Croatia: The coast with the most

With isolated islands, beautiful beaches, watersport hotspots and historic ports, Adriatic Croatia is a shore thing for a great seaside break

What's the attraction?

Croatia's 1,800km coastline, with its islands and turquoise Adriatic, is well established on the holiday scene. Except on the west coast of Istria and the Makarska Riviera, it has few purpose-built resorts.

Access is via five airports, starting in the north with Pula (served from the UK by Jet2, Thomson Airlines and Ryanair) for the Istrian Peninsula and Rijeka (served by Croatia Airlines and Ryanair) – the launch pad for the lovely islands of the Kvarner Gulf. For the Dalmatian region, choose from Zadar (Ryanair), Split (Croatia Airlines, easyJet, Wizzair, Jet2), and Dubrovnik (BA, easyJet, Thomson Airways, Wizz Air and Flybe).

Best beaches

Officially recognised as Europe's second-cleanest (after Cyprus), Croatia's shores tend to be pebbly rather than sandy. The best are on the islands: Rab boasts a lovely bay at Lopar, Korcula has two sandy beaches near Lumbarda, while tiny Susak island is entirely composed of fine, compacted sand.

The most photogenic beach is the constantly changing spit of white pebbles called Zlatni Rat on the island of Brac (ferries from Split). Direct Line Holidays (0800 408 6327; directline-holidays.co.uk) offers a week at the nearby Blue Sun Borak Hotel for £779 per person, including return Croatia Airlines flights from Heathrow on 25 August, half-board accommodation and transfers.

Island hopping

There's an island to suit every taste: green Mljet (reached via Dubrovnik) is best for nature, Vis (via Split) for food, Brac for watersports and Hvar for relaxation and celebrity spotting. The best approach to hopping between islands is to focus on well-connected groups. It's easy to move between Krk, Rab and "party island" Pag; or Brac, Hvar and Vis. Ferry timetables are available on jadrolinija.hr. An escorted eight-day cruise between several of the major islands is offered by Travelsphere (0844 567 9961; travelsphere.co.uk). Starting from Dubrovnik, it costs from £839 per person half- board, including flights on 14 October.

Take a break

Dubrovnik is essential viewing, but it's only one of many attractive coastal cities. Consider Pula, with its Roman remains, or Sibenik, which has undergone a makeover including a new town beach. Best of all is Split, with its vibrant Saturday market, excellent beaches, and the Riva esplanade lined with cafés and bars. The newest central hotel is the boutique Marmont (00 385 21 308 060; marmonthotel.com), where a double room with breakfast starts at €105. Hvar, the most beautiful and upmarket of the towns built by the Venetians, which lies on the island of the same name, is just a day trip away.

Ride on

The Istrian peninsula at the very northern end of the coastline is dotted with vineyards, villages and Roman remains, as rural accompaniments to its Italianate coastal towns (Porec, Pula and Rovinj) and its succession of coves and beaches. The region's network of cycle routes makes the bike a good way of seeing the sights as well as sampling the sea. New for 2012 is the "Coastal Croatia" cycling tour offered by Headwater (0845 154 5301; headwater.com). The eight-day holiday costs from £1,418 per person with Thomson flights from Gatwick to Pula, transfers, hotel accommodation and some meals.

Total immersion

Watersports of all kinds are readily available along the coast: windsurfing and kitesurfing are particularly good at Viganj on the Peljesac peninsula near Korcula, while the best diving spots are Rovinj in Istria and the Kornati islands.

Alternatively, this year SwimTrek (01273 739713; swimtrek.com) is offering a one week short-swim trip, departing 15 September. It blends coastal swims around the islands near Sibenik with walking. The holiday starts from the island of Krapanj (get there from Zadar or Split airports) and costs £810 per person, based on two sharing. Included are bed, breakfast and lunch in hotels. Excluded is travel to Krapanj and evening meals.

Sail away

A sailing holiday is an ideal way to see some of the more remote and uninhabited islands such as the beautiful Kornati archipelago of 130 islands, scattered off the coast between Zadar and Sibenik.

Sail Dalmatia (0800 124 4176; saildalmatia.com) has a Sun Odyssey 379 (three double cabins) for charter from Sibenik. The cost of a week's bareboat hire in late August/early September is €2,420. If you need a skipper, it will cost an extra €150 per day. You also need to supply your own food (and the skipper's) as well as find your own way to Sibenik (flights to Split or Zadar).

Insider information

"Most visitors head for the Dalmatia region as there around 60 flights a week in summer from the UK to Split and Dubrovnik. But to do so is to miss two of my favourite places in the north of Croatia: the amazing Brijuni islands. They are 15 minutes by boat from the fishing village of Fazana and you can wander by the sea and find your own little bay for the day with Roman ruins as a backdrop. Then there's the island of Cres in the Kvarner region. It's the biggest island in the Croatian Adriatic with gorgeous hidden beaches and walking trails through the Tramuntana forest." Julia Berg, compiler of Prestige Holidays' 2012 "Love Croatia" brochure (01425 480400; prestige holidays.co.uk). She has a home in Lovran

Who said that?

"If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik. Because the beauty there will leave anyone breathless." George Bernard Shaw

"Dalmatia possesses one of Europe's most dramatic shorelines, as the stark, grey wall of coastal mountains sweeps down to a lush seaboard dotted with palm trees and olive plantations." Rough Guide to Croatia

"Listening to the sea at night, studying the stars, seeing how people interact when they are not sitting on computers all day – these are things that are being lost elsewhere. In Dalmatia, we can talk about the temperature of the sea and how many fish we have caught that day."Writer James Hopkin, discussing his 'Dalmatian Trilogy'

A taste of Dubrovnik

Most visitors stay in rented apartments, costing from around €60 per night for two people in the district of Lapad (which also has the best local beach and is a 20-minute bus ride from the city's main Pile Gate). For more information, see the tourist board website tzdubrovnik.hr. A reasonably priced hotel (by Dubrovnik standards) within the city walls is the three-star Stari Grad (00 385 20 322 244; hotelstarigrad.com). Doubles with breakfast start at €140.

No other European city boasts such complete and spectacular walls. You can walk around them and enjoy great views. The entrance is just inside the Pile gate (60 kuna/£7; summer opening 8am-7pm). Al fresco dining is the order of the day, with seafood a staple on most menus. Kamenice, at Gunduliceva polijana 8 (the market square) provides simple fare such as mussels in a wine, garlic and tomato sauce for 56 kuna/£8 (00 385 20 323 682).

The most interesting of the historical museums is in the striking Dominican Monastery near the Ploce Gate. Admire its beautiful 15th-century cloister and the collection of medieval and renaissance religious paintings (20 kuna/£2.20; 00 385 20 322 200).

Escape from the tourist hordes with a 15-minute trip by taxi-boat from the old harbour to the wooded island of Lokrum (return ticket 50 kuna/£5.50).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas