Dugi otok was on the list for a couple of years already, but as we usually prefer to go to any of the more southern islands we´ve been avoiding going there – until now. We knew that it is still quite untouristy and peaceful compared to the other bigger islands around and this was also the main reason we were keen on spending a week there this year. Some of its stunning beaches which reminded us of the Caribbean, great seafood, nice weather, relaxed atmosphere on one side and enough possibilities for day trips on the other side make the island a great summer holiday destination.
When: July 2016
Visited: Veli Rat, Sali, Bozava, Brbinj, Zman, Telascica, Kornati
How: with our car
Stayed in: an apartment
If you are driving from northern Europe it will take you around 4 hrs from Ljubljana (Slovenia) or 3,5 hrs from Zagreb to reach Zadar. From ZADAR (Gazenica) you can take a ferry to BRBINJ on Dugi otok (it take a little under 2 hrs). Kids under 3 years old travel for free, and from 3-12 they get a 50% discount – we paid 33€ one way for the car, 2 adults and a 4 year old. Zadar has a new port and it´s very convenient – you can buy tickets at a drive-through station before you park the car in a row. Zadar has also an international airport with more and more flights to cities all over Europe, there are also connections by ferry to Italy.
I always love the ferry ride to the islands, the first smell of the sea, the wind and the sun and just feeling generally happy that it´s holidays time! The ferry to Dugi otok passes quite a few islands on the way so the drive is not boring. Do check the timetables as the ferries only go every 4 hours before you leave home or plan your flights and other connections.
The past years we always rented the whole house as there are always more of us going together, but renting a house on Dugi otok was a bit of a challenge at first, because there are simply not all that many options and the best ones are quickly booked out (already several months in advance). In the end we found a beautiful APARTMENT in Veli Rat and in the ground floor of a holiday house which was directly at the beach and had a nice terrace. We were also lucky enough to have great neighbours above us ;). The are not many hotels on the island and only a couple of camp sites, mostly apartments in private houses.
DUGI OTOK WITH KIDS
Our place was just 2 kilometres from the famous Sakarun beach which was a big hit for Lu. Long sandy beach with the most amazing sea and enough of shade under the pine trees at the back. Perfect for little kids! We did visit the Telascica NP together and did a bit of walking there but have in mind it can get really hot in the summer, so go early in morning. We also climbed up the lighthouse at Veli Rat which he found very interesting. As always Lu loved the fresh food and being outside till late in the evening ;). There is not much going on on the island so if you are into bigger hotels with animation and kids clubs and things like this than Dugi otok might not be the best choice. But we love it just because it´s so peaceful ;).
WHAT WE SAW & DID
Veli Rat is a smaller town on the northern side of the island, with a nice marina, a bar, a mini market and a couple of apartments for tourists. Very peaceful! The bay is protected from three sides and therefore the sea is quite warm and calm – perfect for a morning or late evening swim! Veli Rat is also a great place to start a walk, you can walk to the famous lighthouse – do it in the morning when it´s not so hot, it will take you about 45 minutes. In the marina you can also rent a bicycle and cycle around to one of the beaches, many do it and it´s supposed to be great as there is not much traffic. Gin cycled all the way to Sali on the southern side of the island one day ;).
The coast around the lighthouse is a bit more rocky, but there are a couple of really nice coves and bays with little pebble stones very close by. There is also a CAMPING SITE and a few rooms to rent – you can also spend the night at the lighthouse. If you come in the early morning you might have the beach all to yourself!
The active VELI RAT LIGHTHOUSE is a recognisable landmark of Dugi otok, mostly because it is the highest one in the Adriatic area (41m above sea level), but also because it is said its yellow walls were painted with a mixture of thousands of eggs, which helped protect it against the salty air! You can climb up over 160 stairs and are rewarded with magnificent views! The very last part of the stairs is actually a rather steep ladder so it might not be suitable for elderly people or younger kids. There is a small fee to pay in order to get in.
We cooked on our own most of the evenings and ate only a little snack at the beach, but we did go out for DINNER one time – at camp Kargita there is a beach restaurant (MOMI) which might look like nothing special at first sight but the food was simply amazing! Great service, yummy octopus and other seafood, directly at the beach (terrace with sunset views) AND normal prices. Would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes seafood and is visiting the island.
The view from the lighthouse towards the northern most bay, UVALA MOST – you can walk to it in about 20min from the lighthouse.
Sakarun – one of the BEST BEACHES in Croatia! Especially for kids, it truly was a paradise for Lu – he also learned how to swim without any floats! The hardest part as always, was getting him out of the water cause the sun was quite strong ;). There are quite a few sailing boats stopping at the bay but since it´s not really small it does not bother the other visitors. You will have to pay for the parking (by the hour or for a full day) and also for the umbrellas and beach chairs, if you want to have them of course. If now there is always the sun and a very convenient pine tree forest with lots of space for an afternoon sleep. There are also 3 nice beach bars which offer snacks and drinks.
And the water is just amazing – we´ve been swimming in the Caribbean just once (on Cuba), but this felt very much like it! A bit untypical for Croatia and a great choice if you are a fan of sandy beaches :).
The best thing is there are no apartments, hotels or camp sites at the beach so it really gives one a nice feeling of being surrounded by NATURE. Also, there were not all that many visitors at the beginning of July which was a nice surprise.
If you continue walking from Sakarun beach, pass one of the beach bars on the right side, you come to the very last tip and there is one more nice bay waiting for you, with even less visitors!
Bozava is a smaller town not far away from Veli Rat and seems to have a bit more infrastructure (a post office, a tourist agency, a couple of bars, a diving centre and a big hotel with a playground and pools). But otherwise the atmosphere is extremely relaxed and again, it feels like everyone is just on holidays, even the people who live there ;).
Sali is ONE OF THE BIGGEST TOWNS on the island and here there is a bit more going on – lots of cafes and shops, bakeries, tourist agency, restaurants and a big marina plus a good number of apartments and rooms for tourists make it a popular spot to spend your holiday. Still, this is no party place, if party is what you are looking for, better to choose another island! We set of on a day trip to Kornati islands from Sali.
TELASCICA NATIONAL PARK
On the south-east part of the island you will find this popular National Park which stretches for around 10 kilometres around a bigger bay, dotted with little islands. It is most known for its steep CLIFFS on one side (over 100 metres above sea level) and its SALTY LAKE MIR on the inner side. One can cruise the bay on a sailing boat, stopping at several restaurants, walk or cycle around the park and explore its sights. We drove to the viewpoint first to catch a glimpse of the cliffs and parked the car at the last parking before walking a gravel road to the salty lake. You have to pay an entry fee for the park as soon as you take the turn from the main road.
The path we had to walk to get to the lake – it took us quite a while because Lu kept on stopping to watch out for a DONKEY or an insect or a nice bay or just to point out he wants an ice cream at the end ;).
You can walk around lake Mir as well, we just walked shortly to a higher point from where we could see the lake from above and the cliffs on the other side. It was also getting really hot so we skipped any further activities and had a drink instead! Many visitors swim in the lake but personally I think the beaches closer to the restaurants where all the day trip boats dock are much better for it! The lake has a pretty rough rocky beach and is somehow nicer to look at as to swim in it.
We drove to Telascica from Veli Rat and it took us pretty much the whole day before we were back just in time to prepare dinner. The island is very long and it takes quite a bit to drive to the other end.
KORNATI NATIONAL PARK
Gin and me did a DAY TRIP to the beautiful Kornati islands one day and Lu stayed with other family members who were on holidays with us. If you want to read more about how the trip was click on the button below the picture and read the post.
read more about KORNATI
One week was soon over, but as I like to say – a week is better than nothing at all! We had a nice time with my family and filled up our batteries at least a little bit, mostly by doing absolutely nothing for a couple of days. Since we tend to explore the places we go we did of course visit different towns, beaches and points of interest on the island but the main purpose of this Croatian summer holiday was once again – to relax and enjoy the nice warm weather which I miss so much in our new home in Germany! One last SUP ride around “our” bay and one more last dinner before taking the first ferry back to Zadar and driving back home.
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