Country Guide: Boating Holiday in Croatia
Country guide: Croatia
|● Thousands of islands to explore||● You could find yourself caught out by surprise winds|
|● Rich in historical and cultural sites||● Coastal towns effectively shut down outside of the sailing season|
|● Unique, luxurious cuisine
|● Islands such as Brač have become very touristy in recent years|
With over 5,000km of coastline and more than 1,000 islands to explore, Croatia’s Adriatic coastline is an almost unparalleled sailing destination. Beautiful turquoise waters open the way to idyllic fishing villages, magnificent Roman ruins and nightlife hotspots alike – no wonder the country has become the world’s most popular sailing destination.
The shores of the Adriatic are sun-drenched all year round and you’ll find yourself catching more rays here than in Provence or Corfu. As the country has become so popular for sailing, summertime is busy. However, with outdoor temperatures averaging around 27ºC – and the ocean feeling similarly warm – there couldn’t be a better time of year to visit.
Sailing season runs from May to September and, although you’ll still be treated to warmer, sunnier weather, your experience won’t be the same if you travel outside of these dates. Many of the harbour towns effectively close down over the winter, so stick to the season to have the time of your life.
Expect a comfortable Mediterranean breeze while sailing the Adriatic. With an average of 7-8 knots, you’ll be experiencing perfect sailing weather. Always check your forecasts though, otherwise the Bora – a north-easterly wind that can hit force 4 or 5 – could take you by surprise with less satisfying conditions.
At only 2.5 hours from the UK, sailing bliss is closer than you might think. But where should you start your Croatian adventure?
If you choose to set sail from the Istrian Peninsula in the north of the country, Pula is the city to visit. Known in ancient times as Polensium, it’s home to an array of Roman architectural marvels, including a well-preserved amphitheatre that still acts as a hub for cultural events.
For the sailor, Pula is an ideal base for island hopping. Its close proximity to Italy has made the islands surrounding the Istrian Peninsula a hotspot for foodies seeking out Croatian dishes with an Italian twist. From truffles, to lobster, to octopus, northern Croatia highlights the country’s luxurious cuisine.
Aside from trying some of the local olive oil and other delicacies, be sure to pay a visit to the Brijuni National Park. Spread across a chain of 14 islands to the north of Pula, the park is a must-visit location. Home to cultural sites such as a 13th century Knights Templar church and a Byzantine Palace, there are also vibrant port towns and even a safari park! On the Brijuni islands there really is something for everyone.
Zadar and Kornati Islands
Head down to the centre of the coast to the Medieval town of Zadar. As you’ll find with many coastal Croatian cities, there is an abundance of beautiful churches dating from the Byzantine era to the present day. The main reason for Zadar’s popularity among boaters, however, is the town’s proximity to the Kornati Islands.
Like the Brijuni near Pula, the 140 Kornati Islands are home to a stunning national park. Full of local flavour, the Kornati Islands are truly incredible. The islands combine a mix of modern sophistication and rustic simplicity; it’s just as easy to visit a chic restaurant as it is a classic kavana. Due to their proximity to Zadar, the Kornati islands are very easy to sail to and dock in, with plenty of modern marinas interspersing the beautiful beaches.
If you are sailing from Zadar, don’t miss a visit to Skradin. This quiet town can be reached by following the River Krka inland and is often described as one of the most beautiful places in Croatia. That’s saying a lot considering the country’s stunning landscapes, but pay a visit to Skradin, admire the rushing waterfalls and near-tropical greenery of Krka National Park or take a dip in the crystal clear pools that define the area; you’ll see why people rave about it.
There’s a lot to see in Croatia’s second largest city. In Split you’ll find some of the country’s most magnificent Roman ruins – including the palace of Emperor Diocletian – as well as more recent historical sites. Set sail from the largest city in Dalmatia and you’ll be free to access Croatia’s more idyllic offshore locations.
Islands such as Šolta and Vis are beautiful places to get away, both within easy sailing distance of Split. Šolta – the closer of the two to the mainland – is an agrarian paradise, with vineyards and olive trees as far as the eye-can see. Vis, on the other hand, is a largely untouched island with many of its most attractive locations in hidden bays only accessible by boat.
Head east from Šolta to Brač – the largest island in the Dalmatian region – and you’ll be treated to some more refined tourist luxury. Beautiful beaches, fantastic food and some of the country’s best wine are all on offer at this island paradise. But beware, a lot of tourists are finding out about what Brač has to offer, so if you want something more remote, look further afield.
The entirety of this medieval city’s old town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s no wonder that it’s become so popular with tourists. This, combined with the fact that the city has been used as the filming location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, has made Dubrovnik the most visited coastal city in the country.
Therefore, if you’re sailing out of Dubrovnik, expect to come across some of the more touristy islands in the Adriatic. However, for people looking for touristy restaurants and a more relaxed feel during their sailing holiday, Dubrovnik makes for a great base. If you’d rather avoid the crowds and fulfil your sense of adventure, take a trip to Lastovo. It’s further afield from the mainland and can take a while to get to, but once you’re there it’s worth it. Not as popular with tourists, this island paradise will feel like your playground.
Some of the most beautiful places in Croatia are best seen by boat. Click to borrow a boat in Croatia.