The straw summer hat that I purchased days before this adventure had me feeling all kinds of sailing vibes. If it were to come down to it and I needed to use this sun protector to play a bizzare game of charades, the words you would find inside would be descriptive. Words like summer ambience, inviting waters, 50 shades of skin, rockabye sleep, warmed deck chairs, salt floating lakes, island clubs, rock cave bars, sunscreen scents, nutty oil, sandstone walls of history, melting sunsets, islands..islands..islands.The last minute booking with Sail Croatia ended up being another one of the “best things I’ve ever done”. Accompanied by my mother, I introduced her to the world of Airbnb and Uber and she introduced me to a world of bliss, fortuity and BBQ Shapes (I had missed them dearly).
Aboard Diamond, the first addition to the Elegance fleet in 2015 with Sail Croatia, we were greeted by our 20 other sailing buddies and briefed on our seven-day adventure along the Dalmatian coast. Sailing from breakfast through until the afternoon, a general day involved three course, five star menus, swim stops at secluded coves and exploring new ports. Docking in the afternoons, we would have from this point until 5am to enjoy each new port along the sun kissed Croatian coastline.
Split to Bol/Milna
The Split harbour is lined with cafes that seem to be open all hours of the day with playlists that move from morning chill out to evening party. With laneways featuring cobblestones beneath the foot and marble walls for fingers to study, the hidden history of this Croatian gem feels ever so tactile.
Staying in an Airbnb just to the north of the harbour, we were pretty central to all that was going on. With the main airport just 24km away from the town, Split is easy to get to and a great little place to get your legs moving!
Split has much to offer but I found that a few days was enough. This UNESCO World Heritage city is built around the Diocletian’s Palace, the retirement place for the Roman emperor from 295 – 305 AD. While in Split, mum and I enjoyed the free walking tour that occurs daily and also a spot of shopping – meeting beautiful Yasmin in a jewellery store, where we stayed and spoke for hours! There is also the palace basement market place to stroll through where you can peruse local creations and also marvel in the historic architecture. The palace is now home to some 3,000 people and consists of 220 buildings.
Departing after a three course lunch, we became the happy participants on this 160ft (49m) yacht and began sailing towards to the island of Brac.
The largest of the Dalmatian islands, Brac is famous for the Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) beach, the tip of which changes shape according to the lapping of the waves. An easy walk from where we were moored in the port of Bol, on the southern side of the island and the oldest town on Brac, we explored along the coast while indulging in a sweet sweet gelato. The area of Bol has a population of just 1, 661 and I can think of fewer places I would like to call home for a time.
Inhabited since around the 9th century, the island has been under multiple rulership due to its strategic positioning in the Adriatic Sea. The land itself is prime for agriculture (olive tree plantations, fishing and wine production) and throughout the years the area became famous for shipbuilding.
Bol/Milna to Hvar
Cruising towards Hvar, the morning was spent relaxing under the Croatian sunshine as well as jumping from the top of our ship into the Adriatic. The jump was somewhat terrifying but equally exhilarating. Having the swimmers below counting us down, Ramona and I filled the air with our screams on the down.
Docking in Hvar, otherwise known as the ‘French Riviera’ of the Adriatic, you automatically get a sense of architectural repetition with a sea of terracotta rooves greeting you like a warm hug. A hug, or acknowledgement would have been nice from the inhabitant of the super yacht next to us but Demi Moore was not feeling up to a casual meet and greet.
Regardless of water wealth, Hvar has remained authentic to its roots with cobbled streets and historic architecture, with the 7th century fort ruins overlooking the town. The walk up may have involved sweat and a few stops, but one my mum has said was absolutely worth it. Lets just remember it was 40+ degrees (Celsius).
To top of the hot day, a few of us decided on a hot night at Carpe Diem Beach Club, a 15 or so minute boat ride to another island where we sweated and danced the night away with fellow travellers. Sometimes throwing yourself into all the optional extras and experiences is where most of your travel highlights will come from!
Hvar to Mljet
Sailing southeast to one of the most beautiful islands in Croatia, Mljet Island is considered to be the greenest island with dense Mediterranean pines spanning the coastline, touching needles as the trees move inland. The National Park is famous for its two salt lakes in the north end of the island – Veliko and Malo Jezero – and the 12th century Benedictine monastery in the middle of Veliko.
With mum deciding to have a rest, I was off adventuring with some others from our group.
Having never experienced effortless floating in a salt late, I was mesmerised. Typing and reflecting in this moment, I feel the sensation of being weightless, ears just below the water line feeling completely isolated and being fine with it. Needless to say, I now want to go to the Dead Sea.
Our exploration continued as some of us took to two wheels and cycled around the whole island, which in order to do required catching a local boat from one side of the island to the other across the salty waters. If chasing nature and uninhabited land is your style, Mljet is definitely an island to put on your list when exploring Croatia.
Today was yet another day that had my pearly whites out on show due to my ear-to-ear smile.
Our next destination had many of us reciting Game of Thrones lines with excitement. As the sun set and glistened on the lapping water, we drifted to sleep knowing that Dubrovnik was but a few hours away!
Check out Sailing the Dalmatian Coast | Part 2 (coming soon)!