Island Hopping from Split is a very good choice. Split is a convenient transportation hub for the whole area (the airport is nearby, ferries are there, buses too) so the town is a very good starting point for island-hop 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 and Vis island which is the remotest island in the area and from Split, it takes 3 hrs by ferry to get there.
It is good to know that there are no connecting ferries from Split further North.
Update: Although there were some indications that a new ferry line from Split to Zadar will be launched, it seems now unlikely at least for time being.
If you intend to island-hop in that direction (towards Sibenik, Zadar, and further) you can also use buses or drive to Sibenik, where you can embark on the first available ferry to continue your journey. See also getting from Split to Zadar article.
Itineraries With Car:
Map of Car Ferries:
Above map: Feel free to save this map and take it with you for your reference
1. Split to Brač
This is the easy, straightforward bit of the journey. From Split’s main ferry port take a car ferry to Supetar on Brač island. The car ferry takes 50 minutes to cross to Brač and runs all year round. (timetable and booking info @Croatiaferries.com website).
After visiting the beautiful Zlatni rat beach in Bol and Blaca monastery built in cliffs in the desert near Nerežišća, proceed to Hvar island.
2. Brač to Hvar
There are no direct car ferries from Brač to Hvar island so for this journey you have to take two car ferries and for that, you have two options (see the above map).
2.1 The first option is to drive to Sumartin and take a car ferry from there to Makarska.
The car ferry runs 5 times a day and takes 1 hour to cross to Makarska and runs all year round. (timetable and booking info).
From Makarska, after you get off the ferry, drive along the coast to Drvenik (about 40 minutes drive time). In Drvenik, you can have a nice swim or sunbathe on its lovely pebbly beach while you wait for a ferry. From Drvenik, take a car ferry to Sucuraj on Hvar island. This car ferry runs several times a day and takes 40 minutes to cross to Hvar and runs all year round. It takes about 1 hour to drive from Sucuraj to Hvar town. For this option, the total traveling time is about 3 hours. (timetables and booking info)
2.2 The alternative is to get back to Split by the same ferry from Supetar and from there take another car ferry to Stari Grad on Hvar island. There are 5 to 7 ferries a day and journey time is just under 2 hrs. It takes about a half-hour to drive or bus ride from Stari Grad to Hvar town. For this option, the total traveling time is about 3 ½ hours. (timetables and booking info @ croatiaferries.com site)
3. Hvar to Korčula
Between Hvar and Korčula there are no direct car ferries that operate at the present. In this part of the itinerary, you have to use two ferries or alternatively three ferries.
3.1. The first option is to take the car ferry from Sucuraj to Drvenik, disembark in Drvenik and drive along the coast to Ploče where you get on the car ferry to Trpanj on Peljesac. This journey takes one hour. From Trpanj drive to Orebic and from there take a 15-minute ferry ride to Korčula, Dominče ferry port (2 km from Korcula Town)
3.2 The alternative is instead of driving to Ploče and taking a ferry from there to Trpanj, just continue to drive along the coast, at Doli Zaton turn to Peljesac peninsula and drive from there to Orebic. This alternative is a good choice if you for some reason miss the ferry in Ploče or have to wait for too long to get the next one. Ferries from Orebic to Korcula island are very frequent and are sailing every 15 minutes approx with some crossings during the night too so with this option you can arrive on Korčula island any time of the day.
4. Korčula to Mljet
There are no direct car ferries from Korčula to Mljet so for this part of the journey take the car ferry from Korčula (Dominče) to Orebic and drive along the coast to Prapratno ferry port on Peljesac. Prapratno has a really nice little beach so you can swim there while waiting for a ferry. From there take a ferry to Sobra port on Mljet Island. There is no alternative to a car journey between these two islands. Prapratno to Sobra ferry is not so frequent so make sure you check timetables well.
5. Mljet to Dubrovnik
Again, there are no direct car ferry links from Mljet to Dubrovnik. Instead, take a ferry back from Sobra to Prapratno and drive along the coast to Dubrovnik. There is no alternative to a car journey between these two places. If you are a foot passenger, you can do a detour via the Elafiti archipelago by local ferry from Mljet, before your crossing to Dubrovnik.
6. Vis and Lastovo Islands
If you have more time available, you can include in your itinerary a visit to Lastovo (see its best beaches) and Vis Island (see Blue Cave on nearby Bisevo and amazing Stiniva beach). For Lastovo you can choose to get there from Split directly (timetable and booking info) and continue your island hopping via Vela Luka (Korcula Island) as above. Or, to take a detour while on Korcula Island (as mentioned above) and visit Lastovo by car ferry from Vela Luka. For more details see this article here. Also, check Brac to Vis, Mljet to Vis options and Dubrovnik to Vis article.
To include Vis on your island hopping by car, you have to get back to Split as that is the only place with which Vis is connected by car ferry. The journey is straightforward, with no stopovers so you can be there in no time. The only disadvantage is that to proceed somewhere else you have to get back to Split and start from there. Bear in mind that I am talking about car ferries. For foot passengers there is an alternative – keep reading below:
Itineraries Without Car (Foot passengers only)
To get yourself familiar with the area, have a look at the map below where you can choose various starting and ending points to see journey directions.
Although this map shows a good route planner, it is not completely accurate as it mixes up the car and foot passenger ferries so it is not absolutely clear how to travel.
That’s why I draw a map(s) at the top of this article, where you can see much better what is available for each mode of transport. It shows which ferries are taking cars and foot passengers, and which are for foot passengers only. You can also use this map here to better follow locations in a wider area and check island hopping from Pula article. There is also a good map on the croatiaferries.com website (under the ‘Maps’ menu) where all ferry crossings in the area are mapped, consult this one too.
Map Island Hopping from Split:
Check also this Split ferry map that indicates all ferry crossings from Split ferry port – click on the image to enlarge: