Croatia offers unspoiled bays and shingly stretches along the length of its island-dotted coastline, from Rijeka in the north down to Dubrovnik. When it comes to beaches, the best advice is to head south: you'll find the most seductive sandy shores, pebbly coves and sun-baked rocks on the Dalmatian coast. To help you plan your trip, here are 10 of the best beaches in Croatia:
Desert island getaways don’t come much better than on Susak. This tiny Croatian island is composed almost entirely of sand and is home to one of the best beaches in Croatia. It’s a ferry ride away from Mali Losinj on Cres, which is itself quite some distance from the mainland. The time it takes to get here only adds to Susak’s connoisseur appeal.
The island’s main beach, Spiaza, is a majestic moon-grey crescent stretching out from Susak village. The bay is very shallow – you need to wade out for almost half a kilometre to find sea deep enough to swim in.
Similarly sandy is Bok bay, further east; it’s significantly less crowded because you have to walk round a rocky headland to get there.
If your idea of a beach is a long strip of sand that stretches away towards the horizon, then you really need to make tracks for Nin. Located 15km from Zadar, Nin’s long, luxuriant Kraljičina plaža (Queen’s Beach) contains a brace of beach bars and very little else, save for mesmerising views of the haughty Velebit mountains across the water.
Don’t be alarmed at the sight of fellow bathers smearing themselves in sludge. The reedy area behind Kraljičina plaža is rich in peloid mud, an effective natural treatment for sore joints and muscles.
For many of its inhabitants Split is not so much a city as a religion, centred around a collection of semi-mystic locations. Among the holiest of holies is undoubtedly Bačvice beach. This shallow bay of sand and shingle has played an important role in the early childhood and teenage years of virtually anyone who has ever called the city home.
Immensely popular as a family beach, it’s also a buzzing social hub, with a café-packed pleasure pavilion rising immediately to the east. Bačvice is also famous for being the spiritual home of picigin, a uniquely Dalmatian sport that involves a lot of acrobatic leaping around as players try to prevent a small ball from hitting the water.
Best option for on the beach: Marvie Hotel & Health
Best option in Split Old Town: Plaza Marchi Old Town
Take a guided walking tour through the historic city center of Split or explore the surroundings on a small-group speedboat tour including the famous Blue Cave.
Four kilometres east of Postira on Brač, Lovrečina Bay is one of several beaches on the island that genuinely deliver what you read about in the brochures, with a sandy shore bordering translucent waters, and a ruined medieval church among olive groves just behind the strand.
The fact that there is limited parking and no clear bus stop nearby helps the beach from becoming overrun. You'll find a number of apartments to rent in Postira, while Hotel Amor up the coast in Supetar is one of the island’s cosier places to stay.
What to do
The Renaissance port of Hvar enjoys a worldwide reputation when it comes to chic bars and racy nightlife. If a good beach is what you’re after, however, it’s best to get out of town. There are several good choices in the coves and bays to the east, of which the most attractive is Uvala Dubovica, a broad pebbly affair beside a historic manor house.
The bay’s shallow nature makes it good family paddling territory, although it gets popular with yachts and motorboats in season. Otherwise, difficulty of access tends to filter out the guests – the parking strip on the main road above the bay is only big enough to accommodate about fifty vehicles. Rent a bike or scooter in Hvar town and beach-hop your way along the coast.
For lovely sea views, consider Hotel Fortuna in Milna, about 5 km from the center of Hvar.
While many of Hvar’s beaches involve perching on a rock before stepping gingerly out onto a stony seabed, the silkily sandy Grebišće is absolutely perfect for smooth paddling around. Located 4km east of Jelsa just off the Sućuraj road, the beach is reached by walking through the Grebišće campsite.
The beach itself is very narrow and contains very little shade, but the bay is both very shallow and sandy underfoot – which is why it’s such a popular venue for splashing around. Drinks and simple snacks are available at the campsite café or the Čorni Petar beach bar, nestling beneath trees on the headland to the east.
A silvery tongue of shingle extending into a turquoise sea, Zlatni Rat (“Golden Cape”) is very much the poster boy of Dalmatian beaches. The pebbly peninsula remains a compelling destination despite the crowds; indeed its clear shallow seas and gripping maritime views make it a difficult spot to leave. There are plenty of nice places to stay in the coastal town of Bol, which is walking distance away along a waterfront promenade.
Approaching by taxi boat from nearby Vela Luka, the islet of Proizd looks at first sight to be a pretty average Adriatic hump of pine trees and maquis. In fact, it’s one of the most alluring sunbathing and skinny-dipping destinations in the whole of Croatia, with a trio of dramatic ‘beaches’ made up of sloping rock slabs shelving steeply into a clear sea.
The port of Vela Luka is your obvious base for accommodation.
If you prefer to stay in Dubrovnik, consider taking a day tour to Korčula Island.
Sometimes it’s not just the beach that matters, it’s also about the journey there and back. Getting to Šunj Bay on the island of Lopud involves a delightful fifty-minute crossing on the passenger-only Dubrovnik-Šipan ferry. This is followed by a hike over the central hump of blissfully car-free Lopud island.
Once you get there, Šunj is a graceful crescent of fine shingle and sand strung between rocky promontories. There’s an informal beach bar at the back of the beach; you’ll need it by the time you arrive.
Lopud and the other islands are also reachable from Dubrovnik, with day tours allowing you to spend plenty of time on the beach in Lopud.
Looking for a beach with just a hint of the post-apocalyptic? Then try Kupari just south of Dubrovnik, one-time holiday resort to the Yugoslav Peoples’ Army. Badly damaged in the 1991–95 war, its hotels have lain derelict ever since.
It is, however, home to one of the Dubrovnik region’s best beaches – also one of the best beaches in Croatia – a fine crescent of shingle with a few sandy bits underfoot, complete with evocative backdrop of shell-damaged hotels. Note that the hotels are unprotected and potentially dangerous – so resist the temptation to go exploring.
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Header image: Zlatni Rat beach in Bol, BracIsland, Croatia © paul prescott/Shutterstock