Sail Away From the Crowds in Croatia With These Secret Alternatives to Busy Marinas

Marvel at the magnificent Adriatic views without the crowds when you drop anchor at a lesser-known marina
Marvel at the magnificent Adriatic views without the crowds when you drop anchor at a lesser-known marina | © Scott Wilson / Alamy Stock Photo
Nicola O'Leary

Croatia is nicknamed “the country of a thousand islands,” but there are in fact 1,244 outcrops to explore. Only around 40 are inhabited, and the complete archipelago serves as a sailor’s dream. Each summer, the craggy coastline comes alive with bobbing yachts but while it gets busy, it’s pretty easy to escape the crowds. Here we reveal some of the lesser-known spots to drop anchor and enjoy the paradisiacal surroundings.

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Uvala Lapad anchorage, Dubrovnik

This ancient city is no secret, but it is well worth a visit when in the region. The pedestrian-only Old Town is a beautiful, intricate maze of cobblestoned streets, lined with baroque architecture and aristocratic grand residences. This city has its reminders of darker days though, with the scars of war on its pockmarked city walls. A tour of the city with a local guide is well recommended, and when you are finished head straight to Trattoria Carmen, a family-run traditional restaurant serving local delights. Anchor in nearby Uvala Lapad, which offers a pleasant sandy beach. From there, it’s a 45-minute walk into the city or 10 minutes by car.

Lokve anchorage, Mljet National Park

Sailing north and to the island of Mljet, anchor off the northwest corner at Lokve and use the yacht’s tender to explore the national park. There are many small islets to discover – if you’ve got a kayak, that’s a great way to go. Otherwise, moor up and head inland to catch sight of two impressive saltwater lakes. Veliko and Malo Jezero (large and small lake) are connected by a narrow passage, and the largest of the two stretches for about 4km (2.5mi). Boats leave from either side of the lake throughout the day, and many people stay for the whole day to enjoy the cooling waters. Be sure to stop on Melita Island – in the middle of Veliko – for a visit to the Benedictine monastery.

Balun anchorage, Blue Cave, Bisevo Island

Port in island Bisevo, Croatia

Bisevo island is just 4km (2.5mi) long, and could easily be overlooked if it wasn’t for its labyrinth of grottos. Located to the southwest of Vis island, a series of 10 caves are scattered around the coastline of Bisevo island – the most impressive of which is the Blue Grotto. It has been known to fishermen for centuries, but only hit the tourist map a few decades ago. If you time your visit just right – the best times are between 11am and 1pm – the caves glow a pretty luminescent blue colour as the sunlight reflects off the azure waters. Your yacht can anchor in Balun, the bay nearest the cave on Bisevo island.

Podstrana, Split

View from Marjan Hill over the old town of Split at dusk, Split, Croatia, Europe

The second-largest city in Croatia and another Unesco World Heritage Site, Split is a charming place to spend an afternoon. Meander the Old Town and marvel at the stunning architecture – or to feel the peace of nature, head to the heights of Marjan Hill. For an even better view of the city, choose the path to Prva Vidilica na Marjanu; the steps start just to the west of the bustling Riva area. After getting your culture and nature fix, head back to your vessel and cruise south to Podstrana. Drop anchor in the bay and tender into the hip Gooshter Beach Club at the upscale Le Méridien hotel, for sunset cocktails and Instagrammable dishes.

Korta Katarina Winery – check anchorages with the winery

Located on the Pelješac peninsula in the pretty town of Orebić, Korta Katarina Winery has a lovely backstory. Owners Lee and Penny Anderson travelled from America to post-war Croatia in 2001 on a relief mission to assist refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina – they travelled to southern Croatia and fell in love with the culture, food and wine. In a bid to soak up all the country has to offer, they set up their own winery. Visiting yachts can anchor in the bay and tender directly into the winery. Be sure to sample the delightful white wine – and maybe leave with a bottle or two.

Blaca anchorage, Brac

Famed for its white stone quarries, the unassuming island of Brac has been supplying great cities all over the world with its natural resources since Roman times. To see some of its own architecture, anchor in the quiet sandy bay of Blaca. From here, tender to shore and hike for around 30 minutes to the 16th-century Blaca Monastery and Hermitage. After marvelling at this unique structure, head back to your secluded anchor and reward yourself with a dip in the picturesque, turquoise waters of the Dalmatian coastline.

Gračišće cove, Hvar

A view of the harbour in Hvar, Croatia

Hvar is one of the best-loved summer destinations among Croatians, with some of the island’s highlights including a hilltop fortress, a picturesque main square and a Renaissance-era cathedral. However, if you want to escape the throng of high season crowds, head to the pretty bay of Gračišće and throw anchor. Located on the southern side, this secluded spot serves up sweeping views of the coast fringed by fragrant pine forests. You might well have this place to yourself, so sit back and enjoy the serene surroundings.

Gradina anchorage, Korcula

On the island of Korcula, the marina and anchorages can often get busy – and the winds can be another factor to battle. But if you head to Gradina anchorage you’ll have an easier time navigating the waters, as it’s protected from the prevailing winds and serves as a safe haven. It’s a shallow bay, with a few pebbly beaches and ideal for families due to the calm waters. Come sunset, get back on board and enjoy a sundowner or two while watching a cocktail of colours melt on the horizon.

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