Islands on the coast of Croatia
Islands on the coast of Croatia

I´d never heard of a gulet, so my first action was some research, luckily Wikipedia had a long and comprehensive answer, because island hopping in a saiboat along the Croatian coast sounded really nice, but I couldn't get a good picture of what it would be like. As a father of two toddlers one just below and one just above my knee in height, I also had to consider safety on board, plus my wife had never been on a boat before, something also worth thinking about. But I needn't have worried. Sailing a gulet turned out to be a fantastic family vacation on the beautiful Adriatic coast for all of us.

 

What is a gulet?

croatia beach

A gulet, for those who dont´t know, is a ship with sails and two masts, originally designed in the 1970s in Turkey for the tourist market. Although you might think that they were originally fishing vessels, on the contrary, and as a fishing boat it would not have a lot of use. A gulet has a wide hull, which creates a wide deck that can be used for all sorts of things, a small pool or a Jacuzzi are no exception. But it is also suitable for cozy dinner parties, easily to accommodate ten people or more. Gulits come in sizes ranging from 30 feet to over a 100 feet in length. Our little group of 4 adults (parents and grandparents) and 2 children had ample space. I could go for a swim with my oldest in the clearest water you can imagine, while my wife made herself comfortable on one of the loungers on deck where she could keep an eye on the baby.

croatia swimming

You need to do some advance study, choosing the right ship requires some research, each vessel has different characteristics and some ships are more photogenic than others. I quickly understood that the sails are just for fun, the ships are mainly driven by the engine. We choose Dolin, a yacht with 4 cabins and a crew of 3, the choice was not an easy one as they are all pretty great, but the decisive factor was the extra boat, which they call a ´tender´, for water skiing, which was included.

Split, a city you´ll never forget

croatia split

Pick up any travel guide and you will read that Split is a city built around the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, one of the best preserved and most impressive monuments of the Roman era in Europe which is on the World Heritage List of the UNESCO. We started to explore Diocletian's Palace and the historic center including the Riva first, leaving the rest of the town to depend on how much time we had left over. The old part inside and around the Palace seems like a maze, but is actually easy to navigate. Don't forget to walk through the smallest alley right next to the antique temple of Jupiter. If you continue walking in the direction of the Riva, you will pass the cellars of Diocletian's Palace - the repository for everyone that lived in the palace and what they needed on a daily basis, it is one of Split's biggest tourist attractions. Does it look familiar to you? I wouldn´t be surprised as many scenes of the popular TV series Game of Thrones were filmed here.

croatia spit roman palace

But there is so much more to see and do, you'll run out of time. Of course we have to go to Korčula and not only to let our kids pet the donkeys and if they are brave enough maybe ride one. This is the place where Marco Polo was born (so the Croats say, but don't let the Venetians hear you). But then it's time to enjoy life on our yacht for the week and swim in the incredibly clear seawater, if you wanted to you could count the pebbles on the bottom, my son is bobbing along in the large ring pool, almost falling asleep. In the meantime, I talk to John on when and where it would be best to do some water skiing.

croatia_kitchen

At sunset we gather on the deck with a nice cool glass of wine and some appetizers that John's wife puts on the table before dinner. Delicious grilled fish and vegetables from her own garden, she tells us. It´s the beginning of May and already nice and warm in daytime, when the sun goes down we only need an extra sweater. The kids roll into their beds without a word of protest and are asleep within 5 minutes.

Is Hvar a party town?

croatia hvar island

After breakfast the next day we go shopping on the island of Hvar, it is still quiet this early in the season, although the town of Hvar is known as the "party town" of the jet & yacht set. The town is impressive, the Saint Stephen's Square is the center, where most of the impressive buildings of Hvar are, such as the Arsenal and the historic Hvar Theater and the Cathedral which the square is named after, with its gorgeous Renaissance bell tower. This is where Hvar comes to life at night and the many bars and restaurants are undoubtedly part of the party scene. Hvar has a number of charming little cobblestone streets with beautiful old houses, lots of plants and nice little boutiques in hideaway corners.

HvarThe 15th-century Franciscan monastery is located on the small peninsula just around the corner from Hvar's Riva, surrounded by a lush green garden with cypress trees and a small museum. From our ship we can see the illuminated walls of the monastery at night.

Beaches just for you

On one of the next days we moor at Ort Okrug on the island Čiovo. It has beautiful pebble beaches, is very quiet and the kids love it. We also drop anchor off the island Šolta, which has beautiful nature and a walk through the town is well worth it. Bol on the island Bračis is the most famous beach in Croatia and with a gulet (so you can avoid the crowds) a visit is great and the bay is ideal for water sports.

croatia gulet

It is a bit of a new experience for us to explore the coast as seen from the water, instead of walking to our destination. Much of the coast is almost inaccessible from land, making the bays ideal anchorages for if you want to go swimming! To the east of Vrboska are the inlets of Prapatna and Mala Stiniva, and when viewed from the sea, incredibly more beautiful. In between, we saw a small bay with a single house and a tiny church, aptly named Uvala Crkvica (Bay of the Church). The small bays around the Rudine peninsula are surprisingly deep, as the rocky coastline plunges almost straight down under the water.

croatia port

One of the most beautiful places we visited was the bay of Žukova. You wont believe the color of the water! There is a funny little port where you can hardly find a spot to moor, and this is still low season. The view of the rocks from the waterfront are incredible!

croatia boat Relaxing at the end of the day when we return from a trip ashore, this is our time for a drink on deck watching the other boats passing by. We watch a sunset that takes your breath away. Life on board a gulet is a vacation where every minute counts as a precious moment, sailing along the extraordinary coast of Dalmatia makes it double special.