Istria and Kvarner Bay: yachting in Croatia without the crowds

Istria and Kvarner Bay: yachting in Croatia without the crowds

Sail through sky-blue waters, to lush green islands, discovering charming fishing harbours and historical sites to a backdrop of majestic mountains — we have a great 7-day sailing route in north Croatia with tips on where to anchor and what to see.

Istria is the largest peninsula in Croatia and, together with Kvarner Bay, forms a vast region around Pula. In the Kvarner Gulf, there are longer distances between the islands with some decent winds so experienced sailors can head there for some serious sailing. 

Sailing route in the Gulf of Kvaner: choose based on your sailing experience

  • For more advanced sailors, we recommend a route from Pula through the islands of Unije, Susak, Lošinj, Ilovik, Rab, Krk and Cres. 
  • For families with children we recommend a route along the western coast of Istria (Pula, Brijuni Islands, Rovinj, Vrsar, Porec, Novigrad). It’s an easy, sightseeing tour with short crossings, delightful old towns and beautiful beaches.  

1-week sailing route in Istria: day-by-day itinerary (approx. 170 to 200 NM)

Day 1: Pula – Unije Island (30 NM)

This part of the voyage is usually quite windy, so no need to worry about getting bored, you'll get some serious sailing done. Wave goodbye to Pula and from the deep bay head SSE towards the Kamenjak Peninsula and sail around it. You can even anchor here, the best spot being in Polje Bay. On the way, you’ll pass the distant Porer lighthouse and some smaller islands.

YACHTING.COM TIP: For most people, lighthouses are both a symbol of hope and of the romance that sailing brings. Even in the age of GPS, many of these lighthouses still serve their function, but their stunning architecture and magnificent views make them the perfect stop-off point when sailing. So which lighthouses should you visit in Europe this year and why? Take a look at our guide to the top 15 unmissable lighthouses.

Maják Porer po cestě z PulyPorer lighthouse on the way from Pula 

Then sail eastward towards Kvarner Bay to the island of Unije. It’s best to land in the bay of Maracol on the east side of the island, where there are buoys and it’s only about 15 minutes on foot to the village.

Day 2: Unije Island – Susak Island – Mali Losinj, Losinj Island (18 NM)

After a refreshing morning dip, raise anchor and sail between the islands of Unije and Vele Srakane. The small but truly remarkable island of Susak awaits. There is only one harbour, but this sandy island is well worth a visit.

The island is composed of a 100 m thick layer of sand blown onto a limestone rock slab. It is said that every ten years the sea carries away one centimetre of the island. Thanks to the sand, there is a nice beach in the harbour with a very gradual incline making it especially ideal for families with children.

Pozoruhodný písečný ostrov SusakThe remarkable sandy island of Susak

We recommend a taking a walk to the lighthouse at the northwest end of the island. Stroll through the village on the top of the island, where you can enjoy the view or visit the ancient cemetery. All tracks lead through the sand, and part of the tracks are so beaten through the centuries that they almost resemble tunnels covered with lush vegetation. An Italian winemaker grows wine on the island and you can buy excellent red wine here.

Then continue sailing ENE towards Losinj, around the islands of Mortar and Koludarc and then head SE through the deep bay of Mali Losinj. You can anchor in Mali Losinj marina. This very well organized port allows online booking. Enjoy its lively atmosphere over dinner at the local pub and take a stroll along the scenic waterfront. There is also a city harbour nearby.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Are you planning a yachting vacation in Croatia but not sure exactly where to sail? Join us for dolphins, diving, beaches and beautiful UNESCO sites. We've got 3 fantastic 7-day itineraries that are well worth trying out — Where to sail in Croatia: find the best sailing route for you.

Nábřeží v Malij Lošinj v Chorvatsku láká k procházceThe waterfront in Malij Losinj, Croatia, invites you to take a stroll

The natural island of Losinj resembles a forgotten paradise. Rocky coastline, inaccessible white beaches, captivating aroma of pine, macchi and oleander and the azure sea will truly take your breath away. The sea is clean, clear and full of life. Even in high season you’ll find beaches where you can find yourself completely alone. There are many fish species in the sea and dolphins are often to be found here. The island is mostly fed through fishing and the small town has retained its fishing atmosphere.

The island of Losinj is divided into two tourist centres — the island of Mali and Veli Lošinj. The northern part of the island is mountainous, the southern part is green and hides many fabulous bays and beaches.

Day 3:  Mali Losinj, Losinj Island – Ilovik Island – Rab, Rab Island (30 NM)

From the bay of Mali Losinj sail SE and follow the coast of Losinj. Give into the temptation of mooring between Ilovik and the island of Sveti Petar, where you’ll find very well-protected straits with plenty of buoys. Then continue NE between the island of Dolin and the northernmost tip of the island of Pag, Cape Lun.

Ostrov Ilovik a Svety Peter, pohled z ostrova LosinjIsland of Ilovik and Svety Peter, view from the island of Losinj

Welcome to the island of Rab. An island in the middle of the Kvarner Bay, where mountains, beautiful beaches with white sand and the turquoise Carribean-like sea all converge. The east coast is rough and inhospitable. It is a living testament to how strong and unforgiving the bora can be. The west coast is protected against the destructive boro by the Kamenjak mountain and Straža hill. To the south, rather than the typical white beaches, there are steep cliffs leading to the sea.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Croatia offers sailors more than 1,000 islands to explore. Scattered in coastal waters and not far from one another, you won't have to travel long distances. Find out which islands are worth as visit in our article — Sailing in Croatia: the 14 best islands to drop anchor.

The west coast is lush green and offers numerous idyllic coves and bays. Here you'll find the romantic town of Rab, the pearl of the island with its amazing and captivating atmosphere. It hides precious treasures from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages — regular chessboard-like stone streets, 12th-century walls that surround the intact medieval centre, well-preserved sea gates, steep stairs leading from the walls to the sea, and the silhouettes of the four church towers. Above the city stands the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (the most valuable building of its time on the Adriatic), next to the 26-metre tall bell tower. You can safely anchor in ACI Marina Rab.

The romantic town of Rab, the biggest pearl of the island, will absolutely captivate you with its amazing atmosphere.

YACHTING.COM TIP: An interesting event is the Rapska fjera (Rab Festival), which has been a tradition since 1364. The festival was originally dedicated to St. Christopher for saving the town from destruction. Nowadays the festival lasts almost the whole summer. A local speciality is the Rab cake, which goes back to 1977, when it was prepared by nuns for Pope Alexander III. The secret recipe is known only to a few women on the island, and passed down from generation to generation. What other delicacies should you sample on your holiday in Croatia?

Day 4: Rab, Rab Island – Punat, Krk Island (22 NM)

Hoist the sails and sail along the north side of the island of Rab to the large and fascinating island of Krk. You can anchor in Marina Punat, one of the most pleasant and best organized ports in the area. Be careful before entering the shallow bay in Punat Bay (Puntarska draga).


This island, the largest in Croatia, is full of forests, vineyards, olive groves, karst meadows and sheep pastures. Here you’ll discover unspoiled nature and small white pebble beaches nestled in tall rocks. In addition, a number of beaches here have been awarded the Blue Flag (this eco-label is awarded on the basis of a series of stringent criteria relating to water quality and environmental protection).

Mnoho pláží na Krku je oceněno Modrou vlajkouMany beaches on Krk have been awarded the Blue Flag

Many rare buildings, churches, monasteries and remains of the Roman Empire (such as the rare Roman mosaic) have been preserved on Krk. Around the town of Krk, there are the remains of a fortification and a watchtower from the 13th century. The guided tours of the Franciscan monastery are fascinating, ending with home-made brandy tasting. There is also a nice cycle path through the island.

Day 5: Punat, Krk Island – Cres, Cres Island (35 NM)

Enjoy the voyage to the island of Cres, an island vying for the title of largest island with Krk. Passing through the Srednja Vrata canal, beware of the strong wind gusts from the north. You can dock in the local port.


Along the west coast of Cres you will find countless romantic coves and breathtaking beaches. The Zanja Bay is an approximately 30-metre-long "Blue Cave", which is definitely worth a visit. Near the town of Osor, there is a fabulous and not very well-known beach called Mali Bok (GPS coordinates 44 52' 30.78''N 14 26' 43.68''E). 


Also worth a visit is the Vrana Lake on the interior of the island. The island is also famous for its long eco-trails, these trails provide a nice stroll and you may also catch a glimpse of the rare griffon vulture. The sea around the islands of Cres and Losinj is also home to bottlenose dolphins.


In the north of the island of Cres is the pleasant and ancient harbour town of Cres, a town with a rich fishing history. It is fortified with walls and intertwined with narrow streets and miniature squares.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Would you like to enjoy the local specialty? Cres lamb roasted on a spit or baked under a baking lid called a “peka” is an excellent choice. We also recommend the delicate seafood.   

Jehněčí maso Cres pečené v tradiční nádobě pekaCres lamb roasted in a traditional pot roast

Day 6:  Cres, Cres Island – Pula (36 NM)

Enjoy the last day to the fullest. Sail past Cape Pernat on the island of Cres to Medulin Bay. On the way, take a dip in one of the beautiful bays of the Premantura peninsula.

Po cestě se vykoupejte v některé z překrásných zátok poloostrova PremanturaOn the way, take a dip in one of the beautiful bays of the Premantura peninsula

Be careful when entering Medulin Bay. It is a relatively difficult area to navigate with several smaller islands and shallows, in strong winds (such as the Jugo winds) the entrance to the inner bay can be impassable.

In the very heart of Pula, there is a unique Roman amphitheatre, one of the most well-preserved in the world. It served mainly for gladiatorial battles in the past but is now again full of life thanks to regular cultural events. The most stunning view of this arena is at night, especially because you won’t have to share the atmosphere of this truly magical place with tourists. 

V srdci města Pula se nachází unikátní římský amfiteátrIn the heart of Pula, there is a unique Roman amphitheatre

Where else to sail in Istria?

From Pula you can sail north and explore the Brijuni National Park. You can only anchor in the port of Veli Brijun or in the bay of Mikula on the island of Mali Brijun (there are mooring spaces). Here on the islands you’ll find magnificent oak, cedar and pine forests, beautiful parks and footpaths. The air is scented with eucalyptus and exotic flowers that have been imported here and there are some remarkable Roman buildings (a huge complex of buildings for various purposes, temples, a Roman villa and a country estate). In the westernmost promontory of Brijuni, there is a zoo and safari park (zebras, llamas, giraffes, deer, etc.), which will especially be appreciated by children.

Safari v národním parku BrijuniSafari in Brijuni National Park

Sailing can be diversified by a detour to the island of Silba, there is a nice place to moor from the eastern side of the port of Silba. There is also a very nice bay Sv. Ante with a chapel.

The island of Premuda is also worth a visit. Almost the entire south-west coast from Zaporat Bay to Lopata Cape is stunning, especially so is the Cathedral cavern with its system of interconnected underwater caves, as well as the beautiful underwater wall in front of Siroka Bay, with rich and varied fauna and flora.

Are you tempted by a route full of good winds, beautiful bays and ancient monuments? Take a look at our boat deals and make your perfect choice.

Looking for more inspiration on where to sail your yacht in Croatia? We've got even more route suggestions for you. Our route from Split is packed with with beautiful and lesser-known spots. It is unique and offers two route options for when the wind conditions change. You can also find inspiration in our route for children from Biograd na moru full of fun and tips. And Game of Thrones lovers will be delighted with the route from Dubrovnik combined with a tour of the film locations.

Boats on offer in Croatia:

Are you planning a boating holiday? Write me or give me a call. I'll help you with choosing a boat.