Beautiful Croatian Islands You Need to Explore by Boat

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Photo of Leon Beckenham
2 December 2021
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With more than 1,000 islands scattered along hundreds of kilometres of coast, the Croatian archipelago offers endless opportunities for a sailing adventure. Each has its own character from lush flora-filled islets to long fingers of land lined with dramatic cliffs, but a running theme is the dreamy sapphire hues of the Adriatic Sea. Here we reveal the best spots to hit along the Croatian coast by boat.

To see the Croatian coast in style, choose from hundreds of boat charter options via SamBoat. Alternatively, embark on a multi-day sailing adventure around the region by chartering a vessel with Dream Yacht Charter.

Hvar

Natural Feature
Hvar, Croatia
Photo by Marcus Löfvenberg on Unsplash
Part of the last cluster of islands at the eastern end of the Dalmatian Coast, Hvar has been making an increasingly glamorous name for itself – even dubbed the new St Tropez. But beyond the luxury yachts and swanky nightlife of scenic Hvar Town, the island boasts an abundance of natural beauty, too. Its silver-purple lavender fields draw summer crowds, while lush coastal pastures overflow with wildflowers and asparagus. Be sure to drop anchor at Stari Grad, one of Europe’s oldest towns and a real historic gem.

Brač

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Croatia, Dalmatia, Brac island, Bol, aerial view of Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape) beach
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Despite its Golden Horn – an impossibly white beach that’s become the poster child for Croatia’s coastal beauty – Brač remains one of the less-visited islands. While fairly dry inland, its dramatic rocky coast is fabulous to explore by boat. It offers some of the region’s best scuba diving thanks to super-clear water, especially around the beautiful Lučice Bay. Dock in Supetar – the island’s main town on its northern side – and treat yourself to market-fresh seafood from a harbourside restaurant.

Vis

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Komiža harbour on Vis is home to a small fleet of white sailing boats and encircled by attractive limestone houses.
© KATE NOBLE / nobleIMAGES / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re looking for a real slice of old-world Croatia, Vis has maintained a sense of sleepy timelessness like few others. This is largely due to it once being a military base, so it was cut off from visitors and development for several decades. A hands-down highlight is Stiniva Beach, a secluded patch of white pebble beach flanked by tall cliffs, and much easier to approach by boat. When you’re done, sail round to Vis Town with its big natural harbour and quaint waterfront promenade.

Mljet

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A landscape shot of the clear blue sea around Mljet island, Croatia
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The most easterly of the big islands is also Croatia’s greenest, and by quite some margin. In fact, over 70 percent of Mljet is covered by dense pine forest. One-third of it is also made up of national park, within which are two crystal clear, saltwater lakes. They’re ideal for a cooling swim, and one even has a tiny isle with a monastery-turned-restaurant you can take a small boat to. Circumnavigate Mljet island and you’ll pass numerous scenic islets, too. It really is all quite a feast for the eyes.

Rab

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Aerial view of tiled rooftops in Rab town, with four bell towers also visible and sea views in the distance.
Rab town is famous for its attractive bell towers | © Ivan Smuk / Alamy
Despite one side almost completely fringed with tall rugged cliffs, Rab is known as the island with the sandiest beaches in the whole Adriatic. You will really notice its contrasting halves as you sail around, with lush forests, charming villages and numerous coves lining its southern coast. You can sail along a narrow stretch between Rab and an elongated islet to drop anchor at any of several sheltered harbours on either side of Rab Town. Be sure to step ashore here for a stroll around its charming walled old town.

Korčula

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Yachting at Korcula, Croatia
© Mariano Garcia / Alamy
Approaching Korčula town by sea, you’ll immediately understand why this fabulous medieval settlement has been dubbed Little Dubrovnik. Numerous centuries-old buildings seem to jostle for position behind the ancient ramparts. Continue around the Peljesac channel and you’ll appreciate the natural beauty of the island, too, scattered with olive groves, pine forests and golden beaches. At the island’s farthest western point is a tiny islet and the lovely Batalo Beach. Take a dip here before strolling to a simple restaurant for seafood hot off the coals.

Dugi Otok

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Spectacular aerial sea landscape of rocky coast and crystal clear water in Dugi Otok, Croatia
© Anze Bizjan / Alamy Stock Photo
Translating as long island, at 45km (28mi) and skinnier than most, this is certainly one of the archipelago’s most elongated. Dugi Otok is mostly known for the Telascica Nature Park covering the southern part of the island. With its countless islets, dramatic wood-topped cliffs and calm waters, it’s understandably popular for boating. And if you’re planning to set foot on land, Mir Lake is a wonderful spot for a dip – it’s warmer than the sea in summer and its salt-rich waters are rumoured to have healing properties.

Cres

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Mali Bok Beach Surrounded By Cliffs, Island Cres.
© EyeEm / Alamy
The most westerly, one of the largest and least developed of Croatia’s islands, Cres is a haven for wildlife. It provides sanctuary for the rare and gigantic griffon vulture amongst the rugged wilderness of thick forest, craggy coastline and hidden coves. Sail to the Mali Bok nature reserve for the best chance of sighting these impressive birds. Circle to the other side of the island to gaze up at Lubenice, a 4,000-year-old hilltop fortress, before exploring the nearby Blue Cave – a sea grotto filled with turquoise light.

Cruise around the Croatian coast in style by chartering a vessel with SamBoat or you’ve got the option of a multi-day sailing adventure with Dream Yacht Charter.

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