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The Oysters and Walls of Ston, Croatia

The Oysters and Walls of Ston, Croatia

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Ston Croatia and Mali Ston are two small villages located in the Pelješac peninsula of Croatia, less than 60 kilometers from Dubrovnik. We hadn’t heard of them before we came to Croatia, but that soon changed. 

When we checked into our Airbnb in Dubrovnik, our host was curious about us. “No one stays two weeks in Dubrovnik,” he told us. “Well, we want to explore the surrounding area, as well. Can recommend any day trips?” we asked. “We like places with good food.”

He didn’t hesitate. “Ahh, Ston. You must go to Ston. The little town has the best fresh oysters in the world come from Ston.”

We filed it away as a possible day trip. And, after spending a few days wandering Dubrovnik, we knew the trip had to happen. Menu after menu in Dubrovnik extolled the virtues of Ston oysters and seafood, which more all the encouragement we needed.

Getting To Ston 
 

Ston and Mali Ston are approximately 53 km northwest of Dubrovnik. Public and private buses depart from Dubrovnik a couple of times a day and run along the coastal route which takes less than an hour.

Due to the bus schedule, we chose to rent a car in Dubrovnik. This allowed us to follow our schedule. We were also able to stop during the gorgeous drive along the coast for some spectacular pictures. Renting a car in Croatia is pretty inexpensive and easy.

There are also guided tours to the area that make the trip even easier.

Mali Ston Croatia

Mali Ston Marina

Mali Ston Marina

Mali Ston (which translates to “Little Ston” is just one kilometer from its larger sister village of Stone, and worth a stop on its own. The marina is crowded with restaurants, and even more important, free parking. We started our exploration here.

After parking near one of the restaurants, we wandered along the marina checking out the tiny hamlet. Beyond the restaurants and the marina, are the imposing walls that make up the end of the Wall of Ston – our second reason for visiting this area.

A Brief History of Ston, Croatia

The history of Ston dates back to ancient times, with evidence of human settlement in the area dating as far back as prehistoric periods. Throughout its history, Ston has seen various rulers, including the Romans, the Byzantines, the Venetians, and the Ottoman Empire, due to its strategic location and the importance of its salt pans.

During the time of the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), Ston played a significant role in the salt trade, which was a valuable commodity in the region. The defensive walls, built in the 14th century, were constructed to protect the salt pans and to serve as a fortification for the town.

These walls are among the longest defensive stone walls in Europe and are still well-preserved, attracting many visitors interested in history and architecture.

The town’s salt pans have also been a crucial part of its history and economy, as salt production was a major source of income for the region. Ston’s salt pans are known for their traditional salt harvesting methods, which have been practiced for centuries.

Walls of Ston

From the Mali Ston side, finding the entrance to the defensive walls was pretty easy. We just looked around for the tallest wall we could find and then walked along it until we found an entrance. A small sign pointed us in the right direction.

Ston Walls Entrance

Ston Walls Entrance

The admission booth charges 30 Kuna (a little over $4 US) to walk the wall, which is a small fraction of the cost of walking the city walls around Dubrovnik.

We paid our entry, which was good for the walkout as well as the walk back, and then started climbing. While the walk was easy and pleasurable, some steep sections awaited us.

Ston Croatia Walls

The steep steps of the defensive walls in Ston Croatia

Built in the 15th century, the Walls of Ston were originally over seven kilometers long, making them the longest fortress system in Europe. People sometimes refer to them as “The Great Wall of Europe”. Today, about 5 kilometers of the wall are open for exploration.

The fortifications served multiple purposes. First, they were a secondary line of defense for Dubrovnik, built across the narrowest point of the peninsula to block off invaders.

They also served to protect the village of Ston and the region’s very valuable salt flats, which are still in operation today. At the Ston Salt Works, salt is harvested by hand and loaded in large wagons for transport and processing. 

After the fall of the Republic of Ragusa, the fortifications suffered from demolition and neglect, and the stone was used as building material for other projects. Today, however, the walls are preserved and there are clear efforts at restoration. 

The View of Ston from the Top

Ston Croatia Walls

View from the top of the walls in Ston Croatia

After the steep ascent from Mali Ston, our efforts were rewarded with terrific views. We strolled along the flatter portion at the highest point. From the top of the walls, you get a great view of the other important draw to this region: the oyster farms.

Beyond the old town of Ston, in the blue water, the farm stretches out in floating grids. Local oysters, mussels, and other shellfish are farmed within the grids. 

For us, this was a great reminder of one of our main purposes for our visit: lunch, with LOTS of seafood.

Ston Croatia Oyster Farm

Ston Croatia Oyster Farm

Where and What to eat in Ston Croatia

While the village does cater to tourists, there is still very much a small-town feel to the streets. Most of the restaurants are relatively small, family-owned establishments.

The waiters and owners will welcome you in with open arms. You won’t notice the pushiness or desperation that you often find in many tourist spots. And once you sit down, you will be well taken care of.

Ston Croatia Mussels

Fresh Mussels from Ston Croatia

We perused a few menus and then randomly picked a restaurant with outside seating. With the village and peninsula almost surrounded by the sea, the menus were all chock full of endless seafood choices.

Of course, we were prepped to eat oysters. But there were so many more options: mussels, octopus, whole fish, shrimp – you name it.

We ended up with a sampling of seafood. Raw oysters, which were plump and sweet; grilled oysters wrapped in bacon; and mussels sautéed in butter and white wine.

Of course, lunch in Ston would be complete without sampling some of the delicious, crisp white wine that this region is known for.

Get our full guide to Croatian Food!

Croatian Food - Ston Oysters

After retracing our steps back up and over the walls back to Mali Stone, we climbed into our rental car, with our legs tired and our stomachs full of seafood.

On the way home, we discovered the final benefit of having the car and being on our schedule: an amazing Croatian sunset on the way back to Dubrovnik, ending a perfect day in Croatia.

Ston Croatia Sunset

Sunset in Ston Croatia outside of Dubrovnik

Here are a few additional articles to inspire or help you plan your visit to Croatia (including enjoying some amazing Croatian Cuisine to sample during your visit).