Things to do on Cres Island Croatia
The Island of Cres has a history ribboned with changing governing empires. The island was independent until the Romans took control in the second century, and after regaining control in the 10th century, the island was almost overtaken multiple times by the Venetian Empire between 1000-1797. I
n the early 1800s, the island was absorbed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and after World War I, Cres fell under Italian rule. At the end of the Second World War, the island was given over to Yugoslavia and was part of Croatia when the country declared independence in 1991.
As a result of trading hands so many times, the culture and architecture on the island are diverse and kind of interesting. Cres is also very sparsely populated, making it an excellent reprieve from the typical tourist attractions in Croatia, and last but not least, its stunning landscapes are magical making it one of the best Croatian islands to explore.
So here you have some things to see and do on Cres!
Once you make it off the mainland, you will be spellbound by the scenery on the island. The coast of Cres is dotted with numerous bays and coves that beckon you to explore them. The ancient forests and hidden towns that litter the hilltops echo back to a time when life was much simpler and, in a way, more mysterious. The cliffs are impressive and imposing and in places they shoot straight up out of the ocean and head skyward.
While staying on the island, you will most likely stay in Cres city, known for its architecture which is heavily influenced by the Venetians and is beautiful beyond imagination. Things to see in Cres Old town include the Venetian Tower, Municipal Loggia, Remnants of the city walls, Old Roman Bridge and the Beli Olive mill.
Put your adventurer’s cap on as you trek outside the city and explore Cres’s smaller settlements, Lubenice, Beli, Valun and Martinšćica. Perched on top of a cliff 378m above seal level is Lubenice where you’ll find a medieval fortress and the remains of the city walls.
In summer the village hosts Lubenice Evenings where scores of visitors to the island are entertained by some of Croatia’s best performers. Directly below Lubenice is St John Beach which was ranked 15th best beach in the world by Bild magazine.
The village of Martinšćica sits on a breathtakingly beautiful bay with a spectacular pristine pebble beach and makes for an enjoyable swim stop. Be sure to take your camera because this bay is stunning.
Once you are finished, continue up to one of the major peaks on Cres Island, Niksa, Križić and Sis which will give you the best panoramic views out over the Kvarner Bay. With over 100km of marked trails, hiking Cres is an excellent way to see the natural treasures of the island some of which include the freshwater lake Vrana, the Tramontana Woods with its oak, hornbeam, chestnut and archeological sites and if you have a keen eye, look to the sky and try and spot the endangered Eurasian Griffon.
Cres’s hidden coves provide for some superb snorkeling. There is also a scuba diving center located on the island if you feel like delving deeper into the crystal clear Adriatic waters. If you just feel like meandering around the outskirts of the island, you can hire a boat for the day and find your own little private beach. Cres’s most famous beach is Mali bok, but the beaches at Martinšćice, and Valun are equally as nice.
Take your pick from one of the many restaurants scattered throughout the islands that provide authentic Croatian food. Some of these establishments will let you sit literally on the the seaside, while others are tucked amongst the shade of trees and allow you to dine alfresco. All of them provide fabulous fare ranging from exquisite local seafood to the famous Cres Lamb, which you absolutely must try. You’ll find that Cres lamb is prepared one of two ways – cooked under the bell (ispod peke) or spit roasted, it tastes fantastic cooked either way so try both and you decide. Here are a few noteworthy Cres restaurants worth trying:
Na Moru – Some of the best seafood and lamb entrees on the island. Dishes are prepared traditionally, and they have a reputation that is second to none. Also, they own their own fishpond which allows you to choose your fresh catch meal!
Mali Raj – This restaurant offers a superb dining experience. They are best known for their lamb that is succulent and tender. A great dining experience.
Trs – This establishment is known for Cres lamb as well. The distinguishing difference here is that they raise their own lamb. Great staff and beautiful surroundings.
Maris – Outdoor dining in a garden environment. The surroundings are beautiful and lush. The food features local dishes that not only tickle the pallet but satisfy your appetite as well.
Throughout summer there are numerous festivals across the island. Some if the best events are the Cres Town Summer Nights, The Summer Carnival, The Summer Festival, Vidovici Martinscica, Days of Tramuntana and Belej St. Rocco that feature live bands and entertainment. Belej St. Rocco is the largest of all of the festivals and happens August 16th of every year.
Throughout the rest of the year, Cres is much quieter, however, there are still some excellent events including the four islands MTB race, Kvarner Bay challenge, and foodies should not miss the days of Cres lamb and olive oil.
Now that we have you convinced to put Cres Island on your Croatian itinerary, you might be wondering how to get there!
Traveling to Cres Island
To get to Cres, you are at the mercy if the ferries. So be sure to check the ferry schedules, so you don’t get stuck waiting around.
- Ferry. Cres Island is a short skip across the sea by ferry. From the mainland in Brestova, a 20-minute ferry ride will land you on the island.
- Bus. You may take the bus as well – most of the bus lines make several trips a day.
- Air. By plane, your best bet is to hop on a flight to Rijeka and take public transport or a ferry from there to the island.
While mainland Croatia is splendid, there is loads to discover across the sea!