Length 11 km (6.8 miles), terrain: lots of ups and downs, gain 103 meters
If you are visiting the Pula area at the southern end of Croatia's Istrian peninsula, you definitely have to plan some time to head down to Cape Kamenjak, the southernmost point in Istria. Kamenjak is a nature park, a little peninsula of its own, with rocky little coves lining each side, offering inspiring vistas and crystal-clear water.
|Plovanija cove on the west side of the cape|
|Snorkelers along the coast|
Now, follow the signs towards "Residence Kamenjak" and then "Rt Kamenjak" towards the south end of town. You'll come to the park entrance, with a gate that looks like the electric gates in parking garages. Cars have to pay in advance to go into the nature park, but pedestrians and bicyclists can just go through for free.
Now you are on the main, dusty dirt road in the park. Unfortunately, these dirt roads carry cars to all the main coves, so you'll never find one completely for yourself. About every second cove has a little beach-bar with cold drinks and often food (Hey, welcome to paradise! Life is good in Kamenjak!).
|Cliffs along the western shore|
NOTE: Just north of this cove, at Pinižule, there are dinosaur exhibits for kids based on bones found there. Dinosaur fans can take a few minutes' detour northwards to check them out.
|Kamenjak trail way-marker|
You could already stop at Polje for a first swim, but there are spots all along the water further ahead where you can get away from the heat, and jump in with your mask and snorkel (cross-training has never felt so good).
|The clear water is full of fish and other creatures: bring your snorkel!|
At the 4.5-km mark, the trail turns inland, heading east, and you'll find yourself at a dirt road. The trail marker says to go straight, up over a slight hill with an old military bunker on top. But I'd turn right here and follow the signs to the Safari Bar. This is a place you have to see, or -- even better -- stop and enjoy. This beach bar is embedded in a little bamboo jungle, and its creators put in a lot of creative energy setting up playground activities for kids. I stopped and had a Sangria, I have to admit. I was too weak-willed to pass up the upbeat atmosphere.
|At the Safari Bar|
Now, head straight north through the parking lot and you'll find yourself at that hilltop bunker again. You'll see a trail way-marker pointing to the right (to the east) taking you to the very tip of Cape Kamenjak, at about the 6.5-km mark.
|Approaching the cape, with mountains of Cres Island on horizon|
Now continue through the macchia -- the scrubby Mediterranean bushlands -- of the interior for a while, until you come back to the main dirt road again. But you'll immediately leave it, following the way-marker to the right towards Portić Bay.
|Muddy trail through the macchia|
Now, just keep going from one bay to another: Golica, Dražice, Podlovka, with their swimmers and beach bars.
Just past Podlovka, at the 10-km mark, you'll see a campground along the water and you'll see the village of Premantura and its white bell-tower on the hill above it. The trail connects back to the dirt road at this spot, and turn right to run/bike the last few hundred meters northwards along the road to the national park gates again.
Now that was one great place for a workout!