Croatia’s Mljet National Park Croatia – 5 Tips Before Visiting

Mljet National Park is located about 30 miles from Dubrovnik, Croatia in the Adriatic Sea. The park covers the entire northwest portion of Mljet Island. Of all of the Adriatic islands, Mljet is one of the most fascinating. It is one of Croatia’s greenest islands and is renowned for having two seasons of spring each year, as new flowers begin to grow even in the fall.

In addition to its beautiful green forests full of Holm oak trees and Aleppo pines, the island is also famous for its wine, olives, and goat cheese. The quiet laid-back atmosphere, Mediterranean vegetation, and two phenomenal lakes make Mljet National Park a must stop for any traveler looking to enjoy peace, solitude, and nature. This guide offers five great tips for travelers looking to get the most from their trip to Mljet.

1) It has a geological wonder! St. Mary Island

The island within an island, St. Mary Island.

Most tourists visit Mljet National Park to set foot on the island within the island. From personal experience, it is quite a peculiar feeling to take a boat to an island, only to take yet another boat to visit another island.

The ferry ride to St. Mary Island begins where the Small Lake and Great Lake meet. The two salt water lakes are filled by a narrow passage between the open sea and the Great Lake. In turn, the Small Lake is filled from a small channel between it and the Great Lake.

Inside the 12th century church at the Monastery of Saint Mary.

On the island of St. Mary sits an old Benedictine monastery. The 12th century monastery is an impressive structure with a 15th century fresco of Jesus.

Our tour guide through Kompas International Holidays lifted the cloth and this beautiful 15th century fresco was displayed. Around the time that Christopher Columbus discovered America, the fresco of Jesus was painted.

However, the truly fascinating story may be hidden in time. It is speculated that St. Mary Island is where St. Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked, during the 1st century, on his journey from Caesarea Maritima (today’s Israel) to Rome. This highly controversial topic gets quite detailed, but the possibility of St. Paul visiting this small island makes this excursion an even more extraordinary experience.

2) Swimming in the National Park IS allowed

Typically in National Parks no swimming is allowed. However, visitors to Mljet National Park can go swimming in both lakes. During the summer, the small lake is a few degrees warmer than the big lake and the big lake is a few degrees warmer than the sea. Head to the small lake for bragging rights to say you’ve swam in a lake within a sea. So when visiting, don’t forget to bring your bathing suit!

The Small Lake is the perfect spot for a secluded quiet swim.

3) Tito had a luxury home here

Be sure to view President Tito’s house on the Great Lake. Josip Broz Tito may have been controversial leader, but he did have great taste in real estate.  If Tito chose to live there, you know it was fabulous. If the Brijuni Islands were his place to party, then Mljet was his place to relax and get away from it all.

Be sure to catch a glimpse of the most noteworthy property in the National Park.

4) Bike rentals are available

It is helpful to know that there are bike rentals available on the island. A bicycle can make touring the grounds much more appealing and enjoyable.

A quiet well-maintained trail running along the Small Lake.

There are 14 kilometers of mostly flat paths that are neatly paved and nearly impossible to see in one day without a bike. Bike rentals cost about $15 USD per day and can be rented next to the ferry in Polače.

5) Mljet is difficult to reach

Despite its beauty, unfortunately most people visiting Croatia never make it to Mljet.  In order to reach the island, the majority of travelers must take a ferry there and back in one long day.  Many tourists don’t have the luxury of giving up a full vacation day to make this excursion.

Our yacht, the Adriatic Queen with Audrey at the bow.

In fact, most of our local Croatian friends have never visited the island as logistically it is that hard to reach. With the long ferry ride, both back and forth from Dubrovnik, a day trip here may be very rushed.

Avoid traveling on large cruise liners through Croatia. Only on small ships like the Adriatic Queen can you visit these charming small ports.

One of the easiest, most comfortable ways to reach Mljet is by a small ship cruise (large cruise ships cannot fit into the small, charming port). Lucky  for us, Mljet was a stop on our recent seven day cruise aboard the Adriatic Queen. Similarly to our local Croatian friends, without this tour, we probably would have never been able to explore one of Croatia’s most unique and picturesque islands.

Our ship is the only one that navigates the entire Croatian coastline. We departed from Dubrobnik and ended in Porec.

This yacht is the only vessel that navigates the entire Adriatic coastline stopping at 15 must-see destinations throughout Croatia. Interested in experiencing your own small ship cruising holiday? Check out the itinerary we took with eWaterways Small Ship Cruising.

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