With over 4000km of coastline to explore, our 7-day sailing itinerary provided us with the perfect introduction to the beautiful islands of Croatia.
It’s late afternoon, and the warmth of another hot July day lingers on. In a small cove off the island of Šćedro, predicting a change of wind overnight, we have anchored securely with two lines stern to shore and a secondary anchor. Now that we have settled in, we are enjoying our new afternoon routine. Swim, sunbake, swim, eat, drink … and watch the antics of bareboat sailors as they attempt to tie up for the night. The drama that unfolds as they try to anchor, go too close to the rocky shore and within inches of losing their security deposits, pull up anchor and try again is usually entertaining, but at times a little scary.
Admittedly, that could have easily been us. My husband is an enthusiastic sailor, but with only a few years of experience, and I’m a landlubber. We had considered the option of chartering a bareboat for our Croatian sailing adventure, but in the end decided to go with a skippered charter instead. As we made our way around the islands, it quickly became evident that bareboat charters are a hugely popular option, with multiple charter companies ready to accommodate. But on more than one occasion, we were very glad to be with an experienced skipper. And hey, who doesn’t love being guided to the best secret bays and beaches, and avoiding the flotillas making the most of the European summer?
After seven nights onboard ‘Wishing for the moon’, a beautiful Oyster 48, we were left wishing it would last forever. But if, like us, you only have limited time to explore this area, our itinerary will give you a taste of the gorgeous Dalmatian coastline of Croatia.
Arrival in Split
With a major airport in Split, we decided to make this city our start and finish point for our charter. With a short flight from Paris to Split (after a not-so-short flight from Sydney to Paris), we took the opportunity to spend a few nights in Split to explore the town before heading off on our sailing adventure. Split is a beautiful town, with layers of history and lots to see. We used Airbnb and stayed in a guesthouse a short walk from the centre of town and Split Marina. The view from our room overlooking the harbour was spectacular, and the perfect teaser for our upcoming adventure.
Make sure you check where you will be picking up your charter or bareboat, as we realised on arrival that we had to make our way to Marina Kastela, about 30mins from the centre of Split. But with the availability of Uber, we didn’t have any issues getting a ride out of town.
We sailed on ‘Wishing for the moon’ around Corsica and Sardinia in 2013, so meeting up with Skipper Len and his wife Kathleen felt like greeting old friends. Living in close quarters for a week it is important to get on well, so check out reviews if you are planning to book a skippered charter.
Day 1: Čiovo and Uvala Vira, Hvar
Summertime sailing amongst the islands of Croatia will fulfil every holiday dream, with warm sunny days, clear blue water and islands to explore. We didn’t travel too far before we decided to drop anchor in a little bay on the island of Čiovo to test out that blue water and cool off from the midday heat. We then sailed on to the harbour of Uvala Vira, a quiet cove on the island of Hvar, to tie up to a mooring for the evening. In some of these quiet locations, you will find moorings where you can stay for free, but you are expected to dine at the local restaurant. On this night we were happy to give it a go, not sure what to expect, and looking forward to experiencing the local culture.
We took the dinghy and rowed ourselves the short distance to a rustic looking restaurant, with fishnets tied to the ceilings, heavy timber furniture and a viewing table full of fresh fish. The menu was straightforward. Fish. Or fish. As we are both vegetarians, we had to bend our rules to eat for the evening. Don’t tell anyone! The meal was fresh and delicious but cost more than we expected, and we ended up in the awkward situation of not having enough cash to pay and no credit card facilities available. Sheepishly, we asked if we could row back to the boat to see if we could rummage up some change and bring it back. They didn’t seem concerned, and when my husband later returned with the money, the waiters insisted on providing him with a vodka shot before sending him on his way. A great first day all round!
Day 2: Old town, Hvar and Uvala Tri Luke, Korčula
The next morning, we motored around to the main town of Hvar, to explore the old city. It is a busy destination, including a port for the local ferry which brings in many tourists. But we picked up a free buoy and explored the town for a few hours. After the obligatory coffee stop, we walked up to the fortress, Fortica Španjola. It is well worth the effort, even on a hot day, for the spectacular views of the harbour from the top of the fort. And if you like maritime history, there is a small museum in the fortress which includes a collection of amphora. We found this quite exciting, as my husband had seen a similar clay vessel on the ocean floor whilst diving around the yacht the day before.
With the wind behind us in the afternoon, the spinnaker went up and we sailed along for a few hours at about 8.4 knots, making good time to our destination Uvala Tri Luke, a cove on the island of Korčula. We were not completely alone, but with only three other yachts in the bay and a few villas tucked into the surrounding hillside, it felt like seclusion compared with the busy port in Hvar town. The clear waters are wonderful for snorkelling, but make sure you take some reef shoes to give you some protection from the sea urchins and rocky beaches. We ate dinner that night with Len and Kathleen, enjoying fresh pesto made from basil grown onboard, a real treat.
Day 3: Old town, Korčula and Luka Banja, Korčula
After a wonderfully slow start to the day, making the most of every opportunity to jump into the sea off the back of the yacht, we continued along the side of Korčula island, sailing and motoring as the conditions allowed. For our lunch stop, we anchored at Pupnatska, a popular little bay. While we ate, we enjoyed music from a live band playing at the beach café, the sound carrying 150 metres across the water. Eventually we swam across to join other holiday makers on the rocky beach.
Sailing up to the old town of Korčula is another spectacular sight, with the fortress at the water’s edge, and multiple large cruise ships rafted up alongside each other. Our Skipper recommended a bay with free anchorage and only a 30-minute walk to the old town, so we took that option and stopped at Luka Banja for the night. The walk into town during the golden hour as the sun was setting was delightful, with a view of the dramatic mountains across the water and bougainvillea covered buildings at the entrance to the town. You can wind your way up through the fort to reach restaurants at the top with a spectacular view, and then roam the night markets after dinner.
Day 4: Lovisce, Šćedro
We decided to go back to Korčula in the morning to enjoy a leisurely coffee and crepe breakfast whilst Len and Kathleen restocked on supplies (another cheeky benefit of not doing things on our own). We then sailed downwind to the island of Šćedro. This bay also has free moorings in exchange for dining at one of the local restaurants, and this time we were better prepared, calling up to request a vegetarian meal and asking about credit card facilities.
After the afternoon entertainment with the bareboats, we took the dinghy around to the restaurant. We arrived early for dinner, and as we were initially the only customers, we enjoyed a conversation with the restaurant owner as he shared his love for his island home. He gave us a map of the local walking trails and encouraged us to explore the island before setting off in the morning.
Day 5: Šćedro and Kut bay, Vis
Excited by the prospect of a hike across the small island, we set off in the morning on our exploration of Šćedro. There are clearly marked walking paths that will take you to an old abandoned village of stone houses, and in the other direction, the ruins of a Dominican monastery surrounded by stacked stone walls. If you are keen, you can walk across the width of the island to a secluded pebbly beach - just keep your eyes peeled for the track that turns off toward the beach. If you are lucky, you will have the place to yourself, and spot a few local water pheasants rummaging in the nearby bushland.
Next stop was Kut Bay on the island of Vis. Another charming old town, with winding streets amongst fort walls, and plenty of shops, restaurants and an outdoor cinema. The perfect place to wander along the promenade with an ice-cream in hand. We had difficulty finding a restaurant to take a credit card, so make sure you have some cash on you.
Day 6: Uvala Slatine, Vis Island; Blue Cave, Bisevo and Komiža, Vis
Making the most of conditions in our final few days onboard, we continued to sail around Vis, stopping at Uvala Slatine for lunch. Noteworthy for the swarm of wasps that decided to join us, and the home-made trap that Kathleen swiftly created to lure them away. They appear docile, but we did see them a few times during our trip and they do have a stinger, so keep an eye out for them.
A last-minute decision in the afternoon took us to the Blue Cave in Bisevo. You are not allowed to visit with your own dinghy, so you need to buy a ticket and join the queue. It is well organised and there is a café and seats to make your wait comfortable. I was ambivalent about the visit at the start, thinking that it would just be a regular cave, but the glowing blue water is quite amazing to behold, and as we were the last group going through that day, it felt a little adventurous with the high tide and ducking as our dinghy made its way through the narrow tunnel entrance into the cavern.
Sailing into Komiža on the island of Vis, we were reminded again of the benefits of being with a skipper as we passed a flotilla and reflected on our flexibility to be able to sail from place to place at our leisure. Dinner at Komiža was another memorable experience, as we ate at a repurposed lobster facility, where you can motor your dinghy straight into the restaurant, like in a scene out of a James Bond movie. A novelty, yes, but lots of fun, and a wonderful view of the harbour. It is popular, so be sure to book.
Day 7: Uvala Talinja, Solta
For our penultimate day onboard, we were blessed with strong winds and another great day of sailing, although we were often beating against the prevailing wind. My husband took every opportunity to learn from Len and chalk up as much direct experience as possible. For myself, it was the only day that I felt sea sick, so I tried to keep my eyes on the horizon and avoid feeding the fish. When we anchored at Solta for the afternoon, I was keen to get in the water and felt much better after a snorkel and seeing my first octopus on the ocean floor.
Saying farewell in Split
On our final day of sailing we had good conditions once again, and I appreciated that we were running with the wind. Enjoying the feeling of whizzing along, racing the catamaran running alongside, but all the while, not wanting to get into Split any faster than necessary.
As we came into Split Marina, we could see the queue for fuel and were glad that Len and Kathleen would make their way to a quieter marina after dropping us off. We saw a spot to tie up, and reluctantly dragged our luggage and ourselves off the yacht. We said a quick goodbye after the port officials politely told us that we didn’t have permission to tie up and asked us to move on. We waved farewell and made promises to ourselves that we would come back and do it all again… maybe even on a bareboat next time.