[DALMATIAN COAST, CROATIA] — Highly recommend you try and swing a sailboat charter in Croatia.

You can backpack or ferry between islands, but having your own steam allows you to duck in and out of the thousands of islands along the Dalmatian coast.

These pics are a companion post to my boat pics, following along our route chronologically so you can get a feel for how you can visit a completely different place every single day, without leaving your boat.

You pick up your boat in the surprisingly cool Split, then poke your way amidst the islands towards Dubrovnik. The itinerary is your own, you only have a start and port and end date and port, the rest is up to you.

You can get a boat of virtually any size to match how big your party is. Regular sailboats, big catamarans, or what we chose, a unique Turkish gulet. Or you can play in the party that is Yacht Week, a brilliant way for small young groups to meet other like-minded people of your age. Ohhh, if this was around when I was young… If you’re skilled sailor, the waters are protected and calm mostly, but most boats come with captains and crew, if you want them.

Croatia Sailing Route Queen of the Adriatic
You can backpack or ferry between islands, but having your own boat allows you to duck in and out of the thousands of islands along the Dalmatian coast.
Queen of the Adriatic at dock
When you have your own boat, you carry your house on your back, so you load in once and never have to leave. Meanwhile you get to visit a different island every day.

You Start in Amazing Split

We started our journey in Split, which because it’s a port town, I had very low expectations, but I was blown away. One of the oldest group of Roman palace, still operating in day to day life is here. Diocletian’s Palace. In my Ancient Archaeology class in Rome, our professor raved about this place and he was right.

I couldn’t believe how well preserved a lot of the old city was, just as it has always been, for thousands of years. Diocletian’s Palace just was fantastic. A warren of alleys and crooked streets. Sure, touristy, but the backdrop was jaw-dropping. We only had a day here, but I would book a couple.

Split Diocletian's Palace at night
Split Le Meridien view

My travel agent suggested we stay at Le Meridien, which I normally would pass on, but was easy and beautiful choice after a long flight. Plus, the boat would pick us up in their private harbor. And it was about half the cost of Le Meridiens elsewhere.

Plan to spend some time walking around the old city, especially Diocletian’s Palace. There’s a gelato stand about every ten feet, but some great restaurants.

Split Bell Tower view
Split occulus blue
I love occuluses — or is it occuli? — like The Pantheon in Rome. This one was good, too. In The Palace. Usually an amazing a capella group — which is A Thing in Croatia — is singing there, playing off the killer acoustics.
Split Forum
It’s as close as you can get to feeling like you’re in the real Roman Forum. (Not the Las Vegas version.)
Split Forum at Night

Your First Stop Will Probably Be Postira, On The Island of Brac

It’s the closest to Split. We picked up our boat at 5pm, so we had to scoot across the archipelago to find a cool place to anchor for the night. Postira was it. On the big island of Brac. We found this great place to eat, Konoba Gustrina, where they whipped out a table for all 12 of us. Highly recommend it. The perfect start to your trip.

Postira harbor restaurant
Postira port night time

Postira was a nice little harbor village. Turns gorgeous at night. When you charter your own boat, you carry your house on your back, so you can visit a different cool town every day and be back in your own bed each night. The problem with Croatia is every town is cool. You don’t want to leave.

Queen of the Adriatic porthole
Another great thing about being on your own boat is that you load-in once, but arrive in a different place every day. No hotels. No suitcases.
No “Let’s all meet in the lobby at 8.” It’s like a constantly moving villa.
Everyone gets up on their own schedule, no need to rush, ever.
The portal is your TV, changing channels every hour.


Queen of the Adriatic dinghy to dinner Vis
Heading to dinner.

Heading to dinner is my favorite thing to do — well, other than every other part of the day on the boat. At 33 meters long, Queen of the Adriatic is about twice as long as even the biggest sailboats you can charter. Which means you can’t just tie up in port, cheek-by-jowl next the other dozens of boats. You have to anchor with the big boys outside the small harbors. We saw that as a plus.

Freshly showered and some happy hour buzz strapped on, few things were as fun as taking off to shore each night, giddy to explore a new town. The dinghy is small, so we had to do it Navy SEAL style and send the first reconnaissance team ahead to start scoping out the town and figure out where to eat. Others would follow on the next wave.

Each island a little different, each restaurant offering a special experience. Always sitting outside, under the fresh air and ice cold Karlovačkos, the twelve of us often splitting a single huge grilled fish caught that day. Once pleasantly watered and fed, our Recovery Team, Bruno the Chef, would slip in under the cover of darkness to pick us up and sneak us back out again. Out there, bobbin’, grinning at the full moon.

Vïs restaurant Pajoda
Vis was another awesome town. If you look at the map, we scooted between the islands and ran out to Vis. Definitely would recommend Pajoda, one of the nicest restaurants in town.
Vïs restaurant Pajoda
Vïs Pajoda dinner
It ain’t easy showing up unannounced with twelve people, anywhere. But in Croatia they’re used to charter boats arriving unannounced.
Everywhere we went, tables were whisked out of nowhere, set up on the sidewalk, chairs carried over the heads of diners, tablecloths whipped out and wrinkles smoothed with precision, like a French maid at The Ritz. Then candles, of course. Everyone was so nice, so fun. Not cheesy tourist hucksters. Genuine. Proud to show us their great country. Everywhere we went. Food was simple, but awesome and always a great deal, from $20-40USD per, even with us drinking like sailors. Because we were sailors.
Vïs tower
Vïs entry
Vis port sun
Vïs harbor moon
If you charter a traditional sailboat, this is the typical setup in every port. You pull in next to other boats and that’s your hotel for the night. It’s easy to go walk to dinner, but you never know who you might be parked next to. Our gulet was so big, we had anchor in a cove and boat in, but we loved that privacy.

Hvar, The Party Island

Hvar fort from water
Hvar port
Hvar marble stones
Love these ancient marble stones all over Croatia. Love to walk on them barefoot, smooth from years of service.
Hvar town square night
At night, Hvar amps up. It is definitely a stop on the backpacker route and a big stop on all the ferries, so it’s known as a big party island and gets rowdy until the wee hours. So it was good to get a nice meal, then to be able to motor back to our isolated cove and our own quiet fun.
Hear port at night
Queen of the Adriatic near Hvar
Don’t mind us, we’ll just slip in riiiight here for the night… We were too big to be in the main harbor of Hvar, so we anchored a couple of coves away, our own private paradise.
Queen of the Adriatic Hvar cove
That’s where you can go reload on ice and beer to support your day cruising.

Korčula Was Everyone’s Favorite Island

Korčula was our next stop, after a long day slog on the water. Korčula was everyone’s favorite and a place we all wanted to come back to and spend more time. That’s what’s great about sailing, you see a different island every day, but get a great overview of where you want to come back to.

Korčula harbor
Korcula neighbors

One of the best things about sailing in Croatia is anchoring on a new island, taking the boat into a new town and everyone fans out. Roving the nooks and crannies, alleys and terraces, looking for the absolute best place to eat. There was a surprise around every corner, on every island. The hard thing was choosing just one.

Count all the sailboats by their lights.
Croatia sailing map
So many places. So much freedom. So few days.

Mljet National Park

Mljet. “I’d like to buy a vowel, please. ” Mljet is just a blast to say out loud. Especially with beer… which, miraculously, makes one more fluent. Whenever someone sneezed we’d say “Meeejet!”

Mljet is a big national park and was our next stop. A national park where you park in a quiet cove and go inland to visit crystal clear inland lakes.

Mljet harbor reflections
Mljet neighbors

In Mljet, you go ashore and then take a shuttle bus inland to the protected lakes. Then hike around to find the waters. After a bunch of hikes, you’re back on the boat for a nice long lunch. A perfect sunset every night. I loved how there are no bugs in Croatia. Not a single bite all week.

Mljet neighbors
The rising sun. Coffee. Not a single wave. The neighbors and the pillowheads downstairs still sleeping. All quiet except the trees, speaking loudly. Nothing beats being on your own boat.
Mljet sunrise
Mornings are the best in Croatia. But then again, afternoons are pretty good, too. Oh… and sunsets. Nevermind. Croatia is good.
Millet blue horizon

Swim Stops All Along The Way

The distance between islands and destinations isn’t that far — the ferries make it from Split to Dubrovnik in a couple hours — but you zig zag in and out islands and stretch it out for a week. Always fun to stop midday and have a schwimbob, lunch and then a nap.

Croatia beach
Instructions: Drop anchor. Jump off. Swim to shore. Beach. Cocktails. Swim back.
Pull up anchor. Smile. Repeat.
Croatia beach fun
A swim-to the beach.

Šipan Our Last Stop

After a long day of sailing and stopping for swims, we pulled into the quiet Šipan and had the best dinner of our trip, at Villa Ruža, with an incredible table with the most perfect sunset views. Highly recommend you stop and stay here.

Šipan harbor
Šipan was our last stop. Overnighting before dropping us in Dubrovnik.
Šipan harbor
Šipan sunet Queen of Adriatic
Our boat.
Villa Ruža restaurant sunset
I voted this as our best sunset the whole week. (And this was just taken with my phone, so you can imagine how much better in person.) It was like eating in front of a Samsung 4K TV demo. But with better surround-sound. And the smell-o-vision feature enabled.
Villa Ruža restaurant sunset

Sailing into Dubrovnik

Unfortunately, I had an 8am flight out of Dubrovnik to fly to Corsica, so I got dropped off at the docks and sped to the airport. Everyone else hung around for a couple of days and loved. It’s crowded, but cool.

Dubrovnik walls
Nothing beats seeing Dubrovnik from the sea.

Here’s a short video I made recapping a full week of sailing in Croatia:

— Last visited July 2015 —

Queen of the Adriatic Gulet Charter

Here’s the listing for Queen of the Adriatic on the upscale Red Savannah website, looks like they’ve made even more improvements since we sailed her.
Chartering Queen of the Adriatic for the week during peak season can be about $25,000 for the week, which sounds like a lot, but when you factor in 12-15 people, six cabins with their own bathrooms, a crew of four, including a chef, a deckhand/bartender/waiter,  and even a masseuse, that becomes much more reasonable. Especially when you factor in that that includes abundant breakfasts, gourmet lunches and all the booze you can drink. Oh, fuel, taxes and other incidentals. So for about $2,000/person, you can live like an oligarch, sail with your best friends and go where you want to go. CANNOT be beat. Best trip I’ve ever had.

More Information on Chartering Sailboats in Croatia

Here’s a great story on sailing in Croatia in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a great resource article in the New York Times on chartering you own yacht. And a great article in Condé Nast Traveler. And an article on Forbes on why Fall is the best time to sail Croatia. And a good one from Sail magazine. And two articles from Time Out magazine. This one. And this one about nine reasons why the Adriatic is the best place to sail.


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