In mid’ June we returned to Croatia for another sailing trip. This would be our fourth; two before out of Dubrovnik exploring the islands to the north of the wall town, and one exploring the islands south of Split. We really enjoy Croatia for sailing, one of the best areas in the Med in our opinion, for number of reasons. Great weather, warm-enough waters, friendly people, short distances between really interesting places, the price, and the variety of ports and boats and companies to choose from.
For this trip we decided to explore the most northern coastline of Croatia known as the Istrian Peninsula, with our good friends Jack and Yvonne, who we’ve done most of our Med sailing trips with.
We landed in Pula from Venice, taking the catamaran ferry over to the Croatian coast. We arrived a few days early to explore Pula, and also give enough time to stock up on provisions. Our goals was breakfast and lunch on board, with more evenings out on the town, unless at anchor.
Pula has been around for a long time, as can be confirmed by the large, elliptical Roman amphitheater situated in the heart of the town. It is one of the largest the Romans ever constructed, and remains in good condition to this day. Pula was a major naval base for Habsburgs and and also when it was part of Yugoslavia. And today it remains an active port. But all that takes up most of the shoreline, so what most interesting to see is behind Pula’s waterfront. It is the largest town on peninsula, but not as interesting or charming as other towns such as Porec or Rovinj, we thought.
The base for the Croatia Yacht Charter company, with whom we chartered, was south of Pula in Pomer, about 15 minutes away. For this trip we had decided to get a 45′ Lagoon catamaran, as it has more room and easier to get around. Jack is nearly 90 and not moving quite as quickly as he once was!
After buying provisions on Saturday we headed out just after 4PM and headed first west to make our way around the Kamenjak peninsula and and then north to follow the Istria coastline. We tried sailing but as soon as we got the sails up the wind died. Funny how that happens. We pulled into a small cove called Piescana Uvala just below Pula and dropped anchor for the night. It was by now cocktail hour and time for dinner. I cooked up some pasta and we enjoyed our first night on board together.
During the night the wind really howled through the narrow inlet and we started dragging our anchor. At 4AM we decided to lift it and drop it farther up the inlet.
On Sunday we left harbor and headed north for the Brijuni Islands situated in front of Pula. The wind was strong, between 15-20 knots and blowing from the northwest, so we decided to sail around the islands’ westerly shore to take in great sailing conditions, and eventually make our way to the island’s marina on its easterly shore.
There are 14 islands that make up the Brijuni group, although most are very small with little on them. They are quite flat so there’s isn’t much to see from the water, but because of their shapes they look great from the air. The islands are a national park now, after a long history of many having control over the islands.
The Romans were here and there are ruins to prove it. Venice took control at one time and used it as a quarry, building many of the palaces and monuments with rock from Brijuni. At the beginning of the 20th century the islands were purchased by a Venice businessman who created an exclusive beach resort with first class hotels, restaurants, beach resorts, a casino, yacht harbor, and a 6-hole golf course. The Brijuni islands became popular as a destination for the Viennese upper class and were visited by members of the Imperial family and other wealthy European bourgeois and aristocrats.
In 1918 after World War I Brijuni became part of the state of Italy, only for them to lose it after World War II.
In 1945 the Brijuni became part of Yugoslavia and President Marshal Josip Broz Tito made the Brijuni Islands his personal State Summer Residence. Tito died in 1980, and by 1983 the islands were declared a National Park of Yugoslavia.
We enjoyed swimming and paddling, followed by dinner hotel’s primary restaurant, accompanied by a wonderful Croatian wine from Hvarstka. After that, as it was a long day, we went the bed early.
The next morning we arose early to rent an electric golf cart and make a tour of the main island. This can be done in about an hour. Beautiful tour on a narrow road which took us by picturesque hidden coves and beaches, Roman ruins, a church built by the Knights Templar, a rather strange golf course and a Safari Club that supposedly has zebras, elephants and such, but we didn’t see anything. After the tour we packed up and left the marina to visit the second largest island of the group. We tied to a mooring and swam and had lunch. After lunch we started sailing northwards, with 15-20 knot winds that gave us 7-plus knots of speed.
We were going to go to Novingrad but as we had left late, we decided to pull into Rovinj. This is probably the prettiest town along the Istrian Coast, set on a narrow but tall peninsula with a large church and steeple on top. The marina next to the town in under expansion so we tied up to a mooring just to the south of town and took the dinghy into town for dinner. Lovely promenade along the water lined with restaurants. We chose a pizza place and it was very good. We walked the town some, and then made it home, again in bed quite early.
We got up and had a swim and then took the dinghy into Rovinj again. We walked the streets and bought some things at the market for lunch, including some great apricots and cherries. It is a very picturesque, walkable town that is very well maintained. Everyone liked it and Flo and I put it on the list to return to, perhaps next time by car. We returned to the boat, pulled anchor and motored to a small island (Sveti Andrija) just off of Rovinj for lunch. After a swim we pulled anchor and headed north.
There was little wind on the fourth day so we just put up the jib and motored to the top of the Istria Peninsula, to our most northerly stop, Umag. Not a big town, although it has a rather large marina beside it. It was built on a flat, narrow strip of land that juts out from the coast, with city docks on one side and the other is lined with restaurants that are built on stilts and hang over the ocean. There is no beach with sand, it is made up of large jagged and sharp rocks so they have built concrete pathways (which I’m standing on in the photo above) with stainless steel railings to help people get deep enough into the water so they can then begin swimming. This seems to be quite common along this coastline, something we also saw in Umag, Novingrad and Porec. We arrived in time for cocktails and dinner.
On Wednesday we pulled anchor and started heading south. Novingrad, is about an hour south of Umag and a little larger. We pulled up to a buoy and tied to it and then took the dinghy into town. Again, as with Umag, it is made up of a sheltered bay with a marina on one side, a rock spit that provides shelter for the bay and marina and on which the town is situated, with city moorings on one side, the main street in the middle and then swimming and beach restaurants on the other side. We left the city mooring and went around the town to its southern bay to drop anchor, swim and have lunch and a nap.
Umag and Novingrad are rather similar, about the same age, with a small old-town district that has been very nicely restored, kept very clean, and lined with tourist shops, bars, and restaurants. We all were impressed at how well it has all been done, it must take the cooperation of all the inhabitants as all the homes in general are in decent shape.
In the afternoon we continued south for about another hour to Porec. This lovely town became our favorite, even over Rovinj. Lots of narrow streets to explore, and again, marina and city moorings on one side and swimming on the other. But the city dock is more interesting with restaurants and bars right in front, similar to what we’ve enjoyed in places like Hvar and Simi in Greece. We Med-tied, cooked up dinner, and then just watched the people pass by. Or they watched us – it was a little like being an animal in a zoo as people pass and stare at the boat and us.
We spent the morning in Porec, enjoying the swimming beach on the northerly shore, and exploring the streets. The narrow streets are made of very large slabs or rock that are mined in the many quarries in the area. The rocks are smooth from many years of people walking its streets. They must’ve taken them all up to install underground wiring and plumbing, and then did an amazing job of putting them all back together again. Poreč is almost 2,000 years old, and is set around a harbor protected from the sea by the small island of Sveti Nikola (Saint Nicholas). There are still Roman ruins in the town, and the most important landmark a 6th century Euphrasian Basilica, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Worth going to to see the mosaics.
We left after lunch and motored to a small bay just south of Rovinj and dropped anchor to be a little closer for our last run back to the marina and charter base. We had dinner on board, swam and paddled, in a protected cove that is also a campsite (Vestar).
We left the next morning for Pomer, and this time under sail. The wind had come up from the south and so we tacked out way down the coast. Overall it was a great trip, perhaps our favorite Med coastline to sail, for many of the reasons mentioned. We’ll be back!