Sailing and Cruising in Croatia
The Croatian Adriatic has almost 2,000 km (around 1,200 miles) of mainland coast, with more than 1,000 islands and islets (about 50 of which are inhabited). The country's captivating islands are peppered next to to the mainland coast, which means easy island-hopping in the protected waters.
Besides picturesque coastal towns, Croatia has three national parks on the sea: Brijuni National Park (a cluster of 14 verdant islands by the Istrian Peninsula), Kornati National Park (an archipelago of 89 otherwordly, cliff-adorned islands in North Dalmatia), and Mljet National Park (a lush island adorned by Mediterranean greenery in South Dalmatia). Krka National Park (a spectacular series of waterfalls, winding rivers, and karst canyons in Central Dalmatia) can also be approached by sailboat; simply sail up the Šibenik Channel to Skradin Bay.
A holiday aboard a sailboat is a fabulous option for anyone seeking to explore Croatia in style. You can get a taste of the array of Adriatic islands and coastal sights here, with your hotel being whichever cove you decide to anchor in for the night.
If you are already an experienced sailor, you can charter a so-called bareboat yacht and sail independently. By Croatian law at least one crew member needs to have an international sailing license considered valid by the Croatian Ministry of the Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure, plus a VHF radio certificate if it is not included in your license. To check whether your licenses are acceptable, head to the ministry's website.
If you have never sailed before, or have little experience, then you will need a skipper. Generally, skippers do much more than navigate the boat; most are from the region and, therefore know the local waters, weather conditions, history, culture, the best secret coves for putting down anchor, the local gastronomic hideouts, and the best diving spots.
The third option is sailing in a flotilla. A flotilla is a group of yachts, with people of mixed levels of sailing experience, led by a qualified expert.
A typical one-week sailing itinerary in Central Dalmatia could run as follows. On the first day, you can set sail from Split to Maslinica on the island of Šolta. Then, from Maslinica to Vis Town on the island of Vis. Next, there's Vis Town to Komiža, also on Vis, with a can't-miss pit stop on Biševo en route. For Day 4, you can travel from Komiža to Hvar Town on the island of Hvar. Next, Hvar Town to Bol on the island of Brač, followed by Bol to Milna on the island of Brač. On your last day, depart from Milna and head back to Split.
On the Croatian Adriatic there are dozens of charter companies operating tens of thousands of boats of all sizes, making this one of the busiest charter areas in the world. As a rough guide to prices, in the summer 2020 high season, Sail Croatia offered a 2018 eleven-berth Bavaria Cruiser 51 sailboat for €2,200 per week, though this price does not include food, fuel, or mooring fees.
The high season runs from May through October, with demand and prices peaking in July and August. Summer on the Croatian coast is typically hot, dry, and sunny, with windier periods usually happening on the polar ends of the high season. However, an experienced skipper, who knows which areas of the sea tend to be windy and which are calm, will be able to cater to your wishes, whether you want to crank it up a notch and go diagonal, or just take it easy and smooth sail. During peak season, many charter rentals begin at 5 pm Saturday and end at 9 am the following Saturday, but times and lengths can vary depending on the company and your needs.
Adriatic Nautical Academy. Based in the town of Jezera on the island of Murter in Central Dalmatia, the Adriatic Nautical Academy (ANA) is an international sailing school and certified RYA training center. ANA's offerings include basic sailing courses, advanced sailing lessons, and leisure sailing for those who just want to kick their feet up and enjoy the views. www.anasail.com/en.
Activity Yachting. The sailing programs offered by Activity Yachting operate along the roughly 160-km (100-mile) stretch of coastline between Split and Zadar. Flotilla holidays (with or without an educational "Learn to Sail" program during which you can get your own skipper certification) are available along with bareboat rentals. The company offers an array of sailboats and catamarans ranging in size from 30 to 55 feet. 1243/641–304; www.activityyachting.com.
Euromarine. With bases in Pula, Split, and Dubrovnik, Euromarine charters more than 100 sailing boats, motorboats, and catamarans. You can choose from bareboat, skippered, and crewed options. 1/555–2222; www.charter.euromarine.com.hr.
LateSail. Acting as a clearinghouse for the world's leading charter operators, LateSail offers a wide range of yachts, catamarans, sailboats, and speedboats available from North Dalmatia to South Dalmatia at cut-rate prices. +44 1227/479–900; www.latesail.com.
The Moorings. This international sailing charter company is based out of Marina Agana, just 13 km (8 miles) from Trogir. The company offers bareboat, skippered, crewed, and flotilla trips in yachts, sailboats, and catamarans with anything from two to five double-cabins. 800/416-0814; www.moorings.com.
Nautilus. This company bareboat, skippered, and crewed yachts, catamarans, and motorboats at beautiful bases in Pula, Zadar, Biograd, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik. Flotilla sailing is also available from Trogir and Dubrovnik. 01732/867–445; www.nautilusyachting.com.
Sail Croatia. Offering cruises and yachts with diverse itinerary options to suit everyone, with Sail Croatia you can pick from party, adventure, relaxation, or luxury-focused experiences. While itineraries are flexible, departures are generally from Split. Boats can also be chartered on a bareboat, skippered, or crewed basis. Split, Splitsko-Dalmatinska. 866/601–3187; www.sail-croatia.com.
Ultra Sailing. Founded by former members of the Croatian Olympic Team who now work as instructors, Ultra Sailing offers a variety of courses with a main school office and base in the ACI Marina Split. The company also offers yacht charters from Pula, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik, plus an organized regatta center in Kaštela. Split, Splitsko-Dalmatinska. 21/398–578; www.ultra-sailing.hr.
The Yacht Week (). This company offers flexible routes along the Croatian coast, all of which are focused on having a good time. The "Original Route", which operates all summer long, leaves from Trogir, and includes the islands of Brač, Hvar, and Vis, with a range of activities like a flotilla party, food tastings, and water sports. The "Ultra Festival Route" is centered on the music festival of the same name that takes place in Split and Hvar each summer. Join solo or with a group, opt for an on-board host to cook for you, and let your skipper take care of the rest. 1389/656–005; www.theyachtweek.com.
Zizoo. From luxury to affordable, Zizoo offers yacht, catamaran, gulet, sailboat, and speedboat charters at every price point. You can sail bareboat or with an expert skipper from Pula, Šibenik, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik. 727/258–5406; www.zizoo.com.