A two-week road trip around Croatia’s islands is a dream come true. This is a classic idyllic day on the Adriatic; driving along the coast, sailing on a ferry, enjoying the fresh breeze and the Adriatic Sea views – what more could one ask for?
The islands are what put Croatia on the tourist map. They are the jewels in its crown, from the crystal-clear waters to the bedazzling pebble beaches to the food (yes, Croatia’s food is amazing). These are the three main reasons why you’ll fall in love with this country.
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Our road trip starts in the port of Rijeka, where you can hire a car (you can check out some really affordable car hire deals here). Jadrolinija is the leading ferry service in Croatia (you can check out the local lines here).
Then we’ll head to Island Krk and continue our trip south, finishing at Island Hvar. (And yes, we’re skipping Dubrovnik – it’s overrated and overcrowded. Hidden gems are the best!) The islands are an ideal escape from the intense tempo of modern life. This road trip has been my summertime staple for the last ten years, and it never disappoints.
If your idea of a good time consists of being dynamic, adventurous, and constantly on the move, then island-hopping is for you.
Ok, let’s do this! Let’s start exploring Croatia’s stunning islands.
Island Krk – Baska
The easiest way to get to Island Krk is by crossing the Krk Bridge. It will take you less than an hour from Rijeka. Krk is the biggest Croatian island, and its foodie scene is smoking hot. On the way to Baska, you have to stop in Milohnici at the restaurant called Konoba Pod prevolt to try out their local foods and dishes. Absolutely delicious!
I recommend you check out Airbnb for a nice and comfy apartment in Baska. Baska is one of the most alluring and bedazzling sea cities you’ll ever experience. Most of the beaches are exposed to open sea and surrounded by pine trees. The main beach in Baska is a lovely pebble beach which is suitable for families with children. I’ve known this beach for a very long time – longer than I would like to admit – and it has left me with some really nice memories.
The second best thing about this place is the food. You don’t have to drive far to have a great meal. There are numerous restaurants in Baska, and they offer everything from pizza to grilled squid stuffed with prosciutto and Swiss chard with potatoes. And don’t forget to try their pancakes; they make the best pancakes in the world in this tranquil old town.
If you’re more into hiking, you have three options: Uvala Vela Luka, Obzova, and Uvala Vela Draga. Baska is hidden among the mountain slopes and has more than 90 km of hiking trails. The views of the islands Rab, Cres, and Prvic will take your breath away.
You will most certainly enjoy the hike to Uvala Vela Luka. To reach the beginning of the track, head to Bunculuka Camping Resort, where you can park your car. On the left side of the camping resort, you’ll see a marked path that leads to Vela Luka Bay. There’s a restaurant at the Vela Luka, and their food is to die for.
Island Cres & Losinj
The fastest way to get to Cres is by ferry. It will take you 2 hours to get there, and another 45 minutes to get to Mali Losinj. Once you cross a small bridge, you have reached your destination. Losinj is an enchanting island known for its healing climate. It was a beloved spot for famed 19th-century Croatian botanist Ambroz Haracic. Additionally, when Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef was stricken with tuberculosis, he packed his bags and took a 6-week detox holiday to Losinj, because it was so renowned for clean, fresh air.
The island’s best-known beaches are located in Cikat Bay. However, if you don’t like crowds, I recommend you plan your trip in September.
Besides being the Island of Vitality, obscure, and unspoiled, Losinj is a paradise for children. My holidays (if I can still call them holidays) have changed significantly since becoming a parent. Parents will surely understand this. When you have children, you travel to destinations that are family-friendly – and Island Losinj is known to be an extremely child-friendly island. There are numerous playgrounds around the island, but the one that your kid will love best is a hidden playground right behind the Tower of Veli Losinj. Trust me on this one.
For a pleasant hike, there’s about a one-hour-long hiking trail that leads to Osojscica. The trail begins in Nerezine, and you’ll need good trekking shoes for this one. There are lots of snakes, but no poisonous ones. The view from the top is amazing.
When you reach the island Pag, watch out – especially at night – because the sheep are everywhere, blocking the road, even taking a nap on the road. Crazy animals! But they are the reason Pag is called the Island of Cheese. Paski sir (Pag’s sheep milk cheese) is sharp and salty, and my absolute favorite.
On the Southwestern part of the island, you’ll find a small fishing village called Simuni. Right beside the village is Camping Simuni. I recommend you book a bungalow or mobile home here. If you’d like to spend an active family day at the beach, Camping Simuni provides numerous activities – sports, animations, and entertainment for your little ones, spa for you, etc. If you prefer quiet, you can walk just 5 minutes out of the camping resort, where you’ll find two secluded beaches – both nice and clean with turquoise waters.
When you get hungry you can drive around the island in search of homemade Paski sir (cheese), or stay in the camping resort – there’s a small restaurant called Tom’s Grill– it’s cheap, the service is fast, and the grilled sardines are out of this world.
If you’re up for some hard-partying, remember, you’re on the Croatian Ibiza, and Zrce Beach is only 10 km away. Several discotheques are operating during summer months in Zrce. They host numerous world-known DJs, and Zrce’s Papaya Club has been voted by DJ Magazine as one of the top 100 venues in the world.
I prefer jogging in the morning. Head from Simuni down the main road towards Zrce. When you reach the village Kolan, head left and then stick to the left until you reach the main road again. It’s an hour-long run, but at the end, you’ll be able to jump into crystal clear waters at the camping site.
Island Dugi Otok
Who needs Seychelles when you have Dugi Otok? Dugi Otok, meaning “long island,” is indeed long. A ferry ride from Zadar to Brbinj takes about 2 hours – but read a good book, and it will feel like a second.
Sakarun is the island’s most famous beach, but it can be overcrowded – especially in high season. That’s why it’s best to plan your trip in May or September so you can have the whole island to yourself. If you’re traveling in July or August, you’ll need to be a bit more creative and agile. You can find lots of gorgeous empty beaches with bright glittering waters on this island. Just 10 km from Brbinj is Veli Zal – uninhabited, untouched and wild.
I love to eat at Konoba Regula – it’s a family-run restaurant, and they serve the best black risotto and scampi.
Hvar is an island of vineyards, pine tree forests, and charming beaches. It offers something for everyone: crazy nightlife for party people and tranquil hidden bays for those who seek solitude. But it can be rather expensive – especially in the city center of Hvar. That’s why I recommend you stick to small villages if you don’t want to spend money like it’s water while you’re here. You can find lots of beaches off the beaten track near the village Sveta Nedelja.
While you’re here, search for Zlatan Otok – the winery Plenkovic has won hundreds of awards and is one of the top-ranked in Europe. (Not to mention their food.) Wishes here really do come true.