Kids always love a Croatia holiday but add sailing into the mix and it’s another level of love altogether. Sophie Chambers and her family recently sailed round the stunning Dalmatian Coast and would do it again in a heartbeat. Here’s why!
Our last Croatia holiday which involved sailing was over 15 years ago. That was long before children so we were hugely excited to return as a family. We already knew Croatia was beautiful as well as cultured and fascinating, but we were intrigued to see how much things had changed since our last trip.
Because our children – Arthur 8 and Mollie 5 – are confident swimmers and snorkelers, the enormous sense of freedom and adventure that comes from sailing seemed like a perfect way to turbo-charge our post-Covid liberty.
With the help of the amazing team at Helm yacht charters we chartered a modern and comfortable catamaran along with an experienced local skipper. And, for a small supplement, we arranged a one-way charter from Dubrovink to Split allowing us to explore a bit further over the week we had.
Every Croatia holiday should start in Dubrovnik
We flew into Dubrovnik Airport which is only 30 minutes by taxi from world famous Dubrovnik Old Town. Game of Thrones’ fans or not, when you arrive at the stunning city walls you can’t fail to be awed by the city’s medieval splendour. However, Dubrovnik also offers vibrant and cultural nightlife, so we decided to stay over before picking up our charter the following day.
There’s an enormous choice of restaurants ranging from family-friendly basic to Michelin starred. We didn’t quite realise it then, but the high quality of food was going to be bit of a theme during our sailing holiday in Croatia.
On top of endless alfresco dining options along the city’s cobbled medieval streets, there are also regular outdoor concerts and we enjoyed a free classical recital in the main town square.
If you want to swap the heat of the city for swimming and exploring, Lokrum Island is a only a short boat trip from Dubrovnik. A guided walking tour along the ancient city walls is another must-do, but best early in the day or at sunset. Although those with no head for heights might prefer to just relax with a cool drink at ground level in the Old Town!
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Plotting your itinerary is all part of the adventure
We began our Croatia sailing trip the next day from a small marina, a short taxi ride north of Dubrovnik. On arrival at the boat we sat with our friendly skipper and – with the help of his local expertise and a couple of ice cold local beers – plotted our 7-night itinerary around a multitude of Adriatic islands.
We had experience of a family sailing holiday in Greece when the children were much younger, so in Croatia we again went for a self-catered and skippered charter. We knew that meant we could relax and enjoy the scenery, leaving the harder bits of sailing to the skipper and dipping in for a spot of rope pulling where required.
Within an hour of leaving port, we’d dropped anchor in a secluded and sandy bay where the kids were able to leap straight into the turquoise sea and swim to a sandy beach to explore. It should be noted that shingle or pebble beaches are the norm in Croatia but as swimming is mostly from the boat it doesn’t matter. Just remember to bring rubber swim shoes for exploring ashore and as protection against the occasional sea urchin!
Sailing is the ultimate escape on a Croatia holiday
A huge part of the charm of sailing is to get away from it all and Croatia is perfect for that. You’ll find lots of hidden bays to escape crowds and a wide choice of different islands to visit, each with its own character which varies depending on geography and proximity to the mainland.
Hvar and Viz are probably the best known Adriatic islands in Croatia. However, we particularly liked Korčula with its medieval town perched on a pretty promontory jutting into the Adriatic.
Although one of our all time favourite spots was the National Park island of Mljet. Here we were able to rent electric bikes which made it easy to explore – even carrying a five year old on the back. After our cycle we ate at Konoba Antika on the waterfront which offered fantastic fresh fish and squid. There was also free mooring on the town quay right in front of Konoba Antika – Konoba means tavern in Croatian so you see this word a lot.
Did we mention the Croatian food?
The food was truly excellent almost everywhere we went and trying the local speciality dish, ‘pekka’, is a must. It’s lamb or octopus slow cooked under hot coals in a pot with potatoes and truly delicious. Our skipper arranged our pekka dinner at Konoba Maha which is in a beautiful setting a short taxi ride from Korçula town.
Be prepared to allocate a decent budget if you want to eat out regularly, which most people on chartered sailing holiday do at least once a day. Of course, Helm yachts come with full kitchens if you want to dine onboard. Also, for an additional fee, a hostess can be arranged to cook for you if required. Typically, we chose to make our own breakfast and light lunch on-board then went out for a meal out in the evening.
Croatia is now a mecca for family sailing holidays
Croatia has become a mecca for sailing holidays over the past decade, and the Croatian sailing fleet now makes up a large portion of the global charter fleet. So, depending on where you go, things can get busy,and in peak season it’s essential to book ahead for a mooring in more popular spots.
The upside of this popularity is that a fantastic infrastructure has sprung up since our last visit 15 years ago and now mooring buoys are available almost everywhere. A top tip is to book into a local restaurant for dinner as they often offer free mooring. Otherwise mooring charges can range from €25 to over €50 which can feel quite high if you’re used to sailing elsewhere.
No Croatia holiday should miss out Split
Split was our final destination. It’s the de-facto hub for Croatia’s sailing industry being at the epi-centre of the area and within easy reach of most key destination islands. This is a busy town but a must-see for the charming and characterful old town centre. If you have time, take the Diocletian Palace walking tour, it’s fascinating and another one for Game of Thrones’ fans.
Whether you do one-way starting in Dubrovnik or Split as we did, or a round-trip from either city, there’s a huge amount to fill a week of sailing. In fact, we could have easily occupied ourselves for two or more weeks, had time and budget allowed.
In terms of an adventure holiday with kids it is hard to find a better one than sailing. They’ll never forget diving from the yacht into azure waters, snorkelling or trawling for big game fish – the Croatian Adriatic is a breeding ground for tuna. Learning to sail the boat is an amazing experience in itself. Although exploring in the dinghy and finding hidden bays to moor was definitely one of our favourites. Croatian food is fantastic, the local wine very decent and relaxing on deck in the sun as waves lap against the yacht gives you an unparalleled sense of having truly escaped.
We were sad to reach the end our trip, however, the check-out for our yacht charter was extremely efficient. Plus, given the other boats in harbour there was serious temptation on show for a larger and more luxurious Croatia holiday next time!
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How to plan a Croatia sailing holiday with Helm
Daily UK flights to Split or Dubrovnik take from 2 hours, 35 minutes.
Yacht charters with Helm start from £2,500 for 7-nights.
Ready for a family sailing adventure? Take a look at Helm for a wide range of yachting holidays around Europe tailored to you and your family.
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