in Zaton near Dubrovnik

Located 8 kilometres northwest of Dubrovnik, the picturesque, seaside village of Zaton has lots of great things to do

Written by
Marc Rowlands
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Not to be confused with two namesake villages near Zadar and Šibenik, Zaton near Dubrovnik is a perfectly positioned oasis of calm and tradition that makes for a great kick-off for exploring the neighbouring city and nearby islands. The coastal town has a picturesque bay comprised of Mali Zaton and Zaton proper, its shoreline dotted with taverns offering traditional fare, plus plenty of places where you can take a dip. It's also a good base for day trips to cities like Split or even to hop across the nearby borders into Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here's our pick of the best things to do in Zaton near Dubrovnik.

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RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Dubrovnik

The 10 best things to do in Zaton near Dubrovnik

Hit the beach
© marinv

Hit the beach

Zaton is a popular day trip from Dubrovnik. They often arrive by boat, plonk themselves in the bay and just leap over the side for a swim. You can enjoy the water and sun at any point you find comfortable along the bay, such as spots near the two local camps. Soline beach, on the western shore, is quiet, a little rocky and not serviced by a bar. The small Zakon beach is nearer the village centre and a popular stop-off for those who find it when travelling the coastal road. Parking can be tough to find, so walk there if you can. Further south, tricky to find and reach, Gof beach may not be best for young children, but it’s worth a trip for its clear waters and isolation. To the west, right at the end of the peninsula, there are rocks from which teenagers like to jump into the sea, a small cave and, sometimes, a rope swing. If you want to head outside of Zaton, the nearby Sun Gardens Resort has a beach. Dubrovnik also has several good beach options, with one of the best being the Copacabana beach, bar and restaurant, known for its stellar amenities.

Sample local cuisine
© Konoba Vala Zaton

Sample local cuisine

You don't need to traipse into Dubrovnik for a good sit-down meal if you're staying in Zaton, especially if hearty, unfussy, traditional and tasty is what you're after. A tavern, known locally as a konoba, is the Dalmatian equivalent of a pub with great food and, usually, much better views than you'd find in the pub back home. Zaton has several great ones. Konoba Vala, at the north of the bay, has an ample terrace offering lovely views, a small playground in front to keep the kids occupied, a good selection of salads, pizza, seafood options and a generous grilled meats plate for sharing. The presentation of nearby Restaurant Dandy aims a little higher in terms of its waterside seating places and the food. It's great for breakfast or a romantic dinner for two, with seafood as their specialty. Konoba Ankora is closer to the village centre, has great sea views and serves excellent grilled squid. Zaton can be a popular place for dinner with people not actually staying in the village. So don't compete for the limited parking with evening visitors and walk to your destination instead and make sure to book in advance. Be aware of the sun's position too, if it's going to make a difference to you; taverns on the eastern shore are best for taking in the sunset vistas.

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Drop into ancient Dubrovnik
© jakobradlgruber

Drop into ancient Dubrovnik

One of the very best things about staying in Zaton is having the ancient city of Dubrovnik on your doorstep. A visit to the narrow, pretty alleyways and historic walls of its old city is not so much a day trip you have to plan in advance, as it is a ten-minute bus ride on a regularly serviced route. You can dive right into the city, with its late-night options, classy restaurants and fun bars just as spontaneously as Zaton's inhabitants do when visiting the city's supermarkets and stores. If a guided tour or a particular restaurant has taken your fancy, remember to book in advance as places can be booked up on any day of the week during the peak season.

Go wild for nature
© Mljet National Park

Go wild for nature

Zaton lies within easy reach of three distinct areas of incredible natural beauty. On the mainland, the Neretva Delta comprises 12,000 hectares of flood plain. Natural and managed pools of water run along its surface separating a mismatched patchwork of agricultural endeavours, a stark contrast to the uniform rows of olive trees and grapevines seen everywhere else along the coast. Over 10% of it is strictly protected because of the rare birds and fish which live there. It is also the source of Croatia's famous Neretva mandarins, which are protected at an EU level. The western third of Mljet island is a National Park with two saltwater lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero, and the Church of St Mary and a 12th-century monastery picturesquely located on an islet in the middle. Arrive by boat in the morning, spend the day cycling and swimming, and head back for dinner on the mainland. Located further out to sea, the peaceful Lastovo island has a nature park, hidden coves, isolated beaches, beautiful bays and the oldest lighthouse in the country. There is also a huge area of wildlife-filled forest which is sometimes used for youth-focused and eco-friendly music and art festivals.

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Walk one of Croatia's longest promenades
© Susy Baels

Walk one of Croatia's longest promenades

While Zaton may not have an exquisitely designed and thoroughly modern shoreside walkway, like those of Split or Zadar, it does have one featuring brilliant views. Snaking around from one side of the bay to the other, the pathway along the edge of Zaton's water runs almost three kilometres in length. Unlike the road which traces a similar route around the bay, on this walkway your view of Zaton and the sea is never interrupted. This allows wonderful views of the opposite shore, perfect for a relaxed saunter in the evening. It's the perfect way to soak up the ambience of the quiet little oasis in which you find yourself.

Explore the hinterland
© Bracodbk

Explore the hinterland

It's sometimes difficult to drag yourself from the shore when the seas are as enjoyable as those around here, and a comfortable tavern means you never have to walk too far. But a trek in the other direction can be worthwhile, allowing a more traditional view of life in Dalmatia. An uphill hiking path (4.5km) will lead you to the village of Pobrežje which overlooks Dubrovnik; it’s a great place to take photos. If you're with or meet someone local, they might be able to point out the Močiljska cave for you. The longest cave in the Dubrovnik-Neretva region, with its main corridor 600 metres long, it is filled with stalactites and stalagmites towards the bottom, plus another dozen minor corridors branching away. A site of recognised importance due to the animals, plants and organisms which live there, the cave is protected so you can’t actually enter. The cave mouth is open though and offers a beautiful view of Dubrovnik, its riviera and part of the Elafiti islands. If you want to explore by car, take the old road from Zaton to pass through timeless villages like Ljubač, Gromača, Mrčevo and Mravinjac. Running parallel to the coastal road, this route will take you all the way to Metković. There, and in surrounding villages, you can sample real-deal hinterland cuisine that never makes it to the tables of shoreline restaurants.

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Feast your eyes on the local architecture
© booking.com

Feast your eyes on the local architecture

The visual grandeur and charm of Dubrovnik is tough to beat anywhere in Croatia, but even the city's highest-flying residents want a change of scenery sometimes. Zaton is the location of many Renaissance summer manors belonging to former Dubrovnik aristocratic families, such as Gučetić, Menčetić, Sorkochevich, Saraka and Lukarevich. Not immediately visible from the main road and, in many cases more cottage-like than, say, an English country manor, these are still worth noticing as you walk around the village. It's a trend that has not halted. Former model and wife of the Formula One chief, Slavica Ecclestone, is one of the village's latest summer residence purchasers. As she is estimated to be worth £740 million, her property could hardly be described as a cottage.

Sample fine wines among the vineyards
© Stephan Engler

Sample fine wines among the vineyards

This most southerly region of Croatia is recognised internationally for its wine production, which dates back many centuries. The warm, sunny climate helps produce some of Croatia's most powerful red wines, such as the Plavac ali variety, although nearby islands like Korčula are also famed for white wines like Grk and Pošip. The best way to learn about the region's amazing wine is to visit a vineyard, where you'll learn all about the history of local winemaking, the traditional methods, the grapes and the wines they produce. Many vineyards in the region cling to slopes, so finding a vineyard on the mainland usually means heading a little back into the hinterland, to the foothills of the Dinaric Alps. You can find small winemakers not so far from Zaton but, on the mainland, the more professional outfits that provide tours are located north of Neum or south of Dubrovnik. If you're going to travel that far, don’t miss a winery visit on Pelješac, such as Matusko, Korta Katarina, Špaleta or on Korčula island (where Toreta or Grošić are great options).

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Explore the islands
© jakobradlgruber

Explore the islands

Nothing gives a greater sense of freedom than leaving the tourist trail behind and finding a spot all of your own. One of the best ways to do so is by exploring islands with their tiny coves and hidden beaches; you have lots of options while staying in Zaton. Boat hire can help you cover the six main islands and multiple islets that make up the nearby Elafiti archipelago. You can even reach them by kayak; Koločep is less than two kilometres from shore. Surrounded on all sides by the Adriatic, Pelješac is actually a peninsula but has way more of an island feel than the rest of the mainland. A little further out and a day trip you have to dedicate yourself to, the island of Korčula offers one of the prettiest approaches when arriving by boat. Its history, culture and cuisine - particularly its wine, distinct olive oil and famous cakes - are well worth discovering.

Take a day trip that'll be tough to forget
© Emi Cristea

Take a day trip that'll be tough to forget

If you're looking for a different day trip experience than the one provided by neighbouring Dubrovnik, Zaton is well positioned to allow just that. 200 kilometres up the coast is Croatia's second city, Split, where the former palace of Roman emperor Diocletian is still a focal point of everyday life. Less than 60 kilometres south of Zaton is the border with Montenegro; in the coastal town of Herceg Novi you'll reach the start of the Bay of Kotor, one of the prettiest landscapes to be found in southeastern Europe. 100 kilometres inland from Zaton, Međugorje is a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina known as a pilgrimage site for Catholics from all over the world. Among its alleged miracles, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared here in 1981. Less than 20 kilometres from there, Mostar is one of the largest cities in Bosnia and the de facto capital of Herzegovina. Its famous Old Bridge (pictured) separates the Muslim and Catholic halves of the city, each offering different culture, cuisine and architecture.

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