The islands are fewer and further apart around Dubrovnik, but just as rich and varied as elsewhere on the Croatian coast. Time has stood relatively still on the more remote Lastovo island, and Korčula town will bowl you over with its Venetian charm. Lush green Mljet, with its saltwater lakes, is known as the “green island” and the Pelješac peninsula is the wine store of Croatia. Here we reveal how to hit these spots and more on a seven-day sailing itinerary around Dubrovnik.
ACI Marina Dubrovnik is tucked up Rijeka Dubrovačka (River Dubrovnik) in Komolac, just a short distance from the main port of Gruž and Dubrovnik Old Town. At its heart is an elegant summer palace surrounded by ponds and palm trees. Facilities at the marina include a supermarket, boutiques, charter agencies, restaurants, bars and sports facilities. If you can allow a day before or after your sailing trip, walk around Dubrovnik’s city walls and visit some of its museums and other attractions. For stunning views of the walled Old Town, take the cable car to the top of Mount Srđ, where you can also visit Fort Imperial, built during the Napoleonic Wars and now home to the Museum of the Croatian War of Independence.
Once you’ve stocked up on provisions and are ready to leave the marina, head upstream. After you pass under the magnificent suspension bridge, you’ll be turning starboard, out of the mouth of the estuary. Head northwest towards the Elaphiti Islands, popular with Dubrovnik’s city dwellers, as well as a magnet for beach-loving tourists and day-trippers. Uvala Šunj on the southeast coast of Lopud island is a good place to anchor for a swims. It’s a rare sandy beach with a shallow incline, so it’s suitable for children of all ages and also for the Croatian game of picigin – which is more to do with attention-grabbing acrobatics than actually catching the ball. Suitably refreshed, you’re ready to sail to your overnight destination – just a short hop to Šipanska Luka (Šipan Port) on neighbouring Šipan island. It’s generally well protected, but winds from the northwest can funnel down the Stonski canal and cause heavy seas – in which case use Suđurađ at the other end of the island. There are a handful of restaurants ashore; some have laid buoys, so if you moor on a particular buoy, that tells you where you are eating.
It’s worth getting to your next destination early – not just because it’s a popular anchorage, but also because there’s plenty to see and do. Mljet is Croatia’s lushest and greenest island, and roughly a third of it has had National Park status since 1960 – making it the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean. Two saltwater lakes help support a rich and diverse ecosystem, and the Benedictine Monastery on the tiny island of St Mary – on Veliko Jezero (Big Lake) – is a real treat, although it can get crowded. You’ll need to pay to enter the park, and that should include a short bus ride and a boat trip to the monastery. Alternatively, you can berth at Pomena, on the northwest facing tip of the island, from where you can also access the park quite easily. Luka Polače, on the northeast side, is the best option for its all-round protection, anchoring depths and character. It’s a large bay, and some of the restaurants have laid buoys to make it easier for you to eat in their restaurant. Try Konoba Ankora or Stella Maris for traditional Dalmatian cuisine, but be prepared to pay a little more than you would on the mainland. Polače itself is the oldest settlement on the island, dating back to the Illyrian and Greek periods, with plenty of evidence of Roman occupation, too.
Like Vis island, Lastovo was strategically important in times of war and didn’t open up to visitors for many years. There’s still evidence of its military importance – in the form of submarine caves – and it remains relatively undeveloped. That, and its distance from the mainland, make it a real gem of a getaway. The whole of the island and surrounding islets form a designated Nature Park and you will need to pay a fee to enter. There are several possible anchorages, but the more shallow, well-protected Mali Lago is one of the most popular. The island of Prežba provides most of the protection, and the causeway between Lastovo and Prežba separates Mali Lago from its neighbouring bay, Veli Lago. The two bays share the small village of Pasadur, which offers a handful of restaurants and bars. Or you can wander further south to Ubli, where there’s a supermarket and post office, as well as a waterside fuel station. Hotel Solitudo has lazy line moorings at the quay, with electricity and water for summer visitors – check availability out of season – plus the fee includes the use of hotel shower facilities. The hotel also has a bar, restaurant, gym, sauna and diving centre, and will organise excursions for you if you have time. If you manage to get to the island capital, Lastovo, have a look at the fumari (chimneys), decorated with patterns to resemble the heads of neighbours, or animals or cones – each one is quite unique and, as a whole, special to the island.
Korčula town is the star of Korčula island, but the port can get really busy with ferries and cruise ships – so the ACI Marina is in high demand. For tonight’s overnight stop, head southeast to Lumbarda, where there’s a small marina and easy connections to Korčula town, including a hiking and biking route. Lumbarda has some great beaches – sandy and pebble – and plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars. Korčula is one of Dalmatia’s best-preserved medieval towns, with the layout of the streets designed to maximise the flow of cool air in the summer. Allegedly the birthplace of explorer Marco Polo, the family house and tower has been preserved. Don’t miss the Gothic-Renaissance St Mark’s Cathedral and the 15th-century Revelin Tower. If you happen to be there on a saint’s day, or the day of the weekly summer performances, watch the unique Moreška sword dance, a mock battle dance performed in Korčula since at least the 17th century. Unlike the rest of Dalmatia, known mostly for its excellent red wine, Korčula’s winemaking reputation is built on the quality of its white wine – pošip, rukatac and grk are the specialities. The food is good, too – and LD Restaurant, in Don Pavla Poše, is one of the 10 or so Michelin starred restaurants in Croatia.
This morning, enjoy some extra time in Korčula before making the short sail to Lovište, on the Pelješac peninsula – where you can chill out in a well-protected and spacious anchorage with a few rustic restaurants and shops. Lovište has its own harbour, usually full of fishing boats, but the sandy bottom is good for anchoring and there are mooring buoys, too. Swim, relax and then feast on fresh seafood at one of several excellent restaurants in Lovište, or the neighbouring settlement of Mirce. The region is known for its grey mullet and bottarga, its roe.
After recharging in Lovište, day six is for relatively uninterrupted sailing along the Pelješac peninsula. Your end destination is one of ACI’s newer marinas in Slano, leaving just a short trip back to your base in Dubrovnik on day seven. However, if conditions are generally calm, or you’d like a shorter sail today or to stop for lunch, there are good anchoring options in Trstenik and Žuljana on Pelješac. Both are known for their wines: Trstenik is the home of Grgic Vina Winery, founded in 1958 by Napa Valley winemaker Mike Grgich, a Croatian émigré. In Žuljana, you can take part in a supervised dive to visit one of Edivo’s underwater wineries.
As you approach Slano on the mainland, you’re back amongst the Elaphiti Islands. ACI Marina “Veljko Barbieri” Slano is named after the inspirational founder of the pioneering ACI Marina chain, and is located in the northeast part of Slano harbour. Elsewhere there are buoys and anchorage spots. Slano itself is a relatively quiet tourist town with good beaches, and a Franciscan monastery and church – St Jerome’s – that are well worth a visit.
After returning your yacht back to ACI Marina Dubrovnik, try and take some time to visit Cavtat, which is close to Dubrovnik Airport if that’s where you’re eventually heading. Cavtat is a long-established fishing village and resort town, with a very calm pace of life, and it’s highly popular with superyacht visitors. Alternatively, treat yourself to a slap-up meal at Michelin-starred Restaurant 360, on Svetog Dominika street in Dubrovnik. Enter through Dubrovnik’s city walls and head up to the terrace, on top of the walls themselves – this enables the stunning view, over the rooftops and port to the sea, that gives the restaurant its name.
Our itinerary is designed for experienced sailors who enjoy the sailing journey just as much as the destination; if there are novices aboard, you might want to cut out Lastovo and use the extra time to pop in and out of a few more bays on Korčula and Mljet islands and the Pelješac peninsula – or even spend longer in Dubrovnik and Korčula town. However you spend your time, it will never be enough so we’ve tried to give you a taste of everything. Don’t be tempted to head south to Montenegro – spectacular as the Bay of Kotor and other Montenegrin destinations are – unless you have completed all the necessary paperwork and have permission from your charter company.
You’ll need the appropriate qualifications to skipper a charter boat yourself, and even experienced qualified skippers sometimes find they get more out of their trip by using a local skipper.
The marina network is extensive, and there are local harbours for smaller boats in most bays. Visiting yachts can often find space in the bigger town ports. In nearly all marinas and most of the quays and ports that regularly accommodate nautical visitors, berthing is stern- or bows-to on lazy lines. These are lines attached to the shore at one end, which you pick up with a boat hook, and which run to a concrete block underwater behind where your stern will end up once you have moored – a version of Mediterranean mooring. Otherwise, there are now buoys in most bays, many operated under concession – so wherever you stop, especially in summer, you will normally have to pay a fee or at least eat at the restaurant that has laid down berths or buoys.
Whilst tides are negligible, currents can be strong in certain areas, particularly in narrow channels – and, of course, you need to pay great attention to your charts and the weather. We’ve picked the most protected bays for overnight stops but, although rare in summer, the northeast bora wind can arise very suddenly and reach high speeds quickly, so you’ll need to make regular weather checks wherever you are.