Croatia has been attracting people for thousands of years – not all of them friendly.
These days, it is awash with tourists flooding in to enjoy Croatia’s many attributes.
Helen Hayes was one of them, enjoying a yacht charter from Dubrovnik to Split
Croatia’s history is overwhelming as people have been living here since the Paleolithic Age. The Greeks came, as did the Illyrians, then the Romans took over. The Slavic tribes followed, as did Charlemagne, the Venetians, Hungarians, Hapsburgs, and Ottomans. Even Napoleon had his fingers in the pie.
Dubrovnik’s city walls were built long ago to stop invaders. The city gates would be closed, drawbridge raised, and sentries posted. It was, and is, an imposing sight. Walking the wall is a photographer’s dream, whether it’s looking over the terracotta-tiled rooftops, down to the marble alleys or out to the islands. The best views are from the Lovrijenac Fort, the Minceta Fort and down near the harbor.
After exploring Dubrovnik’s many delights, we boarded our 47’ charter yacht at Sunsail’s base just out of town, and with a minimum of fuss sailed out into the blue yonder.
Our group of eight was looking forward to being able to pull up at a different island every day, dining ashore and buying fresh fruit and bread. Much less complicated than having to provision for a full week.
There are over 1000 islands to choose from on the Croatian coast, and some of the most popular are in Southern Dalmatia. They are quite close together, so you don’t waste days traveling long distances, (we have prepared amazing brochure Croatia Hidden Places and inside you can find more inspiring places like this).
Croatia is absolutely perfect for sailing, with calm waters – unless the legendary bora wind blows in – incredibly clear, blue water, marinas everywhere and a myriad of sights to see.
We motored to Luca on the island of Sipan, and reversed up to the quay, tying up to the lazy line. We threw out our gangplank and looked around what was the first of many impossibly pretty stone villages. Before long, the quay was filled with yachts bearing people from all around the world – an Estonian family on one side and Israelis on the other. It makes for great deckside chatting.
Mljet was a highlight, as after tying up in Polače and looking around the ruins of a 3rd-century Roman palace, we headed into the National Park. Nestled around two lakes, it is pristine, with bike tracks and walking paths allowing easy access. We caught a boat over to a tiny island, which houses a 12th century Benedictine Monastery. As with everything here, there is history upon history. Near the chapel, the Church of St Mary, archaeologists were busy uncovering Greek ruins from 2000 BC.
While Mljet was a natural wonderland, Korčula was a medieval marvel. This tiny stone town was built after the fall of Troy, according to a Latin inscription in the Tower of the West Sea Gate. It is believed that Marco Polo grew up here, leaving at 17 to travel the Silk Road with his father. Apart from Marco, Korčula is a treasure trove of shops and restaurants, situated down tiny alleyways or spaced out around the waterfront.
A long day saw us head straight across to Hvar, anchoring in the main harbour. From the water it was a beautiful sight; its stone buildings glowing under the setting sun. A gaggle of five-star hotels stands out along the waterfront, as do a swag of superyachts. Hvar is definitely high on the list for Europe’s jet set.
We stretched our legs, walking up the square to the Cathedral of St Stjepan and the kids kicked a soccer ball around, joined by a bored waiter who showed off his juggling skills. If we had more time, we could have gone diving, driven through fields of lavender and rosemary, or gone wine tasting, but time was tight.
Over the next few days, we stayed at Milna on the island of Brac, headed back to the mainland to stay in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Trogir and spent our last night in the marina at Kremik, near Split.
Our yacht was home sweet home for seven days, and we all wished it was 14. We only scratched the surface of the islands we visited – Korčula and Hvar alone could have filled three or four days. We were on the blue water highway and we could go where and when we liked.
We swam at every opportunity, jumping off the gangplank, bombing off the sides and towing bedraggled kids on a rope behind. A beautiful protected bay was never far away, and we could just play, read or just absorb the barrage of scenery.
By Helen Hayes
Sunsail has yacht charter bases in Dubrovnik and Kremik (Split). You can charter them bareboat or with a skipper, depending on your experience. Phone 1800 803 988, www.sunsail.com.au