Ships ahoy! 7 reasons to get out on the water in Croatia

Escape the crowds year-round on an idyllic coastline that unfurls for 6,278km and is blessed with 1,244 islands, swathes of beaches and historic towns

Team Wanderlust
25 February 2023
Promoted by
Croatia Travel

1. Escape the crowds

Pržine beach on Ilovik island (Shutterstock)

Setting a course away from the crowds is easy in Croatia. For every welcoming, busy marina, there are countless little islands, calm coves and bountiful bays where you can forget all about the strains and stresses back home. You’ll meet lots of new friends in the glorious city of Dubrovnik for example, but then ease off to another world in the nearby Elaphite Islands. Or how about the large bay of Pržine, south of Ilovik, where you’ll often be the only yacht enjoying the aquarium-clear turquoise waters? Even on deservedly popular islands like Hvar you can escape the crowds at secluded spots like Luka Vrboska bay, a lovely sheltered anchorage that lies just a half-hour walk (or easy tender) from the village of Vrboska. Once in the village, you can savour a seafood dinner in one of the sprinkling of restaurants, before heading back to your very own paradise. Or, try truly heading off the chart among the Kornati islands with its 89 uninhabited islands.

2. Discover a famous lighthouse

Palagruža lighthouse (Shutterstock)

Palagruža has something of the Holy Grail about it, a mystical isle that is the most remote in Croatia, set adrift in the wondrous waters of the Adriatic. There is nothing quite like sighting its distant lighthouse for the first time as you sail in search of Palagruža across the cobalt seas. There are two larger islands and three smaller ones. The biggest island is Palagruža Vela (Great Palagruža), home to the famous lighthouse – the highest point in this small archipelago has stood proudly atop a rocky limestone outcrop since 1875. Palagruža is bathed in romance, mystery and history, with various battles bashing through over the centuries. The lighthouse is still used for safety and navigation with a range of 26 nautical miles, and a dedicated lighthouse keeper is still in situ, yet it’s still easy to feel like Robinson Crusoe out here. On a clear day gaze back towards the rest of Croatia and also across to Italy too in an archipelago you’ll never forget visiting.

3. Explore the Pakleni Otoci

The Pakleni Islands (Shutterstock)

The Pakleni Islands literally translate as the ‘Hell Islands’, but there is nothing hellish about these wondrous tree-shrouded isles. They drift into view just off Hvar Town like a mirage tempting sailors in search of adventure and serious relaxation. The beaches are sublime here, like swimming into a postcard, a postcard that is joyously real in startling technicolour. Mere mortals putter over from Hvar in a tour boat, but unlike you they don’t get the privilege of mooring here overnight under a million stars. Clothes are very much optional on Jerolim, the closest island to Hvar, while Marinkovac has a buzzing beach club on Stipanska bay. On Marinkovac head to Ždrilca and lagoon-like Mlini to get away from it all. Or sail to the largest island of Sveti Klement, with its trio of relaxed villages. Palmižana welcomes with a marina, restaurants and another beach – beaches are never far away in the Pakleni Islands.

4. It’s easy to book sailing courses

Sailing will become second nature in Croatia (Hrvoje Serdar/CNTB)

Learning to sail in the warm and relatively calm waters of Croatia is easy and a joy with plenty of options, from courses for complete beginners looking to get on the sailing ladder with their first certificate, right through to more experienced and qualified sailors looking to secure their skipper certification. There are plenty of experienced companies offering a wide variety of courses for all kinds of abilities, whether it’s taking part on a sailing school around the sparkling seas of the Dalmatian Coast or learning the ropes around the calm waters of Pula, Cape Kamenjak and Brijuni National Park.

5. And just as easy to rent boats

Dubrovnik (Luka Esenko/CNTB)

Renting a yacht ‘bareboat’ is a dream for qualified and experienced sailors. With your friends or family as crew the Croatian Adriatic unfurls ahead of you, with the endless promise of its myriad isles, endless bays and those secret hideaway coves you’ve been dreaming about. It’s also possible to engage the services of a professional skipper so that the stress of being in charge and navigating is taken out of your hands, leaving you to enjoy the sun-splashed Mediterranean scenery around you. Dalmatia is a prime place from which to set off, with over 1,000 islands to weave among, while you can also embark on bareboat (or skippered) charters out of the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, Dubrovnik. From there, calm waters filled with islands and historic towns await.

6. Discover culture-filled towns

Valun on Cres island (Shutterstock)

From Dubrovnik, a short sail brings Šipanska Luka, a laid-back oasis whose harbour is graced with historic villas that ooze drama. Hvar Town meanwhile may be known these days as the glitzy ‘Croatian St. Tropez’, but its elegant Venetian architecture still shines through. The same goes for the island of Vis close by, where Vis Town’s waterfront is alive with old merchant villas with their ornate balconies. Vis isn’t done there as across the island Komiža is its picture-postcard sibling, the oldest fishing village in the Adriatic, which also wears its history on its stone-built sleeve. Korčula Town stars in Dalmatia too on the eponymous isle, a mini-Dubrovnik, the birthplace of Marco Polo. Into the Kvarner Gulf, Rab Town and Cres Town both star on the eponymous islands they adorn, with a sweep of well-preserved history and swathes of culture. Pushing into Istria, Rovinj welcomes with a soaring bell tower that echoes Venice across the water, with unmistakable traces of the Divine Republic rippling through its cobbled streets.

7. Sail all year round

Pucisca town on Brač island (Shutterstock)

These days Croatia is largely a year-round sailing destination. Summer may be the most obvious time to come – and the sailing is fantastic – but savvy skippers often instead choose late spring and early autumn when temperatures tend to be milder, the sea is usually fairly calm and the winds welcoming. There tends to be less people about so you can ease into marinas easier and there is less chance your choice of isolated cove for the night will have anyone else in it. Autumn and winter here in southern Europe never get as cold as the UK, but the local winds, such as the north-easterly, cool Bura, and the southerly, warmer Jugo, can make it too chilly for sailing in winter. Then there is the sailor-friendly Maestral and the north-easterly Burin at night. But the constant sunshine makes spring and autumn an especially good pair of windows for a sailing adventure.

Feeling inspired?

For more information and inspiration about this incredible country, head over to the official Croatia website.

Explore More

More Articles