Croatia Dubrovnik Hvar Jelsa Makarska Pakleni Islands Split Vis

A Beginner’s Guide to the Dalmatian Coast

Last Updated on March 23, 2018.

With over a thousand islands and 1,800 kilometers of coastline along the entire country, exploring Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast which comprises about half of it can seem a tad overwhelming upon first glance. I’ve been there, I know the struggle.

BG wandering around Dubrovnik Old TownLavender in Hvar, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy

Luckily it’s all much easier (and distances closer) than it seems and with that, I’ve teamed up with to create somewhat of a beginner’s guide based on my personal experience for those looking to make the most out of their time in the region.



Split harbour, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy.

If you can make it to Split, you can make it anywhere in Dalmatia. As the region’s capital, it’s where you can find the most frequent (and fastest) ferry connections to some of Croatia’s most popular islands. Aside from being a major transport hub, it is also surrounded by history – literally – with the most visited part of town lying within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace, parts of which date back to the 3rd and 4th Century.

Inside Diocletia's Palace in Split, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy.



Sailing in Brac, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy

One of the closest islands you can see from Split is Brač. Ferries drop you off in Milna, Supetar or Bol with the latter being the more happening port and home to Zlatni Rat, or Golden Horn – one of the most unique beaches in Europe, cone-shaped and visibly changing with the tide – as well as the Blaca Monastery. Brač is also well-known for its water sport offerings and plenty of pristine coves to drop an anchor if you happen to be sailing.

Beautiful Brac, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy



Hvar Town Harbour, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy

No doubt Hvar is a star on the Croatian island scene – about an hour from Split. Hvar Town’s reputation proceeds itself as hotspot for the rich, famous, and sexy, but take a little road trip inland and toward the other two port towns of Jelsa or Stari Grad to see a more peaceful side of this “hedonist’s paradise”. Lavender fields, olive groves, and vineyards for days with wine-making as one of the dominant industries on the island. There is also a port on the east side of the island, Sucuraj, that will take you to Drvenik on the mainland – good tip to know for anyone who finds themselves stranded in Hvar due to overbooked ferries which is not unheard of in the summer months so book ahead whenever you can.


Pakleni Islands

Rugged Pakleni Islands, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy

Just off the coast of Hvar and only accessible by boat or water taxi are the wild Pakleni Islands. Uninhabited save for a few spots on Sveti Klement, it’s a great place to explore for a few hours with more secluded beaches and coves than you can find around Hvar Town. Palmižana has the only marina on the islands and for sure the sexiest spot for day drinking.

Blue Pakleni Islands, Sveti Klement, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy.



For a more rugged island vibe, Vis is a great choice for those looking for less glamour and more authenticity. As the furthest island out, Vis was a Yugoslav naval base until 1989 so largely untouched by tourists for over forty years and has some of the most unspoiled nature of all the inhabited islands. Ferries can take 1.5-2.5 hours from Split depending on the season and 55 minutes from Hvar.

Old town and marina in Vis, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy.



Back on the mainland is Makarska and its 60 kilometer riviera. Though more popular amongst families and tourists who enjoy crowded resorts, it has one of the best strips of beach on the Croatian coast and also makes an excellent base for anyone interested in exploring the nearby Biokovo Mountains.

Biokovo Mountains and Makarska, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy.



Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy

Hands down the most visited city in Croatia, the walled old town of Dubrovnik is a legend and not to be missed, but be warned: it comes at higher prices and with much huger crowds than any other place mentioned on this list. Try to hit the beaches during the afternoon and save the sightseeing for morning or early evening if you’d like to get a taste of its magic without millions of day trippers around you. Next to Split, Dubrovnik has the next largest selection of outward ferry journeys also making it a choice location for starting or ending your exploration of the Dalmatian Coast.

Beach in Dubrovnik, Croatia © The Blonde Gypsy

Though hardly comprehensive, this guide is a good start and links to timetables invaluable for anyone surveying the different island options in southern Croatia. It will be updated as I explore further with Zadar, Korcula, and Mjilet just a few places that are next on my list. Any other suggestions?


  • Reply
    September 8, 2015 at 9:02 am

    ok, I definitely need to see more of Croatia! that’s a plan for the next year (or five!)

    • Reply
      September 18, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Sounds like a good one to me – looks to be a goal of mine as well! :)

  • Reply
    Shaun's Cracked Compass
    September 10, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    This is PERFECT! Thanks Larissa! I don’t really want a tight itinerary when I explore this coast, just a rough direction and some ideal spots to squat. Looking forward to the updates!

    • Reply
      September 18, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      No problem and a loose itinerary is always the best place to start. Looking forward to being able to make the updates – hopefully next season!

    • Reply
      September 18, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      P.S. just read about your MIG flight – that’s amazing! :)

  • Reply
    Jon Dunn
    September 15, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Nice piece / pics – look forward to part 2!
    Maybe worth considering giving Šibenik a mention. Midway between Zadar and Split, ideally placed for the wondrous Krka National Park and with it’s UNESCO heritage cathedral which has to be seen to be believed!
    The finest red Babić wine grapes are grown in this area, too :)
    Can never read too much about Dalmatia, my favourite part of the Balkans!

  • Reply
    November 1, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Croatian Islands are the most beautiful in the world.

  • Reply
    Stephen Schreck
    June 8, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Cool guide. Love the Dalmatian Coast

    • Reply
      July 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you – me too! Lucky I get to go back soon :)

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