Many people ask me for tips about visiting Croatia’s coast, so here are my notes and recommendations.
In the north, Istria is full of small towns with narrow alleys, old stone houses, wineries and nice rocky beaches. Poreč and Rovinj are good destinations. My favourite place in the inland is Motovun, a fortified old town on the top of a high hill with good food and a splendid view. Pula is both a lively city and has some Roman remains like the wonderfully preserved Arena. The Brijuni national park is really worth visiting for a one-day trip.
A bit more south is what we call Primorje. Rijeka has some cultural sites and even though it is not the most popular beach destination (but see party-time below), there are ferry lines to the nice islands of Lošinj, Krk (check out Baška), Cres. There is the Austro-Hungarian-architected Opatija – artificial concrete beaches, but quite peaceful, quaint and a popular destination.
Further south, in Dalmatia the coast gets nicer and nicer, but it gets more crowded as well. If you’re visiting in mid-season, I’d recommend visiting some islands other than Hvar (which is beautiful BTW, but swarming with tourists), such as Brač (some smaller towns like Sutivan are great for family relaxation), or Pag (check out the Straško camp, but avoid the town of Novalja – see Party-time 🙂
A sailing trip along the Croatian coastline is becoming quite a popular option. You rent a boat (usually big, separate bedrooms & bathrooms) and the services of a professional skipper and can visit all sort of islands, towns, secluded beaches. You basically get portable accommodation wherever you want to go.
Charter sailing services:
For this I like the alternative, urban atmospheres in Rijeka and Pula. For more mainstream stuff, Novalja and Vodice are very popular destinations with clubs, DJs…
Dubrovnik is really worth visiting, although a bit too crowded during the peak season (July, August). Šibenik, Zadar and Split are also very lively cities full of old Roman-era buildings.
National parks like the Plitvice lakes and the Krka waterfalls are great sites to visit as a one-day trip from the nearby cities.
Velebit has some good hiking trails with a splendid view of the Adriatic sea.