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Istria

Turquoise sea lining the contrasting green inland interspersed with majestic mountains and acropolis cities.

Turquoise sea lining the contrasting green inland interspersed with majestic mountains and acropolis cities.

For whom is renting a yacht suitable?

Sky-blue water following the coastline, contrasting with the green inland, untouched nature, clean beaches, and picturesque fishing harbours. The backdrop is completed by majestic mountains and acropolis-type towns. This would be one way to briefly characterise Istria—the largest peninsula in Croatia, which together with Kvarner Bay (or the Kvarner Gulf as it is also known) makes up an extensive region around the city of Pula. Distances between islands in Kvarner Bay are greater and a fairly decent wind blows there. More experienced yachtsmen can make longer crossings.

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Map of the Adriatic

The 10 most beautiful locations in this region

  1. Pag, Zrće Beach—a pebbled beach more than 1 km long. Zrće is a renowned party beach which is often compared to Ibiza. A great destination for young people to go wild at night.
  2. Girandella—a beach in Istria near Rabac with a pebbled shore and great nightlife, ideal for young people.
  3. Ručica—a beach on Pag near the village of Metanja. Visit the romantic pebbled shore nestling between rocks, wonderful for snorkelling and superb for climbers because the climbing routes begin right from the water's edge.
  4. Susak—the island of Susak is made up of a surface layer of sand blown up onto a limestone rock plate about 100 m high. Thanks to the sand, a lovely beach in the harbour descends to the sea and is great for families with children. Scenic walks around the island lead you to the historic village on the hill.
  5. Pula—a bustling ancient town with a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre.
  6. Lopar—the island of Rab with gorgeous sandy beaches in the bays around the village of Lopar, shallow waters, a warm sea, perfect for families with children.
  7. Brijuni Islands.
  8. Rab—visit the town of Rab on the island of Rab.
  9. Premantura—on the peninsula near Medulin in Istria with sandy beaches just right for children, very popular.
  10. Mali Lošinj Harbour—a wonderful, very lively harbour.

A view from the sea of the town of Vrsar and marina of the same name A view from the sea of the town of Vrsar and marina of the same name

The wonderfully green landscape is reminiscent of Tuscany or Provence with a pristine coastline washed by a crystal clear blue sea. The coastline of Istria is very rugged with dozens of bays, capes and beaches. The beaches are mostly comprised of rocks (gradually leading from the sea), pebbles, or coarser sand and are often adjacent to pine forests, creating a pleasant respite from the blazing sun. Istria and Kvarner Bay offer plenty of hiking trails, cycling paths and seaside promenades. Apart from its natural beauty, Istria is rich in gastronomy and fans of windsurfing, diving, and fishing are all well catered for.

Istria and the Kvarner Bay area are suitable for families with children, or for more advanced yachtsmen. For families with children, we recommend a route along the western coastline of Istria (Pula, the Brijuni Islands, Rovinj, Vrsar, Poreč and Novigrad). This is an easy sightseeing route with short crossings. Here you will find beautiful, ancient towns and gorgeous beaches. Many of the beaches have been awarded the "Blue Flag". Kvarner Bay is also suitable for family cruises with destinations such as the town of Punat, the beaches of Krk, the eastern coastline of the island of Cres and the islands of Rab and Rijeka.

More advanced yachtsmen can make the longer crossing from Pula to Kvarner Bay and the islands of Cres, Lošinj, Rab, and Krk. Each island is different and everyone can find what they want. Cres is characterised by steep rocks projecting from the sea. Lošinj is unique—the beaches could be compared to a "stony wilderness". With its turquoise water and white beaches, Rab is reminiscent of the Caribbean while Krk offers white pebbled beaches nuzzled by luscious greenery.

Panoramic view of the town of Poreč Panoramic view of the town of Poreč

During July and August, temperatures in this area reach 29°C, with sea temperatures around 24°C. In summer, a stable Mistral (daytime breeze) blows along the western coastline of Istria. In the morning, it mainly blows from a SW direction, turning to NW or W in the early evening. It usually starts blowing around 10 in the morning and can reach a strength of 3–5 on the Beaufort scale (BFT) in the afternoon. At sunset it stops again. The Mistral is considered a fair weather wind because it usually accompanies a cloudless, blue sky and balmy temperatures at sea. The Bora (NE) or Sirocco (SE) may also occasionally blow here. These winds blow along the western coastline of Istria more often in the winter and spring.

Kvarner Bay is the windiest area in the Adriatic. There are significant local influences here, especially the shape of the coastline, the islands, and the high mountain ranges. The winds blow mostly along the islands, but in the case of the Bora, it blows across the mountains and islands. The western side of the island of Cres is renowned for very strong gusts thanks to its high mountains which give storms a renewed energy. A summer Bora usually lasts 1–3 days, though sometimes for only a few hours, and can reach 6–7 BFT. The strongest wind is experienced in the so-called Velebit Channel, an area between the Velebit mountains and the island of Pag— creating a jetstream effect for the Bora from north to south. In March 2015, a Bora wind speed was measured here at an incredible 217 kph. In summer, a Bora may reach 8–9 BFT. The Bora and Sirocco generally blow more during winter than summer because the conditions that create them are more favourable.

Current weather

Pula

Pula is a 3000 year-old town located on the southwestern coast of Istria. It has a long tradition of wine making, fishing and boat building. Just like every important Roman town, Pula was thoroughly fortified and designed according to characteristic Roman urban planning conventions. The town has several larger lengthwise roads and a greater number of crosswise roads that divide the town into rectangular blocks that include important buildings such as temples, a triumphal arch, and theatres. In the very heart of town is a famous Roman amphitheatre (the Pula Arena)—one of the six largest Roman amphitheatres in the world! It was mainly used for gladiatorial games in which many convicts, prisoners of war and Christians lost their lives, among them, the patron saint of the town, St Germain. Today, the amphitheatre is home to annual cultural events such as a film festival with a 50-year tradition, performances by famous opera singers, rock and pop concerts, ballet and theatre.

Do not miss a visit to the well-preserved Roman arena in Pula. You can drop anchor near town, where it can be quite hard to find an empty place, or at the Veruda marina. The arena is most beautiful to visit at night. There are fewer tourists and you can better enjoy the atmosphere of the place.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

Other interesting monuments worth visiting include the Temple of Augustus, the triumphal arch of the Sergi family, the Roman mosaic, Hercules’ Gate, the Church and Monastery of St. Francis with its beautiful frescoes, and the remains of the Roman theatre. A local marine aquarium is also worth visiting. It is not as large as in Geneva, but your children will definitely love it. You can even take a longer trip inland to visit the beautiful acropolis town of Motovun, or rest in the Monte Ghiro forest park with its workshops and display of traditional folk crafts. Pula will tell you stories about the mythical seafaring Argonauts, as well as the Romans, Venetians and Franks.

Tips for nice beaches in the area around Pula: Valbandon's beach which includes a children’s playground, San Lorenzo or Marlera, near the town of Medulin. Marlera is a lovely and relatively quiet beach.

A bird's-eye view of Pula A bird's-eye view of Pula

Medulin

A magical fishing town. The harbour is located in Medulin Bay, 1.5 NM away from Pomer Marina. Many fishing boats anchor at Medulin harbour, and space is very rare. Yachts can anchor in the bay in front of the harbour, on buoys (with a sandy bottom, there are about 25 buoys) or in the Puntica Marina. 

There is a nice promenade here and many excellent restaurants, along with two nice beaches. Most of the restaurants are a short walk from the promenade. They offer fresh fish and seafood delicacies such as mussels or oysters as well as other traditional Istrian specialities. If you like seafood, you will definitely enjoy yourself. Children will love the amusement park which is near to the marina.

Be careful when entering Medulin Bay! Navigation is relatively demanding in this area. Several smaller islands and shallows are here, and during a strong Sirocco the entrance to the inland bay can be impassable. On the western side of Fenera island there are plenty of shallows.

The church of St Agnes in the town of Medulin The church of St Agnes in the town of Medulin

Pomer

Pomer village lies in the northwestern part of the protected Medulin Bay. This bay is ideal for windsurfing and fishing. You can also catch many types of shellfish here (especially lobsters), mussels and oysters. The local restaurants have all of these delicacies on the menu, guaranteed fresh from the sea. 

ACI Marina, Pomer—a relatively large marina offering around 290 berths, connections to water and electricity, WiFi, WC and showers, technical services, a shop with yachting equipment, and a taxi rank. Near the marina are a grocery, laundrette, ATM, and several restaurants (we recommend the Miramare, Boccaporta, and Konoba Istriana). The village has a bakery and a farmer’s market where fresh fish are available.

Brijuni

Brijuni is a group of islands approximately 17 NM northwest of Pula. These islands and the sea surrounding them make up the Brijuni Islands National Park. You can only anchor at Veli Brijun harbour or at Mikula bay on the island of Mali Brijun (there are mooring berths there). Anchoring near the small island of Kotež to the east of the island is also possible. The other bays and islands are closed to yachtsmen and passage through the western side of the archipelago is forbidden. The most interesting island is Veli Brijun, the former residence of President Tito, which includes an exhibition hall and a collection of fascinating photographs, lights and bizarre animals. Veli Brijun was closed to the public for a long time.

There are some beautiful oak, cedar, and pine forests on the islands, with wonderful parks, alleys, and places to stop and rest. The air is fragrant with the smell of eucalyptus and exotic flowers that were imported here. Some remarkable Roman buildings can also be found, including a huge complex of buildings that were used for various purposes, temples, a villa and a rural homestead. On the westernmost tip of Veli Brijun is a zoo and safari park with free roaming zebras, llamas, giraffes, and deer. Cars are not allowed on the island. A tour of the island is possible onboard a miniature train—a thrilling experience for younger children. The track is 3 km long. An eco-friendly, 18-hole golf course is also on the island. You might also try your hand at windsurfing or horse riding. Famous personalities who have visited this island include Queen Elizabeth II and Gina Lollobrigida.

Brijuni Harbour—offers roughly 50 mooring berths. You can anchor at the northeastern side of the harbour which has connections to water and electricity. There are two restaurants near the harbour. The mooring fee for boats up to 15 m is EUR 200 a day (July–August), EUR 130 a day (May, June, and September). We recommend you reserve a space in advance by calling: 098 490 792.

Attractions: beautiful countryside, very diverse flora, clean seas, safari park and zoo, tour of the island on a miniature train, eco-friendly golf course, remarkable Roman buildings, but high mooring fees.

Verige Bay, Brijuni Verige Bay, Brijuni

Cres

A beautiful island with wild, untouched natural scenery. You will find countless romantic bays and gorgeous beaches along the entire eastern and western coastline. We certainly recommend you visit the bays of Žanja (Blue Grotto), Meli (there are two bays with the same name, both surrounded by beautiful natural scenery), Kolorat (for its wild deer), Koromačna (with romantic beaches nestled among high cliffs) and Beli (a beautiful bay and harbour), but don’t miss the magnificent "Blue Flag" award-winning beach near Kovačine Camp. A truly magical, but not very well-known beach called Mali Bok lies near Osor (GPS coordinates: 44 52' 30.78''N 14 26' 43.68'' E). Inland, you will find the excellent local konoba Bukalet in the village of Loznati. Vrana Lake, in the interior of the island, is also worth visiting. The island is renowned for its long nature trails, such as the Beli Eco-Centre and Reserve at the north of the island. These trails offer enjoyable walks, where you may even see the rare Griffon vulture. The sea around the islands of Cres and Lošinj is home to bottlenose dolphins—this is a protected conservation area intended to protect them.

In the north of Cres lies the pleasant, old-fashioned harbour town of the same name. There are a number of small bays along the western coast of Cres, one of which,  Žanja, is home to the approximately 30 m long "Blue Grotto", which is certainly worth visiting.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

The most interesting towns on the island are Cres and Osor. The small harbour of Beli on the northeast of the island is another lovely and captivating spot. The charming and historic fishing town of Cres is surrounded by fortifications, with interweaving narrow streets and miniature squares. The intimate old town offers many interesting historical sights such as the beautiful Renaissance town gate, the remains of a Roman village, old stone houses and palaces. The Franciscan monastery and church are also worth visiting. The inner harbour is very picturesque, very photogenic and abundant with fishing boats. The backdrop is completed by old multicoloured houses. Stone steps with boxes of brightly coloured flowers add to the enchanting atmosphere. A promenade lined with cafés and restaurants runs along the seafront. Cres is a romantic town that’s definitely worth seeing.

The village of Osor on the island of Cres The village of Osor on the island of Cres

ACI Marina, Cres—a beautiful, clean and well protected marina offers 473 berths, water and electricity connections, clean showers and toilets, technical services and a yachting shop. There is also a taxi stand here and waste containers. A fuel station is located close to the marina where you can fill your gas bottles. There are several very good restaurants, cafés, bars, a few well-stocked supermarkets and smaller shops, a fish market and children’s playground, all along the seafront. The town is rather busy in summer. If you are looking for peace and privacy, you can dock in nearby Valun Harbour, about 3 NM away.

Valun—a picturesque village offers several mooring spots with water and electricity connections, though most boats usually anchor in the bay. There is a lovely beach, showers and toilets, a small shop, and several restaurants. The harbour and anchorage are not safe if there is a NW or NE Bora blowing. There are four white pebble beaches near Valun (in the southwest part of Valun Bay, at a distance of about 0.75 NM). Tips for good restaurants: the Na Moru (an excellent restaurant), MamaLu, Gostionica San Marco and the konoba Tos Juna.

Martinšćica—a quiet little town has a small harbour with several mooring spots (the western pier is reserved for recreational yachts) with water and electricity connections, an ATM, showers and toilets, a smaller shop, and several restaurants. Dangerous wind and waves arrive with a S and SE Sirocco, which blows along the island. There are great swimming spots in the bays of Tiha and Vele Slatine (both about 1 NM northwest) or in the bays of Miholašćica and Merašćica (1–2 NM to the south). Tips for good restaurants: the Gostionica Sidro and the konoba, Mali raj.

Osor—a very old village where boats can moor on the northern seafront (though we advise against this when a Bora is blowing) or across the channel (where there are buoys and a pier with water and electricity connections, but breakers to the south during a Sirocco); there are also several restaurants, a shop and a beautiful church. Every year around August, the Osor Music Festival is held here, which is a great experience. The Osor channel is 12 m wide and at least 2.5 m deep, with a clearance of about 1.5 m when the bridge is closed. The bridge is opened daily at 9:00 and 17:00. Boats coming from the south have the right of way. You will find details about the channel in the sailor's guide, 888. A Tifon fuel station lies at the end of the Osor channel where you will also find a small café and several berths with electricity and water. Tip for a good restaurant in Osor—the konoba, Bonifacic.

The marina on the island of Cres The marina on the island of Cres

Lošinj

An island of glorious nature, reminiscent of a forgotten paradise. Rocky shores, white beaches accessible only from the sea, and the captivating smell of pines, macchias, and oleanders testify to the incredible charm of this place. The sea is clean, clear, and brimming with life. Peering into its light turquoise blue depths will take your breath away and you will feel as if you’ve suddenly found yourself on a different world. Even in high season, you will find beaches here where you can be completely alone. A path leads along the shore and around the entire island, offering beautiful views. The sea around the island is alive with many kinds of fish, and bottlenose dolphins can often be seen. The island’s main livelihood is fishing and its towns have maintained their fishing character. The island of Lošinj is divided into two tourist centres: Mali (small) and Veli (big) Lošinj. The northern part of the island is mountainous, while the southern part is green and conceals many stunning coves and beaches. The most beautiful beaches often do not have names and you won’t even find them in the common guidebooks. Only the locals and a few fortunate souls know about them. The food on the island is exceptional, especially in Mali Lošinj.

Marina Mali Lošinj —offers 150 anchorages on the water (depth 1.5–10 meters) and 100 on shore, with connections to water and electricity, showers and bathrooms, WiFi, laundry, grocery store, technical services, and a yachting supplies store. A short distance from the marina is the town harbour of Mali Lošinj.

Mali Lošinj Harbour—offers 120 berths (4 pontoons for yachts with a draught of up to 4 m), water and electricity, showers and bathrooms, and also an ATM and fuel station. There are many restaurants and cafes near the harbour. There is also a farmers’ market, fish market, bakery, butcher, several supermarkets and a pharmacy. It is better to anchor in the harbour because you’ll be closer to the historical centre.

Tips for nice beaches: Veli Žal, Borik, Čikat, Valdarke, Kadin, Bojćic, St. Martin, Uvala Zagazine, Silver Bay, Golden Bay, Punta beach, Timi, Rovenska, Vale Scura, Javorna, Kriška, Krivica and Balvanida.

Tips for good restaurants: Silvana (Mali Lošinj), Bocca Vera (Mali Lošinj, Italian cuisine), konoba Dišpet (Mali Lošinj - Martin bay harbour, excellent but relatively expensive, Croatian specialities).

There is good access from Lošinj to Susak—the only sandy island in the Adriatic. There is only one harbour on this island, which is definitely worth visiting. It is different to all other islands. From the effect of the wind and the passage of time, the sand settled on a long, underwater limestone shelf  and the island gradually rose up from the sea. Now the sand layer is up to 60 m high. The sandy beach by the harbour is very nice and gradual, which is especially appreciated by families with small children. I also recommend walking to the lighthouse at the northwest end of the island. All roads lead through sand, and some of them have become so well-trodden over the centuries that they resemble tunnels covered with lush vegetation. An Italian winemaker grows grapes on the island, and you can buy a very good, local red wine. If you stop at the island of Unije, it is best to land in Maracol Bay on the eastern side where there are buoys. It is about 15 minutes on foot to reach the village.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

The small town of Mali Lošinj The small town of Mali Lošinj

Rab

An island in the middle of Kvarner Bay, where mountains and beautiful white sandy beaches meet the sea, its turquoise colour reminiscent of the Caribbean. The eastern coastline is desolate, harsh and inhospitable. From the mainland, the eastern coastline looks like an impenetrable fortress with 4 m walls jutting out of the sea. It is a living picture of how powerful and merciless the Bora can be. The western coastline is protected from the destructive Bora by the Kamenjak mountains and Straža peak. In the south, sharp rocks leading into the sea are more typical than white beaches.

The western coastline is beautifully green and offers plenty of fabulous bays. At times, you will feel like you are in paradise. The romantic town of Rab is situated here, the largest pearl on the island, which will captivate you with an amazing atmosphere. It has a slightly mysterious feel, like a town from a different century. It hides rare treasures from ancient and medieval times. Regular stone-paved lanes reminiscent of a chess board and ramparts dating back to the 12th century surround the undisturbed medieval centre, well-preserved sea gates, steep steps leading from the ramparts all the way to the sea, and the silhouettes of the four chapel towers. The Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady rises up above the town (the most treasured building from this era in the Adriatic), right next to a 26 m high bell tower. You will have the greatest experience by climbing the cathedral tower at night. The so-called "Central Street" leads through the town centre, where you will find a lot of cafés, galleries, and restaurants. The local speciality is Rab Cake, which has been a tradition since 1177, when it was prepared by nuns for Pope Alexander III. Only known to a few women on the island, the secret recipe is handed down from generation to generation.

A view from the sea of the town of Rab A view from the sea of the town of Rab

Right next to the ramparts is the Chapel of St Christopher (the patron saint of the town) which is the gateway to the protected Komrčar Nature Park which is worth a visit in itself. In the park, a pine forest and views of the sea will provide some pleasant refreshment. This is the ideal place for a walk or taking a morning run. However, sports opportunities do not end there. A nice cycle path leads from the town of Rab in a northwest direction to the Kalifront Peninsula (approximately 20 km) and the return journey winds along the coastline with beautiful bays and beaches. By bike, you can even take a trip to the ridge of Kamenjak. There is a lovely view from there over the island and its bays. You can also rent a kayak (we recommend Sea Kayak Avanture, owned by Joško Matušan) – this is a very pleasant experience. Diving and fishing enthusiasts can also take advantage of one of the five bases and nice diving locations.

Other picturesque towns and villages on the island of Rab are: Lopar (a really lovely, small ancient town), Mundanije, Supetarska Draga, Kampor, Barbat, and Banjol (where there is an excellent kayak rental centre. The owners Joško Matušan and Davor Mlacovic are knowledgeable and very likeable. This is a memorable experience). About 2 NM from the Lopar peninsula (Rt. Saramic) is the fascinating island of Goli—a notorious prison island until 1988.

The island of Rab has the most beaches with white sand in the Adriatic! Most of them are in the northern part of the island on the Lopar peninsula where you can also find a lovely eco path. But absolutely everyone is catered for. Apart from sandy beaches, to the west and south of the island you will also discover rocky or pebbled beaches. The nicest beaches on the island are: the "Blue Flag" award-winning Suha Punta-Karolin beach, Kandalora (a beautiful beach on the Frkanj peninsula) and the sandy beaches on the Lopar peninsula (comprised of long beaches suitable for small children).

The town of Rab is interesting and the bays along the western coastline are pretty. But they are usually very crowded in the summer.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

Tips for good restaurants: the Velum (Rab), the Nada restaurant and the konoba Borik (both in Palit town), konoba Marenda and Gonar restaurant (in Kamporska Draga bay and anchorage - a konoba with a view of the sea and beautiful sunsets, with a nice beach nearby).

ACI marina Rab—a very nice, modern marina, located on the western part of the island near the town of the same name. It offers 140 berths, connections to water and electricity, well-maintained showers and WC, a smaller, well-stocked shop, connection to WiFi, technical services and a shop with yachting equipment, laundry, and ATM. There is also a fuelling station and gas cylinder shop near the marina. There are several larger supermarkets in the town of Rab, a farmer’s market (they also sell fresh fish here in the morning), a bakery, many cafés and superb restaurants (we recommend the Velum restaurant, Labirint, Gardens and the konoba Rab) as well as a renowned nightclub (discotheque).

ACI Marina, Supetarska Draga—offers 270 berths, connections to water and electricity, showers and WC, connection to WiFi, a well-stocked shop, and laundry. On the seafront are cafés, bars, and restaurants (we recommend the konoba Marenda and the Gonar restaurant). The N, NW, and W winds are dangerous.

Pičuljan Dock, Barbat—offers 40 berths (depth 1–4 m), connections to water and electricity, showers and WC, and restaurants (we recommend the Hotel Villa and Leut restaurants).

The town of Rab - very popular among tourists The town of Rab - very popular among tourists

Krk

The Largest Island in Croatia. To the centre and west are forests, vineyards, olive groves and sun-bleached villages. Here you will discover pristine nature and mostly small, white, pebbled beaches nestling among the tall cliffs. These are the raw and inhospitable eastern shores that often face a Bora wind—that’s Krk. Rightly nicknamed the "Golden Island", the island hides many treasures. Besides the beautiful beaches (the most beaches awarded the "Blue Flag" are on Krk), Krk has a rich cultural and historical heritage. Many precious buildings, churches, monasteries (the Franciscan church and monastery) and remains from the Roman Empire (such as a rare Roman mosaic) have been preserved here. There are remnants of fortifications and a guard tower from the 13th century around the city of Krk. Folklore festivals are held here in the summer. The north and south are very rocky but Soline Bay offers healing mud. There is also a nice cycle path through the island.

For a family vacation, it is best to cast off from Krk at Punat Marina. The enclosed bay, with a marina where there are only a few charter companies, will enchant you with its beauty. All of them are first rate. For sailboat rental, I recommend the Garant Charter company, and Koro Charter for motorboat rental.

Jirka Zindulka’s TIP

Punat Marina—is a very popular, "Blue flag" award-winning marina and yacht harbour offering 760 berths, connections to water and electricity, showers and toilets, a laundry room, technical services, waste containers, and a taxi rank. There is a yachting equipment store here, along with several restaurants and supermarkets.

A seafront view of the island of Krk A seafront view of the island of Krk

The following map shows a route in the area around Istria and Kvarner. For more details about routes and individual locations, click on the icon at the top left corner of the map.

The article is being prepared.

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