Yachting in Croatia: A captain and crew guide
Last updated: 15/03/2017
Totalling more than 6,000km, the Croatian coastline is one of the most indented in the Mediterranean, with ample natural bays, secret coves, sheer cliffs and beautiful beaches set against sparkling azure waters.
With the territory including some 78 reefs and over 1,000 individual islands, Croatia is the ideal destination to explore from the water, attracting many charter yachts year on year. Yachting Pages spoke to SmartYacht about the natural wonders of Croatia as a yachting and tourism destination to create a handy guide for those visiting aboard a superyacht.
Visiting Croatia aboard a superyacht: Climate and attractions
Increasing in popularity as a nautical tourism and charter destination in its own right, Croatia is no longer simply ‘a cheaper alternative to Italy’, but rather a desirable location for sun worshippers and yachties alike.
While the main cities of Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb remain Meccas for nightlife, shopping and eateries, Croatia offers many secret islands and unique hideouts for those looking to escape the crowds and explore the country’s natural sites and scenic landscapes - all of which are best travelled by yacht.
What to see and do in Croatia
Of Croatia’s 1,000+ islands, only around 65 are constantly inhabited. They spread across a total of around 3,300sq km and offer up some great cruising routes for those on charter.
Centred on the Venetian charm of Hvar Town, the Island of Hvar is a fashionable island destination that draws over 20,000 visitors daily during peak season, including the rich and famous. Beyond the designer hotels and classy cocktail bars, Hvar is home to many unspoilt sights and unhurried towns, such as Stari Grad, Vrboska and Jelsa, which offer up a warren of enchanted streets and secluded spots for charter guests and crew to explore. On the island guests can also enjoy mountain biking through the rugged landscape of the island, hiking tours through hillside vineyards and lavender fields, and sea-kayaking trips around the nearby Pakleni islets.
Formerly a military spot, Vis was inaccessible to foreigners until 1989, when yachties discovered it. It is the farthest island off of the Croatian mainland, full of tantalizing traditions, culture, heritage sites and beaches; best known for its laid-back way of life and fresh seafood. Srebrna Bay is a particularly good place for those wanting a swim in the sea, as it offers good access to the water and remains relatively quiet even at peak times. Guests can also join fishing trips at Mola Trovna to learn how to clean and cook their catch.
With thirty sandy beaches, Rab is well known as one of the more family-oriented islands of Croatia. One of the most popular beaches here is Veli Mel, which is busy with families between June and September, but visitors can still revel in the exclusivity that yacht ownership brings, exploring the surrounding uncommercialised beaches lining Rab’s northern shore. Nudist beach Sahara is probably the most famous, but there are plenty of equally inviting locations either side with spectacular views of the mountainous mainland. The island also offers charming medieval stone buildings and has four elegant Roman church bell towers.
The seventh largest island of the Dalmatian collection, Dugi Otok (‘Long Island') is less than one mile wide in places. A popular location for families, picturesque villages and white sandy beaches collide with rugged terrain and lush vegetation, with evergreen hues that contrast starkly against the terracotta rooftops and crystal blue water. The island offers culture and history in its sacred buildings and fishing tradition. Sali on the northeast coast is the municipal centre, hosting most of the islands marine and tourism businesses.
Elaphiti Islands (Elaphites)
The laid-back way of life is prominent in this island group in the Dubrovnik region. With a forested and hilly terrain, quaint villages are peppered here and there along the peaceful coastline. While only three of the thirteen islands in the collection are inhabited, there is still plenty to do, without feeling the hectic pace of the mainland. The island chain is known to be easy to explore.
Surrounded by some of the purest, turquoise waters in the Mediterranean, and a further 46 small isles and reefs, the island of Lastovo offers up some great spots for diving. There is no WiFi here, but anchored in the bay or heading ashore, it is a typically picturesque island town, with plenty of historic sites of interest and traditional buildings topped with intriguing chimneys – a Lastovo cultural pride. Out of town, there are copious bays and many walks for hikers, with National Parks that boast the very best of secluded Croatia.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Inland of Croatia’s mainland, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is the country’s biggest single natural attraction; a forest reserve made up of 16-terraced lakes linked by falling waterfalls that cascade over 158m. Visitors enjoy walking and hiking trails around and across the waterways, and can take the Lake Kozjak Ferry from the lower lakes to the upper. Veliki Slap is the highest waterfall here at 78m tall. There are many organised tours and excursions to guide visitors through the park.
A Croatian fishing port with picturesque skyline, Rovink is the Istria region’s star attraction. Here the old town stands on a headland marked by the hilltop church of St Euphemia, with colourful, crowded houses tumbling right down to the seafront beyond. As such, there are a maze of cobbled streets for visitors to explore and a further 14 islands lying just off the mainland.
When to visit Croatia aboard a yacht
Making up part of the Eastern Mediterranean, the best time to visit Croatia aboard a yacht is certainly in the European summer, where the peak cruising window spans over six months.
Stretching some 6,000km from north to south, the country can be split into three distinct climatic regions, with the coastline experiencing a typically Mediterranean climate.
In the summer months (April to September), sailors will experience warm sunshine, low humidity and high temperatures (26 to 30°C) along the length of the coast, while in the winter months, coastal temperatures begin to drop off to around 5 to 10°C, with chillier evenings noticeable.
It is not until the winter months that climactic differences become more apparent between northern and southern cities, with the average summer surface water temperature of 26°C cooling rapidly in September to give an average of 18°C in the north just a month later, while a steady 22°C remains in the south.
Superyacht services in Croatia
Yacht berthing: Ports and marinas in Croatia
Croatia is well equipped to welcome yachts to its shores, with over 50 good marinas in place. The below marinas are just some of the few that have been developed especially to welcome the increasing amount of super and megayachts visiting the region year on year.
As part of the D-Marin marina network, D-Marin Mandalina is located in the city of Šibenik on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, within a naturally protected lagoon. Set between two national parks, the marina is the recipient of many prestigious industry awards and offers a total of 429 sea berths, with accommodation for yachts up to 140m LOA and a depth deep enough to welcome super sailing yachts. The development is equipped with water and electricity, and telephone connectivity in-slip, as well as a new hotel, Wi-Fi and all modern marina facilities.
Part of the ACI Marina network, ACI Marina Split offers 318 protect berths, accommodating superyachts up to 90m LOA in the heart of Split. Having recently been modernised, and with breakwaters surrounding all sides of the facility, the marina development is the perfect base for visiting superyachts, offering great shopping, dining, fuelling and repair services to name but a few.
As one of Croatia’s newest marina developments, Marina Kastela is just 7kms north from Split, set amongst the beautiful scenery of the Kozjak Mountain and Marjan and Ciovo peninsula’s. Marina Kastela offers around 400 berths for visiting vessels, accommodating superyachts up to 150m, with a draft of 8m.
D-Marina Dalmacija is the largest marina in Croatia, with 1,200 berths. Located in a naturally protected bay the marina is just 7km south of the ancient port of Zadar, and 5km from Zadar International Airport.
Just west of Zadar, D-Marin’s Borik marina accommodates yachts up to 30m LOA, and offers on-site crane and repair services, as well as crew and visitor amenities, including showers, cafés, restaurants and bars.
Marina Frapa is located on an artificial island between Šibenik and Split with 462 berths, including 10 for superyachts over 40m LOA. The site includes a swimming pool, nightclub and sports centre, as well as 24-hour CCTV surveillance.
Set to open in 2018, Marina Gruz will offer a total of 177 berths, with some accommodating vessels up to a maximum length of 55m LOA, with a draft 5m. Facilities will include on-site water and electricity.
Yacht fuel bunkering in Croatia
There are locations across Croatia where yachts can fuel. Marina Lošinj, Marina Biograd na Moru, Marina Mandalina Šibenik and Marina Kaštela all have yacht fuel stations alongside their marina facilities, but a more comprehensive list can be found here, with thanks to Jadranka Yachting.
Port clearances, customs and cruising regulations in Croatia
Croatian authorities are said to be very firm when it comes to clearances and immigration, especially since the recent migrant crisis in Europe. Those who do not comply with procedures can face large fines.
On arrival in Croatia, skippers must make their way to the nearest Port of Entry to clear in immediately, regardless of the time of day. In some ports and marinas, officials may come to the boat. If necessary, skippers are expected to report to the police for passport control and the customs and harbour master. Crew must remain aboard until all formalities are complete. Further details can be obtained from your yacht agent.