The yachting°com Sailing Guide to Croatia
If you've not been sailing in Croatia yet, you have a treat in store! The expansive Croatian coastline is lined with hundreds of islands and is one of the most beautiful places in Europe for sailing. The coastline and islands perfectly blend natural beauty with a rich history and provide an excellent yachting infrastructure in the form of marinas, city ports, island restaurants and buoy fields.
Why sail in Croatia?
- The expansive Croatian coastline is lined with hundreds of islands.
- Sail on a calm sea with a gentle wind in the shelter of the islands. You won’t have to endure long crossings, but you can still sail on the open sea if you choose.
- Plenty of marinas complemented by high-quality services.
- Short sailing distances between islands and bays.
- The waters are turquoise blue and crystal-clear.
- Croatian cuisine offers a delicious blend of Mediterranean and Italian cuisine and a superb selection of wines.
Yachting areas in Croatia
The coastline is almost 2,000 km long with more than 600 islands in the Adriatic Sea alone. This means there is a range of sailing possibilities. Sail on a calm sea with a gentle wind in the shelter of the islands without having to cover longer distances, or on the open sea with all that it involves. Marinas with high-quality services are close to each other and currently there are more than 50 available.
Pula and the Kvarner Gulf (Kvarner Bay)
The low-lying, undulating western coastline of the Istrian peninsula is a popular holiday destination. This area is a paradise for sailors and passionate hikers. But it also has something to offer families with kids with its numerous sandy beaches and warm sea.
The eastern coast of Istria is more suitable for those who prefer mooring in more peaceful bays. The Kvarner islands are pleasant, full of romantic bays, and offer a choice between secluded mooring spots and more bustling harbours such as Mali Lošinj, Rab, Krk, and Cres. Many beaches in the region around Istria and the Kvarner Gulf have received the international "Blue Flag" award.
Zadar is the main resort in Northern Dalmatia. It is a city steeped in history, full of monuments, colours and gastronomical delights. The local cuisine ranks among the healthiest in the world and has rightly been included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The countless islands, harbours, and bays between Dugi Otok and Šibenik create the ideal conditions in Northern Dalmatia for a sailing holiday in the very heart of nature. Those who crave some nightlife will find what they’re looking for in Zadar and Vodice.
Places well worth a visit include the Telaščica Nature Park, south of Dugi Otok, with its saltwater lake and steep white cliffs, and Paklenica Nature Park, a true paradise for hikers and climbers.
Šibenik is the oldest city on the Adriatic coastline. This ancient city boasts a diverse culture and a rich history. From Šibenik, you can sail upstream all the way to Skradin. From there you can walk to the Krka waterfalls, offering some of the most impressive natural scenery.
We also recommend a visit to Kornati, a national park and the largest Croatian archipelago.
Distances between the harbours and bays are somewhat longer here than in the north. Even so, there are still some awe-inspiring locations, whether it be the beautiful mountainous coastline along the Makarska Riviera, the picturesque island of Vis, or the island of Biševo with its hypnotising Blue Cave.
You can also visit the ancient cities of Trogir and Split with their characteristic architecture. And certainly worth seeing is the island of Hvar and the town of Stari Grad, packed full of well-preserved historical monuments.
A diverse area full of contradictions, it is quieter and further away from the busier northerly regions. The ancient town of Korčula is charming, as is the so-called “green island”, the Mljet National Park with its breathtaking scenery, home to the popular bays of Polače and Okuklje. You can also visit the arboretum on the island of Lokrum. From here, you can easily reach Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic" and a UNESCO site. Dubrovnik is magnificent and steeped in history. It is also renowned for its nightlife. If you are looking for a quieter spot, there is the more secluded island of Lastovo.
From Dubrovnik, you can easily reach the Bay of Kotor, a Montenegrin bay stretching far inland.
What is the best time to sail?
The yachting season starts in April and finishes at the end of October. Summers are hot and relatively calm on the Adriatic. Air temperature on the islands is lower than on the surrounding mainland, with heat waves not being so intense. Typically, if the Bora or Sirocco winds blow, they only last for a relatively short time. Windstorms occur unexpectedly in the summer but are quick to pass.
Weather and climatic conditions
The Adriatic is generally regarded as a region with light winds. In summer, it is mostly deadly calm at night and early morning along the eastern coastline, with an occasional light breeze. During the day, winds especially pleasant for sailing blow from the northwest. Less suitable yachting conditions can be found around the eastern coastline of Istria, along the coastline between Rijeka and the Novigrad Sea, and between Split and Ulcinj.
The Mistral (a day breeze) — A fair-weather wind.
A southwesterly to northwesterly wind known as the Mistral (sometimes called the Maestral or Maestro) predominates in the Adriatic from the start of June to mid-September. This wind is caused by daytime thermals, which are columns of rising air formed by the uneven heating of the mainland and sea.
It usually starts blowing around 10:00 in the morning and can reach a strength of 3 to 5 on the Beaufort scale (BFT) in the afternoon. At sunset it stops again. The Mistral is considered to be a fair-weather wind because it is accompanied by a cloudless, blue sky and pleasant temperatures at sea. If it does not persist the next day, this could be a sign that the weather is worsening. In recent years, the Mistral has blown somewhat less frequently than previously. But it still does occur, particularly in the area around the outer islands.
The Bora — Attaining gale force.
The Bora is specific to the eastern coastline of the Adriatic and is a dangerous wind. Mainly when there is high pressure and the sky is clear, gusts of stormy winds start to blow from a blue sky in the northeast, descending to the surface and swelling up in blankets of foam across the sea and islands. The occurrence of the Bora is mainly caused by the Dinaric Alps which run parallel to the eastern coastline of the Adriatic. These mountains are not fully interrupted by any deep lateral valley through which the cold wind between the mountains could flow to the sea. Another condition for the creation of a Bora is the difference in air pressure between the inland and the Adriatic. The greater the difference in pressure, the more likely and more dangerous the Bora will be.
The Sirocco — Bad-weather wind.
The Sirocco blows from southerly directions, mainly from the southeast, and only differs from the Mistral in wind direction. The weather it brings to the Adriatic is accompanied by humidity, overcast skies, and frequent showers. Sometimes, especially in winter, the Sirocco reaches gale force. Between mid-June and mid-September, the Sirocco rarely appears. In summer, it lasts for 2–3 days and almost never reaches a strength of more than 7 BFT.
However, from October to May, this wind blows significantly more often, longer, and with greater force, up to 9 BFT. Because the Sirocco blows a long distance over the sea, it creates large waves 3-4 m high, especially in the northern Adriatic. There are dangerous places near the northern Italian coastline where waves can reach all the way down to the bottom of the sea. But the Sirocco is preceded by clear signs, so it is possible to prepare for it in time.
Lovers of good food and drink will find Croatian cuisine to be extremely diverse. Each region has its own specialities which you should definitely sample. Fried, roasted, grilled, baked - there are dozens of methods used to prepare the renowned delicacies here.
The finest of all specialities is the white truffle. This rare and expensive fungus grows in the very heart of Istria. It is regarded as a culinary gem and a powerful aphrodisiac. The local cuisine offers up other specialities such as fatty sea fish, sardines in a spicy sauce and scallops.
One of the symbols of Croatian cuisine is the unique and delicious Parma ham (prosciutto). Its tenderness and exquisite flavour will be loved by all true gourmets. The best time to sample it is at the end of August (the longer it is dried, the better) and is mostly served with sheep cheese and olives.
The Croatians drink wine almost as if it were water. To quench their thirst, wine is diluted: red wine with water is called “bevanda”, white wine with mineral water is called “gemišt”. But if you want to really savour the flavour of the wine, drink it undiluted.
Important sailing regulations
The maximum permitted speed in harbours, bays, channels and Croatian rivers to the Adriatic is 3-8 kn (knots). Fast motorboats and sailing yachts travelling over waves must keep a minimum distance of 300 m from the shore. For slow boats (up to 12 m in length), the minimum distance from the shore or from the floating chain around the beach is 50 m. For yachts more than 12 m long, the minimum distance is 150 m. Boats and yachts may come within 150 m of beaches that are not marked off.
Diving in Croatia
No permit is required for freediving. Individual scuba diving requires a permit which can be purchased by qualified sports divers at the captainate for a fee of HRK 2400. This rather expensive document, however, is not necessary if a diver is diving under the supervision of a diving centre registered in Croatia. Since August 2010, a diving licence is no longer required for this.
In national and nature reserves and around protected wrecks, it is, in principle, only possible to dive with a diving centre which has the appropriate licence. Permits for underwater fishing must also be obtained. Fishing in scuba gear is essentially prohibited. You cannot carry a harpoon and scuba gear together in a boat. Diving for antique objects is also strictly forbidden.
Recreational fishing in Croatia
You must buy a permit for recreational fishing which can usually be purchased at the captainate. A one-day permit costs HRK 60, a one-week permit HRK 300, and a one-month permit HRK 700. An annual permit can only be purchased by citizens with permanent residence in Croatia.