It was 75 years ago, during his short reign as King,
that Edward VIII and his notorious mistress Wallis
Simpson caused a sensation when they visited Rab. Rumour
has it that they sunbathed naked in the bay of Kandarola
when their steam yacht stopped off for a day during
their Adriatic cruise.
They are still feted as the most important visitors
Rab has ever received. But now the town's charismatic
mayor, Zdenko Antesic, has plans to entice some
modern-day royals to the island.
When William and Kate announced they
were getting married, the mayor sent an invitation for
them to spend their honeymoon on Rab. A polite
response came back from Clarence house declining the
offer, but Mr Antesic and the tourism board are still
hopeful the young royals might drop by one day - after
all, Prince harry visited the island of hvar, further
south, last month.
Jennie Bond discovers secret If they do, they'll
find a real jewel, one of an incredible 1,200 that
line the coast of mainland Croatia. The 10,000 people
who live on Rab believe theirs is unique. It's
certainly a world away from the hustle delights regal
history) on the Adriatic and bustle of the larger and
better known Croatian resorts such as Dubrovnik, Split
and hvar. The lifestyle is laid-back and the landscape
(all 10 by 15 miles of it) is varied.
island of My daughter Emma and I left the UK on a
rather grey day and were delighted that it took just
two hours to fly into searing temperatures. We landed
on another island, called Krk, and drove south for
about an hour-and-a-half along a stunning coastal
road. Then it's a 10-minute ferry crossing to Rab.
It has to be said that our first impressions of the
island left us somewhat bemused. "It looks like the
moon!" I whispered to Emma. Bare rocks dazzled in the
sun, not a tree, plant or house in sight. The only
sign of life was a couple of seagulls perched
forlornly on the baking stones.
And then, a small miracle. As our driver headed away
from the little jetty, the world suddenly changed
colour. Lush greenery reclaimed the land, pine trees
lined the tiny coves and beaches and we passed through
several pretty villages. Emma said: "It seems a bit
like the Caribbean - but a bit like Switzerland too,
with the mountains on the mainland."
As we were to discover, Rab is an island of hidden
secrets. It's years since I lazed in the sun on a
lilo, bobbing around in the waves with Emma. She
graduated from university this year and is about to
leave home... I wanted those moments on our lilos to
last for ever.
Rab is very proud of its beaches - particularly its
sandy ones, which are Perfect for families ...
Paradise Beach unusual in Croatia. The biggest,
Paradise Beach, is perfect for families, with safe
swimming and plenty of watersports. Take a boat ride
around the coast and you'll find cove after cove with
just a few people enjoying the peace and beauty.
Possibly in the nude - like the King and his mistress.
You can stop to swim in tiny bays or tie up by one
of the larger beaches to explore the bistros and bars.
We had one of the best meals of our lives at a
beachside restaurant called More (it means sea) in
They brought us fresh tuna, octopus, anchovies,
langoustines on a bed of mussels and a vicious-looking
fish called a dentex, which tasted better than it
We had another fantastic meal at the Astoria in the
main town, also called Rab, on a beautiful terrace
overlooking the harbour where posh yachts linger on
their Adriatic odysseys. A four-course meal at
top-class restaurants like these will cost around L30
a head - worth every penny.
But you can eat well for much less: calamari and
salad at a stunning little seaside restaurant on the
Frkanj peninsula was around L10 with a glass of wine,
a T-bone steak was about L13 and the apple strudel,
which owner Aleksandar Bravaric insisted I ate, was
sensational. Coffee everywhere is good and only about
L1, and a beer costs around L2.50.
The old town of Rab is breathtakingly beautiful.
It rises above the ocean on a rocky outcrop, defined
by four ancient bell towers. An evening stroll around
its quaint, narrow streets is a joy. Wherever you
look, there's something to admire: a balcony festooned
with bougainvillea, a tiny konoba (bistro), a stunning
view of the sunset through the ramparts. The shops are
classy, with lots of local produce - the olive oil and
lavender are especially good.
We stayed in two contrasting hotels: the Imperial in
Rab town and the Carolina on the beach 15 minutes away
by road, or 20 minutes in one of the many water taxis
which are a great way to get around.
It was at the Imperial that Edward and Wallis had
lunch in 1936, and it has an interesting royal corner
to commemorate their visit. The Carolina has more of a
family feel, with two small pebble beaches, a lovely
pool and plenty of sun loungers.
One of the most extraordinary features of our stay
in Rab was that we didn't meet or hear a single Brit.
This really is a hidden corner of Croatia... one well
Jennie Bond, Mirror