Pearls of the North Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Sailing on the North Dalmatian Coast - An Almost Adriatic Adventure
Our date was set, 15 May 2020, a group of friends had been dreaming to start a Dalmatian Coast adventure in Croatia. We planned to rendezvous in Trogir, a picturesque UNESCO world heritage town. The architecture is mostly from the Venetian rule from the 13th to 16th centuries. My favourite hallmark of the Venetian influence is the maze-like cobblestoned streets that have shops, bars & restaurants around every corner.
The town was a short taxi ride to Marina Agana, the place we were to set sail from in the middle of the Croatian coastline with over 1,000 islands scattered like pearls along the Dalmatian Coast. The plan was to hire a splendid Moorings catamaran for a skippered charter.
Image from Unsplashed Hrvoje_Photograph
We had been planning this trip for months, our meeting room was the Glass Bar at the Hilton in Sydney CBD, as it had a great selection of local & European wines and tapas menu. We looked forward to our trip meetings & shaping the itinerary. It was evident from our research we had picked a location reputed for its beautiful, bejewelled sapphire & turquoise water, with endless sheltered coves & bays and stunning, rugged peninsulas. We were looking forward to island hopping, seeing the many islands large & small.
Image from Unsplashed Manuel Torres Garcia
Maslinica, Šolta Island
Maslinica is a small seaside village renowned for its beauty & tranquillity; for its olive groves & beautiful beaches. This was once solely a fishing village & has only recently been catering for people to visit seeking the serenity of the seaside village & delicious food in the traditional taverns. There is a hilltop restaurant call “Šampier” famous for the local Dalmatian cuisine & wine.
Jelsa, Hvar Island
Jelsa is the most picturesque town on the island of Hvar. Surrounded by dense pine woods, it has charming old stone streets, squares, churches & beautiful parks. There are gorgeous lavender fields dotted along the island. Visitors can enjoy a coffee in the main square to take in the Mediterranean atmosphere of this vibrant town. This town is home to some of the best food in the Adriatic, with an excellent choice of restaurants. Local Hvar wines can be sampled in Tomić winery.
Hvar Image from Unsplashed Klemen Lorber
Brač is one of the larger islands on the Croatian Coast. Dense pine forests cover parts of the foothills typical of this Adriatic coastal scenery. It has eleven towns & villages - some are picturesque hamlets & others are fishing ports. It’s famous for its resort towns, lovely cafés & upmarket restaurants. The island also has excellent water sports & snorkelling. Another claim to fame for Brač Island is the quarries that have been mining the pure white stone since the times of the Romans & Greeks; the stone has been used for the construction of many famous buildings including the White House in Washington DC.
Bobovišća is a charming peaceful seaside village. Rose-coloured brick buildings are dotted along the enchantingly quiet shore. The village has old Byzantine & Roman ruins to visit.
Milna is a historic fishing village. Its streets follow the typical Venetian architecture of winding maze-like streets, with quaint shops & restaurants with delicious food waiting to be discovered.
Vis image from Unsplashed Lared Lisack
Vis Town on Vis Island is the oldest in Dalmatia. The ruler of Sicily established the town in 397BC where the port is today. It is situated on a wide bay with pine forests covering the slopes. The historic part of town has antique stone buildings constructed in the 16th & 17th centuries, including Garibaldi Palace. Today, this is a fabulous place to visit with great shops & restaurants. Vis Town is one of the jewels of the Dalmatian Islands.
Šibenik Image from Unsplashed by Partha Narasimham
Šibenik is a beautiful old town with stone stairways & buildings, cobbled streets & rock cliffs. The town has bustling streets, shops, bars & restaurants. You must visit the ominous fortress of St Nicholas that has been standing as if it is still guarding the entrance to medieval Šibenik town for centuries. The Venetians built the fortress to frighten off the looming Turks –a successful tactic as an attack was never even attempted. You can visit the inside dungeons with an informational virtual tour.
Rogoznica is a small resort town linked to the mainland via a bridge. Years ago, it was a much-loved place for rich Europeans & military to holiday. Today, it is a favourite seaside tourist village on a sheltered harbour with a long promenade, waterside bars & local restaurants. The charming town has beautiful views across the bay & is a gorgeous place to spend a sunset having cocktails after a day sailing.
Cocktail Drinks by Sunsail Agana
Across the bay is the exclusive Marina Frapa, with a glitzy complex of shops, local & international restaurants, sports centre, disco & swimming pool. One of the most popular attractions is walking to the ancient, steep-sided, saltwater Dragon’s Eye Lake. It’s an unusual natural phenomenon, being a brightly coloured oval-shaped inland sea mass. The water has hues of blue & green on the top - in the middle yellow & green - then at the bottom as there is no oxygen it is highly concentrated with hydrogen sulphide making the colours pink, brown & red. Mysteriously, it’s only connected to the sea by underwater chambers. When swimming in this lake the concentration of minerals gives a healthy benefit for the skin & keeps the water at a warm temperature.
Image from Unsplashed Frame Medic
Dragon’s Eye Lake is steeped in folklore. Ancient legend says in Greek mythology that the goddess Hera & the god of the sea Poseidon had a son out of wedlock who became the formidable dragon Murin. The dragon was made to protect the local people from bandits by his father Poseidon, however this came with a high price! Murin demanded as a tribute every year to have the most beautiful young lady as his wife. Unfortunately, none of the doomed young maidens would survive the wedding night. This went on every year until one year the young lady chosen was adored by the ancient Greek hero Aristotle, son of Jason the Argonaut. On the winged horse Pegasus, he challenged the terrible dragon to save his lady love. Aristotle mortally wounded Murin in an epic battle & the dragon dug his own eyes out, threw one in the sea. The other fell at Aristotle’s feet, the dragon’s eye melted the stone & formed a pit that the sea filled with water. So that is how one epic legend says the Dragon Eye Lake was created!
There is a folktale that follows on from the legend of Murin - as Aristotle & his new bride had a happy marriage, so it says if two lovers swim in the lake their love will never end, they’ll be blessed in marriage & will have healthy children!
Another legend says two brothers fought for ownership of the land - one brother was blind. The story goes when the farmland was being divided the sighted brother tricked the blind brother by allocating himself the good fertile land. As all good legends go, in an act of revenge, a curse was made! The blind brother uttered spellbound words that conjured the land to be turned into a lake with a merciless dragon that swallowed up the healthy brother!
Image WIX media Underwater Dive
Believe whichever tale you want to be true, for that’s how legends work! Today, adventurers will have their own legendary tale to tell of jumping off the awesome cliffs, some as high as 24 meters & landing in the Dragon Eye Lake!
Skradin & Krka National Park
Yachts can moor at the mouth of the Krka River to then take a motorboat upriver, along the way seeing some of Croatia’s most stunning scenery, stopping in picturesque Skradin, an antique Venetian town. Skradin is home to the most interesting of the Dalmatian Coast monuments, including the St Jacob Cathedral built in the 15th century, a fine example of Christian art. Entirely made of stone, it has a three-nave basilica with a dome which contrasts beautifully with the Adriatic Sea backdrop. Skradin is also the gateway to Krka Falls National Park. A National Park boat goes further inland to view the spectacular falls of Krka National Park. It’s an astonishing network of lakes, cascades, rivers & waterfalls — this is an opportunity not to be missed!
Krka image from Unsplashed Fabian Kuhue
Konaba Toni old town is a famous place to try the traditional Croatian delicacy Peka. It involves cooking vegetables, meat & fish under an iron lid heaped with embers, requiring 2 to 4 hours to cook – I recommend ordering ahead of time! Vegetarians can request no meat or fish – chickpeas can easily be used instead.
The Kornati Islands
The Kornati Islands National Park is an archipelago of 89 islands with beautiful unique flora & fauna, north of the port of Split. It is known as a nautical paradise where you can explore secluded islets & reefs with crystal clear water. It’s been a national park since 1980 and there is an entrance fee to pay for everyone going.
Image from Unsplashed Johan Doe
We were looking forward to discovering all the traditional peaceful fishing villages, vibrant ports, small cities full of history & old-world charm. We were keen to swim, snorkel & sunbathe on the unspoilt beaches and visit the uninhabited islets & rugged, remote islands abundant with wildlife. We were excited to visit the archaeological sites, local market bazaars & great dining in restaurants serving the famous delicious local cuisine.
Image from Unsplashed Hokon Grimtad
Image from Sunsail Agana
Image from Unsplashed Jakob Owens
Meanwhile back in Sydney, Australia
On 31 January 2020 the Italian government had declared a state of emergency due to a strange disease that was striking people ill at such an alarming rate. This was sad news for folk planning travel to Italy, however we were sure our trip to Croatia would be fine. Alas, it was not to be, very quickly this disease escalated to a global pandemic & the trip had to be postponed because international borders were closed due to COVID-19. It has been such a catastrophic worldwide tragedy to know how many people have lost loved ones. It’s been so disappointing for the people who have had to put their lives & travel dreams on hold.
Stuck in our COVID-19 time-warp of delayed travel, we’ve spent the last two years stuck online -work, lessons, milestone celebrations, memorials & meetings - all on a screen. In our case we decided to set up a zoom meeting to commiserate about the marine adventure that was not to be!
Hvar Island Image from Unsplashed Geio Tischler
To allow us to still enjoy this destination, a cocktail, food & wine menu was sent for everyone in our travelling group – so we could make some delicious Croatian cuisine & beverages to have while we looked at some fabulous images & footage of the gorgeous Dalmatian Coast, stunning islands, villages & historic ports for our Pearls of the North Dalmatian Coast Almost Adriatic Adventure!
If you are considering experiencing this stunning destination by yacht charter - The Moorings & Sunsail both have a gorgeous fleet of yachts available to charter from Marina Agana, you can hire a skipper & chef too if you need. Charters typically include a fully equipped yacht, well-appointed kitchen, bed linen, towels & snorkelling equipment. The Catamarans are built by renowned & award-winning boat builder Robertson & Caine. When you step aboard you will discover spacious ensuite cabins, innovative features, a roomy saloon, fully equipped kitchen, outdoor dining areas - the perfect platform for an unforgettable holiday - available in 3 to 5 cabin yachts The Monohulls are built by Beneteau, they are a favourite for sailors as they work harmoniously with the elements, designed for comfort, precision & speed. Available in 3 up to 5 cabin yachts
To start with you might like to have your own Adriatic Adventure Croatia night! You can find the cocktail, food & wine menu on an upcoming blog post “Pearls of the North Dalmatian Coast - Croatian Food & Wine Experiences!”
Follow the links for your own Dalmatian Coast virtual adventures:
Video clip from our friends a The Moorings who we highly recommend
Video from our friends at Sunsail who I also highly recommend
REFLECTION: When life goes pear-shaped “The old saying is that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I say forget that. When life gives you lemons, make margaritas” said by Kristen Neff – in testing times this is one of my favourite funny quotes. Other quotes I’ve found myself saying are “every cloud has a silver lining” & “after the rain there is always a rainbow to be found!”. During the COVID-19 pandemic there have been difficult obstacles, hardships & negative experiences for everyone all over the world. What silver linings are you finding as time goes on?