Seemingly scattered among the waves by the gods themselves, the Croatian Islands surrounding Zadar were made to be seen by boat. You’ve probably seen their quaint villages and azure waters a zillion times on postcards and travel brochures, but even the greatest images are no match for the real thing. Think Kornuti Islands Archipelago or beach paradises like Dugi Otok.
So a chance to explore Zadar's islands with skipper Milan & his authentic 1932 'ZvizdaMora' boat gave us sight of a side of Croatia you’d otherwise miss. An opportunity to see where history (and myth) happened, meet the present-day inhabitants, and, of course, soak up as much sun as we could get. (just check out his Trip Advisor reviews and you'll know why we chose his boat tour! - click here).
This wasn't our first Croatian island boat trip, having been fortunate to see just what Dubrovnik's Elafiti Islands had to offer last year as part of Libby's birthday treat (click here for the full blog post) .Whilst the utterly compelling island of Korčula is another to see best via a boat tour or even by air (see our drone footage of Korčula here)... so we couldn't wait to see just what Zadar would have in store for us? So for those that fancy a little scuba diving, snorkelling or a walking tour of an island plus the best fresh fish you could hope to eat on board.... this one might be for you and your family!
As we'd discovered in yesterday's 'Buggy Safari', this area is rich in culture, history and scenic viewpoints that will undoubtedly 'wow' you (check out the video here)... but Zadar has a history that dates back to the Illyrians... and has been ruled by both Roman and Ottoman empires.... hence the iconic 'Sea Organs' that play a gentle yet eerie sound as you leave the harbour of Zadar for the islands.
The Zadar Archipelago contains no less than 300 islands surrounded by crystal clear waters, with the larger of the islands covered in Mediterranean scrub and olive trees. Once a mountain range, this areas has been submerged creating this stunning ring of islands. Few are lived on, but some harbour small farming or fishing (tuna) communities.
Skipper Milan set out the agenda for the day early on... "a swift 10am departure with an expected 7pm return should give us plenty of time to see a few islands" he said. "How does a remote monastery on one of the smallest islands (Školjić), followed by snorkelling in one of the more secluded bays at (Preko) and then perhaps we'll grab the scuba gear and head towards Ugljan's best diving spot".. well, we weren't going to argue with someone whose lived here almost all his life! So it was a yes from us..
INSIDERS / LOCALS TIPS: TOP 3 BEST BEACHES ON ZADAR'S ISLANDS
1. Sakarun - Imagine a kaleidoscopic sea... full of turquoise one minute, then deep blue the next. Add dark green pinewoods and shimmering white pebbles. Bliss!
2. Veli Zal - Think pebbly beach with an easy entrance to the sea which is great for families with small kids. Crowned by pine trees on all sides, it's known for its array of water sports
3. Mezanj - Grab your flip flops, and explore the wide expansive bay... with the crystal clear water lapping at your ankles, it's the perfect place to while away a few relaxing hours
Not everyone will want to take the trip (although we think 35euros (pp) is good value) You might just want to sling a backpack over your shoulder for the day and head off on one of the Croatia Ferries (see route/prices/timetable here). But in truth a local's perspective proved immediate dividends with some truly stunning snorkelling stops, a delicious lunch and a private walking tour of the island
Although it's a relaxing trip, in which you discover hills, coves, islands and the marine world along the archipelago... it certainly creates an appetite and if you're a fish (or pork) lover then you'd have loved the above lunch... washed down with Istrian wine & freshly picked sweet cherries for dessert! Bliss!
For those that are interested in how fish spend their afternoons? Or the role that sea urchins, star fish and shellfish play in the underground world... You'll love the opportunity to don the scuba / snorkel gear and head out for an afternoon of 'discovery scuba diving' (it was our daughter's first attempt) and snorkelling in the coral.
Summer is definitely the perfect season for exploring the Adriatic Islands, but we'd also urge everyone to check out our blog posts for Bergen (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden) & Copenhagen (Denmark) to see alternatives for people who love a coastal destination with plenty of islands to explore... but if you've not fully exhausted yourself after the snorkelling, then these Zadar islands were awash with early summer colour, the beginnings of the olive crop and plenty of history to enjoy too
In truth, there's no way this won't make it into our 'Highlights of our European Roadtrip' due to the amazing breadth of opportunities on offer plus the company of a brilliant skipper who we all enjoyed spending a day with... perhaps it's one for you to consider on your next visit to Croatia? Maybe even grab a stay at one of our favourite 'Leading Campings' campsites too...
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