Family day out: Castles & Rastoke waterfalls

stone bridge in Novigrad across river Dobra

Family day out: Castles & Rastoke waterfalls is a travel post about our Easter Monday day trip to Novigrad castle, Rastoke waterfalls and Slunj. It was a great day trip. I must admit that my inspiration for this day trip came from a rather unexpected place. I saw a photo of Novigrad castle in snow in a calendar. I had never heard of this castle before. I liked the photo, so I read a bit about this small place called Novigrad na Dobri (Novigrad on river Dobra, near Karlovac, central Croatia, halfway between the capital city Zagreb and sea). The idea to visit this castle was at the back of my mind when I came across some photos of Rastoke waterfalls (of which I was very well aware). Since these two places aren’t very far from each other I talked my husband into visiting them both on our planned day trip.

We drove through forests on our way to Novigrad na Dobri. GPS wasn’t very reliable but we managed to find our way to the big, old, stone bridge. There were a few cars parked near the bridge so we left our car there too. The road actually crosses the bridge and passes right next to the castle but I wanted us to walk to the castle. As soon as I stepped out of the car and saw the beautiful, stone bridge and the castle in the distance I felt like I was in one of the adventures from the Famous Five books that I read voraciously as a kid.

The stone bridge was built in 1730 and it replaced a much older wooden bridge. It was built as a part of a road that connected Karlovac with seaport town of Rijeka. We crossed the bridge and walked uphill to the castle. Novigrad castle overlooks river Dobra. It was allegedly built at the end of 12th century. In 15th century it became one of the many estates of the famous Croatian noble family Frankopani. Habsburg emperor Joseph II spent the night in this castle at the end of 18th century. The castle was almost completely destroyed in WWII. However, it was partially restored in early 90’s.

To my utter disappointment the castle was closed. Moreover, it seemed like there was a fire recently because there were remains of charred wooden planks. Nevertheless, the castle still looked beautiful and we had a sort of picnic in front of it. Then we walked all around it and peered inside through the gates and openings in the wall. At one point my hubby even jumped on a lower wall and climbed inside the castle. There’s not much to see inside but the castle actually used to be opened to the visitors. I googled the castle later and found out that less than a month prior to our visit a fire broke out and destroyed one of the tower’s roof. We walked down back to the car and drove on to Rastoke waterfalls near Slunj.

castle in Novigrad na Dobri

Rastoke waterfalls aren’t as famous as Plitvice Lakes which are only 33 km away. Small villlage Rastoke is actually on the edge of Slunj town and it lies on the tiny islands between the streams and waterfalls. There are several entrances to the path around Rastoke waterfalls. Walking on the marked pathway takes you around the waterfalls for free (you just pay for the car park). Slunjčica river creates 23 stunning waterfalls that fall into Korana river. Some of the waterfalls have very poetic names such as Vilina kosa (Fairy’s Hair). There are several restaurants and accommodation options in Rastoke village.

Rastoke waterfalls

As I wrote above, it is free to walk around Ethno village Rastoke and to admire the waterfalls from afar. However, there’s one part that is private property (Slovin unique) and you pay an entrance fee. We decided to go there so that we can get closer to the waterfalls. We were quite surprised when the lady at the entrance gave us baskets for an Easter egg hunt. The kids had to find Easter eggs of 5 different colours in order to get a small surprise. Kids were exhilarated and looked for the Easter eggs in bushes, in the grass and even in a cave. It was a great decision to pay the entrance. We got a closer view of the waterfalls, saw the original totem from one of the Winnetou movies, found a cave and tiny fairies and even saw a performance of a traditional song. There’s also an old mill and a small ethno museum on the premises of this property.

My kids were successful in their Easter egg hunt and got some candies as a reward. They said they want to come back again next year for another Easter egg hunt. When my two and a half year old daughter saw the first waterfall she said, look, mum, there’s a big fountain. Well, now she knows what waterfalls are.

my kids

After we admired the waterfalls, we got back to the car and headed in the direction of old town Slunj which is immediately next to Rastoke. We wanted to see Slunj castle, another castle in ruins dating back to 14th century. Another interesting sight in Slunj is a restaurant next to the old Napoleon’s warehouse. We left the car and walked down to river. Of course, we had to get near the castle to have another sneak peek inside. Supposedly, there are some plans for restoration and there were signs of building activity. This castle also belonged to Frankopan family as did Novigrad castle.

Slunj castle

My kids love exploring castles as much as we do. They had fun searching for Easter eggs and seeing two different castles. They are too young for proper history lessons but these kind of day trips expose them to rich Croatian history.

Have you been to Rastoke waterfalls? I highly recommend to visit them on your way to Plitvice Lakes.

We visited Novigrad castle, Rastoke waterfalls and Slunj in April 2022.

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23 thoughts

  1. Too bad you couldn’t get inside the castles but they both seemed beautiful! I can imagine feeling like part of the Famous Five gang when going to explore castles, it is such a nice feeling! The waterfalls also look amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a lovely day out- beautiful capture of the castle with the reflection in the water. The bridge and waterfalls definitely are a bit Famous Five and fairy tale adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

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