Island Hopping in Croatia

Island-hopping in Croatia is a very popular way of seeing the islands and coastal towns on this side of the beautiful Adriatic coastline. You can island hop from several main points on the mainland and create itineraries depending on the length of stay and your particular interest. Visiting the Croatian Adriatic’s islands is great for watching lovely seascapes and nature while travelling between numerous towns and villages along the coast.

Sitting on the outside deck of a fast catamaran ferry boat from Dubrovnik to Split
Sitting on the outside deck of a fast catamaran ferry boat from Dubrovnik to Split

Planning Croatian Island Hopping Holiday

Some of the practical questions you might have while planning island hopping in Croatia are answered below:

  • who are the different ferry operators?
  • how do I buy tickets for Croatian ferries?
  • what do I need to do at the ferry terminal?
  • what is it like to be onboard a Croatian ferry?
  • are there any organised island hopping tours?
Visiting Vis island - views from the hills
Visiting Vis island – views from the hills

Which transport to use

The best way to get around the islands is either by car, on foot or by bicycle. The islands are not connected with trains. Beside ferries, sometimes you can also include some bus routes to add to your itinerary if the timings offer better connections then local ferries.

There are several ferry companies that run ferries as a public transport along the Croatian coast including car and foot passenger ones. Most of the tickets are bookable online or you can book them on the spot, once you arrive in the port. The most comprehensive place to check the ferry schedules is on croatiaferries.com website.

Sailing on a ferry between Dalmatian islands
Sailing on a ferry between Dalmatian islands, south Croatia

When to go

You can island-hop along the islands and coastline all year round, however, the timings are not as flexible as in May to October period. If you choose June to September the choices are even better as ferries and buses are more frequent. Some of the seasonal ferry routes run in July and August only. If you choose to visit in summers it is advisable to book your accommodation as well as ferry or bus tickets well in advance, especially for most popular routes.

A typical seascape in Croatian Adriatic
A typical seascape in Croatian Adriatic

By Car or as a Foot passenger

If you intend to drive a car while island hopping, there will be fewer itinerary options than if you island-hop as a foot passenger. An additional issue is about parking on the islands that are scarce on most of the islands in the high season. Driving around by car is the best out of the season, in May/June and September/October when ferries are less busy and parking lots are widely available.

Trying to book last minute accommodation while visiting Mljet island
Trying to book last-minute accommodation while visiting Mljet island

Island Hopping Itineraries

Choosing which Croatian Islands to go to

Choosing the best islands for your Croatian itinerary is tricky – they are all so beautiful! Start with asking yourself how many days you’ve got, what mode of transport you are using. Do you have a car, camper, motorbike or bicycle? How much time you are willing to spend on a ferry. What kind of activities you are interested in – is it culture or outdoors or both?

Consider also what you want to get out of your time on the islands. If you mainly want to focus on the mainland, let’s say Split and Dubrovnik but add an island or two, I recommend choosing those with quick crossings and near other islands to save time on travelling. If you have two weeks and want to focus primarily on islands, your itinerary will be completely different with longer distances and crossings.

My overview of Croatian islands is a good starting article if you are not quite sure what the different islands have to offer and how long you should spend on each.

Depending on where your flight is arriving, you can choose several starting points. Here are suggested island hopping itineraries that you may consider:

Island hopping from Split

If you are starting from Split, which is in the middle of the coast, to island-hop from there you can visit some of the towns and nearby islands including Hvar (see its beaches), Brač, Korčula, and Vis. Split to Dubrovnik is the most popular island-hopping itinerary where you can visit all (or just some) of Dalmatian islands, depending on the time you have on your disposal.

Starting from such a convenient transportation hub, Split is a very good entry point for island-hopping to all islands in the archipelago including Dubrovnik too. This article covers a selection of options for the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula, Mljet and Dubrovnik. If you have more time, you could add also Lastovo, Solta, Vis and Bisevo island which is the remotest island in the area and from Split, it takes 3 hrs by ferry to get there – read more

Island hopping from Pula

Map of Island Hopping from Pula to Zadar

If you are starting from Pula, which is on the north coast of the country, you can choose to island-hop from there, visiting islands and coastal towns in North Adriatic and Kvarner archipelago. Pula is a great place to organise an island-hopping trip from. This is a very good choice for island hop in the area especially if you also intend to visit Venice (just over 3 hours by ferry from Pula). In this article, you will find some details for suggested itineraries.. – read more

Island hopping from Sibenik

Sibenik is a great place to base you island hopping experience of the local archipelago and from there you can also include some additional island located nearby Zadar or Split. In this article, I covered the most interesting islands to visit in Sibenik archipelago – read more

Island hopping from Zadar

Map of island hopping from Zadar, Croatia

A good starting points to visit the islands in Zadar archipelago, as well as to sail further to Istria, Kvarner or Sibenik islands, is to start your island hopping trip from Zadar. In this article, I covered the most interesting itineraries to follow for successful island hopping experience around in the Zadar area. The article also covers Rijeka as a starting or ending point – read more

Starting your trip from Dubrovnik is good for visiting the south and mid-Dalmatian islands Lopud, Mljet, Korčula, Hvar, Brač and Lastovo. For island hopping from Dubrovnik see this article

Croatian Island Tours

Waiting for ferry in Dubrovnik Old Port
Waiting for the ferry in Dubrovnik Old Port

How to get to the Croatian Islands

Most Croatian islands are serviced by a major car ferry operator – Jadrolinija. Jadrolinija operates all car ferries connections to islands such as Hvar, Brac, Dugi Otok, Losinj or Korcula. There are several ferry hubs along the coast – Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. Depending on which islands are on your itinerary you might also want to leave from ports such as Brestova, Stinica, Prizna or Drvenik.

There are several smaller ferry operators servicing foot passenger ferry routes, such as Krilo Kapetan Luka and GV Line connecting Dalmatian islands with Split, Dubrovnik, and Kvarner archipelago with Zadar and Rijeka.

You can bring a car across to most islands, however, there are some Croatian islands that are car-free.

The only island that is connected to the Croatian mainland by a bridge is the Pag. That means you can save money and travel to Pag on the road.

Sunset sailing to the islands
Sunset sailing to the islands

Buying Ferry Tickets

You can book tickets for many popular ferries online. I highly recommend booking tickets in advance whenever possible. There are only so many ferry crossings per day or week, even in the summer season, as there is a limit to the number of passengers that can sail across. Many of these crossings are very popular and your preferred dates may book out weeks in advance.

For some of the car ferries, you can book and reserve your place online but for most of the car ferries, they cannot be reserved in advance. You can buy a ticket online but the place is not guaranteed for particular crossings. These services are operated on a first-come, first-serve basis. Make sure you double-check the ferry connection you plan to take before your trip, so you are not caught out in a long waiting queue in the ferry port.

Tip: If you travel by rental car and book car ferry tickets in advance, you can just choose rental for the field for your car registration number.

Ticket for fast foot passenger ferry
Ticket for fast foot passenger ferry

Arriving at the Ferry Terminal

When you booked your ferry ticket in advance, you should arrive at the ferry terminal about 30 minutes before the sailing time to join the queue to check-in. A member of staff will be in front of the ramp to check your ferry ticket and show you the location where to park onboard or if you are foot passenger, where to enter and leave your luggage.

When you take a car ferry on a first-come, first-serve basis, you should target to arrive in the port well in advance, at least 45 minutes to an hour prior to your preferred sailing time. If you arrive late and it’s very busy, be prepared to take a later ferry.

All ferry terminals, even the smallest ones, have at least one attendant that directs you to a waiting lane to wait until the ferry is ready for boarding.

Boarding a Croatian Ferry

An attendant, a crew member, will signal you once the ferry is ready for boarding. He will also collect your ferry ticket and point you towards the correct lane to park on board. Foot passengers board the ferry walking across the ramp while and cyclists are expected to push their bikes onto the ferry via a ramp. To disembark, follow instructions at the destination end.

Video – by fast ferry to Dubrovnik islands

On the above video, you can see the highlights of the typical ferry trip between Croatian islands – the waiting queue, boarding, onboard the ferry, disembarking, views and seascape.

On Board a Croatian Ferry

Croatian ferries come in different sizes and offer different facilities such as an outdoor deck area and an interior lounge or seatings, a restaurant or a cafe for hot drinks, a bar for alcoholic beverages and simple meals.
If the weather is good, the outdoor decks are great to watch the coastline and seascape. Space for luggage, if you are travelling as a foot passenger, is also available.

Seascape and Wildlife Watching

Views from the outside decks and from the inside lounges are truly breathtaking. Whether you are on the car or fast catamaran ferry, sailing slowly or speeding along, the views are always fantastic. In bad as well as in good weather. Also, if you are lucky you may be able to see some wildlife. Dolphins, seagulls and herons are regularly spotted between the islands.

Video – fast catamaran ferry

A superfast local foot passenger ferry speeding between the islands.

See the complete video playlist about Croatian islands that I created.

Articles about Island Hopping in Croatia

Croatian Island Tours

(Update 2020) – this article will be updated with more details about travelling between Split, Sibenik, Zadar and Rijeka once the new ferry lines, due to be introduced in 2020, are confirmed.