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Sailing Croatia Guide – All You Need To Know, Plus Route Suggestions
Considering you’re reading this, you’ve probably dreamt of sailing Croatia since you first heard about its magical turquoise waters and the enchanting landscapes and towns lining the Adriatic Sea coast. We know how you feel because that was us, too. Croatia has some of the most beautiful coastlines of any country in Europe, maybe even the world; while its many archipelagos are so stunning, you need to see them to believe they’re real.
After sailing Croatia a few times ourselves, we’ve prepared this Croatia sailing guide to help you plan your unforgettable Croatian sailing experience. In this post, we cover everything from the best times to sail Croatia to the most suitable boats, the locations of marinas, and popular sailing routes in Croatia.
When Is The Best Time To Sail Croatia?
The sailing season in Croatia is April – September, but the best period to enjoy your Adriatic sailing experience depends on what type of holiday you’re looking for.
May And June
Winds are predominantly westerly in the summer, so if sailing is your primary interest, then Croatia is a place for you during spring and early summer, which have light to moderate winds.
July And August
Periods of calm prevail in July and August, making this period ideal for those who like smooth waters. A summer sailing holiday in Croatia is perfect for enjoying water sports, swimming, sunbathing, or simply relaxing on your boat with the family.
September And October
These months are just right to set your sails and trim your jib with prolonged periods of Bura (a strong northerly wind) and the Scirocco (a humid east-southeast wind). While the Croatian wind at this time of year can make sailing challenging, you’ll be in great hands with an experienced skipper.
Just be sure to charter a vessel with good heating in the fall and prepare yourself for strong winds and rough seas.
October To April
During winter, sailing in Croatia is not recommended or even possible for tourists. However, although you most likely won’t be able to sail Croatia from November through April, there are still plenty of things to do in Croatia on the mainland. We recommend visiting the Zagreb highlights or take part in Advent in Zagreb, or why not visit Istria for the White Truffle Festival.
What Vessel Is Best For Your Croatia Sailing Trip?
There are four types of vessels available for charter in Croatia. They include sailboats, motorboats, catamarans, and gulets. When we took our first sailing trip along the Adriatic, I was unsure of the type of vessel to charter and found it difficult to decide.
Understanding what each type of vessel offers and matching those to the type of sailing experience you want is essential to having the best Croatia sailing trip possible. Let’s check out the different types of boats you can charter to sail Croatia.
- 2 – 8 people
- $2,000 – $5,000 per week
If you plan to spend most of your time on the water meandering along the Adriatic Sea and being comfortable with plenty of room is important to you, then you need to charter a sailboat.
Sailboats are typically big and have comfortable cabins; they’re equipped with a kitchen and are designed for you to lounge around and to be relaxed.
Sailboats consume far less fuel than motorboats as they harness the power of the wind. A sail boat allows you to sunbathe and sip cocktails while slowly making your way to your next point. Keep in mind that since sailboats are not as fast as motorboats, you should only charter one if you don’t need to make too many stops or if you have lots of time set aside for exploring the Croatian coast and its 1000+ islands.
Managing to sail at all times (rather than using an engine) requires skill and experience. So you’ll need to hire a skipper when sailing Croatia if you are not an experienced sailor and don’t hold a license.
If you charter a sailboat and a skipper, you could also use the experience to gain a few skills whilst you help raise the sails and tie knots. Although if you are like me, you’ll want just to sit back and relax while your skipper takes care of it all.
Sail boats often have between 2 and 6 cabins. Keep your eyes peeled for the big brands to charter such as Beneteau, Jeanneau, Dufour Gib, Bavaria, Grand Soleil, Feeling, Elan, Hanse Salona and Sas.
- 2 – 8 people
- $5,000 – $12,000 per week
If you want plenty of space to stretch out and call your own while cruising and you want speed to get you from one island to the next, then chartering a catamaran for your perfect sea holiday is a must.
Catamarans are much more stable and also faster than a sailboat; with a spacious deck and cockpit, everyone can enjoy their own space. Usually, cabin accommodation is set at the ends of the hulls & a big lounge space allows you all comfort and privacy from your fellow travelers. Chartering a catamaran means an abundance of open space are highly recommended for larger groups and those with children.
Since a catamaran is not tilted more than 5 degrees, it is stable in the water, making it an excellent choice for those with little navigation experience. Catamarans can be set for automatic steering on long routes, leaving you without the need to hire a skipper. A catamaran also gives you good access to smaller bays, which provides more choice to explore hidden coves and smaller beaches along your Mediterranean holiday.
Manufacturers such as Lagoon, Fontaine Pajot, Nautitech & Outremer can all be found in Croatia for charter.
Motor Boats / Motor Yacht
- 10 – 25 people
- $5,000 – $25,000 per week
The 3rd option for vessel charter in Croatia is a bareboat or a skippered motor yacht. Chartering a motorboat will offer you the most exciting sailing adventure.
If you are short on time or want to explore every inch of Croatia’s coast, you should consider a motor boat charter. You can hire a skipper, or if you have the experience, you can pilot the motorboat for yourself.
Motor yachts can be chartered from all of the big marinas in Croatia. Sunseeker, Princess, Fairline, Azimut, Pershing, Sea Ray, Bayliner, Sealine, Maiora, or Benetti are all brands that will make sure you enjoy the Adriatic Sea in style.
- 8 – 20 people
- $5,000 – $20,000 per week
Originally designed for fishermen, you’ll also hear these being called ‘caciques.’ Having changed their purpose and style, a gulet has become a popular choice for vessel charter in Croatia.
Gulets have huge, open decks, which make dining and relaxing ideal. A gulet is best used to cruise, rather than to sail, due to the maximum cruising time of around 3-4 hours per day. Chartering a gulet along the Croatian coast means you can lounge around or make use of the onboard equipment such as jet skis, windsurfers, and kayaks. Because you’ll be anchoring in bays, instead of constantly moving, you’ll have plenty of time to snorkel and swim.
Gulets will anchor in a port depending on your preferences, which means exploring Croatia’s old towns and villages or eating in the many restaurants is easy. However, as a professional crew, including a chef, you may not want to leave your own piece of luxury when chartering a gulet.
What Can I Expect On Board?
Well, first of all, the sailing experience in Croatia depends on which vessel you choose. There’s something for everyone, from the relatively close-quartered and cozy layouts of small sailboats to the abundance of space and luxury on motor yachts. However, all reputable sailing companies will have a range of options available in terms of comfort level and spaciousness. Just make sure you communicate your wishes and desires clearly while booking your vessel and/or trip.
Lower-end vessels have confined cabins and shared bathrooms, while modern top-class catamarans can be the epitome of sailing luxury, featuring luxurious en-suite rooms and lots of on-deck space to hang out. And then there’s an endless array of choices in between.
On most, if not all, Croatia sailing holidays, passengers sleep on the boat. The boat might be docked at a local marina or anchored in a scenic island cove. The exact locations of where you’ll spend your nights vary greatly and depend on your chosen itinerary, as well as on the local connections and knowledge of your skipper. Remember that most Croatian marinas and ports are super-popular, especially in the Dalmatian Islands!
In terms of food, you’ll probably have breakfast and lunch on the boat, allowing you to start off each day well-fueled and ready to go. Dinners are often enjoyed at local restaurants near your marina, on an island, or the Croatian mainland. As you explore the destinations on your itinerary, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to buy additional snacks, treats, and drinks in local shops and markets.
Where Are The Marinas In Croatia?
Croatia has 50 marinas on the coast with over thirteen thousand moorings in the sea & many thousand more on the mainland. These are available all year; however, only a select number of marinas are charter bases. You can start and end your Croatian sailing adventure in Pula, Rovinj, Losinj, Zadar, Sukosan, Biograd, Sibenik, Primosten, Trogir, Kastela, Split, or Dubrovnik. All of these Marinas have good road & airport access.
What Is Croatia’s Nautical Tourism Tax?
In April of 2021, the Croatian National Tourist Board and the country’s Ministry of Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure implemented a new kind of tourism tax. This one focuses specifically on “nautical tourism,” meaning sailing and boating holidays. This tax is meant to position Croatia as a reliable tourist destination, support services, and guarantee quality and safety.
So, in practice, this means that all sailors, including both tourism boat owners and users, must pre-pay this nautical tourist tax and have their confirmation on board during their entire sailing holiday in Croatia. The amount of this Croatian tourist tax for boaters will be determined according to either vessel length or the number of persons on board (i.e., tourist tax per person per night).
You can find all the information about the tourist tax for boaters here.
Which Are The Best Croatia Sailing Routes?
Three of the biggest destinations for those on sailing charters are the areas surrounding the Kornati, Split, and Dubrovnik, each offering you something different. Let’s take a closer look at the most popular sailing routes in Croatia.
Sailing Kornati Islands
This part of the Adriatic Coast of Croatia has the biggest concentration of marinas to choose from. It’s a favorite choice for those wishing to sail Croatia, thanks to the particularly indented coastline, the many islands, and perfect wind conditions. Along the Kornati islands sailing route, you can make several stops taking in the rich history of Croatia.
Pašman, Pag, Ugljan, Dugi Otok, Ist, Iž, Murter, to name a few…
Kornati Islands National Park and Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Zadar has a history dating back 3000 years, with a huge open Roman forum.
- Šibenik, a historical town listed on UNESCO World Heritage List, known for its cathedral and an excellent location next to the Kornati Islands.
- Long and bare island Pag, known for its tasty sheep’s cheese & Hotel Boskinac, which Anthony Bourdain visited. As well as a history of lace making and incredible beaches, including Zrce.
Tourists flock to Split each year, as it offers many hidden bays and stunning islands. Must-see destinations are the following.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
A short bus ride from Split is Trogir, which UNESCO protects.
Split plays a vital role in the region; as the second biggest city (after Zagreb), Split evolved from the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The remains of Diocletian’s Palace are protected by UNESCO, described as one of the world’s best-preserved Roman architectural structures.
Well known as one of Croatia’s most popular destinations is Dubrovnik. Its located in the South of Dalmatia and is sure to capture your heart. Things to see
Elafiti Islands, a group of mostly uninhabited islands in front of Dubrovnik, particularly attractive for yachting and excursions
The town of Korčula, on the island of the same name, is known for its regularly shaped layout, historical architecture, and the knight’s game of Moreška.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dubrovnik, a Mediterranean pearl where liberty and democracy had always been highly appreciated. Today, the Old Town of Dubrovnik is protected by UNESCO as World Heritage, and the town is an elegant and mandatory stopping point for everyone visiting the Mediterranean.
Food and Culture
Pelješac is a long and narrow peninsula, remarkably diverse because of its shape. Some of the finest Croatian wines come from the Pelješac Peninsular. Mali Ston is a center of gastronomy in the region and the town with the longest town walls in Europe, while nearby Veliki Ston is famous for salt production.
National Park island Mljet, and Nature Park Lastovo Archipelago
Suggested Croatia Sailing Itineraries
Sailing Croatia Itinerary Option 1: 7 Days From Split To Dubrovnik
Discover the Southern Adriatic in 7 days
The Croatian coast offers a full package for travelers, known for its Mediterranean tradition, well-indented coastline, and a trove of biological, cultural, and culinary delights. Southern Dalmatia has well-established Adriatic holiday hotspots, like the UNESCO-listed city of Dubrovnik. Still, one of the charms of sailing Croatia is that you have the opportunity to explore more than just one famous city. While sailing, use the opportunity to visit some of the lesser-known spots on offer in the Southern Adriatic. Set sail this year from Split to Dubrovnik and discover a route with some really intriguing locations.
Split – Drvenik Veli – Šolta
Drvenik Veli is perfect for the start of your trip. A small island northwest of Šolta, it is well indented with numerous inlets and anchorages with enchanting sand and pebble beaches for you to enjoy. In addition to this natural wealth, you can also explore the traditional stone architecture of the island. These stone buildings of Drvenik are protected as cultural monuments, and they often attract architecture enthusiasts.
On your way south, you can find a safe harbor in Maslinica and explore the impressive offer of Šolta. Brimming with wildlife, Šolta is well known for its wide variety of bird species. Šolta offers religious architecture and art from various time periods, some as early as the 6th century.
Šolta – Pakleni Islands
Sailing further along the southern Adriatic, make a stop at Pakleni Islands. Named after pine resin, these islands are among the best spots for soaking up the Adriatic sun’s rays and shaded by fragrant Mediterranean pines. Pakleni Islands have many beautiful beaches; some of them are naturalist (nudist) resorts, so make sure to pick an anchorage you’re comfortable with. You can berth in Palmižana, a touristic favorite in the area, and grab a bite in one of the charming and cozy seaside restaurants.
Pakleni Islands – Korčula
On your way to Korčula, consider dropping anchor near the island of Šćedro for a while. This little island in the southern Adriatic is located right next to Hvar, prides itself with an unusually favorable climate and scented lavender fields. It was home to Dominican monks for three centuries and is known as one of the most idyllic Mediterranean islands. Humans are not the only ones seeking relaxation here; Šćedro is also a common sighting spot for one of the most elusive tenants of the Adriatic, the bottlenose dolphin.
Korčula Island abounds with beautiful anchorages, and if you want to nestle in a harbor safely, Korčula Town has a marina providing 159 berths and all the necessary facilities. Make sure to explore the place that many Croatian’s believe to be the hometown of Marko Polo and enjoy the scenic cobblestone ambiance.
Korčula – Mljet
Mljet can genuinely be called the Emerald of the Adriatic. Recognized as one of the most forested islands of the area, this gem is also one of Croatia’s eight national parks, this one known for mud and salt lakes. Even though the island itself is a true natural paradise, the waters around it hide the dark secrets of ancient shipwrecks.
Drop your anchor in the bay Prožura (approach it from the west side of Planjak to avoid the dangerous shoals on the east), where you can find a tranquil village formed through the 15th century around a Benedictine church and monastery. Find out what charm drew Dubrovnik’s aristocracy to make this location a preferred 17th-century-holiday spot and appreciate the exquisite architecture they left behind.
Mljet – Elafiti Islands
Steer towards Šipan, the largest in the chain of Elafiti islands. An island with numerous anchorages, unsullied nature, and unavoidable 16th-century villas, it is every Roman emperor’s dream brimming with all kinds of Mediterranean fruits like almonds, citrus fruits, carob, olives, and figs.
Elafiti Islands – Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a true sensation of the Adriatic coast. Under the protection of Saint Blaise and its impressive fortification walls, this city prides itself on an eventful history marked by numerous cultural and historic sites. Thanks to this, however, it is always brimming with crowds of people, so if you’re not a fan of large groups of tourists, make sure to plan your visit accordingly.
The sailing boat is a perfect vessel for exploring the vibrant area of the southern Adriatic, allowing you to explore every nook of the coastline. Choose the ship that will enable you to make the most out of your trip, and if you have any uncertainties, you can let a quality yacht charter agency help you out or book a Sailing trip where all the hard work is done for you.
Keep your eye on the sirocco and savor all the tastes of the Croatian coast. Smooth sailing!
Sailing Croatia Itinerary Option 2: 7 Days Roundtrip From Split
We’re looking at sailing Croatia options for this summer. So many route choices. So little time. When chartering a vessel in Croatia, you are usually required to book the vessel for a week. Seven glorious days sailing the Adriatic Coast. Bliss. But first, you have to choose where to go. Here is one of the many options that we’ve been considering.
Seven days departing and returning to Split. It is suited to those who want to avoid partying and clubs and instead enjoy the cultural sites.
Split – Šolta
Maslinica is the only settlement on the island of Šolta’s western coast. Known for its mini-archipelago of seven isles, it’s the perfect place to dive and fish.
Šolta – Zlarin
Continue diving and fishing on the mostly uninhabited island of Zlarin, located in the Šibenik archipelago.
Zlarin – Skradin
Skradin is a city with a historical city located close to the famous Krka National Park, popular for its waterfalls.
Skradin – Šibenik – Tribunj
Head to Šibenik, where you’ll find the UNESCO-listed Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik. The Cathedral is a magnificent example of a blend of architectural heritage from northern Italy, Tuscany, and Dalmatia. The most significant architectural Renaissance monument in Croatia, the Cathedral of St. James, stands majestically over its many visitors. Tribunj is a town 15km from Šibenik, known for its summer donkey race. Be there as people race stubborn donkeys and enjoy the quiet beach near the town of Sovje.
Tribunj – Primošten
Pull up anchor in one of the 400 berths at the Kremik marina, said to be one of the safest places to anchor in the Adriatic and enjoy the azure sea – and perhaps a few glasses of wine. Primošten is filled with stone houses and would make a great place to spend the day wandering the cobblestone streets.
Primošten – Trogir
Trogir is a city museum, the castle, and the tower, surrounded by stone walls, contain the old core of Trogir. Home to one of the best structures of medieval architecture in Europe, it boasts the best-preserved Roman-Gothic complex in Central Europe. Enrolled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 due to its unparalleled beauty and cultural value.
Trogir – Uvala Krknjaši (Veli Drvenik) – Split
Veli Drvenik is an island in the Split Riviera, close to Trogir, where you’ll find the Uvala Krknjaši cove. There is a small resort in the bay that offers accommodation and fabulous kayaking options.
How do these sailing Croatia itineraries sound to you? All you have to do is to decide which Croatian sailing route to choose. What cliffs, beaches, caves, and striking bays in Croatia are best suited to you?Share