The best of Croatia: an essential guide for sailors

The best of Croatia: an essential guide for sailors

From serene islands to bustling harbours, secluded bays to sun-kissed beaches, awe-inspiring national parks to intriguing cultural festivals — we uncover Croatia's best-kept secrets that every sailing crew needs on their radar.

Even as other locations rise in popularity, Croatia continues to be our prime pick when it comes to sailing. Our selection of locations and experiences is sure to convince you that Croatia is almost unrivalled. Besides the well-known harbours, islands, and landmarks, you'll also discover some hidden gems overlooked by most guidebooks, but that can be appreciated equally by novice and experienced crews.

Most popular marinas

Truth be told, beginner crews will always breathe a sigh of relief when they find a safe harbour. However, it's beneficial to scout around a bit. You might stumble upon a gem just around the corner from your planned destination. A prime example is Frapa Marina. It offers excellent shelter, and its prime location has you stepping off the pier and directly onto the bustling Rogoznica promenade. Not to mention, it bagged the title of 'Best Croatian Marina' in 2018. Surely, a spot worth considering!

Mandalina is a nicely protected marina close to Šibenik. It's more peaceful than the main city marina and it's the only one in Croatia to ever receive a 5 gold anchor rating from the Yacht Harbour Association. If you're after some quiet, you'll like Kremik Marina. It's tucked away in a safe bay and you'll need to grab a taxi to reach the closest town. But don't worry, it's only a 5-minute ride to Primosten.

Marina Kremik

Kremik Marina

Most beautiful Croatian bays

As your crew's experience and confidence grow, you'll find the allure of leaving the bustling marina behind for a tranquil night in a serene bay irresistible. Try mooring at Krknjaš, a beautiful spot featuring a bay, beach, and a duo of islands also known as the Blue Lagoon (Krknjaš). Touted by Lonely Planet as one of the most attractive anchorages in Croatia, it's well worth a visit. For those seeking quieter alternatives to the popular Hvar anchorages, Ždrilca, Palmižana, and Carpe Diem Beach near the Pakleni otoci islands are excellent choices. Additionally, Bobovišća and Lučice bays on Brač, and Stončica on Vis, provide welcoming, wind-protected moorings for a peaceful night at sea.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Our list doesn't end here. amore amazing bays can be found on our list of the 10 most beautiful beaches and bays in Europe.

Best beaches in Croatia

Zlatni rat is one of the top beaches in Croatia. This tip probably won't come as much of a surprise, given that you can regularly find it on the lists of the world's best beaches. Like in 2022, when Big 7 Travel magazine named it one of the world's 50 most stunning beaches.

Blue Flag beaches are always a safe bet. Thanks to their strict ecological requirements, they guarantee clean water and abundant underwater life. Croatia has over 80 beaches and 18 marinas awarded the Blue Flag, with Amarin (Rovinj), Bacvice (Split), Bonj (Hvar), Borik (Poreč), Dražica (Krk), Banje (Dubrovnik), Kanegra (Umag) and Valkane (Pula) generally considered the most beautiful.

Banje beach in Dubrovnik

Banje Beach in Dubrovnik

Most underrated Croatian islands

For us sailors, Croatian islands are the real deal because they're not swarmed with land tourists, meaning we get them pretty much to ourselves. While we've already pointed out the top 14 islands where you should drop anchor, today we're shining a spotlight on some overlooked gems that are just as amazing. 


Badija is a romantic uninhabited island near Korcula. The panorama of pine forests is only interrupted by the Franciscan monastery that gave the island its name. The pebble beaches here are small and intimate, which is why they are so popular with nudists.


The islet of Košljun, within sight of Punat on the island of Krk, is also associated with the Franciscans. However, the order is still active here, so it is recommended to observe decorum on the local beaches.


A quiet island with only two villages near Dubrovnik. It is renowned for its vineyards, olive and citrus groves and the famous local preparation of seafood, which gives it an exceptional taste.

Island of Badija

Island of Badija

Most magical places for snorkelling and diving

If you're looking for a diving treat, we recommend Pakleni otoci, specifically the waters around Vodnjak veli and Vodnjak mali islands. One of the most loved reefs here is the bell-shaped Kampanel Shoal. Although the underwater currents can be challenging and better suited for advanced divers, there are loads of other awesome spots in the area. Check out our article on the 7 best snorkelling spots in Croatia to discover more. Brac is also well-known for its underwater marvels. For instance, in Lučice bay, you can explore the Lučice underwater cave.

If your interests lean more towards the technological relics lost forever beneath the sea, consider heading to the wreck of the steamship Taranto near Dubrovnik, or venture to explore the skeletal remains of the Baron Gautsch near Rovinj. And have you heard of the Michelle wreck? This gem might be your next exciting underwater adventure!

Top National Parks in Croatia

Kornati National Park is so stunning that we've devoted an entire article to it, including sailing itineraries for beginners and experienced crews alike. Other parks, all the more interesting because you can sail straight into them, are Telašćica, Mljet and Lastovo. Telašćica Nature Park is located in the bay of the same name and is dotted with mainly beaches (even sandy ones) lined with white rocks. Mljet is the most forested Croatian island, and you can cool off in its forests on summer days. The nearby underwater lakes and caves also promise amazing diving experiences. Lastovo National Park offers ancient and medieval monuments alongside stunning nature.

Telašćica Protected Landscape Area

Telašćica Nature Park

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you decide to go to these parks on your own sailboat, expect to pay both a boat fee and a visitor fee. But you can buy tickets online in advance, which will save you money and keep you covered during the busy high season. Check out all the links to book tickets for the parks in our guide. 

Croatian lighthouses you must see

Lighthouses appear more and more often in photos from sailing trips and some crews collect them like Pokémon. Why not? Often they are the only trace left on the uninhabited Croatian islands. But did you know you can sleep in some of them? For example, the small romantic lighthouse on the island of Prišnjak offers apartments for rent. There are also a few rooms in the main building of Tajer Lighthouse on Kornati Island, the only lighthouse with a steel tower in Croatia. Savudrija, the oldest and northernmost lighthouse in Croatia, is set in a beautiful green garden. More advanced crews can then venture to the island of Palagruža, roughly halfway to Italy. They will be rewarded with a visit and perhaps an overnight stay at Croatia's most remote lighthouse.

YACHTING.COM TIP: If you haven't given up on "collecting" lighthouses, find more candidates in the article 15 lighthouses you must visit (not only in Croatia).

Savudrija Lighthouse

Savudrija Lighthouse

Most romantic places in Croatia

Watching the sun dip below the horizon from your deck is always a dreamy moment. You'll find some of the best sunsets in Zadar, aptly known as the city of sunsets. But if you're looking to charm your loved one, consider a trip to a place where love takes the center stage. For special occasions like honeymoons or proposals, Crikvenica is the go-to spot and rightfully earns its title as the city of love. One of its highlights is an 8 km long Love Path that whisks you on a mesmerizing stroll, offering a perfect mix of scenic views and nature. And the local artists' collective has created a kissing map of the city with the 10 best places to kiss.

The colonnade in Opatija has a similarly romantic feel, with a number of more or less private viewpoints where you can walk hand in hand for hours. A safe bet is the island of Silba, where there are no cars, so nothing will disturb you on the local Tower of Love.



YACHTING.COM TIP: Did you like Crikvenica and Silba? Get inspired by our recommendation for a week-long itinerary around the islands of Kvarner Bay. You can easily customize your itinerary to visit both.

Unusual experiences in Croatia

UNESCO sites are always a good destination on a trip. Croatia has ten of them, both natural and cultural. A couple of them made it to our personal list of the 9 best Croatian sights. But not many people know that there is also a list of intangible heritage, which includes traditional festivals, crafts or national dishes. You can get to know Croatian culture and experience it first-hand at the Dubrovnik St. Blaise Festival, the Bell Ringers' Carnival procession in the villages around Rijeka or the Procession of the Cross on the island of Hvar. On Hvar, by the way, the traditional agave lace is also produced, which is also on the list.

You can visit Croatian places that have starred in films and TV series. Croatia's mountains are already notoriously associated with the Vinnetou films, and Dubrovnik served as the backdrop for Game of Thrones and Star Wars. The island of Vis was the location of Mamma Mia, and Opatija hosted the crew of the biographical film Diana.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Enjoy even more culture. Combine your sailing expedition with one of Croatia's many festivals. Of course, all the major marinas also offer music and entertainment. If you want to party alongside sailing, you'll find renowned clubs in Split, Dubrovnik, Makarska and Hvar. 

Where to eat and drink in Croatia

Good food and drink are part of a holiday. We have our own favourites among Croatian cuisine. Be sure to check them out so you know what to order in the restaurant. It's the food that may decide which part of the Croatian coast you give a chance this year. Each one is unique in its own way.

The gastronomic delights of Istria, shaped largely by its proximity to Italy, are tantalizingly rich. Local chefs love to sprinkle their dishes with local truffles, olive oil, and pasta. Fresh fish, octopus, and especially oysters from the Lim Bay, hold pride of place in the region's cuisine. Similarly, Dalmatia doesn't lag behind in offering high-quality seafood delicacies. Here, fish is usually grilled and, compared to Istria, often paired with vegetables in the form of local sauces and sides. The Kvarner region, once a popular tourist hotspot under the Habsburg reign, integrates modern culinary techniques into local recipes, elevating traditional dishes like lamb stew, goulash, or pasta shurlice to a global gourmet standard.

Croatian wine is a concept in itself. You can find a vineyard on almost every inhabited island. However, Istria and Dalmatia are among the places famous for wine. They produce world-class wine and we highly recommend trying it. That's why we've mapped out the Croatian wineries that are well worth a visit.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Croatians like to indulge in coffee. But don't look for chains like Starbucks in Croatia, they don't go well with the coffee culture. Enjoy your coffee sitting in the garden like a local. 

Are you tempted by Croatia? Contact me to choose a boat.

FAQs about Croatia