The Northern Adriatic brims with charming islands – Cres, Lošinj, Unije, and Susak, to mention but a few – and coves, mixing a delightful cocktail made of the finest ingredients
Numerous seafarers map out essential southern destinations, captivating sailors with their undeniable charm and facilities, but they currently barely manage the strain from the steadily growing influx of visitors. Consequently, popular locations become overly crowded, diminishing the experience for those seeking true maritime pleasure and not just ticking off ‘must-visit’ spots.
Navigating the Enigmatic Northern Adriatic: A Yachter’s Route of Discovery
Considering this, the Northern Adriatic offers a superior experience to its southern counterpart, presenting ample options for meaningful and relaxed voyages. The solitude available within the northern island clusters is a luxury one might only dream of when traversing between Split and Dubrovnik. Acknowledging that beauty is subjective, we eagerly turned our sights northward to ascertain the allure of that segment of the Adriatic shoreline.
The Northern Adriatic is dotted with many charming islands, but even though it’s just as attractive as the southern part of the region, it’s mostly ignored by yachts. Old towns like Cres, Krk, and Rab are just as beautiful as the more visited Vis, Hvar, and Korčula, and the coves and bays they have nestled in have a lot to offer in every way.
This part of the coast is a mere two hours by car from the capital, and the magic begins on the final stretch of the road that meanders towards the sea like a giant meditative mandala descending toward the glistening sea. Interesting for more than its proximity to the continent, the northern Adriatic boasts many calm, quiet corners ideal for relaxing vacations.
Valun, Lubenice, and Sveti Ivan Cove: The Hidden Charms of Cres Island
When the weather permits, sail along the western coast of the island of Cres, most famous as the realm of the Eurasian griffon vulture, and spend your first night under the stars in the picturesque fishing village of Valun.
It is one of the most romantic places on the island, with a dreamlike nature. It is probably most famous for the many seafood restaurants and the delicious smell spreading from them. In Valun, drop your anchor anywhere along the long pebble beach or tie the boat to the small promenade if your berth is under two meters.
If you happen to be there during bad weather, sail on to ACI Marina Cres, whose safe environment guarantees a good night’s sleep. The next day, overdose on beauty and spend the day at the loveliest beach in these waters – the Sveti Ivan cove, basking in the sun on its long pebble beach or swimming in the emerald sea. This beautiful cove is nestled beneath a medieval tower and the spectacularly charming village of Lubenice.
Sailors’ Haven: Unveiling the Wonders of Blue Cove and Zeče Island
Around the corner from Sveti Ivan lies the most famous spot in these waters, the iconic Blue Cove, whose many shades of blue offer a fully immersive meditative experience.
Nearby is Zeča island, with its two turquoise lagoons, ideal for a day spent swimming and diving. The next must-see spot is the island of Unije and Maračol Cove, a former Yugoslav army naval base. The cove is naturally protected from literally all wind, which has earned it endless popularity among local and visiting yachts.
If you don’t feel like swimming, take a twenty-minute walk to the other side of the island and to its only town, and spend the night under the timeless stars.
Susak Island: Exploring the Adriatic’s Sandy Paradise
Susak is the Adriatic’s most famous natural phenomenon: a sandy island whose reed-covered coast is recognizable from afar. Drop your anchor in the turquoise waters of the Bok cove, then take a walk through this unique landscape. The island, as unique for its language and tradition as it is for the landscape, has two small villages – Gornje and Donje Selo, upper and lower – with similar houses, churches, and graveyards, connected by stone stairs. If you need supplies of any kind – water, fuel, food, or shelter – you won’t find them on Susak, but you will on Mali Lošinj, the action center of these waters.
After that, you must once again make the difficult decision of where to turn next, but we suggest the uninhabited coves of Balvanida and Krivica, quite popular in the last couple of years and deservedly so, nestled deep into the ground on the southwestern side of the island, as calm and quiet as it gets.
Ilovik, the Flower Island: A Colorful Stopover in the Northern Adriatic
The island of Ilovik lies right next to Lošinj, and its lagoon, separating the island from the smaller island of Sveti Petar, is a favorite among yachts. Ilovik, locally known as the flower island, is colorful, vibrant, criss-crossed by paths and roads, and altogether a fun little place for those who’ve (temporarily) had enough of the boat life.
The nearby islands of Mala and Vela Orjula, as tiny as they are, are very popular among turquoise lovers and lure many hedonists for a dreamy day in the sun. Spend the night by Punta Križa on the southern shore of Cres, with several small coves offering protection from all types of weather. All those coves are interconnected by walking paths, along which wanderers might meet a new friend or two – deer or smaller wildlife.
Old Osor Town: A Journey through Adriatic History
The next day, set sail toward Osor Channel, carefully following the signs to avoid scratching the sea bottom. The man-made channel has existed since Roman times and has helped travelers just as long, until it was recently replaced by the bridge connecting the islands of Cres and Lošinj (open twice every day, at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.). Osor old town, with its old walls, is a sight to be seen, even if you only watch it looking over your aft.
Next stop is Zeče again, with its turquoise waters and pebble beaches, and if you feel like spending another night under the stars, try the uninhabited coves of Zaglav or Miračine (but only with fair weather), both smaller than the famed Sveit Ivan but almost identical in every other way. Finally, set sail for Opatija after charging your batteries with the serene beauty of those islands and the charming northern Adriatic.
Text Josipa Vlahović Cikatić
Photos Boris Kačan, Mario Jelavić, HTZ / Ivo Biočina, Zoran Jelača, Aleksandar Gospić & Shutterstock