Croatia is a country in south-east Europe, formally the Republic of Croatia. It borders northwest Slovenia, northeast Hungary, east Serbia, southeast Bosnia and Herzegovina, and southeast Montenegro, sharing a maritime border with Italy.
With a spectacular coastline, calm waters and lovely
beaches, each year Croatia draws more and more tourists for sailing holidays.
But where should we go, and what should we know? There has been an annual increase
of 20 per cent in the number of Croatian charters since 2013. Sailing this
part of the Adriatic “more than matches up” to cruising the legendary
rivieras of Europe. “The islands, of which more than 1,000 are the real
selling point — they’re unique in the world. The coastline is relatively
unspoiled in the 50s or 60s and has the feel of French Riviera. Even at the
height of the season, still it is possible to find quiet anchorages.
1. Where to go if you just have a week
I would suggest cruising to Dubrovnik from Split or vice versa. It helps you to see all the most famous islands in Croatia, as well as the beautiful cities of Split and Dubrovnik. The distances involved are short, so there’ll usually be only one or two hours of cruising each day and plenty of time to enjoy each destination.
2. If you have two weeks to go
Start north in Zadar and cruise south to Kotor, near Montenegro. This cruise is absolutely awesome.
3. Best months to sail
Croatia’s yacht charter season starts in May and runs through to October. Climate is usually great, with lovely sunny days. Although the sea starts off pretty cold, by early July it gets hotter and by late August it’s at its warmest. September is the best month of the year to charter in Croatia — yachts are 15 to 20 percent cheaper than in July and August. The weather is still fantastic, the sea is warm and the crowds are dwindling.
4. Yacht sailing, or motor yacht?
For Croatia sailing yachts is a great option. I tend to recommend either a sailing yacht or slow, stable motor yachts, as there’s so much to see while covering relatively small distances. In the Adriatic fast motor yachts are not particularly popular. The important thing is that the yacht has plenty of outdoor space, and is at anchor comfortable. In Croatia yachts appear to spend more time at anchor than at ports.
5. Is Croatia affordable at sailing?
Well done! Groups of up to 12 people could charter for €2,500 per week a small, 40-to-50-foot day boat to explore the islands, which is very reasonable.
6. Why Split is a good place to start your cruise
Split is the second largest city in Croatia and the best place to start a charter in the middle of the Croatian coast, as the most famous islands of Korčula, Hvar and Brac are just a short cruise away. Split and the surrounding area are also home to most of Croatia ‘s largest marinas, so it is here that most yachts are located. Split itself is a fabulous town with a stunning history. It’s like a living museum, walking about the old town and the Palace of Diocletian. Nearby Kaštela (near Trogir) there is an international airport with flights to all the major European cities.
7. And why is Dubrovnik also
Like Split, Dubrovnik in southern Croatia is also a great place to start a charter as it is also just a short cruise to the famous Croatian islands. Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most attractive walled towns with stunning pedestrianized streets to walk around. For stunning views over the old town and the coastline, take the cable car up the mountain at the back of the town. There is an international airport with flights to all major destinations in Europe.’
8. Don’t skip in Dubrovnik
There’s a beautiful restaurant named Nautica on the old town ramparts that anyone should visit, as well as an awesome nightclub named Revelin, situated in a fortress of the 15th century.”
9. Hold off at Dubrovnik when you dock the large cruise ships there
Some of those vessels hold more than 3,000 passengers filling the streets, making it ridiculously crowded. The captain of a yacht will know when those ships are in the city.
10. Why you want to sail the peninsula of Istria and the Gulf of Kvarner
Istria has an Italian flavour because of its history. Pula, the capital of the country, is a beautiful city with a spectacular Roman amphitheatre, which hosts concerts and events all summer long. The surrounding countryside is covered in vineyards which produce some great wines; food is superb in this part of Croatia. Rovinj’s seaside town is beautiful too, and worth a visit.
11.Chartering a yacht in Croatia is often more about anchorages than ports but I would certainly recommend spending nights in Hvar, Korčula Town, Trogir and Dubrovnik. Berths are relatively easy to obtain, the hardest being Hvar – Croatia ‘s St. Tropez – in July and August as it is where everyone wants to be.
12. The not-to-miss beaches: “Hvar Dubovica; Brac Lovrecina and Zlatni Rat; and island Proizd near island Korčula.”
13. Head over to Hvar for nightlife. “It’s the center of nightlife, with famous clubs and top DJ performances, but in Split and Dubrovnik there are also great clubs. In Croatia those who like to party won’t get bored. There’s a famous music festival on Pag Island every August, called Sonus, and our charter guests often visit it. “(This year the Sonus Festival runs August 19-23.)
14. What to eat and where: “The food is fabulous all over Croatia — lots of fresh fish and Mediterranean flavours, making the most of all the local ingredients. Every area has its specialities and I wouldn’t say that one stands out more for great food than the others. In the north, Italy affects [the cooking] very much, so plenty of pasta and truffles. Fresh fish, especially squid, prawns and octopus, as well as amazing, local-cured hams and cheeses, are strongly emphasized in the South. The wine is good around the country too. Ask local citizens for help. Most of the yachts we charter have at least one Croatian crew member who will advise on local specialities and arrange tours to the nearby food producers and vineyards for charter guests. The dishes that must be tried include Black Risotto made with squid ink, and local roast lamb. Typically, the lamb is slow-cooked in field pits, often overnight.’
15. What it costs: “The range of charter yachts available in Croatia includes something for everyone, from a 40-foot bareboat sailing yacht to huge mega yachts. As for charter fees, prices are comparable to other Med destinations, but ashore activities, restaurants and ports are much less expensive than other charter destinations for the most part. We only do charters for crewed yachts. Our starting point will be an 80-foot yacht, sleeping six, from €30k a week, plus fuel and taxes. The majority of yachts we charter in the Adriatic are 100-foot plus 5 cabins for about €100k per week, sleeping 10.
Sailing in Croatia: a beginner’s guide
Exploring Croatia by sea is unveiling its true secrets. Croatia has it all-the variety of opportunities for sailing, the beautiful scenery, the unspoilt bays, the numerous islands and, most importantly, the clear , calm and clean waters around them. The finest sailing playground in Europe is just over two hours from London. It is accessible, fairly safe (at sea and on shore) and includes a variety of sailing route destinations suitable for all. Novice sailors can charter a skipper boat, potter around the islands, and find out as much or as little about sailing as they wish. Those who are serious about learning to sail will take a course at one of the sailing schools. Sailors of varying abilities can join a flotilla vacation, wanting a group ‘s protection and bonhomie. If your party involves anyone with a skipper’s ticket, there are plenty of charter options for yachts and motorboats, while high rollers can take a fully crewed, traditional or contemporary luxury yacht and cruise the party hotspots.
1. Where to go
How much you can see in a week’s time is surprising. The diverse appeal of the 2,000 islands, islets and reefs in Croatia, along with the varied mainland ports and anchorages, will leave you wanting to return for more.
In the north, due to the pervasive influence of Italy, the peninsula of Istria and Kvarner Bay have a high concentration of marinas and a more cosmopolitan feel than Dalmatia. This may be your cruising area, if gastronomy and culture are significant. Stunning and newly popular islands like Lošinj, Rab and Brijuni are a luxury yachts magnet. What is missing is the richness of Dalmatia and the sheer number of islands-there are fewer surprises to discover than down south.
Kornati is within easy reach from Zadar, Biograd and Murter marinas. Start from here for a tranquil wilderness. The Kornati archipelago is the densest group of islands in the Med with its 152 islands, islets, and rocks. It can be tricky sailing, and the navigator must work hard to count off the islands and look out for rocks, but it’s hard to beat the rough lunar landscape and desolate bays, for peace and quiet. It’s also something of a paradise for a gourmet, with some popular restaurants built to provide fine grilled sea bass or steak for passing sailors and their passengers. There are also quite special islands around Šibenik-less barren and remote but still largely undiscovered.
On the mainland, 12 kilometers (seven miles) upstream from Šibenik on the Krka River, Skradini’s ACI marina is a favorite for sailors who want to explore the waterfalls. Tribunj Marina near Vodice and Marina Frapa are two classier marinas in Croatia, located in quiet fishing villages. In summer 2015, Croatia’s first dedicated superyacht marina and resort area near Šibenik, a Turkish-owned D-Resort, opened.
Central Dalmatia meets the most holidaymakers’ requirements, beginning with the marinas and charter bases within easy reach of Split airport. Both Brač and Hvar are an easy sail from Split. Scores of picturesque anchorages and village harbors lie quietly among the busier and more discovered cities. There’s the more remote but gentle island of Vis for a longer sail, and try Šolta for a Dalmatian time warp. High rollers should head towards the town of Trogir and Hvar. Relax at the neighboring Pakleni islands after partying in Hvar all night, the perfect anchorage for soothe the spirits.
Further south towards Montenegro, another regular superyacht destination is Cavtat, on the mainland close to Dubrovnik airport. Pelješac is a favourite for its weather with experienced sailors. The picturesque town of Korčula is a popular country-based tourist destination but there is plenty to offer on the island. Mljet’s saltwater lakes and large bays make popular summer anchorages; remote Lastovo has good berthing facilities for yachts and a number of restaurants to pass through. Lopud and Šipan are islands to escape from the metropolis close to Dubrovnik-for both sailors and passengers on ferry.
2. Where will we go
If possible avoid late July and August. At the beginning of August, Italians sail over en masse and popular marinas and ports can be difficult to access in the evening. Charter prices are at their peak, and most marinas add up to mooring fees by ten per cent. May and June can be warm and sunny, with the fairly calm weather; however, the sea is already warming up so that often it can be a little bit of bracing. September is perfect for sea temperatures but, as with May and June, some of the restaurants in the more remote destinations may well be closed. Serious sailors may prefer the more difficult weather conditions in the
April and October, or maybe want to join a sailing regatta in winter.
3. Harbors and Yachts
Most boats are surprisingly luxurious, with toilets , showers, electricity , gas, usually ample kitchen / diner space, comfortable cabins and plenty of room on deck for eating , drinking, sunbathing and merry-going. But where are you parking? Can you want marinas, anchorages or village harbours? Most people opt for a blend.
Croatia has more than 50 marinas, about half of which are state-owned and known by the acronym ACI. The ACI network, planned and built ahead of its time, ensured you could always find a safe haven nearly wherever you were in the Croatian Adriatic. You are now spoiled for choice but still high demand for space. Overnight stays in a marina are great for enhancing inexperienced crew confidence and for a little extra comfort. Youíll be moored on lazy lines and protected by a breakwater which reduces the boat’s motion to a very smooth sway. Youíll still have access to toilets, showers, shore power and water, though the supply of electricity and water on the more remote islands may be limited.
There will often be a restaurant, shop and cafe, and you will sometimes find nightclubs, swimming pools and other entertainment. Comfort costs money and in recent years, most marinas have increased their prices by between 5 and 15 per cent. That said, compared with Greece and Turkey, Croatia is still of good value. The intangible cost is the change in atmosphere: one minute the waves lapping against the boat’s sides, the wind blowing out the sails and no one is in sight; the next the skipper wedges your floating hotel in a small space between two noisy boats full in partygoers. Be ready.
On the other hand, there’s nothing like being lulled by nature to sleep and waking up in glorious sunshine in the morning to have a short dip in your own harbor, off the back of the diving platform. Your charter boat will have a tender (a rubber dinghy) that will carry you ashore to the shop or restaurant without getting wet. If you do not have the strength to sail, you’ll have the option of charging extra for an outboard motor. Anchoring can be idyllic but sometimes novices find it difficult to get used to it. Given the prevailing conditions and your expectations a local skipper should know the best bays. Otherwise, read a decent guide to cruising, and review the maps. Someone will come round at some anchorages, especially in Kornati and the Zadar area, and collect a fee. A local entrepreneur may also quite rarely seek to charge for anchoring, so test credentials politely.
Berthing will give you the best of both worlds in a village or town harbour. You will usually pay less than in a marina, many will have shore power and water, others will have toilets and showers, and you will typically get breakwater safety and lazy-line mooring stability. Depending on the location, you ‘re probably not going to be lying like sardines, like in a marina, and you can walk off the boat to the nearest restaurant. Some otherwise abandoned restaurants
Often, they have lazy-line pontoon berthing, often with electricity and water.
4. Tides and rims
Croatia has virtually no tidal differences to worry about and only occasionally strong currents, in canals or mouths of the river. Summer weather is normally calm and sunny, though the odd thunderstorm roars up the sea. The meteorological and hydrological site of Croatia has detailed weather forecasts in English about the Adriatic. The mighty north-easterly Bura wind is usually only a winter problem, but it deserves respect throughout the year. Weather forecasts are easily available in English at marinas, from the harbor master or on the radio, and local people are always happy to fill in on climatic tips. The cooling Maestral wind is predominant in summer, but if the winds are light you may end up sailing by motor for a few days.
Using the lazy line is the standard berthing method at most marinas and ports, and in many bays with piers. Normally, somebody comes to meet you on the quay or pontoon when you approach a destination with lazy-line berths, and holds up a rope. Heading in front allows a little more privacy on deck, but most prefer reversing in-for a start it’s easier to get on and off. So, heading backwards, somebody stands with a boat hook at the back (normally supplied), picks up the raised rope, walks along with it to the front of the boat, pulls it in and secures it to the front cleat. At the same time , two other crew members should be ready with coiled ropes at the back of the boat, already tied to the cleats on both sides of the rear end. The ropes should be passed to you under the bottom rail and back over the top rail, so that it pulls directly on the cleat when you throw the rope, and not over or under a rail. As the boat reverses, throw one rope on the ground to the person who will help you berth and secure it; then throw the other rope. To measure the weight of the ropes and to avoid hitting anyone in the face or chucking the ropes straight in the water, it is worth the throwing a little. If you make a mistake, don’t worry, though-the locals have seen it all.
Book early, shop around and skip the July and August peak months. Check the small print charter company for extras-final clean, a dinghy outboard motor, extra sails, towels, and so on; and make sure your boat has a bimini, a sun protection cockpit cover. You must also budget for fuel, on-board provisions, flights, transfers, eating out and the odd night at a hotel if you can get your flights to match the charter period that normally runs from Saturday to Friday.
For novices, a basic one-week Bavaria 46 charter, from BavAdria Charter, with plenty of room for four people and a skipper, will cost about €2,500 in late September and about €3,500 in late July / early August. A skipper would cost € 125 per day plus provisions, and if you stay at a marina every night, allow about €70 per day (double for a catamaran), although some of the town and village ports are well-equipped and much cheaper. Only some anchorages are paying a fee.
One Stop Sailing offers Split-based RYA courses and caters for singles as well as families and classes. The price per person per week starts from around €650, depending on the level and the time of year. Flights, transfers and evening meals are excluded but much else you won’t need to dig into your wallet.
Daily flotilla getaways around Dalmatia are coordinated by Sunsail The price goes up or down depending on the size of the yacht and how many yachts it shares. If you don’t need a skipper, take your pick from the motorboats and yachts. An Elan 333 has a length of just over ten metres, providing ample space for two and is relatively easy to manage. Chartering from Feral Tours in Zadar for a week in early September costs around €1,250 before discounts; €1,600 in August.
Sail Croatia has recently instigated party boats for the age group 21-35, with disco lights, fog machine and outdoor bar. Its 44-passenger Maestral calls in down the coast at club hubs.
There’s even more option for jet-setters, with many charter firms selling bigger yachts and motorboats. Ocean Blue can charter you a Sunseeker Predator 95 in a weekly all-inclusive package, but you’re going to be looking at something that’s about €90,000. It’s nearer to €65,000 for yacht and crew only. A classic Galatea yacht from Exclusive Travel is approximately €40,000 a week in peak season. Dalmatian Destinations has chartered some of Croatia ‘s biggest yachts.
Modern yachts and motorboats are designed to maximize storage space but leave behind your rigid suitcases and pack all in fold-away bags. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are essential; it is best to have long-sleeved shirts and a warm jumper; waterproofs will ideally not be necessary but can be a godsend if you are unlucky with the weather. Protecting plastic, rubber or jelly shoes from stony beaches and sea urchins whose spikes are painful but not life-threatening. Charts and guides are provided but check whether snorkeling equipment is on board. Most charter boats are set to have a CD player. Lifejackets and other necessary safety equipment are provided, as are basic elements of the kitchen.
Sailing in Croatia: a guide for first-timers
Coastlines don’t come much more idyllic than the 2,000 km of ruggedly beautiful Adriatic shore in Croatia. Along this magnificent stretch are ancient Roman remains standing guard over sheltered harbours; olive groves rising above the tumble-down villages’ winding backstreets; and sleek resorts backing palm-fringed bays. Scattered inland in the turquoise seas are over 1,000 islands and islets, home to everything from isolated pebble beaches to hedonistic party cities. It is these stunning archipelagos – coupled with the balmy summer climate in the country – that make Croatia one of Europe’s most popular sailing destinations. Here’s a guide to your first sailing trip in Croatia.
Where do I go-and for how long?
The southern Dalmatian islands are the most popular sailing destination in Croatia by far, and the ideal choice for your first visit. Most routes include round trips from Split or Dubrovnik, or one-way journeys connecting the two. Although most companies allow eight days or so for the Split – Dubrovnik route (or vice versa), you’ll need around week.
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The island of Hvar, with its inlets, pebbly coves, vineyards and stone villages, already has a big reputation. It’s also very affordable and family oriented. Hvar Town’s chic bars and restaurants, historic Stari Grad and its UNESCO-listed plain are popular stops here.
Brač is the third largest island in Croatia and it has whatever level of liveliness you wish. Small towns like Milna on Brač are known for their laid-back charm, while Bol boasts the perfect windsurfing beach at Zlatni Rat.
A lot of seclusion can still be found in the islands too. Stomorska village on sleepy Šolta has moorings for just fifteen boats that visit it. Given its location near Split, Šolta is a small island that offers most tourist maps and is suitable for cycling or walking on dry land.
Sveti Klement, Îles Pakleni
A night in the harbor of Palmižana allows you to explore car-free Sveti Klement, one of the wooded Pakleni Islands, a small group of islands south of Hvar and easily accessible from Hvar Town-a perfect route for sailing in Croatia.
The most distant scattered island from the sea is the unspoiled Vis, which was cut off from visitors until the early 1990s due to military action. This is home to the spectacular Blue Cave, where sunlight shines under the surface through a hole to bathe the cave in a bright, aquamarine glow.
Korčula’s sandy bays and quiet coves on its south coast are the island’s pride and joy if what you’re looking for on your Croatian sailing trip is some time at the beach. It is also lined with pine trees, vineyards, villages and olive groves, offering a beautiful backdrop as you enjoy the clear water.
In recent years, Verdant Mljet has become more famous, thanks in large part to its beautiful National Park. Mljet is nevertheless unspoilt and serene apart from the busy atmosphere around Pomena.
Want to get off the beaten track any further? Explore hundreds of islands; check out our top 10 for inspiration.
When will I go to Croatia and sail?
High summer may be busy in Croatia but the weather is just beautiful. Expect gentle averages in July and August of 26–27 ° C – and, even better, sea temperatures of about the same. Snorkelling, paddle-boarding and diving, or even sprinkling in the shallows, are the chief joys of exploring the Adriatic.
Croatia’s sailing season runs from May until the end of September and these dates should be heeded. Deals at the end or start of the season may sound appealing, but with temperatures averaging around 15 ° C in October and a lot of business shutting up shop for the year, you may not get the trip you were planning on.
How do I get a yacht?
Booking a skippered yacht is the easiest way to tackle the sailing in Croatia. Although you might learn some sailing skills along the way, you will generally be free to sit back and drink in the views (or the local wines).
Your skipper will be an invaluable part of your journey, will be able to recommend and change routes depending on the weather and will guide you to the best swimming spots, attractions and restaurants. You might also want to consider booking a host or hostess who will be looking after the cooking and cleaning process.
Experienced sailors can opt to charter a “barboat.” Requirements may vary among operators, but you’ll need full certification, such as the ICC (International Competence Certificate).
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What should I expect of myself on board?
Not all yachts are made the same when sailing in Croatia, varying wildly from cosy, close-quarter set-ups to floating unbridled luxury paradigms. Most companies offer several levels of comfort; explore the various boats available through your chosen operator, and be realistic about your space and facilities expectations.
Lesser, older boats with cramped cabins and shared bathrooms are at the lower end. Modern, high-end catamarans strive to deliver an entirely different experience, frequently kitted out with luxurious furnishings, en-suites and ample deck space.
Bear in mind that booking on a group trip with budget and youth operators can mean sharing a cabin, or even a “double” bed, if you’re a solo traveller.
Is It a good idea to join Yacht Week?
You may have heard of Yacht Week – or seen their slew of sexy promo reels – but watch out for the hype. This mega flotilla trip may be the party of a lifetime for moneyed twenty-somethings, but it’s far from sustainable and certainly not representative of Croatian culture.
Local sailors are harboring safety issues due to skippers unfamiliar with local waters, while some towns have reportedly fought back against “Sodom and Gomorrah at sea” by refusing to give moorings to the boozy crowds.