In June 2017 we convinced four of our most laid-back, wanderlusting amigos to spend 7 days and 7 nights with us in a confined vessel in the name of ADVENTURE. Granted, it wasn’t that difficult to persuade them, given that this vessel was a catamaran set adrift among the Croatian islands of the Dalmatian Coast. Who could say no?
After MUCH investigating and a lower-end budget in mind, we finally booked a Lagoon 380 (4 double cabins, 2 baths) with a skipper through Master Charter. (Heads up, I simply asked if they were offering any discounts and they applied a 10% discount!)
The first half of our journey through Croatia took us on a road trip through the mainland (videos coming soon). Once we’d seen Split, it was time to split!
We lucked out with THE. BEST. SKIPPER. Bruno Antunac, a native Croatian, had been sailing since he could remember, and knew everything. He literally knew EVERYTHING. Ok, maybe not EVERYthing, but his knowledge of the area elevated our trip to heights we didn’t know existed. Every day he’d give us a few scenarios for how our day could play out, catered around our preferences, and we’d decide what to do. (Except restaurants, we pretty much gave him full reign in that department and he never disappointed.) So, without further ado, here’s a breakdown of our week sailing the Dalmatian Coast:
Saturday, June 10: Depart from ACI Marina Split for the far southwestern side of the island Brač, near the town of Milna. We walked to Kapetanovo Lozje for dinner (personally, probably my favorite meal of the week). The temperature and ambiance was stupidly perfect as we ate, drank, and laughed at our al fresco table. This place is owned and operated by a family, and is known for their lamb, but of course the fresh fish was exquisite as well. And the wine. Ohhh, the wine. *Longing sigh.*
Sunday, June 11: The next morning, I emerged from the cave that was our cabin to find us passing an ex-Yugoslavian military shelter for submarines. “What the what?!” It was a concrete tunnel leading into the island and I wanted to go iiiin. We’d visit another one later, Bruno reassured. This tangible, recent history was mind-blowing to behold.
Dying to jump in to the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, Bruno stopped our boat right off of Zečevo (a tiny island off the island of Hvar) to have our first swim. While a bit chilly, it was welcomed, indeed. Dunk your head under the water and plainly see all the colorful schools of fish racing past! I’d seen clear waters before, but what was this magic?? Croatia had fully stolen my heart.
After a dip and a snack, we carried on to Vrboska (town on the northern side of the island of Hvar) and parked the boat at ACI Marina Vrboska. The town was quaint and quiet, not much going on, and felt so far removed from normal life — exactly what we were looking for! We rented bikes and headed over to Grebišće for drinks and the view. The bartenders, Karlo & Mark poured up some delicious drinks and were great for a laugh. After a quick dip in the shallow, aqua waters (because how do you not?), we biked back a different route to Vrboska (not flat, for those wondering).
We had another heavenly dinner that evening outside at Trica Gardelin (fresh fish, veggies, and a variety of sauces including gorgonzola and caper, with wine. Ohhh, the wine!), just steps away from our boat. The main highlight of the evening, however, was definitely when power in the whole town went out for a brief 15-20 minutes or so. The moon provided plenty of light to carry on with our meal, and of course, the wine.
Monday, June 12: From Vrboska we headed for Bol on the island of Brač. We anchored for a bit here and a few of us jumped in, but for some reason in this area the water was a bit “oily” (but nothing even close to the TX coast; it was still stunning. You must realize how spoiled we were at this point.). We eventually docked and took a shuttle up to Vidova Gora, highest point of all the Adriatic islands. It should be noted that while we did taxi to the peak for time’s sake, it is entirely possible to hike it instead, about 7 mi. roundtrip, and not too strenuous from what I hear.
Down below is the unmissable Zlatni Rat, the pebble beach that jets out into the glassy sea. While we didn’t get to spend much time there on the beach, it was certainly one of the most picturesque places I’d ever laid eyes on. Don’t miss it.
Later we stopped by Taverna Rva for a snack. We shared a pizza, and it was delicious, but service was even better. We finished the night at a party at Auro (outdoor club on Zlatni Rat) with some of the Sail Week crew. Once back at the boat, Chef, I mean Captain Bruno made shrimp scampi with some locally caught shrimp. I was fast asleep after enduring such a day, but everyone said it was the best shrimp scampi they’d ever had. (Like I said: THE. BEST. SKIPPER.)
Tuesday, June 13: Slightly hungover, we made our way to the island Vis. Here, on the north side of the island, was that other submarine shelter Bruno had promised. While the boys leaped from the top of its entrance into the water, Suz and I decided it a solid idea to swim to the end of the tunnel and back. Please note, while I have no regrets, it was especially creepy as there are no lights save the daylight from the entryway glowing gloomily through the depths below.
Next, we docked at Marina Vis and rented scooters. (While we don’t recall the name of the place, it was basically a tourist office on Obala Sv Jurja —the street in front of the marina— between the marina itself and a small “park” off to the right). After scooting over to Stončica on the eastern side of the island, we had lunch at Konoba Stončica. Once again, Bruno did not steer us wrong. They served up fresh fish, potatoes and veggies. In fact, we ordered more potatoes and veggies because holy moly. Stuffed to the brim, we scooted over to the western side of the island, but ended up at a military base or something at the top of a mountain. Awesome view, but not where we intended to go, so we turned around and made it back to the marina.
That evening we taxied to Konoba Magić Vis for dinner, set in a quaint vineyard. Bruno called ahead for us to have the quintessential Dalmatian dish, peka. (Note that giving advance notice is absolutely required no matter where you go, as the dish takes at minimum an hour and a half to make. From our experience, 24 hours or the day before notice is standard, with the shortest notice I saw being about 3 hours.) Peka actually refers to the style of cooking and not necessarily the meat, as you can choose almost any kind. We were lucky enough to try one of my favorites: octopus. This blew any Spanish pulpo I’ve ever had out of the water, and was served similarly with potatoes. It literally melts in your mouth. You’re like “I didn’t even chew!” It’s just gone. Ahh, but the essence lingers.
It’s worth mentioning that many restaurants offered us complimentary rakia, which could have been because they were all super nice, or maybe it was because we had the grand Captain Bruno himself with us. No one will ever know. One thing that IS certain, however, is we purchased the most exquisite bottles of rakia from Konoba Magić Vis (the lemon flavor was UH.MAZ.ING.).
And the wine. Ohhh, the wine.
Later that night, one of the Sail Week captains hauled us up to Fort George (a medieval fortress) in a military vehicle to party with Sail Week-ers. Even though a light exploded and caught on fire above us on the dance floor, we were pretty oblivious and danced the night away amidst the fog of the fire extinguisher. In other words, we had a pretty unforgettable night.
Wednesday, June 14: Wednesday brought us to the Green Cave (part of a tiny island on the southeast side of Vis). Wednesday brought many others there as well. While a bit crowded (compared to other places we’d visited along the voyage thus far), it was still quite a sight to behold. Many, including a couple among us, jumped from cliffs above the cave. We swam through the cave itself, however one must beware the row boats and dinghies.
Our next stop was Stiniva, a narrow inlet with a tiny beach accessible only by swimming up to it, with but one single bar ashore. The bar owner, like every other Croatian we seemed to meet, was excited to hear we were from Texas and name-dropped the Spurs (Go Spurs Go!). This was an instant way to feel at home in such a foreign land.
From Stiniva, we set forth to Komiža (western coast of Vis) to scuba dive, probably some of the clearest waters around the world to dive. Later, we dined at Konoba Barba facing the water. Holy moly. More amazing wine and fresh fish, go figure. After the obligatory gelato stop, we headed back to the boat for the night as a storm was abrewin’.
Thursday, June 15: Marina Palmižana was our next stop (cheaper to dock here and taxi than dock at Hvar Town). After showers at the marina, we boat-taxied to Hvar Town. Suh-wanky! Lots of yachts! Pretentious maybe? Our first impression of Hvar Town carried over as we had a drink at Adriana Top Bar (overlooks Hvar Town). The prices were steep and the service was extremely lacking (did we not look like we owned one of the yachts below??). Once the drinks were finally served, we knew we needed to go elsewhere for food.
A short stroll across town brought us to Konoba Maestro where we sat out front, away from all the crowds, yet a stone’s throw away). The staff was incredibly friendly, served up excellent food (per usual), delectable wine (also per usual), etc.
Strolling through Hvar was pleasant, yet unquestionably the most touristy spot we visited in the islands. Bruno brought us to Macondo for dinner, with seating out front in the bustling corridor. The staff here was, once again, incredible and helpful (read: free rakia shots).
Our final night out on the islands truly encapsulated the Hvar night life at Kiva Bar. We had a pretty early dinner, so even though we basically “opened” the bar…we definitely closed it down. Be forewarned: if the bartender at Kiva puts a helmet on your head, it will most likely be followed with a repeated banging on said helmet (while still on your head) with a shot glass. And then you must take a shot. So just. Be careful.
Friday, June 16: Our last full day on the boat, we set sail to island Šolta, where we casually ate, swam, and lounged in the Stomorska inlet (one of the only sandy areas we encountered in all of the Dalmatian coast, and a very calm, quiet area). We never went on shore, as that was not needed. Everything we could have asked for on a laid-back Friday afternoon was provided by the boat or the sea. By 6pm that evening we’d made our way back to ACI Marina Split, spent our evening in the city, checking out the following morning.
I did tons and tons and TONS of research, but truly, nothing can prepare for you for a journey like this. The experience itself is worth every penny and memory captured on and off camera. So now all we have to do is move to Croatia…stay tuned!
-written by Brandi Bondesen