Situated 49 miles (79km or 1hr 40min) from Dubrovnik on the island of Mljet, Mljet National Park is the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean and spreads over almost a third of the island. Alongside being rich with life, boasting breathtaking scenery and crystal blue waters, the park’s most popular features are the two seawater lakes known as Malo Jezero and Veliko Jezero (small lake and great lake).
Although the park is large it is something you can cover in the course of a day, giving that you arrive early and catch the last coach back. Unlike Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park, Mljet National Park is rather flat if you follow the roads, making it more of a peaceful and less intense day trip.
There are also plenty of areas along the paths with picnic tables and easy access into the water, so you can pretty much choose to swim anywhere along the trail (Plitvice Lakes doesn’t allow swimming and Krka has only one small designated area for it).
Your ticket includes entry to not only the park with both saltwater lakes, but also a boat ride to the Isle of St. Mary, on the southern part of the Great Lake. I actually found it rather amusing getting to this tiny island as even though you can see it from across the water, there’s a bright orange flag that you need to wave across to the other side which signals a speedboat to come and get you. (Note: I think only one return trip on the boat is included in your ticket. Extra trips are charged at 30 kuna).
It’s important to note that when you’re visiting Mljet National Park that there are no public toilets, cafés or water fountains for many, many footsteps. So depending from which point on the map you’re walking from this may be your first chance to use the facilities.
Of course there’s more to the Isle of St. Mary than a mojito and restroom, and that’s the 12th century Benedictine monastery and Church of Saint Mary. You can wander through the remote 1.2 acre isle amongst the remains of the walls and even enter the church that is currently being renovated.
How to get to Mljet National Park:
There are two main entrances into the park through the villages of Polače and Pomena. If you’re travelling from Dubrovnik like we did then your nearest entrance will be Polače. When you arrive to Polače there will be a small kiosk that’s slightly hard to spot, but it’s from there where you buy your tickets (70 kuna adult low season, 125 kuna high season). Then you can either walk to Mljet National Park along a path through the woods that takes around 40-minutes, or alternatively catch a 10-minute bus that’s included in the price of your ticket and provided by the park.
In terms of how to get to Polače, we got the ferry Nona Ana from Dubrovnik Port Gruz – in front of Hotel Petka (see timetable here). You can also book an organised tour to the park, but I honestly wouldn’t bother as you really can’t get lost or miss anything on your visit.
How to get around:
Definitely, 100% rent a bike at the entrance. We made the mistake of not renting them and found ourselves against the clock to circle the entire island by foot. Unless you’re planning on going completely off the trail and more into the woods then it’s really worth renting bikes. You don’t miss anything by not being on foot, and it honestly just makes your life so much easier in this kind of park as the entire trail is by road. Motorised vehicles aren’t allowed inside the park either (apart from those you rent already inside) which makes it a really safe and fun cycle too.
You can rent bikes at either village entrance (Pomena and Polače), otherwise there’s one final chance to rent them at Mali Most (inside the park). However you have to return them at the same point so it’s easier to rent it at your chosen entrance.
What to do inside the park:
- One thing we wanted to do but didn’t have time to as we were on foot was go kayaking. You can rent kayaks at Mali Most which is also the point where both lakes meet by a narrow channel, making it ideal for kayaking both lakes.
- Of course swimming here is a must as the water is warmer than on the beach, and also very quiet.
- If you’re visiting for longer than a day then the hiking trails are strongly recommended from everything I’ve read.
So if you’re looking for a relaxed day trip from Dubrovnik with plenty of gorgeous views and history, but away from the crowds to sunbathe and swim, I’d definately recommend Mljet National Park.