Makarska is a coastal peninsula town protected by the Biokovo Mountain Range on Croatia’s Adriatic. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing summer vacation or out to explore it all, Makarska has something for all travellers to enjoy.
Makarska has garnered more popularity throughout recent years for its prime central location as a destination for travellers moving between Split and Dubrovnik. With its beautiful shoreline, impressive mountains and rich history, this is your insider's guide to the spectacular town of Makarska!
History of Makarska
Makarska is a coastal town located in the southern part of Dalmatia and is one of the oldest towns in eastern Croatia. Archeological findings place human settlement as far back as 6000 BC. First settled by the Illyrians in the 4th century, Slavics soon established themselves in the 7th century with what today’s Makarska is, as their center. Makarska would soon find themselves continuously under the rule of many empires before becoming independent.
During the Middle Ages, Makarska was ruled by the Ottoman Empire and became a fortified town that was used by Omiš pirates due to its natural harbour. Soon after, Makarska was under the rule of the Venetians before coming under the rule of the French, which would find Makarska in a positive period of development and growth.
Makarska as a tourism hot spot was established in the early 20th century when the town built their very first hotel, gaining popularity in the 1960’s and paving the way as an unmissable holiday destination.
Best way to get to Makarska
As a prominent stop for both locals and travellers, getting to Makarska is quite easy! Makarska has no airport itself but it’s closest aviation location is Split. There are many bus departures (generally every half hour or hour) that you can take from Dubrovnik or Split as well as from the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb.
The fastest way to get to Makarska is on one of the daily bus departures from Split, taking roughly 1 hour. If you’re travelling from Dubrovnik by bus, the journey will take approximately 3 hours. Makarska bus station is conveniently located and only a 7 minute walk from Makarska’s Main Square in the town's center. With a well-structured road system, entry into Makarska is hassle-free.
For a comprehensive list of departures, the bus timetable can be found here.
Things to do in Makarska
Stretched along this coastal spot are endless opportunities to get active and explore! Whether you’re into historical or first-hand experiences, these are our favourite things to do in Makarska.
1. Hike Biokovo Mountain
Unmissable in its size and beauty stands the gargantuan Biokovo Mountain Range behind Makarska. Covered in densely packed pine trees, this family of forest cast the dark blanket that you recognise from below! Biokovo is home to a unique collection of nature as it lies between Croatia’s coastal and continental climates.
The Biokovo mountains is the highest mountain range in Dalmatia with Sveti Jure being the highest peak standing at 1,762m above sea level. Climbing Biokovo is not only an achievement in itself but an unforgettable experience! As you reach the top of Sveti Jure you’ll be welcomed with panoramic views of Croatia and its coastline, taking in the unbelievable sights within your horizon. If it’s a clear enough day, you may even see parts of Bosnia and Italy from your viewpoint - talk about amazing!
If you’re joining us on a Hike Croatia Cruise, you’ll tackle Sveti Jure with other like-minded travellers as a part of your itinerary!
2. Visit the Astronomical Observatory
Did you know that Makarska has an astronomical observatory? For the interstellar seekers or just the curious travellers, visit the observatory that’s located only 50 meters from the town centre! The observatory was built in 1974 and is unique in a number of ways. Not only was it built on a monument in honour of the fallen soldiers of WWll, it’s also set at the foot of the Biokovo mountains, surrounded by the lushly dense forest of pine trees overlooking the coast of Makarska.
Makarska is fortunate enough to experience low levels of light pollution and given its prime location close to the sea and enclosed in the pine forest, we’d recommend visiting the observatory at nightfall. You’ll be able to witness the spectacular starry sky that can only be described as otherworldly!
3. Discover the Fence of Love
To the left of Makarska’s unique horseshoe shape lies a shrouded area missed by many! Just at the end of the promenade presents stone stairs that begin a climb to hidden attractions around the peninsula. If you’ve seen images of Makarska, you’ve most likely come across an emerald colour statue of Sveti Petar looking out towards the town - this is the path that will lead you to him. Just along Sveti Petar’s gaze lies the Fence of Love below. Dotted along the railing chains are infinite padlocks dedicated to love from locals and travellers alike. With the brilliant blues of the Adriatic setting the romantic backdrop, some of these locks can be traced as far back as WWII. Under fire in countries like France, in Makarska this display of affection is encouraged!
Our top tip: buy your locks from the self-proclaimed love shack nearby to forever seal your love on this rail.
4. Get Into the Watersports!
Watersports come by the plenty in Makarska! For the adrenaline seekers, jet skis will let you weave around feeling the fresh air run over your face and through your hair. Parasailing is another option and is an unbeatable experience in Makarska. Get taken up over the water and bask in the stunning views as high as the mountains - now there’s something you don’t get to see everyday! For the more hands-on, try your hand at one of the Wipeout courses right on the beach - you’ll be in and out of the water more times than you can count!
5. Catch a Sunset
Sunsets in Makarska are nothing short of mesmerizing. A brilliant array of hues sweep across the sky in an unforgettable visual experience. There are many locations where you can choose to take in the colourful display of the sun setting. Some of our favourites are joining Sveti Petar on his peninsula where you’ll not only have a panoramic view of the coast, but you’ll also be accompanied by the beauty of the Biokovo Mountains. Perch yourself at the beach where the golden rays come alive and turn deep and vibrant hues as it sets below the horizon. Or enjoy the rainbow tints nestled in the beachside cave - wherever you choose, you’ll be overwhelmed with its beauty regardless.
Top Party Locations in Makarska
When it comes to party destinations, Makarska flies a little under the radar amongst travellers, however it has some of the most exciting nightspots in Croatia. From clubs in caves to open-air spaces, expect the unexpected from Makarska!
Club Deep is the most renowned and popular club in Makarska and you won’t be surprised as to why. Set in a cave off the Makarska shoreline, Club Deep attracts party goers near and far to enjoy house beats, drinks by the bucket and none other than the famous Pirate Party hosted on our Navigator Cruises.
Makarska’s neverland for open-air clubs is where you’ll come across Petar Pan. Nestled right near the beach, party to the likes of rnb, electronic and dance tunes, rubbing shoulders with fellow travellers and Makarska locals straight on ‘til morning!
Where to eat in Makarska
Similar to most Croatian towns, restaurants in Makarska serve up delicious food that will tantalise your tastebuds. Despite its humble size, there are many places you can stop to fuel yourself. Right on the coastline you can guarantee the freshest catch of the day or choose to dip into the full spectrum of Croatian cuisine. If you’re curious about places to stop by, we definitely encourage asking the locals what their favourite and secret recommendations are!
Pizza lovers this one’s for you! Popular among tourists, Domina boasts brilliant service and even better pizza. The perfect spot to rest and recharge over a slice of your choice. See Domina’s reviews here.
A gastronomic and well thought out menu describes restaurant Freyja to a tee. This restaurant is aptly named, paying homage to its Norse mythology roots associated with passion and beauty - which is how Freyja approaches its menu. During lunch you can enjoy street food vibes, however come dinnertime expect a more refined dining experience featuring Meditteranean ingredients and a modern twist on traditional Dalmatian recipes.
Right in the heart of Makarska’s main square, set your sights on this local favourite savouring Meditteranean cuisine and wholesome culinary traditions paired with Croatian wines and local liquors. Enjoy the end of your day overlooking the beautiful Adriatic sea with a locally paired wine in hand! Find out more about Briskula here.
Old Town Attractions
Makarska’s Old Town is humble in size compared to the neighbouring towns of Split and Dubrovnik, however you can still expect to find the same amount of beauty and rich culture within its streets. Maneuvering through Makarska’s cobbled alleys is easy with striking attractions that catch the eye.
Undeniably the heart and soul of Makarska is its main square in the town center, known as Kačić Square. This beautiful square was named after the most significant poet of Dalmatia and is split over 4 levels, overlooking the Adriatic Sea to one side and being protected by the impressive Biokovo Mountains to the other.
Acting as a mini Mecca, the square has as many as 4 attractions within its 4 proverbial walls. Dominating the space is St. Mark's Church which sits on the highest point of the square. True to Croatian Old Town style, this terracotta tipped church has the impressive accolade of being a collegiate church which shares similar importance to that of a cathedral! Within the square you can also find the 18th century statue of Croatian Franscican friar, Andrija Kačić Miošić, along with the Venetian fountain built in 1775 that once supplied all of Makarska’s drinking water. The fourth and most discreet feature of Kačić Square is the old school, built just behind St. Marks demonstrating Neo-Renaissance elements.
Stretched over a 60km Riviera, Makarska’s promenade is a window into the traditional mode of transport that was used by this city. With a catalogue of options to explore, stroll along the waterline and discover the many cafes and bakeries that dot the promenade, enjoying the natural surroundings of the mountains and sea. Be sure to make your way through the market stalls to pick yourself up a souvenir before taking a dip in the beach just off the promenade.
Where to Stay in Makarska
Makarska has many accommodation options to choose from such as hotels, hostels and Airbnbs. We recommend using an accommodation search engine, such as Airbnb, to find the accommodation that best suits your needs.
Explore Nearby Towns
Makarska sits in close proximity to many towns that visitors shouldn’t pass up exploring. With many modes of transport available to you in Makarska, it’s a quick hop, skip and jump over to some beautiful destinations.
First mentioned in the 13th century, Drvenik is a coastal settlement located 24 kilometers southeast of Makarska, which is roughly a half hour journey by car. Set in between two bays, explore the town's historic attraction, Fort Drvenik, which was built in the 17th century and overlooks the town below.
So close you can almost touch it, you’ll find Tucepi 4 kilometers southeast of Makarska. Tucepi is highly accredited for its amazing beach which is the longest in the Makarska Riviera, sprawling over 4 kilometers. Tucepi is rich in natural appeal between olive groves, vineyards and natural springs given its location at the base of the Biokovo mountains. If you’re up for a trip to Tucepi, bike riding through the stunning Osejava park will take you through a scenic route. Alternatively a bus can get you there in 10 minutes.
Most renowned for its beach, Punta Rata, Brela is the first destination within the Makarska Riviera from the north, and takes roughly 10-15 minutes travel time from Makarska. Over the last few decades, Brela has gained popularity and become a sought-out destination in Dalmatia for its good selection of food, natural wonders and gorgeous beaches. Much quieter than Makarska, we recommended taking a stroll along the lungomare, or what we know as the promenade, enjoying the views.
Visit Markaska’s Best Beacheses
Given that the Makarska Riviera is over 60 kilometers long, you’re going to come across some pretty spectacular beaches across its shoreline! Below we mention some of our favourites you should discover!
Only accessible by foot or boat, Nugul Beach is located at the base of a beautiful cliff. Nugul’s turquoise waters edged with stark white sand make for the perfect beach environment! This gorgeous and secluded beach is only 2 kilometers from Makarska Town harbour and is a naturists haven. This picturesque location is reserved for the daring exhabitionists, whilst you can wear your bathers, it’s not uncommon to be surrounded by those who don’t!
You’ll find Makarska’s own beach just off the promenade on the western side of town which sweeps for over 2 kilometers! This beach really does cater for all - between the span of 2 kilometers you can opt to relax by the waterline, enjoy with your family or try your hand at the available watersports. One thing’s for sure, the water is completely refreshing!
Our top tip: Be sure to pick up some of the freshest fruit found in the town from the local seaside vendors who make their way along the water's edge with their produce carts!
Roughly 10 kilometers north of Makarska, you’ll find Baška Voda beach. Housed in between the Biokovo Mountain and the Adriatic, Baška Voda is an idyllic and calm beach that has become more popular with sunseekers over the years. It’s pebbled foreshore is smaller than Makarska, however it’s warm waters don’t fall short. Another benefit of this beach is that a short stroll away you’ll find a promenade sprinkled with restaurants and stalls if you need a top up of food and drinks! Despite its smaller size, Baška Voda has extensive watersport options that cater to all kinds of adventurers!
Are you a sunseeker visiting other Croatian islands? Check out our guide to Croatia’s Best Beaches.
Makarska is a cornucopia of opportunity that has something for everyone! An unparalleled location where the mountains meet the sea, it’s filled with rich culture, incredible beaches, epic nightlife and proud locals!