Where to sail in Croatia: seven of the best islands

From glamourous Hvar to lonely little Lastovo, Croatia’s islands are as diverse as they are numerous. But it’s only on a sailing trip that you can really discover what they’re all about – here are seven of the best.

Kornat is the largest of the 140-strong Kornati archipelago, where you'll discover some of the best sailing in Croatia.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Sail Croatia Charter
Published 14 May 2022, 15:00 BST

Marija Sekulić Dumanić is an island-hopping enthusiast; she runs the show at Sail Croatia Charter.

Photograph by Sail Croatia Charter

It’s only by boat that you can really begin to uncover Croatia’s islands — the cats sprawled snoozing on stone steps, the octogenarians trading gossip, the fishermen hauling in their catch (and taking it straight to the seafront restaurants). Though many access these islands on day trips from Split, the joy of chartering your own boat gives you time to tap into the slower pace of life in the age-old towns that hug the shoreline, surrounded by gnarled olive groves and cross-stitched vineyards. Marija Sekulić Dumanić is an island-hopping enthusiast and Croatian local. When she’s not out on the water, she runs the show at Sail Croatia Charter, a boating company based in the seaside town of Kaštel Gomilica. Here, she rounds up her seven favourite islands — so drop anchor and dive in.

1. Kornat

North of Split, Kornat is the largest of the 140-strong Kornati archipelago most of which is protected as a national park. You’ll need a ticket to pass through the park, but that small task opens you up to some of the best sailing in Croatia, through a confetti of islands trimmed with coral reefs and simple stone-built konobas. A firm favourite among these family-run restaurants is dockside Darko Strižnja on the island’s west coast, where you can moor up right outside and settle in for sunset drinks and oven-baked seafood.
Time to sail from Kaštel Gomilica: 10-12h 

Korčula Old Town resembles a mini Dubrovnik — without the crowds.

Photograph by Getty Images

2. Korčula

Shadowy thickets of pine led Greek settlers to christen Korčula ‘the Black Corfu’, but today it’s the vineyards that call out like sirens across the sea. Native pošip grapes hang heavy on the vines around the villages of Čara and Smokvica, but it's coastal Lumbarda, with its pigmented blue waters, sheltered harbour and sandy shoreline, that is the perfect spot to try grk varietals at family-run vineyards such as Lovrić Winery. The knobbly medieval walls and terracotta roofs of Korčula Old Town resemble a mini Dubrovnik — without the crowds. Don’t miss the golden beach of Pupnatska Luka on the south coast, backed by two seriously good seafood-serving restaurants.
Time to sail from Kaštel Gomilica: 5h

Mljet is the closest you’re likely to get to your own private paradise.

Photograph by Getty Images

3. Mljet

Sleepy Mljet is the southernmost of Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands — and the closest you’re likely to get to your own private paradise. With only one hotel, it’s best-suited to day-tripping sailors looking to explore the pindrop-quiet national park that blankets the northwest of the island. Here, a duo of saltwater lakes spills over 2.5 miles, with a 12th-century Benedictine monastery peeping out from the larger lake. Walking and cycling trails encircle both shorelines, kayaking is allowed and the twin ports of Pomena and Polače are the place to drop anchor and access the park on foot.
Time to sail from Kaštel Gomilica: 10h

Most of the anchorages in Vis are in the northeast, of the island, around the main town.

Photograph by Getty Images

4. Vis

This erstwhile Yugoslav military base was spared the blushes of mass tourism for 40 years until 1989, lending it a sense of isolation that endures today. Drifting past its shores sets you up to explore the islet of Biševo, off the south-west coast, and its mottled Modra Spilja (Blue Grotto). Most of the anchorages are in the northeast, mostly dotted around Vis Town, which skims a protected bay and lays on candle-lit konobas (restaurants) and cobbled alleyways, garlanded with olive trees and bougainvillaea. Adriatic viticulture began on Vis with the Greeks, so aim to sample the native vugava grape at vineyards such as Lipanović.
Time to sail from Kaštel Gomilica: 3h30

Hvar has an excellent selection of smart hotels and ritzy restaurants.

Photograph by Getty Images

5. Hvar

The most frivolous and fun-loving of Croatia’s islands, Hvar serves up smart hotels and ritzy restaurants for those looking to dial up the pace on their Croatian odyssey. You’ll be welcomed among the yachtie set at beach bars such as Hula Hula, where the apres-sea scene kicks off around sunset and goes on until late. Looking for something more lowkey? Hvar Town is laced with luxe restaurants along its glassy marble streets, such as family-owned Grande Luna and Giaxa — set within a pitted Gothic palace.
Time to sail from Kaštel Gomilica: 2h30

Lastovo is sheltered by the larger islands of Vis, Korcula and Hvar.

Photograph by Getty Images

6. Lastovo

Lonely little Lastovo is the type of place where even the Hotel Solitudo, in the small white-stone settlement of Pasadur, speaks to seclusion. If you’re in search  of silent pine forests and sleepy beaches, chart a course for this lesser-sailed spot — sheltered by the larger islands of Vis, Korcula and Hvar. A former military base, it was kept from the eyes of the world until 1990, so there’s little more to do than head off on hiking trails, accompanied only by the peregrine falcons that roost around the rocks of Sokolina. There’s anchorage at Pasadur, and the sandy beach of Saplun — on an islet off the north-east coast — is certainly one to mark on your must-see list.
Time to sail from Kaštel Gomilica: 8h

The guidebook-gracing,beach of Zlatni Rat on the island of Brač looks ike a teardrop.

Photograph by Getty Images

7. Brač

The guidebook-gracing, V-shaped beach of Zlatni Rat trails like a teardrop from the southern pine-knitted shore of Brač. Once you’ve spent a day anchored off the shingly spit near Bol, sail the inky waters around to Supetar, on the north coast, to bathe in its maze of bleached buildings, built using local white stone that was shipped over to Split to sculpt Diocletian’s Palace. Arriving at sunset? Head straight for harbourside Restaurant Palute for seafood grilled on an open fire.
Time to sail from Kaštel Gomilica: 1h30

Sail Croatia Charter has a fleet of smart sailboats, sleeping between six and 10 people.

Photograph by Sail Croatia Charter

Plan your trip

To access the islands, fly into Split with EasyJet from Gatwick and BA from Heathrow. Head for the bayside town of Kaštela, a 20-minute taxi ride away, where private-charter specialists SailCroatia has a fleet of smart sailboats, sleeping between six and 10 people.

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