There’s no end of adventure to be found on a Croatia sailing trip. Mornings are spent relaxing, with daily swim stops and long lunches while afternoons and evenings bring exciting new destinations to explore.
We visited beautiful islands and gorgeous coastlines, discovered medieval towns and explored UNESCO World Heritage sites. Find out where we moored and explored while sailing the Croatia Northern Explorer route with Yacht Getaways.
We were guests of Yacht Getaways for our week on the Croatia Northern Explorer route. However, all views and opinions are entirely my own and based on my own personal experience.
I’ve shown you what to expect from a Croatia sailing trip in my previous post. Now it’s time to share our itinerary and the idyllic islands, towns and sights we visited each day.
There are over 1000 islands in Croatia and there’s no better way to explore than on a skippered sailing holiday. The Croatia Northern Explorer route sails the Adriatic Sea between Zadar and Split along Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian coast.
The route explores the lesser known islands of Croatia, ancient towns, beautiful beaches and national parks and is more off the beaten track than the Croatia sailing trips that leave Split and head south to Dubrovnik, Hvar and Korcula.
Our Croatian Sailing Charter Route
After meeting Lauren our host and our shipmates at Trogir Marina we transferred to D-Marin Dalmacija Marina, the largest on the Croatian coast, near Zadar, where our aptly named sailing boat, ‘Simply the Best’ and skipper Sophie were waiting for us.
Our sailing adventure took us to some great places along the Adriatic coast taking in Kornati National Park, Skradin and Krka National Park, Kaprije, Rogoznica, Solta and Trogir.
With great excitement we weighed anchor and set sail out of the marina into the afternoon sun and the beautiful Dalmatian islands. Our Croatia sailing trip was underway. The sail flapped in the breeze as we passed through a narrow straight with the Croatian coastline to our left and the archipelago of islands as far as we could see to our right.
Our first stop was Kornati National Park and we relaxed on the upper deck watching, coastal towns and nearby islands pass by as we sailed to our destination.
Kornati National Park
Kornati National Park is made up of 89 islands, islets and reefs. We weaved our way for three hours through the dense archipelago which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the sunny Mediterranean climate.
As the sun started to set we cruised to a small bay in Otok Vrgada where a small group of boats were moored. Maybe ten at most. People swam in the bay and the lights from a small beach restaurant reflected in the water as the sun slowly sank into the ocean. We hopped in the tender and alighted onto a small wooden jetty and walked up the sand to the restaurant.
Here we experienced the culture of Croatia with traditional, local cuisine and hospitality. I had lamb Peka which is sometimes considered the national dish of Croatia. The lamb is slowly cooked for hours on an open fire under a bell-shaped lid called a peka. The meat is tender and delicious served with roasted vegetables and potatoes drenched in herbs and olive oil.
Next morning, after an early morning swim and breakfast the archipelago beckoned. We set off into the broader area of Kornati National Park passing small groups of islands and traversing expanses of deep blue water. We may even have seen a lone cloud.
After navigating through an incredibly narrow channel we dropped anchor in the waters of a small bay in Dugi Otok. Otok means island in Croatian so you’ll be hearing that word a lot in this post. We swam in the warm, turquoise waters before lunching on the boat and continuing through Kornati National Park to our mooring for the night at the small ACI Marina Piskera on the tiny uninhabited island of Otok Vela Panitula.
We spent some time late afternoon walking up to the ridge of the island for views across the sparkling Adriatic Sea. If we’d kept sailing across open sea we’d have come to Ancona in Italy. The landscape here is quite barren and strewn with limestone rocks and stones which contrast starkly with the deep blues of the sea and bursts of green from cacti and juniper bushes. The island is small and we could easily have walked the length of it before dinner.
N20 is the local restaurant to the marina. In fact it’s the only restaurant on the island so it was the obvious spot for dinner. We had a simple but excellent meal of fresh fish straight from the Adriatic.
Kornati to Krka
Next morning, after a coffee on the top deck, we up anchor and head away from the Kornati island group towards our next destination, Skradin. We’re totally relaxed now and tuned in to the rhythm of the boat and this beautifully slow way of travel. After stops for breakfast and lunch and swim stops in the deliciously warm blue waters we steer inland towards Šibenik on the mainland, getting ever closer to Krka National Park.
We pass under Šibenik Bridge and journey inland up the Krka River passing the imposing city of Šibenik and its four fortresses. From the water we spot historic sites; the white dome of Šibenik Cathedral which stands out amongst the rows of red-tiled rooftops and two fortresses on the hills above the city.
We round a bend in the river and the charming town of Skradin is within our sights. Yachts and boats bob in the harbour in front of the small town and a white clock tower punctuates the rooftops. Behind the town sits a hill covered in dense green foliage, topped with the ruins of a fortress.
As well as being the gateway to Krka National Park and Croatia’s famous landmark Krka waterfalls, the town is surrounded by vineyards and wineries. BiBich vineyard has a wine tasting room in Skradin Old Town and does wine tastings and tours in the vineyard.
We have free time this evening to head out and explore on a self-guided walking tour of the pretty town. It doesn’t take long but is very picturesque. Skradin has a long history and our first stop is Turina fortess which is just a short ten-minute climb from the old town. The ancient ruins date back to Medieval times and were built on the site of an ancient city. There’s not much of the fortress left at the top but its worth the climb for impressive views over the town and marina.
The old town consists of one main street a short walk from the fortress on the other side of the hill. It’s lined with pretty pastel coloured buildings with narrow alleyways leading away from the main street. Cafe tables and chairs spill out onto the cobbles and it’s the perfect place to sit with a glass of local wine and watch the world go by.
We dined at More I Prstaci restaurant and sat on the upstairs balcony overlooking the marina. I ordered Greek salad as I was still pretty full from lunch and Mr Jones opted for a local food dish of pork belly. We both enjoyed our food and headed back to the marina for a drink at the end of the jetty. A group of local sailors were singing traditional Croatian songs and we sat and enjoyed the music with a nightcap as the harbour lights reflected on the water and a soft breeze cooled the air.
Krka National Park
Of course the main reason for visiting Skradin is its proximity to Krka National Park and the stunning waterfalls. Next morning our new friends / shipmates and us set out to visit the park. There’s a kisok selling combined boat and entry tickets at the end of the marina – the queue will point you in the right direction. Ferries depart roughly every hour and prices vary according to time of year and rise during busy seasons. Excursions are an extra charge and not included in the cost of your sailing holiday.
The 25-minute boat ride from the the marina is, I think, the best way to the park and passes some lovely scenery – you’ll probably spot a few swans too. You could rent a bike in Skradin and ride to Skradinski Buk or, if you have time, opt to take an easy, 60-90-minute circuit walk (2-miles each way) that takes in numerous waterfall views.
Krka National Park is one of eight national parks in Croatia and the main event is the natural beauty of Skradinski Buk, a pool of extremely clear emerald green water with numerous waterfalls cascading into it. It’s one of Croatia’s must see bucket list destinations.
The waterfalls are breath taking and you’ll see them by following a series of wooden boardwalks which take you on a circuit through the park. The scenic trail is around 1.2-miles long and includes views of all the falls and travertines. There are around six waterfalls of various drops and sizes, lakes and other interesting features like the old water mill which has a small exhibition.
Swimming was allowed in the pools until January 2021 but has now been stopped to protect the park so don’t take towels or swimwear. Do take a hat, sunscreen and water although there are refreshment kiosks in the park.
We leave Skradin at 2pm and retrace our route down the Krka River, passing Sibenik and its brooding fortresses, and back out into open water and the Šibenik archipelago. We’re heading for Kaprije, a small island with just one village, 160 inhabitants and no roads – which also means there are no cars. If you’re looking to get away from it all, you’ve just found the perfect spot.
The fishing village of Kaprije is right by the small harbour and we walk around the bay discovering tiny inlets and jetties and paddling in the shallow water. There are quite a few restaurants and bars to choose from but we walk to Liberty, a restaurant by a small beach, at the far end of the bay. It’s a gorgeous spot with views across the water to the village and out to sea.
We have one drink but like this pretty spot so much that we end up staying for sundown and dinner. We order the meat platter which arrives piled high with steak, pork and lamb chops and garnished with roasted peppers, courgettes and a delicious Croatian pepper sauce, Ajvar. It could easily have fed four.
I really liked Kaprije, it was good to see an untouched, authentic side of Croatia. Kaprije is definitely somewhere to go and slowly unwind.
Next morning, we sailed away from the sleepy island of Kaprije and continued south on the Sibenik Riviera dropping anchor in the waters off the coast of Primošten for sea swims and a delicious lunch of creamy chorizo risotto. We’d set our compass for the coastal town of Rogoznica in the heart of Dalmatia, home to the mysterious Dragon’s Eye Lake.
Rogoznica has been a popular tourist destination since 1870 due to the area’s beautiful beaches, its charming old town and nowadays the award winning Frapa Marina which is one of Croatia’s biggest and best. It sits in a deep natural bay and some of the yachts there need to be seen to be believed…
Dragon’s Eye Lake
After mooring up we set out to find out exactly what Rogoznica’s main attraction, the mysterious Dragon’s Eye Lake aka Eye of the Dragon or Zmajevo oko, is all about. The lake is just a short walk from the marina – no more than five minutes. We could hear shouts and laughter before we saw the lake itself and arrived to see people cliff diving and swimming in the lake.
The calm, oval-shaped lake is surrounded by limestone cliff walls up to 24-metres high and the water is a gorgeous shade of emerald green. The lake is filled by seawater from underground channels and is 15-metres at its deepest point. There are steps down into the water or, if you’re brave enough, you could just join the cliff jumpers.
Rogoznica Old Town
The historic old town sits on the opposite side of the bay to Frapa Marina on the Kopara peninsular. It’s connected to the main town and the marina by a causeway and we walked around the bay, passing some beautiful beaches, to spend the evening exploring. The picturesque palm-lined promenade has pretty old stone houses, now restaurants and bars, to one side with yachts, tour boats and fishing boats moored up in the bay on the other.
We climbed the winding alleys to visit the 17th century parish church which stood out clearly as we’d sailed by on arrival that afternoon. The tiny squares and courtyards were buzzing and we found a good spot for pizza and people watching before heading back to the boat. The perfect way to end the day.
Next morning we sailed round the headland to the aptly named Blue Bay for swimming and paddle boarding before breakfast. Watching my husband’s attempts at paddle boarding still brings a smile to my face. We all had a go and we all managed to stay upright for a decent amount of time. I’d paddle boarded in Cyprus in May so had a bit of a head start but it was a lot of fun. None of us wanted to leave Blue Bay but it was time for our next destination.
One of the most popular day trips out of Split is a boat trip to the blue lagoon between the islands of Drvenik and Krknjasi. Blue lagoons in Croatia are formed between groups of small islands which are separated by shallow lagoons where you can snorkel and see fish and underwater creatures in the incredibly clear, blue water. We moored up between these two islands for a long swim stop and lunch before heading to Solta, the largest island on our Croatian cruise. It was a beautifully lazy day.
Solta is adjacent to Split on the Croatian mainland and separated from the island of Brač by a narrow channel but we moored in a tiny bay and felt like we were miles from anywhere. There are just two restaurants in the bay and we took the tender over for our final dinner together as a group.
Next day after coffee and breakfast we sailed back to where we started. We arrived at the historic harbour town of Trogir late morning for a day of exploring and our final night on board.
Trogir is a medieval city located on a small island and can be reached from the island of Čiovo and the mainland by bridge. Trogir goes back to the 3rd century BC and walking the warren of narrow stone alleyways and lanes finds a picturesque view around every corner. It’s like an open-air museum and incredibly atmospheric. The city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and there’s plenty to see and do for a day or two.
We found loads of things to do in Trogir including a visit to the beautiful Cathedral of St. Lawrence where we climbed the 47-metre high bell tower for fabulous views of the city including clocktower of the church Sv. Sebastijana and the City Loggia next door to it. They’re all located in Ivana Pavla II Square which is also a nice spot for a drink or lunch. Another highlight in the Square is the facade of the 13th century Cipiko Palace.
In front of the old town is a beautiful waterfront promenade lined with restaurants on one side and luxury yachts on the other. It’s the perfect place for a meal and people watching as well as a stroll to the end of the promenade. Here you’ll find the imposing 15th century Kamerlengo Fortress and it’s Sveti Marko Tower. Climb up for breathtaking views over old town Trogir.
Trogir is just 5km from Split airport so we booked 3 extra nights at a small waterfront hotel on Čiovo which had great views of the marina and Kamerlengo Fort.
Trogir is just 30km from Split and you can take a boat trip, bus, or organised tour on a daytrip to the city. The boat takes around one-hour each way from Trogir. Once there, you’ll find lots to do within the city walls and further afield.
Visit the impressive Diocletian’s Palace and People’s Square, eat fresh seafood on the waterfront, stroll the Riva promenade or find a beautiful beach and swim in the sea. Both Split and Trogir were filming locations for Game of Thrones so you might spot some familiar settings or even take a walking tour.
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What we loved about our Croatia sailing trip with Yacht Getaways
As you can see we experienced some beautiful and interesting places during our week on the Croatia Northern Explorer route. Each port of call had its own unique character and, combined with the catamaran experience, made for a very special trip which we’ll remember for a long time to come.
The itinerary was an excellent balance of must-see highlights combined with more off the beaten track destinations and authentic experiences. Everything was perfectly planned but with an essential element of flexibity.
We loved our time on the catamaran, the pace of travel was spot on with the perfect balance of activity and relaxation. We loved spending time chilling on deck, taking in the scenery and our daily swim stops. The food was excellent, beautifully presented and the crew were fabulous. Our week with Yacht Getaways exploring a route less travelled was the perfect escape and we loved every single minute.