Sailing in Croatia along its eye-catching coastline is an amazing experience! The country’s tourism industry went up thanks to Croatia’s sailing and yachting industries. With over 1,000 islands and a 5,000 kilometer-long coastline, one can get an idea of the enchantment this land has to offer. So it’s no wonder that most travelers want to sail in Croatia!
Location and weather conditions
Croatia is located on the Adriatic Sea, opposite Italy, in the Northern Mediterranean Region. With a history dating over a thousand years back, it first appeared on the international map of Europe in 1992, following the break-up of Yugoslavia after a bloody civil war.
As you sail Croatia, you’ll notice that the climate is characteristic of the Mediterranean and guarantees fun holidays throughout the year. Although you can explore the waters 365 days a year, it’s safe to go sailing along the Croatian coast from April to October, when the weather is mostly fair and the sea is usually calm. Early spring is usually stormy.
The best time to enjoy Croatia sailing is early summer, with strong winds mostly from the S/SE in May and June. Mornings are usually calm, with the wind rising to around 15-20 knots in the afternoon.
The months of July and August offer calmer conditions which are OK for those who don’t mind using the engine while sailing. Summer temperatures range between 26 and 30°C, with a sea temperature around 25°C.
Where to go sailing in Croatia
Poreč is on the western coast of Croatia, along the Istrian Cape. It is the perfect harbor to go to St. Nicholas Island while sailing in Croatia.
The climate here is mild and gentle. Unlike in other regions of Croatia, the summer heat isn’t too harsh in Poreč. The hottest month is August and the coldest month is January. The temperature of the sea at Poreč is around 28°C in summer, therefore not too hot and not too cold.
This sailing destination is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and/or relaxing around your sailboat. The major tourist attractions are the Euphrasian Basilica, Dieta Istriana, the Marafor Roman square, and the ancient streets of Cardo Maximus and Decumanus.
The Brijuni Islands
Once the summer home of President Tito, the Brijuni Islands used to be closed for the general public. Nowadays they are open to those who want to go on sailing holidays in Croatia. However, keep in mind that the buildings are a little worn down because very little money was spent on their upkeep since the President’s death.
The Brijuni Islands are actually two larger islands and 12 smaller islands. In 1983, they were given the status of National Park. The biggest island is Veli Brijun, just 2 kilometers away from the coast. It is very green, covered with lots of vegetation.
Lošinj and Cres Islands
Occupying about 400 square kilometers, Cres is the second-largest island in the Adriatic Sea. It’s associated with Lošinj and 28 smaller islands.
The port of Mali Lošinj is considered to be the most beautiful in the Adriatic. Čikat Bay, well-known for its beach and strong windsurfing, is another popular travel destination. Cres Town is also famous and it is similar to Italian villages because it was under Venetian rule for many centuries. For those who are looking for quieter places, I recommend a visit to the town of Veli Lošinj is much quieter.
When sailing in Croatia in this area, make sure you also make a stop on Susak Island. Its locals have their own dialect, which is not easily understood by other Croats. And the women wear short multicolored skirts, red leggings, and white blouses.
Krk is the largest island in the Adriatic Sea, occupying 405.78 square kilometers. It’s also one of the most populated islands in the world. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, it’s also really busy with tourists.
It’s not the most stunning or the greenest island in the world, but it’s still an interesting place to visit when you’re sailing in Croatia. The major towns to explore are Baška, Krk itself, Malinska, Omišalj, Punat, and Vrbnik.
Sailing in Croatia to Rab will take you to one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic Sea and perhaps one of the most magical. Covered in pine forests, it also has lovely sandy beaches.
Rab Town, the main resort, is full of medieval houses, as it was founded in the 13th century by the Venetians. The old town walls are still visible in some places.
Pag is the second-largest island of the Adriatic. It doesn’t have lots of vegetation because of the strong Bora winds. However, Pag has a lot of charm. The town of Pag is beautifully preserved and the island is well known for lace making.
Primosten, on the coast, is one of the most popular resorts on the Adriatic coast. It boasts the best of old Croatia, with its narrow cobbled streets in the old town center on the small hilly peninsula.
The Kornati Islands
140 islands spread over 300 square kilometers make up the Kornati archipelago. The bulk of the area is a National Park, with many coves and crystal-clear blue waters.
Astronauts have identified this as the place with the bluest water on Earth seen from space so sailing in Croatia around the Kornati Islands is a beautiful experience. In addition, George Bernard Shaw said that “On the last day of the Creation God desired to crown His work and thus created Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath.”
Most of the region belongs to the inhabitants of Murter Island who come over to look after their olive groves, vineyards, and orchards. They live in cottages during the farming season, but there is no permanent population.
Hramina is a private marina on Murter Island with decent facilities including a number of restaurants.
Dugi Otok Island
Dugi Otok is home to the magnificent Telašćica Bay. The small fishing village of Sali is renowned for its summer activities featuring local traditions with a fun donkey race and a parade of illuminated vessels. And, surrounded by pines and olive groves, Brbinj is yet another peaceful, sheltered stop for when you go sailing in Croatia.
Brač is the largest island in Central Dalmatia and the third-largest island in the Adriatic Sea. It’s also one of the sunniest, with 2,700 hours of sun each year.
The island of Brač is well-known for its figs, olive oil, wine, nectarines, and other fruit. However, the key export is the famous Brač stone from which many buildings in the world have been made, including the White House in Washington DC.
Bol is said to have the most beautiful beach in the Adriatic. Other resorts you should discover when you’re sailing in Croatia around this area are Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn or Golden Cape), Milna, Sumartin, Supetar, and Sutivan.
And, as we’re in the Split-Dalmatia County, don’t skip Trogir and the city of Split on the mainland. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for the Palace of Emperor Diocletian.
You can also head out to the small and picturesque Solta Island while you’re in the area.
Hvar is the fourth-largest island of the Adriatic and it’s even sunnier than Brač. However, it gets enough rain to keep its vegetation green and to grow its lovely vineyards and beautiful fields of lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, and thyme. It’s no wonder that Hvar Island in Croatia smells like a herbalist shop in the morning!
The main resorts to see here when you go sailing in Croatia are the town of Hvar, Jelsa, Stari Grad, Sućuraj, and Vrboska.
This is the westernmost of the large Croatian islands, and it’s located just 38 kilometers from the mainland. In the Second World War, Vis Island was home to a major British base. Then, between 1945 and 1990, Vis was closed to the public by the Yugoslav army.
Established in 397 BC, Vis town is the oldest settlement in Dalmatia. Together with Komiža, it is one of the largest cities on the island.
Some of the finest Croatian wines are made on Vis Island, such as Plavac Mali and Vugava. Give them a try during your Croatia sailing vacation.
Korčula Island is renowned for its thick forests. Plus, the famous explorer Marco Polo was born here, and his house still stands to this day.
The key resorts to visit when you’re sailing in Croatia are Korcula or Little Dubrovnik, Vela Luka, and Lumbarda.
On the mainland, Ston is one of the most beautiful fortified towns you’ll ever see. It is renowned for its cultural monuments and impressive defensive walls.
Local restaurants serve delicious fresh seafood dishes. Go sailing in Croatia to Ston, have a good lunch, then spend the afternoon on the sandy beach lined with olive trees.
Located 37 kilometers west of Dubrovnik, Mljet Island is the southernmost large island of Croatia. Legend has it that Odysseus fell in love with Mljet Island and lived here for seven years.
The western half of the island is a National Park, and over two-thirds of Mljet is covered by forests. On the southern coast, you can find numerous good anchorages and sandy beaches. The best of the moorings is Saplunara.
Elafit Islands: Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan
In ancient times, these islands were home to a large population of deer, which is why they took their name from the Greek term elafos, meaning deer.
In fact, there are six islands in the group, and it is said that the most skillful sailors were born here. They are very beautiful and must be visited when you’re sailing in Croatia. Lopud is a little more than two hills linked by a beautiful valley. Make sure you don’t skip Sunj Beach, a secluded white sandy beach perfect for a swim.
Dubrovnik is an immaculately preserved fortified town from the 13th century. Ancient walls surround the old town, enclosing a fascinating mixture of Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture. The steep ramparts and soaring spires rise dramatically from the beautiful squares filled with vibrant bars, markets, and restaurants. It’s no wonder that the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
If you want to sail in southern Croatia, start your journey from the port of Dubrovnik. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Croatia, particularly for yacht enthusiasts, due to its proximity to the Adriatic Sea. As a rule of thumb, you should allocate at least one week to go from Dubrovnik to Split, and two weeks if you need to start and finish in the same marina.
Food and wine to try while sailing in Croatia
Croatian cuisine is traditionally Mediterranean, with lots of fresh fish, seafood, vegetables and olive oil taking center stage.
Fish species include Zubatac (dog’s teeth), Špar (git-head), Skuša (mackerel), Srdela (sardines), and Brancin (sea-bass). You’ll also find Sipa (cuttlefish), octopus and squid, lobsters, mussels, oysters, and shrimps. They are served as grilled or in stews and risottos.
Lamb is also highly regarded, particularly when baked on an open fire. There are also some fascinating Croatian dishes, some of which you can only find on some islands. They are either to be searched out or avoided. Such an example is Vitalac from the island of Brač. It is made out of the salted organs of the lamb placed on a skewer, then wrapped in the animal’s sheath before getting roasted. Obviously, this isn’t everyone’s idea of culinary delight!
Regions with an abundant supply of freshwater, such as the Trillj and the basins of the Neretva and Cetina rivers, are well known for their frog, eel, and crab dishes.
Pag and Dubrovnik produce excellent sheep cheese. The one on the island of Pag is known as Paški sir, and it is a strong cheese with a distinct flavor. Its special taste comes from the practice of rubbing the cheese with olive oil and ashes before letting it mature. In addition, the sheep on Pag have a diet that contains many wild herbs such as sage.
Dalmatian desserts are also something you have to try while you’re sailing in Croatia. The most frequently used ingredients are almonds, eggs, honey, local fruit, dried figs, and raisins. Look for Orehnjača (sweet bread with walnuts or poppies) and Palačinke (pancakes with jam or chocolate).
Last but obviously not least, Dalmatian wines have been highly regarded since ancient times. Popular wines to try as you explore Croatia include Babić from Primošten, Dingač and Postup from the Pelješac Peninsula, and Plančić from Hvar Island. There are also some good local brandies and liqueurs to look for while sailing in Croatia!
As you can see, there are plenty of attractions, destinations, marinas, and anchorages to discover while you’re sailing in Croatia. No matter where you choose to go, just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to explore and be amazed by the local food and drinks while sailing in Croatia.
If you don’t have your own sailing yacht, but would love to go on sailing holidays, a Croatia yacht charter company like Sailo is a perfect choice. And to easily find anchorages and marinas in Croatia, download the Navily mobile app.
Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe, creator of unique free travel guides, local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.
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