Having now sailed part of the coast of France, quite a bit of Italy, Croatia, some of Greece and Turkey, our favorite cruising ground remains the Dalmation Islands. Situated in the middle of the Med along its northern shore, Croatia has great weather, excellent facilities, and is wonderful for short or long trips. Nearly everyone seems to speak English and they are friendly, good-looking people. We certainly want to come back, still a lot to explore here, even after three trips. Sailing in Croatia is enjoyable as there are plenty of islands which provide numerous protected coves and bays because of their ink-spot shapes. As well, the shore drops off steeply so it is easy sail close and moor close to shore.
Croatia is great for sailing for a number of reasons:
- There are over a thousand islands to explore
- The food is really good, exceptional actually
- They have both excellent red and white wines, at reasonable prices
- There are great restaurants with moorings in small coves to enjoy, often nothing but that restaurant/home in the cove
- There is great docking either in small, quaint towns (nothing large other than Dubrovnik) or small coves which often you can have to yourself.
- The weather is great, 300 days of sunshine a year.
- The wind is quite consistent, so good sailing
- Most Croats speak English
- You can anchor in 25’ of water, watch your anchor hit bottom and your chain lay out.
When you weight all that against other places in the Med, Croatia as a sailing destination is very hard to beat.
There’s a great over-size guide to the area called “Croatian Coast” that costs about US$20 but it well worth it. It provides information about areas to visit with restaurant and activity suggestions. There is also a very good wine directory and a marina directory. It’s available to purchase in most marinas. The wine we enjoyed the best on our trip for red was Ivan Dolac (2008) priced at about US$20 dollars, Madirazza’s Dingac Barrique, Zlatan Plavac (a lighter wine, from the usually heavy reds of Croatia), and Polozaj Dingac. The white wine was Matosevic, Alba Robinia Barrique (2011).
We arrived at the Trogir/Split airport on a Saturday late afternoon and took a taxi north to the Kremik Marina. We met up with the Croatia Yacht Club staff, met our captain and purchased enough provisions from the marina market to last us a few days. That night we went for dinner at a restaurant overlooking Primosten and owned by a manager at the CYC. Great views of Primosten, enough that we put it on the list to check out by boat once underway.
Sunday morning we headed out early for the island of Soldat. Wind was good so we sailed nearly all the way averaging about six knots. The main port on Soldat is Maslinca, which reminded us of a smaller version of Symi, Greece. Very cute and quaint. There’s a large concrete breakwater in front of the town which can handle very large yachts over 100 feet, providing good weather protection.
On Day Two we motored (not enough wind) over to Hvar town on the island of Hvar, about three hours from Soldat. Hvar is very much the happening place in the Dalmations and we arrived early and managed to get a great place on the dock of the promenade. Very cute town, quite old with very narrow streets behind, like in Dubrovnik, lined with shops, boutiques and small restaurants. On the hill behind is a large citadel which you can walk or ride up to and enjoy panoramic views. We wanted to be at the dock for this night as Croatia was playing Mexico in the World Cup. We arrived just after noon, had lunch outside but it was very hot we moved indoors to enjoy the AC. Large yachts can get in here as well although space is limited and open to southerly winds, but because of the lively shore scene, many probably choose it as a place to visit when in the Dalmations. Hvar Town is a great place with lots of action.
We made a reservation at a bar/restaurant on the promenade of Hvar Town called the BB Club. They provided us with a large comfy lounge sofa in front of the projector that projected onto a very large wall so that all in the outside bar could watch the game. We ordered pizza and the waiter, who seemed to know his Croatian wines very well, recommended an excellent wine called Ivan Dolac. We drank two bottles during the course of the game in which Mexico beat Croatia 3-1. Flo and Alison had painted up their faces with the Mexican flag and Alison wore a sombrero we’d bought back in Soldat.
The next day the wind came up, a southerly, which is not good for this harbor. We were Med docked between a larger motor yacht and a catamaran, and from the wind and the continual coming and going of the ferries we were being tossed back and forth, up and down, between the two boats. We finally had to get out of there, moor in the harbor and then went back in for more provisions and to pay our dockage fees.
On Day Three we took advantage of the great wind to sail to Vis, doing up to 9-10 knots along the way, even had to reef the genoa a bit. We tied up to one of the harbor buoys in Vis Town with the wind still blowing hard. There is room at the shore dock to Med tie, but we decided to save a little money and moor in the harbor, and also because it really was supposed to blow the next day, so it could be better off the dock. The next day, though, we moved to the dock, in front of our favorite cafe, which has great coffee and showed the game (France tied with Ecuador; not a very good game). They also had a great internet connection so we are wired in and got caught up with email and such, so it is a recommended place to dock. Weather rolled in and it is suppose to get very windy later today, clearing up tomorrow. Vis’ waterfront can accommodate a number of boats Med tied, and of all sizes. There are actually two towns in the harbor, Vis Town and Kut, and both offer Med-tied docking and buoys, and both have restaurants along dockside. Probably a little more happening in Vis Town. Although we didn’t do it, this is supposed to be a good place to explore by scooter and visit vineyards up in the hills, with tastings.
Day Five we woke up to clear skies, although by late morning light cloud coverage had rolled in. So we decided to just take in the Green Cave and not the Blue Cave (on the island of Bisevo), which is best seen before noon on a clear day. The Green Cave is quite large, large enough that a 50’ motorboat pulled up with a daring captain and entered a portion of the entrance of the cave. We went in by paddle board and while in there, met up with a speed boat and a large inflatable. There’s a hole in the ceiling so it is well lit up, I’m sure especially on a bright sunny day.
From there we began our way to the island of Korcula and moored outside of Vela Luka in a small place called Gradina Bay, where we moored to a buoy in front of the restaurant (about US$30 to tie up) and went for a swim. For dinner we had reservations at the restaurant on shore (the only restaurant in the bay), which is family run, and we had a Dalmatian specialty dish called Peka. It consisted of slow-cooked lamb, potatoes, onions and other vegetables and it was wonderful, especially with a bottle of wine from the peninsula called Matusko Dingac Plavac Mali. The wines here are predominantly from the same grape, Plavac Mali, which means “small blue grape”. It’s a local grape type that handles the intensity and duration of the sun here best. Strong black currant taste, very tasty. Highly recommend this spot and it can accommodate most ship sizes.
Day Six (Friday) we motored into Vela Luka to take a look, but weren’t impressed. And, as there was a nice westerly blowing, we headed for the westerly end of Lastovo where there is a national park (and some very protected and scenic coves to moor within) and small town Pasadur. They say the park is one of the richest and best preserved botanical areas in the Mediterranean, with around 70% of the islands surface covered with forest. So it is very lush green compared to some of the other neighboring islands. We dropped anchor in a small cove lined with what looks like summer homes and had dinner, an eggplant parmesan using the galley’s oven, with a wonderful bottle of Ivan Dolac from Hvar.
Day Seven was a very calm with very little wind. The cove was like glass in the morning so I paddled out into the next cove (a small bridge joins one island to the mainland) to a shoreline bunker which is big enough to high quite naval ship, and was used during WWII. We then rented scooters and took the only road the island to the town of Lastovo. Great views along the way, including of the harbor we’ll be staying that night, Zaklopactica. We stopped at a small vineyard along the way that offered tastings of their red, white and versions of grappa. Owned by an expat Italian and we bought a couple of bottles of white. After scootering we returned to swim, eat lunch, siesta, and then headed to our next port. We drove to the far southerly end of the island to another nice sheltered harbor called Skrivena Luka. Porto Rosso looks very nice with a pier that can accompany up to 20 yachts. Facilities, restaurant looked very nice.
Lastovo is a picturesque town built on the side of a hill with narrow streets. We climbed up to the castle, used hundreds of years ago to escape the plague, which offers a panoramic view looking back to Korcula island to the north and the town of Lastovo to the south. We picked up anchor and moved to Zaklopactica, under an hour from the inlet we stayed in. Four oceanfront restaurants to choose from that offer free mooring, water, electricity and showers if you eat at the restaurant. We did and dinner was exceptional. We order side dishes to share of shrimp, squid balls, calamari, and fish carpaccio; wonderful! We washed it down with a couple bottle of white wine from the north, in Istra; Matosevic, Alba which was also wonderful. We watched Columbia beat Uruguay and then hit the sack.
Day Eight we had some wind from the southeast, so instead of going to Mljet and directly into the wind, we decided to go to Korcula; that way we could spend two nights there. We docked at the large ACI Marina, which was great as they have wonderful showers and it is right beside Old Town. That evening we went to a small bar in town and watched Mexico play Holland, unfortunately Mexico lost in the final minutes. We remember the Old Town of Korcula well from a past trip about 15 years, it was one of our favorites spots with its narrow streets and nice shops and restaurants. It isn’t overdone like Rhodes or Capri, rather unpretentious. But there are a lot of cruise ships that stop here so it can get busy at times. Best is in the evening when they have left.
Day Nine was windy and wet in the morning with thunder clouds so we stayed close to the boat. But by early afternoon the skies cleared and we had lots of time to further explore Korcula and the coastline near it. That evening was a celebration of the half year (June 30th), which I guess is a regular event in Korcula. People dress up in costumes like it was Halloween, there is live music and a lot of people in the streets. It was a fun time with some amazing costumes. For dinner we went to a wine bar, had a bottle of Dingac and ordered numerous plates, like tapas, of sausage, bruschetta, cheese and tuna carpaccio.
Day Ten we headed out of Korcula with light winds behind us and headed back to the island of Hvar. We decided to drop anchor in a passage between two of the Pakleni Islands. Quite a few boats anchor here, including many large motorboats. It is probably the best place for the larger boats as Hvar Harbor is tight and can really rock boats around in a southerly. There are three beach clubs that have lounge chairs, cushions, bar & restaurant. We paddled and swam, had some octopus salad and fries with a bottle of wine at one of the clubs before dinner. There is quite a current running through this pass, have to keep this in mind when jumping off the boat for a swim as it can be difficult to get back to the boat!
Day Eleven the current was so strong in the morning that we decided to leave early so we could swim somewhere else. We didn’t have far to go, just around the corner to Starigrad, and along the way we stopped and went for a swim. Starigrad is a wonderful town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are remnants left still of when the Romans and Greeks were here. Much quieter than its neighbor Hvar Town and better mooring. As well, the ferries come in about a kilometer out of town, so you don’t have their noise or waves affecting you. There’s a nice walkway around both sides of the cove, great for walks and bikes in a park-like setting, and plenty of places set up for swimming and sunbathing. We had dinner at Antica, a lovely restaurant in old town (the plaque above the door says it was built in 1600), operated by a husband & wife team with their son. The food was exceptional; mostly local seafood we had tapas style. And they know their wine and made a great recommendation for a wine, Zlatan Plavac, which is a lighter wine, much lighter than some of the other reds we’ve had, but still 14% alcohol! Went very nicely with our many plates of appetizers. Highly recommend this place.
Day Twelve we continued our journey back to home base. We got up and went for a walk and swim, bought some baked goods at a bakery nearby, and then headed for Bol on the neighboring island of Brac. Bol looks very touristy, especially with its interesting beach that is a triangle point (Zlatni Rat) that juts out into the pass. It was packed with people as was the shoreline. We drove past, had a quick swim and then headed north and away from the crowds. The wind had picked up so we had good sailing, tacking into the wind, until we found a nice cove to drop anchor and have lunch. After a swim we continued northwest, right into 20 knot winds. We sailed for awhile but with the waves it got uncomfortable so we dropped our reefed sails and motored up to Lucice Bay. We ate at the Lucice Restaurant, but it wasn’t great. Our fish was very tasty but expensive. They weren’t very organized, if I came back I’d try on of the other restaurants to the left of it when you come into the bay.
Day Thirteen was our last day on the water. Beautiful day, up early for a swim and then we began our journey back to the marina. We stopped at the same place we had lunch on our first day. After lunch the wind had come back up so we sailed up to Primosten. A cute little town that is nearly a small island connected to the mainland, with a church on top of the hill and the town built around it with restaurants and shops. You can moor right next to the town or there are buoys in the bay. Great beaches close by for swimming. From there we headed to Kremlik marina to fuel up and spend our last night on the boat.
We finished off our Croatian vacation with an overnight stay in Trogir and a visit to Split. Both are amazing towns with a rich history, dating back thousands of years. We rented scooters to visit Split, driving along the coastal road that flows through a number of small towns along the shoreline (Kastela). Coming into Split it is not pleasant; very industrial along the water and on the other side of the highway, plenty of ugly apartment buildings, probably remnants of communist times. There was just so much to see and do in the center of Split, however, that it was well worth the trip. Actually not enough as our time was limited, so we agreed we would to return on another trip.