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Help with recommendations in Croatia

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I have been looking forward to visiting Croatia for a very long time and it is going to finally happen this September. This site is always a good source of recommendations so I am posting this to enlist your help. I am looking suggestions on what to do and possibly where to stay. I don't necessarily need hotel recommendations but if you have them of course I will take them, but more importantly what towns you may recommend to stay each evening. Now before you tell me that this is not nearly enough time, I already know that, and I hope this will not be our only trip!

We will be coming from Venice on the ferry to Porac on Saturday, Sept 19th. We are picking a car up the next morning so we will need to stay there the first night. Any one stay at The Valamar Riviera Hotel? It looks like it is within walking distance from the ferry? In regards to the ferry, I have not booked my tickets yet, how far in advance do we need to book for late September?

Based upon what I have read, we should spend some time in Istria and explore Rovinj, Pula and Opatija. We are thinking about staying in Opatija on Sunday night. This happens to be our anniversary, so we would want to stay at a nice place - Hotel Milenij.

This is were I could really use help. We need to make our way down the coast to Dubrovnik for Wed and Thurs night. so where do we stop/visit on the way? Maybe an island off of Split? Not sure? There are so many and I am not comfortable with the ferry schedules to figure out taking a car on, etc and not sure it i worth it for one day? So maybe and island we can drive to or jut stay on the coast? Suggestions? My goal would be not to move hotels every night if we could help it..

Once we get to Dubrovnik,should we stay in old town or somewhere on the beach outside of the city? Or should we just stay there one night and take 3 days to travel down? We need to make our way to Sarajevo on Friday.

Like I said in the beginning, I know this will never be enough, but any thoughts you can give us would be most appreciated. BTW, we like history, beaches, good restaurants, outdoor activities, etc.

Happy for any and all recommendations.

Best regards,

Kathleen

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