Unforgettable family time stretches from the historic walls of Dubrovnik to the incredibly blue Adriatic and its Southern Dalmatian islands.
By Dina Harrison
Floating past the harbors crammed with the faux rich-and-famous, our captain opts for a spot on the back side of the island. We crane our necks to survey our next stop: A konoba surrounded by local boats and sailors. Our captain saunters down the deck as the owner hustles out to meet him with a drink and a bear hug.
The kids prepare to restart their routine of jumping off our catamaran and playing “King of the Hill” on the big unicorn floatie. But wait! The captain has called ahead and arranged rental scooters for us to ride through the village and into the countryside for a visit to a local winery.
This is yachting in Croatia: A nonstop Adriatic Sea-going parade of epic vistas, splashy games, historic sites, delicious meals, sunset drinks, and just enjoying each other’s company and the incredible scenery along the way – unforgettable!
The ROAM Report: Croatia
- Travelers: Dina & Steve Harrison and kids, Kate (9) and Jack (7)
- Date: July 2016
- Itinerary:2 weeks in Croatia – 3 nights Dubrovnik, 3 nights Bol, 1 night Split, 7 nights on yacht, 1 night Split
- Cost: The budget can widely vary depending on where you stay in Dubrovnik and Split and the type of boat you rent. High season in July-August is more expensive.
The Good Stuff
Dubrovnik with Kids
We began in Dubrovnik and stayed three nights at an apartment outside the city walls. One day was completely devoted to beach time and the others were exploring, climbing the walls of the city, and seeing the sights. We had long leisurely lunches and enjoyed every minute. We also happened to be in Dubrovnik on days with no cruise ships in port which was heavenly – much less crowded than what I’ve heard from others who weren’t so lucky.
Dubrovnik Highlights for Families
- Cliff jumping at the Buza Bar. Head over to this hidden behind a gate spot, bring your towel (or not) and lounge and watch all the cliff divers. Even better? Join in on the fun as we did. All different jumps and different heights. Exhilarating!
- Walk the city walls. Every time you turn a corner, you’ll have a “wow” moment. Between the white marble and the blue, blue sea, every corner is an Instagram moment.
- Dive into some seafood. We loved our lunch outside the city walls at both Restaurant Posat and Dubrovka 1836.
- Head out to a beach club. We liked our little hike over to the hidden sands of Sveti Jacobi (Saint Jacob) beach.
Bol, Brac Island with Kids
From Dubrovnik, we took an early morning ferry to Bol on Brac Island. This was a highlight for us. We spent three nights on this amazing island, exploring, hiking to the top, and relaxing on the beach. We stayed at Belado Residence Bol. The owner Daniel and his wife were fantastic. They helped make dinner reservations, arranged scooters, lent us bikes and more.
We loved being right in Bol and walking distance to the famous Zlatni Rat beach, many restaurants and a farmer’s market. There are many little coves and beaches on the way to the famous Golden Horn point.
All beaches will rent you chairs and an umbrella for a somewhat nominal fee. One day we hit more of a party beach – you know the kind, pulsating Eurobeat and Top 40 music with dancing bikini-clad twenty-somethings. And while that made for great people watching, it wasn’t really the scene we were looking for.
Another day we rented chairs near a water park (really a water jumpy and floating course) which the kids absolutely loved. Life jackets were required and although it felt a little pricey, it was worth every penny and then some. The kids had a blast and we sat with our beers and books. Our favorite dinner spot was Ribarska Kucica. Great fresh grilled fish and veggies.
After Bol, we hopped another ferry to Split. We stayed at an apartment in downtown Split for one night that we found on Booking.com. Split was really crowded the weekend we got there – partly from Yacht Week Croatia and partly from a DJ-ing festival that took over the town. Two hundred thousand people were expected to attend! This made me not love Split as much as I otherwise might have.
I did love spending time meandering the old town, checking out one of the oldest churches and Diocletian’s Palace. There’s also a beautiful waterfront promenade that’s great for cocktails and watching all the mega-yachts come in. For the most part, Split seems to be the launch point for any boating trips in and around the Dalmatian Islands.
Yachting the Southern Dalmatian Islands – Hvar, Vis, Komiza and More
For our second full week in Croatia, we met up with Steve’s brother Dennis, his wife Jen and their kids and chartered a four-bedroom catamaran yacht complete with captain and host. It was a great way to keep us all together, explore the islands without staying having to choose which one, and sail into coves that you couldn’t reach otherwise by land.
Plenty of yachts were from other parts of Europe but our captain and hostess were both locals to the Southern Dalmatians. That meant they could skip Stari Grad and aim for less-crowded harbors and cool off-the-beaten-path locations. Many times, they were personal acquaintances of the konoba owners. They could also speak Croatian so could call ahead for bikes or other reservations. We had a great relationship with both the captain and the hostess, which made us all comfortable on board and helped the trip go very smoothly.
Highlights from the Yacht
- Paddleboarding into an old submarine bunker on the island of Vis
- Seeing the blue cave of Cave Bisevo off the coast of Split
- Docking in Vis and renting scooters and touring the island with the kids on the back
- Jumping and doing flips off the boat practically anytime, anywhere.
- Exploring the old town of Korcula
- Feeding the fish!
- Eating at a family farm on Hvar where they grew all the veggies and the father and son caught all the fish. I only wish we knew its name…
- Watching all the kids play together, whether it was card games or swimming games.
The Not So Good
Crowds Croatia is not the unknown, inexpensive corner of Europe it once was. If you want to avoid big crowds, check the calendar for cruise ship dockings and major festivals – like Yacht Croatia Week. Some charter clients might WANT to be there for big parties so tell your charter company you want less-crowded weeks – if you’re not in the mood for a rave.
Treating Captain/Hostess Agree up front if you will be paying for the captain and host at dinners in town – or not. We treated ours for dinner and drinks one night early in the trip and then felt obligated to continue doing so. It might have been better to wait until the last night to treat or to agree up front if we were treating or not. These dinners and drinks were somewhat expensive so be aware of this if you are on a tight budget.
Good to Know
Rocky Beaches Most beaches in Croatia are more rocky/pebbly than sandy. A good pair of water shoes is a must (and not sandals or Crocs that have holes in them since they just let the pebbles in). You can buy a cheap pair when you land in Croatia.
Book Ferries in Advance Ferries are super easy for getting between places but summer trips require advance booking. There are basically two ferry companies Jadrolinija and Kaptaen Luka. Ferry schedules are somewhat easy to decipher and tickets are easy to buy online.
Tips for Chartering a Yacht in Croatia
- Decide if you need a captain AND a host – the person who cleans up, cooks breakfasts and/or lunch and/or dinner
- Determine what size boat you need – how many bedrooms and conveniences.
- If you are prone to seasickness (as I can be), consider a catamaran. Cats are less wobbly because of the dual pontoons.
- Find a reputable charter company – there are many to choose from. We used Angelina Charters and were happy with their service.
- Determine where you’d like to go on the boat but keep an open mind. The captains know more about what’s best. We wanted to go to both the Hvar area and the Kornati Islands but they are really far apart. This would have meant too much time sailing from Point A to Point B and then back, more money for gas and less water time for the kids.
- Figure out who’s paying for gas (usually the customer).
- Figure out who’s paying for the captain/hostess meals in port.
- Determine if you need extras on board. We had a giant unicorn floatie which we all loved. We also had 2 paddleboards which we used a decent amount.
- Do research or ask questions to try to get a great captain. A lot of the boat experience comes down to the captain. We had a great team and it made for a great trip.
Dina Harrison – March 2019
Like ambassadors of adorable, Dina’s two-of-the-cutest-kids-you’ll-
© ROAM Family Travel 2019 – All rights reserved
Family travelers -show us your travel trivia knowledge!
Armchair trips for active families.
An hour from San Francisco, a u-pick summer fruit paradise awaits.
Leap, ride, wander and read! in ROAM's award-winning shots from 2020
Days at sea through Panama's islands of the Caribbean
Helping you remember your “unforgettable” family vacations
A week of Marrakech, medinas, Atlas Mountains, Merzouga - and more.
Himalayan veterans aim for India's Konzke La - and meet an unexpected challenge
Les Gets converted “never skiers” into "every-winter" fans.
Two weeks with pilgrims in Northern Spain finds cows, pinecones, flowers, castles, and new friends.
Take the grandparents on a cross-state odyssey of Wild West vistas & outdoor majesty
An immersive experience delivering far more than snapshots.
The wonder & variety of a summer road trip through the Golden State, plus Grand Canyon & Vegas
Sharing small scenes and small stories from small trips near home.
Find your next adventure in the pages of ROAM's first compilation
Your one-stop-shop for 2020 family vacation ideas from all the top travel writers.
Free/low cost, Apple/Android, mobile/desktop - here's our 15 favorites
Getaway for a Queen Mary stay in a cool corner of LA.
Bad planning and “bad” luck make for a dream trip
Stops in Italy, Austria, Czech and Germany please parents and teens, alike.