In late September, we will be driving between Dubrovnik and Plitvice and am looking for an overnight stop between these two spots. We plan on taking the longer route avoiding Bosnia crossing. As we are early risers, we will stop and start along the way taking our time and would like to find a pretty town with good restaurant choices. The one location I do not want to stay in is Makarska as it sounds just way too touristy and busy for our liking. We will have already visited Split and Korcula on our way to Dubrovnik the week before by ferry. Suggestions where to overnight?
It's not so much that Makarska is "touristy" (nothing is more touristy than Dubrovnik), but Makarska is kind of a resort/relaxation spot not that historically interesting. I stayed over in the town of Baska Voda in that area a few years ago, and while the town was nothing special, I wouldn't call it "touristy" at all.
But after my recent return trip, I'd suggest a stop in Zadar or Sibenik. Sibenik is smaller (at least, it feels that way) and in some ways more inviting, but Zadar is probably more scenic in a traditional way. If you stay over in Zadar, consider stopping in Sibenik anyway - really nice town.
How will you be avoiding Bosnia on the drive down - ferry? Why? Otherwise, you'll have to drive through the slim Neum corridor. Even if you don't have a cross-border card for the car, you may be able to drive through Neum without one - some car companies seem to allow that.
Thanks for your suggestion. We are actually starting our trip in Istria and then stopping overnight in Zadar. We then plan on visiting Sibenik on the way to Split where we are staying a couple of nights. It's great to hear it's as nice as I hoped for. From Split we are taking a ferry to Korcula, staying overnight and then a ferry down to Dubrovnik the next day, thus missing Bosnia that way. With the high speed passenger ferry they've started this year, it's not too long a trip each section and have our tickets booked.
I tried talking to a few rental agencies about the car going through the corridor on the way up and as I need an automatic, they are only allowing the larger cars (at much higher prices) to go through. Since we aren't in a hurry, we have opted to take the longer route, take the ferry crossing to Ploce and up the coast. This will take much longer, but we're fine with that. So then once we get going along the coast, I am trying to figure out where to overnight. With regards to Makarska, I got the impression it is more a resort type of place and the crowds would be bigger there, therefore looking for something a little smaller, quieter, but as I've never been in this area before, maybe it's like that throughout the coast.
I can recommend Baska Voda on the basis of not being crowded. I was there in early October in 2009, and the place was pretty dead, really. Late September is certainly not high season - I doubt you will find any crowds in the area at that time of year (perhaps on a weekend if the weather is nice). Remember, the peak season on the Dalmatian Coast is July and August plus parts of June and September (probably early). You may wind up wishing there were more people.
Have you checked with Oryx? They have rental offices in Istria (in Rovinj, anyway) and all over Croatia. I got them via EconomyCarRentals. Oryx was OK except for the long line returning my car at Zagreb airport. Their policy is 31 Euros (plus VAT - so about 40 Euros) to drive the car out of the EU (e.g. Neum, technically), but I'm not sure if they make an exception for Neum or not; I drove all over Bosnia and into Montenegro and had to pay that extra fee but didn't mind - my car wound up costing me only about $12 USD per day including that fee. Of course, I didn't have an automatic, which would cost quite a bit more.
Fleet also allows for travel outside of Croatia - 5 Euros/day, 10 day max, plus VAT, for a cross-border card - but no rental office in Rovinj (but in Rijeka or probably Pula airport). I don't know where in Istria you would be starting or how much they would charge for an automatic. You can definitely reserve an automatic with EconomyCarRentals, surely with Kemwel and AutoEurope too, then when you have booked and found out the car company (could easily be Oryx or Fleet) confirm their price for cross-border travel.
It's not so much that I am pushing Bosnia on you, but it would be a shame to be so close and have to miss it and drive far out of your way. And, another another obvious place to stop on the way back would be Mostar, which I quite enjoyed on my trip in 2009.
Another way to avoid Bosnia on the way back is to drop the car at Dubrovnik airport, fly back to Zagreb on a cheap Croatia Airlines flight, rent another car, and drive right back down to Plitvice. I'm not sure how the timing might work out for you but it could save you a few hours, especially if you are planning that long detour on the way back.
Unless you really want to drive that distance and take the time to go around Bosnia, I also endorse the idea of taking a domestic Croatia Airlines flight from Dubrovnik up to Zagreb. Our flight earlier this month was about $50 per person. However, I can appreciate those who love road trips -- and if that is you, feel free to ignore this idea.
Baska Voda looks like it might be a good option. I've checked out Oryx and Fleet but so far I've found Sixt has the best price and options for us. As for Bosnia, I think we will do a day trip tour from Dubrovnik with a tour operator - haven't investigated which one would be best yet. I did a lot of research of flying to Zagreb versus driving up the coast. But I've read how beautiful the coast is and we're a couple that does enjoy road trips. We have done a lot of long distance driving trips in North America and Europe. We like to start early and visit places along the way so taking the longer route avoiding Bosnia crossing will be fine. We won't just drive straight through. We will however visit Mostar on a day trip from Dubrovnik (haven't researched who to do a tour with yet).
We just returned from a 2 week drive through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro with a Sixt car.
Before we booked, we checked with Avis, Hertz, and Sixt, and ALL of them allow driving into Bosnia and Montenegro. It only took minutes to cross borders.