The westernmost of the islands accessible by local ferry from Dubrovnik is MLJET, a thin strip of land some 32km long and never more than 3km wide, running roughly parallel to the Pelješac peninsula.
The most visited part of the island is the green and unspoilt west, where untouched Mediterranean forest and two saltwater lakes provide the focus of the Mljet National Park, an area of arcadian beauty within which lie the villages of Polače and Pomena. Despite a nascent package-holiday industry in the village of Pomena, the region remains invitingly quiet and there are few shopping or nightlife opportunities.
According to legend, Odysseus holed up here for some time with the nymph Calypso, and Mljet also has fair claim to being the island of Melita, where St Paul ran aground on his way to Italy and was bitten by a viper before he set sail again (Mljet's snake problem was once so bad that a colony of mongooses had to be imported from India to get rid of them, and the fat-tailed creatures are still very much in evidence in the National Park). The Romans used the island as a place of exile, and it was briefly owned by the kings of Bosnia, who sold it to the Dubrovnik in 1333.The republic sent an emissary on May 1 every year to rule the island for a year, and many of Dubrovnik's admirals built summer houses here.
Coming from Dubrovnik, there are two ways of getting to the island. The easiest option is the passenger-only Nona Maria catamaran which sails daily to Polače in the morning, and leaves you with several hours to look round the park before returning to Dubrovnik in the evening. The year-round Jadrolinija car ferry sails to Sobra in the eastern part of the island (it's a good 20km short of the park; Sobra–Polace--Pomena buses await incoming ferries), and doesn't return to Dubrovnik until early the following morning, making an overnight stay on the island unavoidable. If you come here by car, be sure to fill your tank before you cross the water – there's nowhere to get petrol on the island. Approaching from Korčula or Orebić, you can reach Mljet on the regular hydrofoil excursions (arriving at either Polače or Pomena) run by local travel agents, including the park entrance fee.