This small town, famous for its maritime tradition, whose captains and sailors sailed all the seas of the world, was built on a coast with no natural harbour. There is no nearby bay that could serve as a shelter for small boats, let alone bigger ships, so the town stretches along the coast and its wonderful beaches, the most beautiful ones in this part of the Adriatic. There was no need for a harbour in those glorious days when the sailboats of the Pelješac Maritime Society sailed all the seas of the world – their home ports were all the largest ports of the world. In order for them to be able to dock in Orebić, the Austrians built a 160m long pier. Furthermore, the “Peliška jedra” society built a small harbour for the locals’ boats right next to the pier at the end of 1970’s. These are still the only berths in this town on the northern coast of Pelješac. However, despite the lacking infrastructure, the marine, sailing and maritime spirit still prevails. Not much has changed in Orebić, at least where the locals are concerned. The profession of a captain is still the most admired profession here, there are still many sailors, and people live with the sea every day, although many of those who reach Orebić by car will maybe experie nce it as a tourist place or will only remember the queue for the ferry to Korčula, in which they spent an hour or two.
It all started at the turn of the 16th century, in the time of the Dubrovnik Republic, when the first families from the surrounding villages, located further away from the sea and the pirates, moved closer to the coast. Mrs Vesna Suhori, the curator and sole employee of the Maritime Museum, tells us about this time. Passionately and affectionately, she takes care of the collection founded in 1957 through the diligence of the academic Cvito Fisković and a group of captains and enthusiasts, and with the help of donations of many families from Orebić and Pelješac. The collection tells us a lot about the maritime tradition of this area. Orebić was first mentioned in 1568, when the first houses were built at a location called Trstenica, right across from the present-day museum. At that time, people’s livelihood depended on the sea, but the sea also brought possible dangers, especially pirates, so villages were built further away from the coast, closer to the massif of Sv. Ilija, in places where the fertile land turns into rock. Seafaring in Pelješac gained momentum in 1333, when the Dubrovnik Republic bought the peninsula. Seafaring secured their livelihood, and was further encouraged by the rule that men who boarded the sailboat became free citizens, at a time when serfdom was still strong on the peninsula. The town developed further throughout the period from the 16th to the 19th century, with many stone houses belonging to captains and sailors built along the coast, some of them resembling real palaces. Almost every one of them gave dozens and dozens of sailors.