Visiting Brijuni islands with kids

Hotel Neptun, Veliki Brijun, Brijuni islands

We visited Brijuni islands with our kids last May. We spent a weekend at Hotel Neptun on Veliki Brijun island and had lots of fun exploring it. We all really liked Veli Brijun and the hotel. So much so, that we are spending another weekend there this May!

A bit about Brijuni

Brijuni islands are a group of 14 small islands next to the western coast of Istria, across Fažana town (Croatia). Brijuni islands are famous for their unspoiled nature and they are protected as a National park. This year Brijuni islands celebrate their 40th anniversary of being declared a National park. Before that the islands were closed to the general public because the former Yugoslavian president Tito had a residence there. Many world leaders and famous celebrities visited Tito in his beautiful house on Brijuni. Nevertheless, first tourists enjoyed the sunshine and mild temperatures on Brijuni islands back in 19th century and a long time before that, the Romans feasted in their villa in Verige bay. Older inhabitants were large dinosaurs whose footprints were found on the islands too. You can visit only Veliki Brijun island. But if you have a sailing boat then you can sail around all 14 small Brijuni islands. However, you can only visit Mali Brijun island during theater season and watch a play by the Ulysses Theater. Many tourists visit Brijuni National park as a day trip but it’s a quite another experience to spend a weekend there (especially in the shoulder season).

Visiting Brijuni with our kids

We drove to Fažana town on the western coast of Istria. From there a small ferry takes passengers over to Veliki Brijun island. The ferry ride is very short and pleasant. It was our kids’ first ever ferry ride and they enjoyed it very much. The ferry drops off passengers practically in front of the Hotel Neptun, an Austro-Hungarian edifice with grand balconies. We arrived before our check- in time so we had a drink at the hotel’s café by the sea and the kids rode their scooters around. Our room was very spacious and both kids had their own beds (they were 2.5y and 4.5y at the time of our stay). The room’s best feature was its grand balcony with a park view (you can also get a room with a sea view). The hotel could do with a bit of modernizing but we were very happy with everything in general.

After a short rest at the hotel we went out for our first walk. We walked past the secession Boathouse to the right in search of a beach. It was mid May and even though the temperatures were balmy the sea was still cold for a swim which didn’t deter my kids from splashing around. There were only a few people around walking or riding a bike or driving one of those small electric golf cars (Brijuni are car free islands, visitors leave their cars in a car park in Fažana). On our walk back to the hotel we saw wild rabbits in the distance as well as a peacock. After dinner we had another short walk to find the island’s most famous resident but our search wasn’t successful.

Another special experience was spending the night on the island. We could see the stars from our balcony and hear so many different animal noises. It was a very special feeling, much better than camping because I had a comfortable bed.

The next day we joined the tourists for a National park tour. The first part of the tour was the best for the kids because we drove around the island in a small tourist train. The tourist guide shared with us a lot of information but those were more suited for grownups. Our only stop was at the small Safari park. Kids loved it. There are zebras, llamas, ostriches, zebus, etc. The most famous animal at the Safari park is the elephant Lanka, gifted to former president Tito by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972. Our small train drove past the archaeological finds of a Roman villa rustica in Verige Bay too before returning to our starting point near the hotel and the small ferry port. Then the tour continued on foot. We peeked inside a small church and walked to the old quarry to see the monument of Robert Koch who eradicated malaria on the islands. After a short break for ice-cream and souvenirs we continued to a small museum dedicated to former Yugoslavian president Tito. A part of the museum has an exhibition about animals. A big, old Cadillac that belonged to Tito is parked in front of the museum. You can even rent it and drive around like a star. All these sights can be seen without a guided tour. By this point our kids were a bit tired so we retired to our hotel to rest.

In the afternoon we explored the area around the hotel a bit more and found the well-known olive tree which is 1600 years old. We’ve also snooped around the boathouse (now a museum about Brijuni). Later on, we rented one of those electric golf cars and drove around the island. It was a very enjoyable way to see some of the sights again. We drove through the Safari park and parked in front of Dinosaur’s area. Our goal was to see the dinosaur’s footprints but we were very surprised when we saw a big dinosaur too. There was one other famous Brijuni resident that we had to see- a large cockatoo called Koki. He can speak and say hello and his name and sometimes he repeats what you say to him. Even Grace Kelly took a photograph with him when she visited Brijuni. Of course, Koki was a huge delight to our kids.

My husband and I took an evening stroll to the Roman villa rustica. The path was quiet and we saw lots of deer. It was a bit dark but so romantic:)

We checked out in the morning after breakfast and took one last short walk around the small port before we hopped on the ferry. Our trip didn’t finish yet because we drove to Pula and visited a very interesting aquarium there.

There are other sights that we didn’t get to see on Veli Brijun such as the Byzantine castrum. There are also many bike trails and walking trails as well as some beaches and golf courses. I am looking forward to our second visit next month.

Roman villa

Have you ever visited Brijuni islands? I definitely recommend it. Take a day trip to Veli Brijun or even better spend a weekend there for a more relaxing experience.

We visited Brijuni in May 2022.

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