Opatija and the Lungomare seaside Promenade
We sometimes drive just 1 hour 10 minutes from Lipizzaner Lodge down to the grand old Istrian seaside town of Opetija.. just to have a coffee and a croissant by the seaside "Croatian style"!
There is a main route down through Slovenia via Postojna, Pivka, then the unpronounceable Illirska Bistrica and to the border. On the way you will go past the 17 Disappearing lakes of Pivka, several fab ruined and preserved castles, a fascinating Military museum with an exhibition hall explaining the 1991 Slovenian Independence War and even a secret hideaway where dozens of baby Lipizzaners go to spend their first years together.. but most people will have the blinkers on, following the Satnav and try to get down to Croatia as soon as possible, so will miss all of these extra Slovenian treats!
You will need to present your passport at the border and maybe queue, maybe get in line.. then the motorway whisks you down to the coast.. you pay a Euro or Kuna toll, it's not that much, but be very wary of the speed limits that seem to change indiscriminately.
Once off the motorway you drive down bendy, steep riviera roads that will remind you of the Cote d'azur in France. You can usually park on the seafront, putting some coins in the meter, but there are also car parks. There are lots of places to change Euros to the Croatian Kuna. It is a good idea to have some Kuna coins available in advance for these meters.
The old town centre of Opatija is colourful and full of tourist shops, cafes and grand hotels. There is a quaint old fish and fruit market building not far from a lovel hotel that has a chocolate fountain in the basement!
For us, the highlight of this mini region on the edge of the land known as Istria is a beautiful coastline walk, called the Lungomare. Like Slovenia, Croatia was also part of the Austro Hungarian empire and Opatija became a popular seaside resort where in 1889 the emperor built a 12km coastal pathway all the way from Volosko to Lovran and called it the "Lungomare"
Opatija is right in the middle of this walk, you have time to explore both directions during the day and will be impressed with the rugged beauty of this coastline. There are lots of little stone beaches all along the way with steps down to them and a very well maintained path. If you want a larger beach, then head for Icicic, where there is a lovely pebble beach and lots of playground activity for kids.
All along this imperial promenade route, there are benches to enjoy the beautiful vistas from and it is easy to find cafes and bars, so it really is a terrific way to spend the day. If you go the other direction from Icicic, past Opatija, there are sleepy little fishing villages to enjoy.
When you walk back into Opatija for the second time you will have just enough time to visit 2 small museums near the town's lovely park. These explain the history of tourism here and other interesting things about Croatia in general, which should top up your Croatian knowledge and add to your day trip experience.
Once you have driven here, the rest of the day is filled with sunshine, walking and seaside. If you want to experience the same coastline, but in another country during your holiday in Slovenia and be back at the Lodge in time for tea, then Opatija is the day trip for you!
And there are several options for your way home via the larger fishing port of Rijeka, maybe a journey into the mountains to find a sleepy village and a fish dinner, or pop into one of the famous Istrian hill villages like Motovun or Groznjan.