Wild camping in Croatia

6 August 2015

Wild camping in Croatia, is it even possible? We came from Serbia, where wild camping is very easy and pretty much accepted everywhere. About Croatia however, I read different stories. Wild camping, especially at the coast, would be totally illegal and impossible. Of course we wanted to see if this was true :)

Wild camping in Osijek

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Me having a very discrete breakfast. No, we are NOT camping….

 

Our first destination in Croatia was Osijek, the fourth largest city in Croatia. Osijek is all the way on the eastern point of the country and totally off the beaten tourist track.

As soon as we arrived we found a big parking lot in the city center. It was not the most charming place, but we asked around and were advised by locals that it would be no problem to sleep there. (they also gave us free beers) We found a spot with a security camera pointed to it and that was it. We decided to spend the night on the parking lot. Whenever we spend the night in a city, we are very discrete. We don’t pop up the roof nor put chairs outside. We also try to use as little light inside the van as possible. This way the van looks like a normal parked car, so no one can accuse us of wild camping.

After the first night we decided that we wanted to stay in Osijek for a few more days and we found even better sleeping spots, in the historical center, at the beach and in a hidden park. We stayed on all these spots without any problem. All spots are listed on our Sleepin4wheel map.

Wild camping in Kopački rit natural reserve

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The lake where we did not camp

 

As Boef is from the wetlands of Brazil, we had to see Kopački rit, one of the largest wetlands in Europe. We took Box for a short ride form Osijek and arrived at the natural park. Not much later we found the perfect camping spot: in front of a stunning lake, with picknick tables and bathrooms available. However during the day it was full of tourists and park staff. We decided to come back there at night so we would have the place for ourselves. We came back when the sun went down. We did not know how fast to get Box down to the lake, take off our clothes and take a dive! This was just perfect! We had bought groceries to cook dinner, a bottle of wine, and this would be our first real wild camping experience in nature. But just as I came out of the water and wrapped myself in a towel, a light showed up in the darkness. And it came closer….I rushed into Box to hide. it did not help…it was the park ranger who told us to leave. Good bye wild camping experience…We ended up spending the night just 50 meters away from the lake, along the road. Which was okay, but just not….you know….the way we imagined it.

Wild camping on the Croatian coast

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One of the perfect spots we found along the coast

A few weeks later we headed to the Croatian coast, to Opatija to be exact. The Croatian coast is amazingly beautiful, but also very touristy. This automatically means the regulations for wild camping are stricter. We expected it to be very difficult to wild camp here, so we spent the first night on a camp site. Just to get a feel for the area and to explore the possibilities. Soon we discovered that a lot of parking spaces had signs with campers with a red line through them….that’s clear, no wild camping.

Luckily Boef has a very good nose for hidden parking places and soon he found a very nice little spot under the trees on a dead end road. Perfect! The road to this spot was so small and steep that no police would come there without a very good reason. So, we spent the night there, 2 minutes walking distance from the beach with showers, public toilets and restaurants. And that for free 😉

In the following days we found a few more hidden wild camping spots along the Croatian coast. Every time we felt comfortable enough to pop the roof up and cook dinner in the van, all without any problems or complaints from locals or the police. Just look our best spots up on our map with places to sleep in a van!

Wild camping on Cres Island

As soon as we drove off the ferry and entered Cres island, it was VERY clear what the rules on wild camping were:

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Clearly no wild camping allowed on Cres

 

But hey, we would not be Livin4wheel if we would not try. And of course, after a very pleasant and stunning drive to the first town on the island, we found a little windy road in a residential area with many vacant parking spaces under the pine trees. The road was on a 1 minute walk from the ocean, with free showers and water taps. Can it get any better? No it can’t…we decided to put Box there, pop the roof up and see what happens. Well, the only thing that happened was that we had a great night of sleep and woke up with the best view ever. Great succes!

So what is the conclusion on wild camping in Croatia?

Even though the laws suggest otherwise, wild camping in Croatia is perfectly possible. Of course you have to know when to be discrete. When you are in a city, don’t act like you are camping. (This goes for any city in any country) Are you in more rural areas, then you can spread out a little more. However, always be careful because you are officially acting illegal.

We met one other T3 owner on our trip who got busted by the police while wild camping in Croatia. Eventually the only thing that happened is that the police escorted him to the closest camp site. And even when we got sent away by the park ranger in Kopački rit, he still allowed us to camp a few meters further down the road. So even when you get busted, you are not really in trouble. (Please note that we are not legal advisors, so if you do get a fine it’s your own fault ;)) So, just be smart about picking your spots and you should be fine. And if you want to find the spots we wrote about in this post, we listed everything on our Sleepin4wheel map!

12 comments

  1. Comment by Davor

    Davor Reply 3 September 2015 at 19:50

    Please, feel welcome to visit our wild camp in Craotian mountain, but still just 20 minutes from beach and small town Senj.

    • Comment by Valine

      Valine Reply 3 September 2015 at 22:45

      It looks amazing! Thanks for the tip. I hope we’ll come back to Croatia so we can visit.

    • Comment by Indro

      Indro Reply 5 July 2017 at 19:57

      Hello, we are planning to visit Croatia, could you please specify where your camp is? We’re really excited to find some hidden camp sites!

      • Comment by Valine

        Valine Reply 14 July 2017 at 13:02

        His website does not exist anymore. So maybe the camp site does not either? Too bad :-(

  2. Comment by Weil

    Weil Reply 10 April 2016 at 22:19

    Hi!
    A friend and I were planning to do some wild camping in Croatia (particularly in Istria), but the laws and general comments are pretty discouraging…
    Do you think it would be possible to do some wild camping in a tent in that area?

    Thanks, Weil :)

    • Comment by Valine

      Valine Reply 20 April 2016 at 11:00

      Hey Weil, we are not experts on tent camping. I guess it’s a whole different ball game. With a van you can pretend that the car is just parked with no one inside. With a tent however, it’s obvious that there are people camping.

      The laws on wild camping in Croatia are pretty strict, and the police does give fines for it. So you have to be very careful.

      I think there are two things you can do: either camp in very remote areas, well hidden. In this case no one will probably find out. Another thing that you can do, is ask permission to land owners. You can for example ask farmers if you are allowed to camp on their land. This is ok by law and if you’re lucky you will also score a free meal 😉

  3. Comment by Aditya Rao

    Aditya Rao Reply 18 May 2016 at 11:40

    Hi! Amazing information, and inspiring. We are thinking of doing something similar. But your map is not working :( The page is empty below the introductory paragraph..

    • Comment by Valine

      Valine Reply 19 May 2016 at 10:15

      Hey, great to hear that you find the information useful. And thanks for the tip about the map. We will look into that! Can you tell me which device/browser you are using?

  4. Comment by Cangrejo

    Cangrejo Reply 14 July 2016 at 08:10

    Why do you need a tent in these hot sunny days ?
    I myself hithiked through the croatian coast.
    At the sundown I was always able to find hidden spot to strech my tired bones.
    Lifetime experience, Croatia is wonderfull country.

    • Comment by Valine

      Valine Reply 15 July 2016 at 11:03

      Yes, that’s another way to do it! And there are many hidden spots indeed. Great to hear your experience :)

  5. Comment by Niels

    Niels Reply 26 July 2016 at 08:02

    Hi guys, the T3 couple greets you! Thanks for the effort writing it all down… Great

    • Comment by Valine

      Valine Reply 27 July 2016 at 23:19

      Hi Niels, I’m really happy that you find the info useful. Enjoy your trip!

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