Sailing the Dalmatian coast
Great weather, warm blue seas, beautiful cities, deserted islands, wicked nightlife, stunning national parks, friendly people, cheap beer and the freshest seafood - the Dalmatian Coast has it all, and chilling on the deck of a traditional sailing boat, cruising down the Adriatic with swim stops galore, is without doubt the best way to experience it…
What to expect
These trips are all about relaxation, getting to know the islands and chilling out with awesome people in some of the most stunning surroundings ever. Kicking back on board as we cut through the crystal clear waves and getting to know your trip mates in the sunshine over a late morning beer. Sunbaking on deck, then trying out those warm clear waters for yourself as we cool down with a swim stop en-route to another incredible destination, ready to explore the chilled out towns, sun kissed beaches, delicious food and awesome nightlife of some of Croatia’s most beautiful islands…
If that floats your boat, check out the below for a taster of a day in the life of a Busabout Croatia Sailor…
A Typical Day
The boat departs early in the morning (make sure you’re back on-board before sunrise!), with a freshly prepared breakfast on the table between 8-9am for any early risers (or late to-bedders). Sunnies on, book by your side, and Bob Marley playing on the speakers, spend the morning kicking back on deck with your trip mates, the perfect way to start another day in Paradise. Late morning we’ll cruise in to a secluded cove for a swim stop, just in time for last night's partygoers to emerge from their cabins for a refreshing dip in the crystal clear turquoise waters.
Back on board, it’s time to crack open a beer and crank up the tunes as we enjoy a delicious freshly cooked three course lunch at around 1pm, whilst your guide gives you more info about the next awesome island, cruising in to dock at around 2pm…Get your land legs back as your guide takes you on a little orientation walk of the island (or in Dubrovnik's case, an epic guided walk around its famous medieval walls) before free time to discover the sites, wander the sun dappled streets, have a swim, check out the water sports or explore the shops.
Then we head in to the balmy summer night for an optional group dinner in town before a night checking out the bars, getting to know the locals and dancing the night away with a cocktail or three at one of the many awesome island clubs – bliss!
The boats all have a Croatian crew along with your Busabout Guide - the Captains are usually old hearty sea dogs that speak very little English, the deck hands usually young English speaking Croats on their University holidays and of course your English speaking Busabout Guide too to make sure you have the time of your life on-board.
The boats hold between 14 and 32 passengers, all cabins are twin share, some ensuite, some not, some below deck (close those windows when we're sailing) some above, with plenty of room up top for sunbathing.
All the boats have a bar, which does mean no cheeky duty free bottles of vodka on deck (just a license thing on all the boats), but the beers are cold and cheap and they usually have a few pretty reasonable spirits too.
The originals to pioneer the Dalmatian coast, these beautifully preserved classic boats are full of character offering great deck space, well laid out cabins and shared bathrooms. They are skippered by the new generation of captain, so their youthful energy and lively attitude will ensure you have a great week's sail.
These boats have been sailing with us for seasons. They offer great big decks to dance and sunbathe on and a large galley to enjoy the seafood and ensuited cabins, allowing for privacy. The Classic Ensuites are slightly larger than their Classic Standard counterparts and could be described as Dalmatia's party boats. They are skippered by awesome characters, who will ensure your week's sail is top notch.
These brand-spanking new steel hulled giants offer large en suite cabins, flat screen entertainment systems, huge deck space and large galleys. They represent the new Croatian cruising experience with captains and crews who have grown with us over the years; you'll never want to get off them.
With a population of 200,000 Split is the second biggest city in Croatia next to the capital Zagreb, the principle city of the Dalmatian coast, major port for ferries to Italy and the starting point for most people on the sailing tours. It's the soul of Dalmatia... it's where the locals live, work and party, wedged between the Biokovo mountains and the palm lined Adriatic coast and framed by the luxurious ancient palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Welcome to Split!
If your tour finishes here you can enjoy a guided walk around the Palace with your Busabout Guide before dinner and drinks in the old town. If you start in Split be sure to check in at the waterfront before midday – there'll be plenty of Katarina Line reps wandering around to help you in the right direction!
The 'Pearl of the Adriatic' is for many people the highlight of Croatia. Ravaged by war in 1991 it's a remarkable feat that very little noticeable damage has scared this stunning medieval city with its limestone and marble streets and squares and the most complete set of medieval fortified walls in the world. The history of the city goes back to a Slavic settlement on the cliffs back in the 7th Century AD, but it was between the 13th and 15th Centuries, after Dalmatia was liberated from Venetian rule, that the complex system of fortresses, guard towers, bastions, ramparts, gates and turrets were constructed to enclose and defend the old town from further would-be invaders. Almost 2000m around, offering stunning views over the Adriatic and the traditional red roof tops, this is deservedly, a UNESCO World Heritage city. Not even a huge earthquake in 1667, which levelled most buildings, could shake the walls. They don't build them like they used to!
We dock up around lunchtime at 'Gruž' or the New Port, but after lunch we can jump on a bus for 5 minutes (don't forget your camera) to the Pile gate where the adventure begins as we check out the old town. Have a wander down the broad medieval paved Stradun high street and begin our walk around the top of the walls over the St. John fortress for great views out to Lokrum Island, over the Ploče gate to the Minčeta tower, the highest point on the walls and the place for that postcard shot of Dubrovnik. Maybe a visit to 'Buža' bar this afternoon could be on the cards if you can find the hole in the Dubrovnik Walls that leads you onto the rocks. Grab a chilled beer, a suntan and maybe a swim and then enjoy some free time checking out the sights of the old town...
With a population of around 4000, Korčula town is the highlight of the island of Korčula and its cute little medieval walled town is reminiscent of a mini Dubrovnik. Famed for its expert stone masonry, jewellery making, shipbuilding and its most famous ex-resident, Venetian traveller Marco Polo, the island has over 5000 years of history. Polo, who was supposedly born in Korčula (when under Venetian rule) was one of the first Europeans to travel out to China and Mongolia back in the 13th Century way before Columbus, Tasman and Cook ventured out East. He was captured by the Genoese in Korčula during a huge naval battle back in 1298 that gets proudly re-enacted every summer in the town with big celebrations. During his imprisonment in Genoa he wrote one of the most famous travel books of all time about his journeys 'Il Milione' (Columbus kept and annotated his own copy hundreds of years later for his own travels, so it really was the original Lonely Planet!)
At about 80km long the island of Hvar is the longest in the Dalmatian coast and second in total size only to neighbouring Brač. It's also the sunniest place in Croatia with an average of 2724 hours of sun per year. Lush vineyards amongst the rugged mountains, rolling fields of lavender, tiny inlets and secluded coves, not to mention the luscious boutiques and pumping nightlife of the medieval streets of Hvar town make it a must see. As our boats pass the Pakleni islands we get a great view of the town port and Spanola fortress up on the hill as we come into dock about 5pm.
One of the most famous and beautiful national parks in Croatia is found in Mljet. The salt-water lakes of Mljet on the northwest part of the island are amazing. Make sure you check out Veliko Jezero (Big Lake) and Malo Jezero (Small Lake) which are only a short walk from the town of Pomena in the middle of the island. Sheltered and surrounded by pine forests, the nature here is stunning! Formed 10,000 years ago by rising sea levels they were originally freshwater lakes until the Benedictine Monks came here back in the 12th Century and dug out a channel to the sea – you can still find their peaceful medieval monastery on the island of St. Mary in the big lake (yes – an island in a lake on an island!).
Once you've bought your National Park Entrance you can jump on the free boats out to St. Mary's, grab an ice cream, have a swim (the lakes are even a few degrees warmer than the sea) and imagine how the monks would have chilled out here in solitude 700 years ago, nature all around. It's not an active monastery any more (Napoleon brought an end to that 200 years ago), but became a hotel back in the 1960s until the early 90s.
On the mainland between Split and Makarska is the famous pirate town of Omiš, visited on all our Split-to-Split tours and most of the One-Way Sails. Between the 13th and 15th Centuries the local sea Captains weren't too happy about paying out taxes to some rich Venetian Duke so they took it upon themselves to 'supervise' navigation of all the Venetian trading vessels. When Omiš was under the rule of the powerful pirate Dukes of Kacic it enjoyed considerable prosperity and was well known to be a dangerous nest of pirates from the Mediterranean Saracens to the Tatars of the Black Sea. Omiš was a thorn in the side of Venice's medieval naval supremacy, and between the rocky rapids of the river Cetina, the Mirabel Pirate fortress in the old town, and the watchful eye of the Stari Grad Fortress up in the mountains, the pirates had this place pretty well protected!
South of Split on the mainland lies the stunning coastline of the Makarska Riviera, dotted with cute seaside villages, resorts and white pebble beaches framed by the lofty heights of the Biokovo mountains stretching up straight from the sea. Makarska is the principle town of the 30km Riviera and with its massive beach, palmed fringed promenade and many water sports, is always popular with the locals from Split to get away from the big city. All of the Split-to-Split tours go here, with some of the One Ways as well.
The island of Brač is the largest island on the Dalmatian coast at almost 400km rising to 778m (Mt. Vid, the highest mountain on the Croatian Islands) with the main towns being visited by our One Way sailing tours. The main stops are either Bol or Milna. Bol is a small resort town of 1,500 people on the south of the Island most famous for the nearby Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) pebble beach. The most photographed beach in Croatia is quite unique considering it comes out at right angles to the shoreline like a horn, rather than running along the coast. Strong currents give the beach its continually changing shape, and as the tides turn the tip of the horn will point in a different direction! From Bol town, walk around to the left along the markets and pine – fringed promenade for about 15 minutes and you arrive at the famous beach, popular with tourists on one day trips from Split and water sports fanatics alike. Aside from the beach, the town itself has a beautiful promenade, heaps of great seafood restaurants, bars and even a 100-year old traditional winery you can visit.
The Diocletian Palace, Split
Split is stunning, and amongst its many attractions there’s some serious culture to be found. The Diocletian Palace (the retirement home of the Roman Emperor Diocletian) is first up; the amazing ancient labyrinth that made up the palace’s corridors now forming part of the streets of the old town, the 1,700 year old walls clashing happily with the funky cafes, cool lighting and chilled out vibe of the newly redesigned Riva waterfront. The haunting underground cellars of the palace, where Diocletian tortured Christians and other enemies, also remain, and are now home to local artisan markets where gorgeous souvenirs can be found, whilst the Cathedral and Bell Tower at the centre of the palace are an awesome sight for architecture buffs (and, with 186 steps to the top, provide incredible views for the rest of us!)
Partying, Island style
Rave in a WWII cave in Makarska, drink cocktail buckets in Dubrovnik, party in a monastery in Hvar and pole-dance in Korcula – whatever you fancy there’s some wicked partying to be done in Croatia, and your guide will make sure you’re always at the heart of the action.
Action Adventure sports
From kayaking in Mljet to parasailing in Makarska and mountain hiking in Omis - Croatia might be chilled, and relaxation might be the name of the game on your Croatia Sailing trip, but adrenalin junkies get ready, as action adventure sports are everywhere!
Croatian Cuisine, anywhere and everywhere
With island hopping comes island cuisine, and the food in Croatia is awesome! Influenced by Slavic, Hungarian, Austrian and Turkish cuisine and with strong regional differences, top dishes to try include mussels in wine sauce, grilled squid, peppers stuffed with local meat, buzara - shellfish sautéed in garlic, olive oil, parsley and white wine and brodet – delicious fish stew. Gorgeous local wines (red and white), and of course some pretty excellent pivo (beer) add to the mix, along with rakija – a local dijestif that will put any grappa or ouzo in the shade. All this, plus breakfast and freshly cooked three course lunches provided on board = a truly top taste experience!
Sightseeing in Dubrovnik
From the stunning stonework of the 14th Century Franciscan Monastery to the incredible 16-sided Onofrio’s fountain (built in 1444 and still supplying the city with fresh, clean ice-cold drinking water today) - Dubrovnik is a sightseer’s Paradise. Check out the incredible Cathedral (housing a piece of cloth reputed to have been worn by Jesus himself), the Church of St Baise (the Patron Saint of Dubrovnik) and the gorgeous Sponza Palace (now housing the Balkans War Memorial) and discover Dubrovnik with your guide on an orientation walk, as they unlock the secrets of all this incredible city has to offer – awesome!
I had an amazing experience! It was the perfect balance between sight-seeing, learning about the country and having a good time. Everything I expected and more.