The ultimate Croatian Road Trip - Dalmatian Coast
If you’ve made it this far you have already heard of Croatia and most likely are planning a trip there.
After 10 glorious days driving around Croatia, I am currently still recovering from possibly “the best trip of my life” holiday blues.
With its crystal clear waters, perfect weather, superyachts, waterfalls, countless old towns, delicious food and with the popularity of Game of Thrones taking the world by storm, it is no wonder Croatia has become one of the hottest destinations to visit in the last decade.
Croatia in my opinion is a clean, well-managed, easy and safe place for tourists to visit and travel around. The Croatian people are friendly but do not always expect the overly enthusiastic and politeness we are used to in counties like the UK or North America. A shopkeeper may not look you in the eye or acknowledge your “hello!” but if everywhere were the same there would be no need to travel.
Things to note
Travel between islands - Travelling between the islands is done by ferry. We took Jardrolinija ferries and booked our tickets in advance. It is first come first served so leave adequate time (30 minutes to an hour) to wait and be prepared to possibly not get on. I would not catch these ferries if I had a flight to catch.
Money - The official currency is the Croatian Kuna although they do accept Euros in some places. Credit card is used but be prepared to suddenly be told “cash only” despite the “Credit cards accepted” sign.
Safety – Croatia is safe and I never felt worried about being pickpocketed or walking at night. As with everywhere, exercising caution is recommended.
Start your trip wherever you fly into but on this occasion, we were flying in and out of SPLIT. Return flights are cheaper when you fly in and out of the same city and Split being somewhere in the middle of the Dalmatian Coast seemed geographically the best place to start and end our trip.
We arrived late so were up early the next morning to pick up our car and begin our trip.
If like us, you are eager to jump into the Adriatic Sea, only 32km (45 minutes) drive from Split City Centre is the Island of Ciovo. The Island is connected to the mainland by a bridge from the town of Trogir which made it the first stop on our road trip before continuing along the coast to Zadar
Okrug Gornji Beach will be the first beach you lay your eyes on. CONTINUE driving past this stretch of beach unless you like tacky beach bars, crowded resort beaches and paid parking, trust me and continue to the other side to the quieter and more residential area.
Beach Bočići should show up in Apple Maps and while Ciovo Island has many lovely beaches if you want to keep driving and explore but Beach Bočići and surrounding was the perfect area for us to stumble across with a local feel and barely any other people. We set up our towels near Beach Bar Mare’s which was relaxing to grab a coke or beer from and spent the day snorkelling swimming and embracing our first day of Croatian sunshine!
Driving North West along the coast from Ciovo Island for 133km (1h33m) along a relatively empty highway you will find yourself in Zadar. While not as popular as Split and Dubrovnik it features less expensive prices, the most stunning sunsets I have ever witnessed, as well as an impressively long history which is still visible throughout the old town.
One of our favourite dinners was watching the sunset with some nice cocktails for 40 Kuna (£5) and delicious seafood at: Tramonto Restaurant
We stayed two nights at this Airbnb which was excellent and affordable. Zadar is easily walkable if you require accommodation with a car space outside of the old town would be advisable.
A day trip to the beautiful Dugi Otok from Zadar is enough time on the island. Despite being the seventh-largest island in the Adriatic Sea It is a quiet island with several small villages and beautiful swimming spots.
Taking the first Jadrolinija car-ferry from Zadar. The ferry trip will take you 1 hour and 20 minutes each way.
The Dragon's Eye –
After you have disembarked the car ferry, The Dragon's Eye is only a 10-minute drive. As we were the first ferry to arrive we were also the first people to arrive in this usually busy spot. The road is a small dirt road which will take you as far as Brbinjšćica Bay, there is a small opening into the bushes that will take you down a walking track that leads you directly to the Dragon's Eye.
The Golubinka Sea Cave –
We stumbled on this insane cave by chance, I knew there was sea cave somewhere on Dugi Otok as I had seen photos yet we found it much closer to the Dragon's Eye than we expected.
Walk north across the cliffs for approximately 4 minutes from the Dragon's Eye is a rock landing that you can jump from and swim into the cave opening. We had our snorkel masks and the natural light that shone through made it easy to swim into the cave.
Telašćica National Park-
This national park on the south-eastern part of Dugi Otok, has a small entrance fee of 40 kuna so take some cash. The park has many hiking routes which are nice and Lake Mir is a 30-minute walk from the car park. If you have time then check it out otherwise I would spend more time swimming on other parts of the Island.
KRKA NATIONAL PARK
Krka National Park is home to the magnificent waterfalls you see all over social media are and yes, they are just as amazing in real life!
We left Zadar early in the morning and headed 55 minutes (76kms) towards one of the main entrances for Krka National Park- Skradin. Ignore all the signs trying to lure you into their car park and head straight towards the ticket office and park at the main parking for 8Kuna per hour.
The first ferry from Skradin leaves at 8 am and there is a café’ by the dock it leaves to grab a coffee and pastry.
The waterfalls are stunning and the water is so refreshing to swim in. I believe as of 2021 you will no longer be able to swim in the waterfall so I am unsure if I would make the trip just to view the waterfall especially as it was so hot during our visit. The most important thing is to get their early, as we were leaving the ferries were bringing crowds of people.
What an absolute gem on an island. 2 nights and one full day was not enough but we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. Taking a short 50-minute Jardolinija car ferry from Split, we arrived into Supetar. Supetar has a resort-style vibe and stretches of beaches with sun chairs, water sports and beach bars.
Brac is home to the famous beach Zlatni Rat, this was on the other side of the island near a town called Bol. As there are so many pictures of this long stretch of white sand we drove there early in the morning. Perhaps it is growing up on the clean sandy beaches of Australia where we are not allowed to have things as beach bars, I found Zlatni Rat overrated. Again, tacky plastic sun chairs, overpriced bars ruined this experience for me. We took some pictures with the drone and left.
Hiring a boat to drive around for the day is my idea of perfection. We hired a boat from a town called Milna from Rent a Boat Mrdulja and spent the day driving around to empty, turquoise coves. This was the highlight of our trip and I recommend looking into booking a boat before your arrival as they book out fast!
Driving 3 hours (230 km) south from Split to picturesque and most famous Croatian city of Dubrovnik. During normal peak season, Dubrovnik suffers from mass tourism and usually, I would’ve avoided it. I am so glad I decided to visit, there were no crowds and we were able to take in all the city has to offer without queues and dodging past cruise ship passengers.
We checked into our beautiful Airbnb. As it was our 2nd anniversary we decided to spend a little extra money on a beautiful balcony and view.
You can hire kayaks from the north end of the Dubrovnik wall s and paddle out to Lokrum Island. We paddled around the whole island stopping at certain parts to swim and look around. There are also plenty of nudist beaches for those who fancy.
Dubrovnik also has some gorgeous cliff bars. While the bars themselves are not much they are literally on the side of the cliff and you can order a corona whilst taking a dip into the water!
We came across this coastal town of Omis by pure accident. As we had extended our trip an extra 2 days we had to drop the car off in Split 3 days before our flight.
Omis is a 35-minute bus ride from Split so dropped the car off and headed towards our Airbnb.
There is 1.5 km of beach in Omis to be enjoyed and it’s old town while small has some gorgeous authentic Croatian restaurants to choose from.
Behind Omis old Town is a mountain baring The Fortress Starigrad. It is by no means an easy hike especially in peak summer but you are in for a treat when you do make it to the top. The hike took us around 45 minutes where we greeted by the 15th-century fortress Starigrad and breath-taking views.
Wear proper shoes, this is not a hike for sandals!
Back in Split for our final night and day in Croatia. Our apartment at Palace Inn Rooms was right in the old town walls and it was the comfiest bed we had the entire trip.
Split is the 2nd largest city in Croatia and completely walkable. There is no shortage of restaurants and bars to choose from and it is a major port for Super Yachts where you can take a seat in a bar and watch while enjoying a cocktail.
Split also offers a history buffs dream, its endless and ancient heritage from the Roman times is apparent everywhere in the city.
Outside of the city, there are some beautiful beaches. We walked to Kašjuni Beach for our last swim before our flight.
This was our 10-day road trip and there was so much more that could’ve been explored!
Depending on your time limit and activities you are interested in there will be something to suit everyone.
I hope this can help you plan your dream Croatian road trip.