Croatia has become the favourite destination for those seeking beach paradise and bargain hunters avoiding the euro this summer. It’s a bit of a drag to list the usual clichés; warm turquoise waters, white sandy stretches and dramatic rugged rocks all bordered by cooling pine forests, but hell, I’ve bought my ticket to experience heaven on Earth. Here’s our pick of the best beaches in Croatia to suit adrenalin junkies, party animals, explorers or slothful sunbathers.
Party, party party
Zrce beach is Croatia’s answer to Ibiza. Nightowls flee the super clubs in Zagreb and head to the hip and happening parties taking place along this hedonistic stretch on the island of Pag throughout the summer. The three main beach clubs, Aquarius, Kalypso and Papaya, are open around the clock. Aside from all the usuals Papaya attracts big international DJs and has a Jacuzzi and pool. Aquarius is probably the most fun of the bunch with themed parties, homemade ice cream and bubble nights. As a beach sport bar, Kalypso is lively during the day with volleyball and badminton before the cocktails take hold. On arrival, pick up a few flyers to find out what’s on at each of these venues.
Getting there: Zrce beach is in the town of Novalja on the island of Pag. You can reach the island by ferry from Zadar or a number of buses access the island using a bridge connecting it to the mainland in the south.
If you don’t want to traipse around with beach towels, water bottles and sarnies, make a short ferry excursion from Dubrovnik to the island of Lopud or take the faster speedboat which takes about 30 minutes but only operates in the summer. A 15 minute walk will bring you to Sunj beach, a wide horseshoe bay. It’s popular because of it’s easy-access and short distance from the city. There are two bars where you can grab lunch and drinks and also hire sun loungers, usually free because the man collecting money is rarely around!
Getting there: Take the ferry from Grunz, Dubrovnik’s main harbour. On arrival just follow all the other passengers through the pine forest.
Zlatni Rat, Brač
Best for watersports
You’ll have oggled at this one in every travel brochure and considered quitting your 9-5pm for a life of sweet doing nothing because Zlatnj Rat is Croatia’s picture perfect beach and a haven for windsurfers. Translated, the name means ‘golden horn’ and refers to the unique jetty of sand that juts out from the coast. Sunbathing here, you almost have a 360° ocean view. If you decide to move your backside, there’s great opportunities to try scuba diving, kayaking, water-skiing and for those less adrenalin-driven, pedalos.
Getting there: The beach is located in Bol on the island of Brač. If you are a foot passenger, take the ferry from Split directly to Bol for €3pp. If you are coming from Dubrovnik the ferry docks in Makarska and then you need to catch another ferry from the mainland to Sumartin. Continue the last 25 minute leg of the journey by bus or share a taxi.
Telascica Bay, Dugi Otok
Although the island is generally off the main tourist route, the main attraction is the area protected by national park. Dugi Otok shelters the rest of the archipelago from the open sea and receives some of the best weather in the Adriatic. To the south-west, a short bike ride from the nearby town of Sali, is 10km-deep inlet called Telascica Bay. Behind the bay, is the spectacular saltwater Lake Mir, narrowly landlocked and glorious for swimming. Although the area has not been commercialised, visitors will still find a number of local places to eat and drink.
Getting there: You can reach Sali by ferry direct from Zadar and it takes between 45 minutes-2 hours depending on the ferry you catch. Here you can hire bikes or scooters to explore.
Leave the crowds behind
This stretch of coastline is defined by the dense pine forests and green vegetation, making it something of an oasis for nature lovers. The north of the island is now protected as a national park but to the south is the glorious white sandy beach of Saplunara bay. There are no ice cream vans, bucket and spade huts or restaurants cluttering the shore and only a few places offer accommodation, but then of course, this means you pretty much have the place to yourselves!
Getting there: The island is well serviced by ferries from Dubrovnik to Sobra. When you arrive on the island catch a bus or take a taxi for a very scenic 16km drive.