From uninhabited oases to glitzy islets that attract the rich and famous, the enchanting Adriatic is teeming with opportunities for you to explore offshore. In fact, off the coast of mainland Croatia, you’ll find more than 40 of these unique spots floating out on the water.
Wherever you’re staying on your Croatia holiday, it couldn’t be easier to get out and unearth these exclusive settings. There are handy ferry routes from the mainland to most of the islands, so you could even tick off a few off while you’re here!
If you’re looking for a change of pace or fancy a break from the beach, why not cruise across the water to explore somewhere new? Here are our top picks for island-hopping in Croatia…
Look out for Lokrum
Pop over to lush green Lokrum from Dubrovnik’s Old Town Port. Ferries leave every 30 minutes throughout the summer. The best part? You’ll be there in only 15 minutes and there’s plenty to keep you occupied for a half-day or full-day visit.
Once you arrive, you’ll feel totally refreshed, away from the bustling streets of Dubrovnik. This natural beauty is filled with flourishing olive groves, charming cypress trees and fragrant pine trees, which all offer some welcome shade on those hot summer days. And if that’s not enough, why not take a dip in the crystalline turquoise water that surrounds the island?
At its heart, you’ll find a huge Benedictine Monastery with surrounding gardens that you might just recognise from the hit TV show Game of Thrones. Lots of cute rabbits and colourful peacocks roam around freely on the island too, so why not see how many of these friendly residents you can spot?
It’s all happening in Hvar
If you’re hoping for a high-end hop across the water, then look no further than well-heeled Hvar. This long sliver of land floats south off the coast of Split and provides the perfect spot for an exclusive day out. Simply jump on the ferry from the Port of Split and, in less than two hours, step onto dry land in Stari Grad on the island’s north-east coast. Want a real VIP experience? You could book your own private speed boat transfer and kick back and enjoy the wind in your hair.
Days out here are especially cheery as it’s the sunniest spot across the whole of Croatia. Take your pick from the beautiful, golden sand beaches that are lined with dense green forests or hit up Hvar Town if you want to rub shoulders with the elite and experience swanky restaurants and elegant cocktail bars. Want another island hop off? Check out Brač, Hvar’s northerly neighbour, on your way back to the mainland.
Fall in love with the Elaphiti Islands
Want to get more for your money and pack in as many island stop-offs as possible? You’ll want to check out the enchanting Elaphiti Islands. If you’re staying in Dubrovnik, simply wander down to the Old Harbour and sail across the water – you’ll be there in no time. This archipelago consists of 14 islands in total, but only a few are permanently inhabited. Your best bet is to join a ‘three islands’ tour and tick off Koloĉep, Lopud and Šipan all in one day.
Koloĉep and Lopud are totally car-free, so they’re a great choice if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of buzzy Dubrovnik. To give you an idea of just how peaceful you’ll find them, across the three main islands, the total population is less than 1,000 people!
On Koloĉep, you’ll find rolling hills blanketed by forests and rich olive groves with tiny traditional villages hidden among them. Local people here take a slow approach to life, so it’s all about kicking back and watching the world go by. There are no beaches here though, so keep your towel packed away ready for the next stop.
Beach-lovers, make a beeline for Lopud’s golden shores. Renowned Šunj Beach on the south coast is one of Croatia’s most beautiful! Tranquil turquoise water meets a fine-sand beach that’s creates a sunbather’s heaven.
Over on Šipan, it’s a little livelier as it’s the biggest of the island cluster and the only isle that allows cars on it. It’s sprinkled with vibrant valleys, olive and fig tree forests and fragrant citrus groves. You’ll also find a few exclusive vineyards that produce some of the region’s finest tipples. It’s got a truly rustic feel that you’re bound to fall in love with.
A daily summer ferry service sets sail from the Port of Split to Vela Luka on Korcula’s west coast. It takes around three and a half hours to reach the island if you take the public ferry, but if you opt for a catamaran, you can be there in under two!
Korcula Town, the island’s main draw, is often referred to as ‘Little Dubrovnik’, thanks to its terracotta-topped buildings, many medieval-style squares and traditional houses. The Old Town’s cobbled streets were made for getting lost in. You can browse charming souvenir shops, admire the gothic St Mark’s Cathedral or pull up a chair at a pavement café-bar and watch the world go by.
Posted: 13th Jul 2020. Updated: 7th Mar 2023.