Budva and St Nicholas Island

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St Nicholas Island is a popular and beautiful little island just a short boat trip away from Budva’s main beach. We caught a boat over to St Nicholas Island in search of less crowded and more natural beaches to explore…

Montenegro is a slightly different type of holiday destination than you might be used to if you typically spend your summer holidays in resorts in Spain, France or other popular British get-away regions.

It’s only been an independent country since 2006; it’s a very small country which you can drive from one end to the other in the best part of a day – and it’s only recently started to become popular with tourists, largely as a result of cruise ship stop-offs at Kotor.

However its tourism industry is growing and large areas that were, until recently, pretty undeveloped, are being built-up to cater for the increasing tourist trade.

On the beach at Budva, waiting for the boat taxi over to St Nicholas island

It’s not happening everywhere by any means – and most of the country remains un-spoiled by tourism, but the one region which most resembles a typical European seaside tourist destination is Budva.

Here, the coastline and surrounding hillsides are full of high-rise hotels while the beach promenade is lined with bars, restaurants, shops and market stalls selling souvenirs to the thousands of passing tourists.

We decided to head here for lunch and to see if we could get a boat taxi over to St Nicholas island, which lies a couple of hundred metres off-shore and promises some quieter beaches than the main stretch of beach at Budva itself.

Don’t get me wrong, Budva isn’t a bad place, it’s just that it feels as though the dominant features are the high rise hotels, crowds and construction sites, whereas in Kotor and some other places around the Budva, Tivat and Kotor Bay region, the dominant feature is the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains, countryside and coastline.

Lunch at Budva was easy – with tons of restaurants lining the seafront, we chose a random one and had a pleasant, although slightly more expensive than elsewhere, meal.

Along the promenade are lots of people handing out leaflets for boat rides over to Sveti Nicholas island, so we picked on one which was due to leave in the next few minutes, bought a return ticket and climbed on board for the 5-minute trip over to the island.

On the boat over to St Nichols island from Budva beach

Our hopes for less crowds were dashed when we arrived on the island though, it was clear all the beaches were absolutely packed, so we walked around a bit, venturing further around the water’s edge to a spot lined with dramatic cliffs, small natural coves and some rockier waters which are great for snorkelling and spotting lots of fish (although we’d strongly recommend swimming shoes as sea urchins are everywhere in the rockier sections).

Though the beaches on St Nicholas island were busy, we still found space for some snorkelling and the beaches were great for the children with safe, shallow water

We explored a few of the beaches around the island, which are certainly all beautiful with the same clear, blue, calm and warm Adriatic waters of everywhere else we visited in Montenegro.

It was certainly worth heading over to the island for a different view of the region and some superb, child-friendly beaches – although it wasn’t really an escape from the crowds of Budva (though perhaps that can’t really be expected at the height of the summer season in Montenegro’s most-popular tourist town).

Although the island was busy in the height of summer, there was still secluded spots to find if you looked hard enough

The boat ride back over to the mainland was short but enjoyable – and we headed back to the hire car, which we’d parked in one of the numerous reasonably-priced Budva car parks, satisfied with another relaxing day of sun and sea.