The islands along the Adriatic Coast of the country are less in the limelight than the Greek Islands or the Scottish Islands. There are islands here that are renowned for gourmet cuisine, others for mile upon mile of dunes and undulating white sand beaches, others for forests teaming with wildlife and others for nudism. Below are the best Croatian islands to explore by boat.
Vis Island — Best for Adriatic Cuisine
According to local folklore, the first grape vine anywhere in Dalmatia (an historical region encompassing much of modern day Croatia and Montenegro) was planted in Vis. To this day, the island has retained a proud tradition of excellent food and wine. Vis Vugava is the top island wine to taste, whilst the culinary reputation has ben further helped along by the importance of fishing on the island, which has resulted in a renowned, seafood-domiated local cuisine. The town of Komiza even boasts a fishing museum. As a former army base, Vis has never developed the tourist infrastructure of many Croatian islands which makes for a very authentic feel.
Car ferries or catamarans from Split to Vis run daily.
Rab Island — The Naturist Island
Rab is beautiful, carpeted with pine forests that descend to glorious beaches, but as a result it is also one of the most popular islands in Croatia. The main town of Rab has been around the 13th century, and makes a good exploration base, with tower-adorned medieval walls said to represent the masts of a sailing ship. Despite the crowds, Rab is also big enough to find plenty of isolated bathing spots. Nudism rules, however: King Edward VIII was allowed to swim nude on Rab and naturism has been a big part of beach life here ever since. Lopar, with some of Croatia’s most exquisite beaches, lies in the northeast of Rab.
Daily car ferries from Krk Island to Lopar and from Jablanac (mainland) to Misnajac (Rab).
Elaphite Islands — Easy Access to Paradise
This archipelago is located just west of Dubrovnik. Some thirteen islets here, many uninhabited, offer unforgettable swimming beaches. The islands are famous for their architecture, with interesting old manor houses and churches. Lopud is the most visited of the islands.
Daily ferries from Dubrovnik to Lopud and Kolocep Islands
Korcula Island — Marco Polo Birthplace and Forest Wilderness
Densely forested Korcula is the second most populous island in Croatia, mainly due to its proximity to Dubrovnik. Ever since the time of explorer Marco Polo (who was born on the island) it has attracted a string to famous residents from artists to politicians. Korcula Town is an attractive medieval settlement of squares and ornate houses. Besides an array of beaches, it is possible to visit Marco Polo’s House and partake of the famous island sword dance. Korcula is well connected for visits to Mljet Island and the picture postcard fishing port of Orebic.
Daily ferries from Split to the town of Vela Luka, or from Dubrovnik to Korcula Town, connect the island to the mainland.
Mljet Island — The Best Croatian Island
For many visitors, Mljet is the perfect Croatian island, a sentiment echoed by many travel guides. With unspoilt small fishing harbours like Pomena and swathes of sandy beaches around Saplunara, Mljet is dominated by a National Park of the same name. This forested island interior contains two lakes and a monastery.
Daily ferry connections between Dubrovnik and the Mljet port of Sobra
Palagruza — The Remotest Island in Croatia
Travellers are advised to head here if utter remoteness is something that appeals to them. This rocky island is uninhabited for large parts of the year, boasting just a lighthouse and some extremely limited summer holiday houses. There are two main islands forming ridges that pitch steeply into the sea, and one outstanding stretch of sandy beach. The island was the reputed home of Diomedes, a legendary fighter in the Trojan Wars, although there is limited evidence of this.
High-speed boats to Palagruza leave from Korcula every day at 7am
The mainland coastal resorts of Split and, further south, Dubrovnik, are the jumping-off points for trips to these paradisiacal getaways. Journey time from the mainland can be anything from under an hour (in the case of the Elaphite Islands) to six hours in the case of Palagruza.
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