fully recovered from the bloody sectarian violence of the 20th century’s last decade, Croatia is fast becoming a favorite destination with holidaymakers searching for sun, sea, and sand. The country’s Adriatic coast spreads from Rijeka in the north to the narrow strip of land around Dubrovnik, far in the south, and includes many beautiful offshore islands and secluded bays.
Uncovering beautiful beaches in Croatia isn’t difficult, beginning with Rijeka on the lovely Gulf of Kvarner. Set in the far north of the country, it’s the main hub for Adriatic vacations. Although it’s primarily a commercial and manufacturing city, it lies close to glorious countryside and offshore islands as well as small towns near the conurbation, which offer appealing beaches. Kraljevica, overlooked by a mountain range, is 16 miles from the city and is famous for its pine forests and magnificent beaches.
Opatija, just along the bay to the south, is one of Croatia’s best-known tourist destinations. It’s a small, hilly town stretching back from the seashore, with a population of around 8,000 and a long history reflected in its stunning architecture and picture-perfect promenades and sandy strands. It’s been a resort for over 100 years and was originally popular with wealthy Austro-Hungarians.
The city of Zadar lies in Dalmatia state, to the north of Split and Dubrovnik, and is a hub for a great choice of glorious beaches, many of which are just a short journey by car or bus from its central district and pretty Old Town. Zaton Beach is the closest, located in the Nin suburb, and especially good for families with small children. Other beaches include Borik, Diklo, Privlaka, and Petrecane, and the quiet beaches and bays on the offshore islands are easily accessed via a short boat trip.
Further south, Sibenik is the oldest Croatian town on the country’s Adriatic coastline and boasts stunning medieval buildings. Although the waters of Sibenik Bay aren’t so very clean, many small, sandy beaches are found just outside the town and on the national park islands of Krka and Komati, just offshore. Komati National Park is especially worth a visit for its diving and snorkeling opportunities.
The ancient port city of Split lies on the southern side of the peninsula from Sibenik, with the central Old Town, crowded with palaces, mansions, and churches, clustered around the massive Roman Diocletian’s Palace and fronted by a magnificent coastline. Committed to the ultimate visitor experience, Split offers fine beaches, found on the edges of town and in the nearby coastal regions. The closest is Bacvice Beach, which is crowded in the high season.
Quieter and lovelier beaches are found within a few kilometers of Split, including those to the north and the westerly Kasjuni Cove, a treasure of a beach with far fewer crowds. The best of all is on beautiful Brac Island’s fabulous coastline, with Hvar Island high on the list for its trendy restaurants and bars.
The southernmost city in Croatia, Dubrovnik, is also one of the most popular holidaymakers for its walled city, now a UNESCO World Heritage site in its entirety. Nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, Dubrovnik’s reputation as a city-state rivaled that of Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although its beaches are pebbled, they’re still great places to relax and swim after a morning sightseeing, with the backdrop of the magnificent city adding to the magic of the warm seas.
Due to the city’s fame as a tourist destination, beaches around the Dubrovnik Riviera’s bays and promontories are mostly well-equipped for water sports of all kinds. If you’re searching for a sandy beach rather than pebbles, the strands along the Lapad Peninsula are a perfect choice. Reached by a pretty coastal pathway, the beachfront is lined with seafood eateries which are great for sunset-watching and a delicious meal. Here is Copacabana Beach, the best choice for families with children.