There’s no finer way to cling onto the last days of summer than on the aquamarine shores of the Adriatic.
Croatia’s breathtaking coastline combines glamour with natural beauty, offering visitors a glimpse into its Mediterranean past and its glittering future as a top tourist destination.
Just a ferry’s ride away from our base in Split is the island of Vis – the most mysterious of the islands sprinkled between the former Yugoslav Republic and Italy.
We arrive in just over two hours and the afternoon is spent enjoying the peace and quiet of this ancient fishing port, lazily following the ribbon of cobbled streets to a tiny stretch of watering holes at the neighbouring hamlet of Kut.
With darkness falling, we retire to recharge our batteries for a full day of exploration, but not before tucking into artisan, wood-fired pizzas topped with smoked beef at restaurant Karijola.
Hiring a moped is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to zip across Vis and for the equivalent of £18 for eight hours, it’s well worth the money.
Croatia is known for its pebble beaches, but the allure of a sandy cove on the eastern side of the bay has us navigating the hairpin bends of the island’s steep hills on two wheels.
Stoncica’s secluded shore boasts still, green waters teeming with tiny fish, while a beachside tavern serving up salty, barbecued lamb offers respite from the midday rays under a cluster of palm trees.
From there we wind our way through verdant vineyards drooping with olives and grapes to seek out Vis Town’s rival settlement, Komiza.
The journey offers stunning views from the top of Hum mountain down to the island’s sister village, which has a rough-around-the edges charm.
Clusters of fishing boats are piled high at the water’s edge and at Komiza’s centre is a mix of bohemian bars serving crisp Croat beer.
Hitting Vis Town’s bars later that evening, we quaff local wine in backstreet bar Paradajz Lost, which lures us in from the main strip with crackly jazz played on an outdoor turntable.
Dinner is spent at sidestreet eatery Kod Paveta, sampling the catch of the day – grilled seabass in fresh herbs – and gorgonzola gnocchi sprinkled with walnuts.
Our last day in Vis sees us brave a death-defying trek down a crumbling mountainside to Stiniva’s cliff-flanked cove - a walk which requires sturdy shoes and nerves of steel.
Beaches aside, there’s plenty to explore on Vis, including Fort George, which celebrated its 200th birthday during our visit, and former top secret military sights abandoned by the Yugoslav army in the early 1990s. Eerie bunkers cling to the island’s craggy cliffs while a submarine tunnel remains carved into its heart.
Our last few days are spent on the party island of Hvar, where the pace is racy and fuelled by cocktails. A day trip by water taxi can take you to the nearby ‘Hell’s Islands’ – known for their clothing optional coves.
But for my money, the relatively unspoilt beauty of Vis is the gem in Croatia’s crown.