Croatia, is said to be the land of 1000 islands, but in reality? There are probably easily more than 1000 if someone ever were to go out and count every island and islet sitting in the enchanting Adriatic Sea off of the Croatian mainland. There are so many islands and islets and one could spend months cruising along the coast of Croatia and still enjoy a new anchorage or little islet just around the corner. These islands have entranced various civilizations for thousands of years, due to the beauty of the water, the mild climate, the fertile soil and the number of days of sun each year shining on what from Ancient Times to today, often were considered vacation or resort locations, certainly by the ancient Romans who came to these islands to relax and get away from it all. There are so many islands to choose from to visit, however these 5 islands are standouts, and can each easily be visited on a one week crewed yacht charter itinerary between Dubrovnik and Split in southern Croatia, once known as Dalmatia.
One of the larger islands along the stunning Croatian Coast, the beautiful island of Mljet is usually either one of the first stops when cruising on a yacht charter north out of Dubrovnik, or one of the last stops when cruising south before arriving in Dubrovnik.
Mainly forested, Mljet is a very green island with much of the northern end of the island protected as part of a Croatian National Park. First identified geographically by Greco-Roman historians, the island of Mljet was popular during Roman times, referred to in various ancient texts as Melite or Melita. In later centuries, Mljet came under the rule of the Benedictine Order, with a monastery built in the 12th century on an islet. By the early 1800’s the Benedictine importance had waned, and the monastery was disbanded.
Today, when on a yacht charter, the village of Polace is one of the most popular harbors to visit located on the northeastern end of the island and on the largest and safest bay, as protected by 4 small islands. Surrounding Polace is the Mljet National Park with many hiking and biking trails. Polace is also the location of many Roman ruins, including a large structure from the 5th century, the remains of a Roman Palace, the walls of which run right through the village, hence the village name of Polace, or Palace. Located within Mljet National Park are two lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero (Large and Small Lake) with buildings from the old Benedictine Monastery on Islet Melita in the middle. Bicycles are available for rent in Polace to ride on the many cycling and hiking trails or cycle up over the hill to the National Park boat for a ride to Islet Melita. Hike through the beautiful surrounding woods, where in the springtime wild asparagus can be found. There is a small National Park fee for accessing the National Park trails and boat to cross to Islet Melita.
Because the surrounding waters are also a National Park, which only Mljet locals can fish, the local waters are filled with fish and shellfish. Tavernas along the water’s edge in Polace have cages underneath their docks, where fresh fish and shellfish are kept alive until time to be served hot for dinner. This is fish and shellfish at their very freshest. For a divinely green island experience with beautiful clear water, and fresh breezes, be sure to spend a night anchored in the bay in front of Polace on Mljet Island.
Believed by many to be the birthplace of Marco Polo in 1254, the island of Korcula is a must visit island on a crewed yacht charter along the coast of Croatia. Whether Marco Polo was or was not born on the island of Korcula is in debate still today, although both Marco and Polo are common names in the area. The island of Korcula passed through many hands over many centuries. There is prehistoric archeological evidence of settlement on the island. After which, in historic times, there is archeological evidence of settlement of various civilizations including the Greeks, and Romans on the island. The island continuously changed hands through Byzantine, Slavic and Venetian rule, and in those periods of time in between various rulers the island was a Mecca for pirates. Today, there are eight main villages on the island of Korcula, including Korcula Town, which is the main town on the island with a population of around 3000 people.
The island of Korcula is known for vineyards and wine production, olive trees and olive oil production, and large fruit tree orchards, surrounded by bee hives filled with bees producing honey. Of course, fishing is also an important industry for the year around locals on the island.
Korcula Town “Old Town” is one of the largest medieval walled cities still in existence today. The whole of Korcula Old Town is surrounded by 14th century medieval thick stone walls including towers that were used for the defense of the town during past centuries. The inside of the walled area, which was built on an oval shaped raised area of ground, was built with a main walkway along the highest area of the ground with small walkways off at an angle to either side, so that the interior area outlay of roads is often referred to as a fish skeleton. This layout of the town in a somewhat herringbone pattern allowed free air circulation but protected all inside from the strong local winds. The interior streets are all walking streets and are all stepped, which further retains the Old Town for pedestrian traffic only. Inside the Old Town are shops, restaurants, cafes and a museum in the house said to be the original home of Marco Polo. There is dockage available next to Old Town and a nice harbor in which to anchor for a visit of Korcula on any yacht charter.
One of the largest islands in Croatia, Vis is located the farthest west of all Croatian Islands and is the frontier island on the western edge of Croatia. Vis was an important island during WWII, due to being the western maritime outpost of Yugoslavia. WWII buffs might enjoy a guided tour of WWII landmarks on the island. Others will enjoy the quiet lifestyle, lovely little villages and seafaring feel of this island filled with lobster fishermen. Those in search of ancient history will not be disappointed, and as always there are beautiful anchorages and beaches in which to enjoy fun in the sun and the clear blue green waters of Croatia.
The island of Vis has, throughout history, been ruled by various civilizations along with being at one time its own nation. Past ruling civilizations have been the Greeks, Liburnians, Venetians, Italians and Austrians until this island became a part of Yugoslavia in 1920, and now a part of Croatia. Remnants of the various civilizations under which Vis was ruled are reflected in the local language, culture, architecture, and ruins found today on the island. For any WWII buffs, Vis is the island where the general headquarters of Marshal Josip Broz Tito were located; the leader of the Yugoslav Partisan Resistance Movement which, with the help of the British, liberated the island from Italian and then German rule during WWII. It is probably being part of Yugoslavia that has made the most recent impact on the island, as Vis was a Yugoslavian military base and until 1989 was off limits to any foreign visitors, leaving the island frozen in time for decades so that today the island is devoid of modern development.
There are two main towns on Vis which are Komiza and Vis Town. Komiza remains a very picturesque village, where many of the island’s lobster fishermen live. Piles of lobster pots can be seen on the quay ringing the town harbor. In Vis Town, located in an Austrian Fortress built in 1841, is a terrific archeology museum, with the largest collection of Hellenistic artifacts in Croatia. The artifacts include ancient Greek pottery, jewelry and sculpture; with the highlight piece of sculpture being an outstanding 4th-century BC bronze head of the goddess Artemis. And don’t miss the displays of relics retrieved from shipwrecks excavated around the shores of the island, as Vis was a very busy shipping island throughout history. Whatever your interest, visiting Vis island on a private yacht charter will be sure to delight.
Only able to be visited by sea, the island of Hvar in Croatia is a natural stop on a crewed yacht charter along the historic Croatian coast. Sitting in a strategic trading location, Hvar has been a natural stop for seafarers throughout history, with each civilization leaving a mark on the face of this island as reflected in the many historic buildings and ruins remaining. Cruise into Hvar City on the island of Hvar, once home to a major Venetian Empire naval base on your crewed yacht charter of the Dalmatian Coast.
The island of Hvar has been populated since prehistoric times. Having a mild climate, a large fertile plain, and several fresh water springs, the island has always been a welcoming habitat throughout history. As the Adriatic trading routes developed, Hvar gained increasing importance as a trading center. And while wealth flowed through the island as a commerce center for trading, Hvar locals worked the fertile local growing fields producing trade goods of their own including wines, olive oil, and lavender for aromatic oils. And of course, as an island, fishing was a large commercial industry.
Today, grapes are still grown for the boutique wineries on the island that are producing both red and white wines and are open for wine tastings. Fields of lavender, and olive trees can be seen across the countryside, and fresh fish is readily available. Hvar is a beautiful fertile island and while there try sampling wines from boutique island wineries, olive oils from local olive oil presses, honey from local hives, and perhaps shop for lavender goods, including the much-prized lavender honey.
There are four main towns on the island, Hvar, Jelsa, Stari Grad, which is the main seaport on the island, and Sucuraj. Surrounding the island are beautiful beaches, and anchorages including the picturesque anchorage of Milna on the southern coast, all with crystal clear waters. Hvar town is becoming a chic spot to see and be seen and has an active night life starting at sundown with a drink at Hula Hula Bar, continuing to the main square for dinner, followed at midnight by dancing at Carpe Diem on the harbor front and Carpe Diem Beach on a nearby island. During the day explore Hvar Town and hike up to the castle overlooking Hvar Town for a great photo op. The main square is ringed with cafes and chic shops, while little kiosks sell lavender products near the tender docks.
Stari Grad is considered one of the oldest continuously lived in towns in the EU, and the town and Stari Grad Plain behind the town are both a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as Stari Grad Plain divided into small plots outlined by rock walls by the Greeks, continues to be farmed in the same manner as laid out over 2000 years ago.
Hvar is often described as one of the most beautiful islands in the world and filled with sunshine. Visit Hvar and explore the historic towns, enjoy the green lush countryside, and the crystal clear clean waters.
Known as the “Stonecutter’s Island” due to the extensive quarries of white limestone and marble found on the island both of which are perfect for building and sculpting, this island, close to Split, is a quieter laid back island peopled by every day working Croatians, many of which are working at traditional crafts. The oldest settlement on the island, Skrip, is actually inland, as often was the case in earlier times, so as to be hidden away from the coast and pirate raids. Housed in a 16th century Radojkovic Tower, the Museum of Brac is located in Skrip which if open when you are there is worth a visit. Also, in Skrip, visit the Olive Oil Museum and Tasting Room which is a restored family olive oil mill that first opened back in 1864. With reservations, a family member will explain the olive oil pressing process as was done for centuries with the traditional olive oil press, and after provide olive oil tastings of various oils, including herbed oils, and also vinegars. Close by the Olive Oil Museum is a small but very interesting museum of Antiquities found on the island.
The island of Brac is home to the only Stonemasonry School in Croatia, and one of few in all the world, where students still learn everything about manually cutting stone. The school is located in Pucisca where this school is continuing a tradition more than 100 years old of traditional stone cutting. Brac stone is known all over the world and for millenniums, as it was Brac stone that was used to build Diocletian’s Palace in Split. The school does allow visitors that are interested in traditional manners of stonecutting to tour the school and see students at work.
Brac Island is a hiker’s paradise, with trails running across the island through fields were wild herbs grown with abandon. The most popular hiking trails are from Bol to Vidova Gora summit, Murvica to Dragon’s Cave, Nerezisca to Blaca Hermitage, Farska to Blaca Hermitage, and from Sumartin to Planik. The beach of Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn), a promontory that is only beach sand, is a well-known landmark on the island. This is a great spot to anchor off, and set up a lovely beach picnic. Aficionados of the sport feel this is an excellent place for windsurfing on either side of the Horn.
With the massive amount of limestone and marble on Brac, wineries on the island are producing some excellent wines, with grapevines planted into the limestone adding that little bit of extra to the grapes. And if you happen to visit the Franciscan Monastery in Bol ask to taste their homemade dessert wine Prosek, Stop at Brac Island to enjoy the more traditional side of Croatian life when cruising on a private yacht charter.
Missy Johnston is Owner of Northrop-Johnson Yacht Charters Newport. Northrop-Johnson Yacht Charters is a luxury crewed yacht charter company offering top notch private yachts with great crews in every worldwide cruising destination.