A Yachter’s Guide to Croatia’s Coastal & Island National Parks & Parks of Nature

20.02.2024.

Ivan S.

If you are planning to charter a boat for a week in Croatia, setting aside one or more days to explore a national or nature park is a fantastic idea. It’s a surefire way to make your vacation even more unforgettable. With 20 parks total, 6 are ideal for exploring by boat. So, if you’re ready for hidden coves, crystal-clear waters, and the kind of natural beauty only accessible from the water, let’s dive in.

This guide will give you all the practical tips you need for planning a sailing visit to Croatia’s coastal National Parks, working your way from north to south.

Brijuni National Park: History and Nature Intertwined

Veliki Brijuni Main Port
Veliki Brijuni port and hotel Neptun, Autor: Ivo Biočina, Source: Croatia National Tourist Board

Croatia’s northernmost national park, Brijuni, offers stunning scenery and makes an ideal destination for boaters exploring the Istrian coast. Conveniently located near marinas like Marina Veruda, ACI Marina Pula, and Marina Polesana, it’s perfect for a first-day or last-day voyage from/to Pula, just 20 nautical miles away. While Brijuni may be the most expensive and logistically complex national park to visit, its beauty and history make it worth the effort.

To enter the park’s waters, you must dock at the Veliki Brijun port or secure a buoy in St. Nicholas’ Bay. Mooring costs vary based on vessel size (from 100 Euro a night for 7m vassals, up to 1.800 Euros for vessels longer than 100m), but all include access to the island’s exhibitions, including the intriguing “Memories of an old Austrian" and “Josip Broz Tito on Brioni."

Veliki Brijun offers proximity to bars, restaurants, and fascinating historical and natural exhibitions. For those seeking tranquility, St. Nicholas’ Bay provides pristine nature and a peaceful escape from crowds. If you prefer to admire Brijuni from a distance, a 3-5 hour sail around the archipelago provides breathtaking views. Enjoy anchoring at the stunning Sv. Jerolim, part of the archipelago but outside the national park boundaries for free access.

Telaščica Nature Park: Gateway to Stunning Kornati Islands

Telaščica bay and Stene cliffs
Telaščica bay and Stene cliffs, Author: Hrvoje Serdar, Source: Croatian National Tourist Board

Nestled in the southern reaches of Dugi Otok (“Long Island"), Telašćica Nature Park is a haven of natural beauty. This protected area offers the ideal starting point to explore the renowned Kornati National Park, Croatia’s largest and most celebrated marine wonderland.

How to get there: The best way to reach Telašćica is by chartering a boat from Zadar or nearby marinas like Marina Zadar, D-Marin Borik, or D-Marin Dalmacija in Sukošan. As you sail towards Telašćica, you’ll navigate the narrow Ždrelac passage – keep an eye on your boat’s height for a smooth journey! For a breathtaking entrance to the park, choose the sea route near the Vela Sestrica lighthouse or the Vela and Mala Proversa passages.

Exploring the bay: Telašćica’s bay is a true Adriatic gem – one of the safest, most beautiful, and largest natural harbors. Its 69 km coastline is dotted with 25 coves, and it shelters six islets and cliffs. While you can find mooring buoys, arrive before 5 pm in July and August to snag a spot. Park rangers will visit your boat during the day to collect tickets and mooring fees.

Don’t miss: Witness the majesty of the “Stene" cliffs, towering 200 m above the sea and plunging 90 m below the surface. For a charming evening, head to the fishing village of Sali and enjoy a cocktail by the harbor.

Kornati Islands National Park: A Sailor’s Paradise

Restaurant Opat, Kornat Island
Restaurant Opat, Kornat Island

Far removed from the pine-framed bays of Telašćica, lies the untamed beauty of Kornati. This region, shaped by the sea and wind, is home to a few scattered islands, inhabited by only a handful of people and grazing sheep. It may seem barren to some, but those who seek seclusion and unspoiled nature will find it enchanting. Imagine crystal-clear waters, the sound of waves crashing against the shore, and the occasional cry of a seagull.

If you want to experience this magnificent place, the best way to do so is by chartering a boat from one of the marinas in Biograd na Moru or Murter. This area is the center of Croatia’s boating scene, so you’ll have plenty of options. While you could visit Kornati on a day trip, it is worth spending at least one night in the archipelago to truly immerse yourself in its unique atmosphere.

Here are some tips to help you plan your trip:

ACI Marina Piškera is the only marina in the archipelago, and it offers basic amenities that you may need.

If you want to enjoy a delicious seafood dinner, there are a few restaurants located in the marinas. Some of the most popular ones are Restaurant Mare (“Šporka Mare") on the north entrance and Restaurant Opat further south. Be sure to make reservations in advance!

If you want to fully experience the wilderness, you can drop anchor or grab a buoy in one of the designated spots. There are several to choose from, and the easiest way to get tickets is to buy them online a few days in advance.

Krka National Park: Waterfalls and River Delights

National Park Krka waterfalls
Author: Ramon Perucho

Unlike the other parks we’ve talked about, you won’t sail directly into the waters of Krka National Park on your chartered boat. The river isn’t quite deep enough all the way there. But that’s okay, because the journey to the park is half the fun!  Your destination is the charming town of Skradin, home to the well-equipped ACI Marina Skradin with 180 berths. There’s also a convenient anchorage nearby. The boat trip from the Krka river mouth to Skradin itself is stunning.

Once in Skradin, hop on one of the park boats that depart every hour. They’ll take you directly to Skradinski Buk, the most famous Krka waterfall. If you’d rather stretch your legs, there’s a lovely one-hour walking path from town to the falls. As ticket availability is limited, make sure to book your ticket online in advance.

Another option, especially convenient if you’re chartering from Marina D-Marin Mandalina, is to book a day trip from Šibenik on the first or last day of your vacation.

Lastovo National Park: An Island Sanctuary

Skrivena Luka, Lastovo
Skrivena Luka, Lastovo, Author: Aleksandar Gospić, Source: Croatian National Tourist Board

Lastovo is the most remote and secluded natural park along Croatia’s Adriatic coast. It has a fascinating history – for decades during the Yugoslav era, Lastovo was a military outpost closed off to foreigners.  It wasn’t until the 1990s that visitors could explore the island, which means it’s blissfully untouched by overdevelopment.

You can reach Lastovo from marinas in Split (on the western side) or Dubrovnik (on the eastern side).  While it’s possible to get there in a single day with a motorboat, it’s worth planning a two-day trip. There are lots of cool places to see along the way, and you’ll want at least two days to soak in the unique atmosphere of Lastovo.

The island has three main harbors where you can find good shelter: Skrivena Luka on the south side, Luka Velji Largo and Luka Malji Largo on the west, and the ferry port Ubli on the southeast. Uvala Zaklopatica on the north side is another option – there’s a restaurant where you can moor for free if you eat there.

Get ready for stunning nature, because the entire island and its archipelago are part of Lastovo Nature Park!  Wherever you drop anchor you’re likely to meet park rangers checking tickets. The easiest way to get yours is to buy them online or directly from the rangers.

Mljet National Park: Lush Landscapes and Turquoise Lakes

National Park Mljet
National Park Mljet

If you’re sailing in the Dubrovnik area, definitely make time to explore Mljet National Park! This stunning island has a strict conservation focus, especially on its western third which is the designated park area.

One thing about Mljet – there are two separate fees for visiting. First, there’s a fee for any boat entering the park’s waters. Then, there’s another fee for anyone who wants to go ashore and explore the park. If you anchor in Luka Polača or Luka Pomena, park rangers will approach your boat. You can choose to pay your anchorage fee directly to them or get a small discount by purchasing your tickets online in advance.

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Ivan S.

Author
Ivan cooks, walks his dog Loko, and writes for the Yachtaris blog. When he writes, it's about sailing, hospitality, and event organizing (putting that BS degree in hospitality management to work). He's a good D&D player and a bad miniature painter. Which is why he spends most of his time walking the dog.

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