If you ever have the chance to go sailing in the Adriatic, take it. We spent a week on a catamaran with one of my best childhood friends and it was pure magic. The weather was sunny and warm, the water was heart-wrenchingly gorgeous, and the scenery was straight out of a travel magazine.
I won’t tell the whole story here – that would take more than a blog post. Instead, here are some highlights and photos to give you a glimpse into our dreamy vacation…
Finding a new, secluded bay each day
We visited five different islands over the course of the week. Every morning, we would have breakfast on the deck, get some sun, and go for a swim. When we were sufficiently salty and tan, up went the anchor and we’d head off to the next lovely bay for lunch and more lounging. Our skipper chose the most peaceful, enchanting coves he could find – I swear, each was prettier than the last. Sometimes we were the only boat in residence, and other times we’d have a few sailboats and speed boats for neighbors. But the waters were always crystal clear, the scenery was always picturesque, and there was always a little cave or beach bar to pique our curiosity.
Exploring the island of Vis
Vis was my favorite island. It was certainly one of the busiest, but I appreciated the bustling vibe, beautiful views, and multitude of things to do. Our visit coincided with Croatia Sail Week, and every spot in the harbor was full. Sail Week allows individuals or groups to jump on a boat with others and tour the Croatian islands sans planning. We didn’t really notice any crowds, however, and thoroughly enjoyed our overnight stay.
Vis’ little pebble beach boasts the clearest waters and most amazing views across the bay. The streets are lined with old stone buildings, grape vines, and little art galleries (like so many of the towns we visited). And we toured a winery set up in an old, WWII bunker and power plant! In the evening, after dinner, we followed our ears just down the main harbor street across from our boat to discover some excellent live music. The band rocked out until about 11pm as people perched on palm tree planters and children ran around squealing.
The delicious food and local wine
Our chef prepared some of the best food we’ve had in Croatia. She focused on light, seafood-based dishes, and her creativity and skill made each meal a delight. There was squid stew, mussels steamed in white wine and garlic, octopus poached in red wine, smoked salmon and arugula salad, many kinds of meats grilled right on the boat, and more. I was in heaven.
And let us not forget the wine! Our boat was fully-stocked with all the delicious, Croatian wine we could want. But of course we had to sample some of the local island wines as well. In the old bunker on Vis, we tried a crisp and refreshing rosé, a light and fruity (but dry) white, and an earthy, dark red. Our favorite local varietal has quickly become Plavac Mali, the “grandfather” of Zinfandel. It never disappoints.
We did also enjoy a couple meals off the boat, including an epic seafood feast at a lovely restaurant in an old castle. At our crew’s recommendation, we went all out: white fish tartar with roe, olive oil and spices, truffle ravioli, shaved smoked tuna and arugula salad, some sort of risotto, octopus and green onion salad, and of course copious amounts of whole, grilled fish and squid. Our server, the sommelier, recommended several wines to accompany our meal, and each was better than the last.
Water as clear and turquoise as a gem
One of my favorite things about Croatia is the Adriatic Sea. Waking up to the extremely clear, brilliant turquoise waters around the Dalmatian islands each morning was an amazing way to start the day. There was never a bay or coastline where we couldn’t see straight to the bottom, and every time that shocking blue hit my eyes, I couldn’t quite believe it was real. The end-of-summer water temperature was perfect – perhaps in the mid-70s – and we spent as much time floating and swimming as possible.
Hanging in a cave on Biševo
Stand-up paddle boards have many functions aside from being stood upon and paddled. We took ours into a small cave in one of Biševo island’s small bays and just relaxed. Their buoyancy makes them a perfect seat and there’s plenty of room for a couple people on each one. The cave itself formed the perfect little nook out of the sun – and away from any sea urchins. Apparently urchins don’t like shade. The creased and blocky orange and cream rock walls arched over our heads as we sipped our wine spritzers and relaxed. Several other, smaller caves punctured the rocky cliffs along the bay – one was apparently an old makeout spot frequented by our chef when she was younger. I love stories like those.