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The Dalmatian coast is stunningly beautiful – some say the finest cruising grounds in the world.
Fourteen hundred islands and blessed with a mild climate and southwest facing aspect, this is a lush green coast with beautiful coves and bays, little unspoiled harbours and fishing villages and a friendly open people delighted to welcome visitors on a boat.
The coastline is so long that to attempt to explore it al in a week would be almost impossible. This itinerary covers the northern end of the country and we have produced a lovely route covering southern Croatia.
The quirks of the both the Croatian regulations on foreign-flag vessel and the EU VAT regime means that the most cost-effective way to cruise this northern coast is to charter from Split to Trieste.
Split was the retirement home of the Roman Emperor Diocletian and his palace has been well preserved forming much of the core of today’s city. It might be an idea to arrive the day before the yacht departs and enjoy exploring this ancient port – the way that the Roman architecture has been blended in with everything from medieval to modern is fascinating. The yacht is berthed at Trogir, 20 miles from Split and conveniently close to the international airport. It is a 3 hour steam to the port of Sibenik.
Sibenik has many parallels with Dubrovnik but is much less developed and as such a delightful place to visit. The UNESCO protected C15th cathedral of St Jakov lies beneath the medieval fortress walls surrounding this lively city with attractive little streets and squares. Over lunch, the captain heads for the National Park archipelago of Kornati. The 89 islands cover less than one quarter of the park area and the rich marine life provides tremendous opportunities for diving and snorkelling. There are some lovely peaceful coves to anchor and enjoy these tranquil islands overnight.
It is 45 miles to the island of Molat, a favourite of King Edward VIII who cruised here in 1939. Around the hamlet port of Molat are some secret coves and beaches which are a delight to explore and a great place for a beach picnic, alternatively Molat has a couple of little restaurants for a leisurely lunch ashore. In the afternoon it is a short ail to the sister island of Ist with its popular yachtsman’s port of Široka. For a more peaceful night – and a better chance of a berth - the fishing port of Kosiraca on the northwest coast is a delightful option for an overnight stop.
Heading north, the islands of Ilovik and Sveti Petar (St Peter), separated by a narrow canal 300 meters wide, are a first anchorage today. Early arrivals can meet the baker’s boat delivering fresh bread and croissants to the anchored yachts. Swimming and snorkelling is followed by a lunch as the yacht heads for the island of Losinj and its twin ports of Veli Losinj and Mali Losinj. Losinj is famous for its lush vegetation and its Venetian influences and latterly as an Austro Hungarian possession, an important shipbuilding centre. It is a short passage between Ilovik and Losinj to the little island of Susak and its tiny port of Dragocar.
On the west side of the island of Cres are some stunning places to see. Little-visited coves around Martinšcika and further north, stunning sandy beaches with azure waters off the port of Valun. This tiny port has a small harbour that has retained its traditional intimate appeal. The two kilometre hike up to the town of Lubenice, perched 380 meters above the sea is worth the challenging walk and a delightful place for a drink or lunch. Later in the afternoon, the yacht heads for Cres where one of the most beautiful docks in the Adriatic leads to the narrow old streets of the town lined with fabulous Renaissance architecture; and, as a speciality for dinner, the local butchers can supply the famous lamb of Cres.
An hour steam across the bay of Kvarna leads to the six mile inlet of Raša, a peaceful haven from the hurly-burly of some of the more popular ports and virtually undiscovered by the yachting fraternity. Heading west along the southern coast of the Istrian peninsular past the lovely sheltered inlets of Portic and Debeljak, brilliant places for swimming, the yacht rounds the cape of Kamenjak en route for Pula. The stunning Vespasian Arena dominates the town and frequent concerts and an annual film festival bring this roman masterpiece to life, giving it a compulsive modern day resonance.
Leaving Pula for the Brijuni Islands, the yacht heads for the main island of Mali Brijun and its port Sveti Mikula. The islands were rescued from a malarial swamp by a C19th industrialist who created a peaceful resort echoing its Roman tradition so that classical remains mingle with delightful villas and a wide variety of wildlife. Long a favourite of heads of state, this national park is a perfect place to stop over lunch. In the afternoon the yacht heads for Rovinj to anchor beneath the town walls with its delightful shops and cafés – a magical spot for the last night afloat.
An early start for the sixty mile passage to Trieste and some time on arrival to explore this most cosmopolitan of cities having been owned or occupied by dozens of different states over the centuries. From Trieste’s elegant railway station it is a short train journey to Venice and the delights of La Serenissima before heading home from Marco Polo airport.
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