Only a stone’s throw away from the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik, sits the brilliant Sun Gardens. Lapped by brilliant blue waters, and overlooking the idyllic Elaphiti Islands, the resort is a firm family favourite, a mecca for water sports and a haven for relaxation. Travel expert, Anna, visits this Mediterranean gem.
Having wanted to visit Croatia for years, I was excited to finally visit Dubrovnik and see if it really was as beautiful as everyone says. I was due to visit the Sun Gardens resort with colleagues to check out the resort’s facilities and local area so that I can describe it accurately to our guests. Friends of mine (three mums and their various kids, ranging from toddler age to teen) stayed at Sun Gardens last summer. They said that it really hit the spot as everyone was happy and well catered for, including the grown ups who wanted a mix of quality time with the kids and relaxing time without them!
Once you get past the somewhat austere main building entrance, the resort tumbles down to the sea. Around half of the rooms are located in the main hotel and the rest of the accommodation is located in family friendly residences scattered around the resort. I drew the lucky straw and was allocated a fantastic two bedroom residence – the residences are a really good size and would suit my family really well. The second bedroom is a good sized twin room with proper separate beds, to help avoid any squabbling and even has its own bathroom. There’s a stylish and modern kitchenette, which would be absolutely fine for preparing simple meals although it’s not a full kitchen. Vitally important for me was the fact that the kitchenettes have a kettle and cafetière and the on-site shop means you need never run out of proper tea, coffee and milk – everyone has a different idea of luxury and that’s mine!
We had a good look at all the facilities and I found myself wishing I’d brought my ten and twelve year old with me, as they would be in heaven here! They would absolutely love snorkelling around the rocky bay (the beach is pebbly, but they don’t sit still long enough to worry about a sandy beach) and trying out the various different swimming pools. I love the fact that there’s an adult pool, so you don’t need to worry about your kids driving grown-ups crazy with their antics! There’s an absolutely enormous sports centre and a range of outdoor facilities, meaning kids will be kept busy with tennis, squash, swimming, basketball, kayaking, a climbing wall, and countless other activities. There’s also our fantastic Scott Dunn Explorers kids club which would suit all ages, including Crew (selected dates) – which is absolutely not a kid’s club, but a schedule of activities for teenagers to enjoy with new like minded friends.
For the grown-ups, the spa offers a very large, stylish and serene retreat and we all really enjoyed a swim there, followed by relaxing on the outside loungers with a delicious drink from the special juice bar.
On our second morning I risked having all my friends ex-communicate me by Instagramming the ultimate irritating ‘perfect breakfast spot’ complete with sea view! We were all really impressed with the buffet breakfast (so often they can be a bit mixed) and I chose a delicious omelette, made fresh to order. The fresh fruit was very good and ripe – and again, the ultimate test was of course the coffee and it passed the test with flying colours as did the freshly squeezed orange juice.
After breakfast we headed out for the day on a boat trip to nearby islands, enjoying a swim and lunch followed by a tour of Dubrovnik walled town in the late afternoon. I can’t think of a more perfect way to spend a day – we were all grinning from ear to ear as our little speedboat sped off towards Lopud island. First though, we stopped at a little bay and put our snorkel and masks on, jumped off the boat and swam towards a cave and looked at the fish and starfish there. Bliss!
After our swimming stop we moored up on the little island of Lopud and went for a stroll around the village side of the island. There’s a sandy beach on the other side, which you can walk to if you’re feeling energetic (it takes about 40 minutes) or hop on one of the little beach buggies. The island is absolutely beautiful and I wished we would have had longer here to hire bikes and explore or do a spot of kayaking. My kids would love the paddle boarding there too, a skill I have yet to master!
We were sad to leave Lopud after a whistle-stop tour and I vowed to return one day with the kids. Our little boat whizzed us off to the stunning, tranquil island of Sipan and, by that point we were hungry, so we devoured the most delicious lunch with magnificent views overlooking the water.
We headed back to Sun Gardens and had time for a quick swim in the pool before freshening up and heading out to Dubrovnik (only a 20-30 minute drive, or short water taxi ride away) for a fascinating walking tour. Our guide, Jelena, told us about how Dubrovnik shook off Venetian control in the 14th Century and until a huge earthquake in 1667, rivalled Venice for maritime trading. Jelena was old enough at 12 to remember very clearly the shelling by the Yugoslav People’s Army in more recent history and we were all impressed as to how brilliantly the city has been restored to its former glory. As you mooch around the beautiful interior of the walls enjoying the stunning architecture of the honey coloured stone buildings it’s easy to forget just how much this fascinating city has gone through.
We took the cable car to take some inevitable selfies with a spectacular view of the walled city and sea behind – there’s a sweet little bar up there but we decided to go back down and duck through the unmarked gap in the city walls to a bar our colleagues had told us about, aptly called the ‘Hole in the Wall’. We sat at the makeshift bar drinking in the views- I honestly couldn’t think of a more stunning place to sit and drink a more delicious (if rather strong…) frozen margarita whilst watching the sea kayakers pass in front of us.
I’m so looking forward to bringing the kids here as they will love all the activities on offer at the hotel, the boat trip to the islands, swimming and kayaking in the little bays. They might not be quite as interested in listening to the history of the city as we were, but they’ll definitely enjoy pottering round the perimeter of the walls whilst enjoying an ice cream and will adore a trip on the cable car. We might have to make time for a day trip to Montenegro, which is next on my list – it’s so close it would be a shame not to!