7 Family-Friendly Islands In The Zadar Region
Many hundreds of islands and islets make up the gorgeous Zadar archipelago, which lies just off the Zadar mainland and is reachable by ferry and catamaran. Of those countless islands, however, only a small fraction is inhabited. These islands receive much fewer visitors than the more popular islands in southern Dalmatia—Hvar, Brac, and Korcula are good examples of that. That, of course, means they’re much quieter and serene, and ideal for families.
There are several family-friendly islands in Zadar, a short ferry ride and a world away from the bustling Old Town. These places are home to great beaches, bare hills, tiny towns and gloriously clear waters.
The island of Pašman is one of the largest family-friendly islands in Zadar’s archipelago. It’s also among those that lie nearest to the mainland coast, separated only by the Pašman Channel, which is no more than two kilometers wide at some points.
With currents that change direction multiple times a day, the channel’s waters are some of the cleanest and clearest in the entire Adriatic. On land, you’ll find farmlands, vineyards, and olive groves, as well as pebble and sand beaches. Culture and history lovers will relish the chance to visit relatively undiscovered gems such as castle ruins, remains of ancient Illyrian towns, beautiful villas, and other monuments.
You can get to Pašman via ferries from Biograd or, alternatively, by ferry bus from Zadar to Ugljan and then onward by bus to Pašman. (The islands of Ugljan—see below—and Pašman are connected by a short bridge.)
Across the Zadar Channel lies Ugljan, the nearest one of these family-friendly islands in Zadar. This lush island is sometimes referred to as the Zadar Garden because of its olive groves, pine forests, vineyards and fig orchards.
If you want to take the kids on an easy island trip from Zadar, this is your most convenient option. There is a direct ferry service between the port of Zadar and the island. The ferry ride takes less than 30 minutes.
In addition to lush landscapes, Ugljan boasts a wealth of history as well. You can visit the 13th-century St. Michael Fortress, which offers a stunning panoramic view or explore old churches and monasteries. Hiking and cycling trails crisscross the island, offering the opportunities to explore it at your own pace.
Beaches are available as well, for those looking to simply soak up some Mediterranean sunshine away from Zadar’s busy Old Town. Additionally, wandering around local villages such as Preko, Ugljan, Poljana, and Kali is a popular thing to do, too.
3. Dugi Otok
If you have time to visit just one of these family-friendly islands in Zadar, let it be Dugi Otok. Also known as Long Island, this sensationally beautiful place is easily one of Croatia’s star attractions. On the island, historic towns and award-winning beaches share space with lush forests and impressive coastal cliffs.
This is the location of both Telašćica Nature Park and Kornati National Park, which is truly one of Croatia’s greatest nature destinations. Its name is justified by its shape and size, about 45 kilometers long but its width varying between only 1 and 4 kilometers. Anywhere you go, the coast and its cliffs and beaches will be right there. If you have more than 48 hours in Zadar, this trip is so worth it.
There are more than ten historic villages on the island as well as various ruins dating as far back as Roman times. Besides this obvious cultural character, however, the island is most famous for its natural features. The nature parks attract hikers, sunbathers, wildlife watchers, and snorkelers.
Make sure to take the time to explore the entire island, from Kornati National Park in the far south to Sakarun Beach near its northern tip. The latter is one of the world’s most beautiful coves.
There are regular ferries between Zadar and Dugi Otok, as well as from other islands in the Zadar Archipelago. Or take the whole family on a 3-day sailing adventure like we did, which includes a stop on this stunning island.
4. Mali Iz
A part of the Island of Iz, Mali Iz lies on the lower northeastern side of the island, facing toward Zadar. People have lived in the area since Antiquity and there’s a long fishing tradition, as well as a famed painted handmade ceramics industry. There are five small villages in Mali Iz—Komoševa and Knež on the coast and Porovac, Makovac and Muće a short walk inland. This is a great destination for those looking for a quiet island retreat, far away from the tourist-saturated coast of northern Dalmatia.
Spend some time wandering around the area, keeping your eyes open for remnants of ancient Croatian architecture, or go fishing, scuba diving or snorkeling. There are some excellent reefs just off the coast. Iz is also a good starting point for visits to gorgeous Kornati National Park. In terms of accommodation, you’ll find several apartments all over Mali Iz, but many of them are in the coastal village of Makovac
Makovac is also where the ferries from and to Zadar arrive and leave.
Part of a group of islands in the northwestern Zadar Archipelago, Silba is the most populous of them all. This is the remotest of these five family-friendly islands in Zadar region, a place that really lends itself to relaxation and slowing down.
It does get busy in the summer season, though, attracting peace-seekers, young families and active travelers alike. The entire island is a pedestrian zone, and the only vehicles allowed are those that serve the island’s businesses. It’s a walker’s paradise, while lovers of “slow food” will undoubtedly enjoy the taverns and eateries in the island’s namesake town of Silba. Fishermen, boaters, and snorkelers, too, will find joy in the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic.
Getting to Silba is possible with three different ferry companies. Depending on the route you take, the journey lasts approximately between 1.5 hours and just over 4 hours.
Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the island of Vir lies northwest of Zadar, a quick drive yet a world away from the city. This quiet island is a well-kept secret in the region, much less popular among tourists than other places, but definitely with something in store to please every visitor.
The island is home to the namesake town of Vir, a Mediterranean town with a long history. Although recently Vir has become a popular area to build summer houses among Croatians, Slovenians, Bosnians and even people from other further-away countries, the locals have also made an effort to keep things attractive to tourists.
There are fine natural beaches and a bunch of old churches, ruins and fortifications, most notably the 16th-century Kaštelina Fortress that was erected by the Venetians as a defense against the Turks and pirates roaming the Adriatic. Additionally, there are also a few fascinating prehistoric ruins in the island’s hills.
The island of Pag, situated north of Zadar, is so close to the mainland, it’s virtually a peninsula. A very short bridge connects the island to the mainland, making it possible to drive your rental car there. It’s one of the best day trips from Zadar, for sure.
Characterized by a landscape of bare rocks, countless coves and inlets, gravel and sand beaches, and a few fun towns, Pag makes for a great getaway destination for families vacationing in the Zadar region. Foodies will enjoy sampling some of the area’s specialties, such as Pag cheese, white wine, and lamb dishes. Additionally, there are centuries-old ruins, beautiful churches and the medieval town of Pag.
Activities in Pag range from hiking and biking to sunbathing, water sports, fishing and cultural exploration. To the north of Pag, Zrće has attracted young party-goers for years with its 24-hour parties, festivals, and music events. Families with young children, on the other hand, will love spending their days on the beaches and in the shallow waters.
Are you ready to pack up your family gear and island hop this year?
If you have kids and are looking for family-friendly islands in Zadar, check out these seven first. They’re absolutely the top islands in the region, offering everything from history and culture to outdoor activities and fantastic beaches.
Photo credits: Thanks to the Zadar Region Tourist Board