Tuesday Column - Croatia Tourism 3: Croatian Beaches
Just as I was about to dip into my vast library of tourist literature on Croatia, and hunt through the thousands of photos we have taken, on our travels around the mainland and islands, I found a great web site that has saved me a lot of work.
http://www.croatia-beaches.com/ tells you pretty well everything you need to know about the subject and is, so far, top of the list for Friday’s choice of website of the week. It has a “top ten” of beaches and classifications by category, eg naturism, sandy, family, water sports and diving. There’s much more to the site than that and it’s an ideal place to start if you want to pick a Croatian destination based on specific beach requirements.
Today’s column will therefore focus on the general essentials of what you need to know about Croatia’s beaches and we’ll leave you to browse http://www.croatia-beaches.com/ for the specifics.
Background to Beach Tourism
Beaches in the popular tourist destinations are, once more, packed in July and August. In the past few years, Croatia has attracted an increasing number of Western European visitors but the Germans have been holidaying here for years, as have the Eastern Europeans. Many of Croatia’s city dwellers have summer houses by the sea and that adds to the congestion. There are still plenty of package style holiday complexes, providing the classic beach holiday, but smaller hotels are popping up in less developed destinations and, if you look hard enough, you can still find quiet peaceful bays away from the crowds. Istria, Makarska, Biograd and Dubrovnik are still popular package holiday destinations. Ciovo Island, near Trogir, with its many small beaches, is a good example of an area popular with those who prefer self catering apartments. The island of Solta epitomises the less developed destination, still not too far away from an international airport. If a beach holiday is your thing then Croatia can provide you with a wide variety of choices and caters for almost everything apart from surfing.
Climate and Conditions
The Mediterranean Climate ensures that the sea is warm enough for swimming, certainly from mid July to mid September, mostly in June, early July and late September, and sometimes in May and October. Crystal clear is a well worn description of the Adriatic Sea, but it’s apt and there are few places in Europe where sea visibility is so good. The summer seas are also generally very safe, with not much in the way of currents or waves, apart from the wind and chop that may accompany a sudden summer storm. The beaches normally slope gradually into the sea, there are next to no sightings of sharks or jelly fish, and the main swimming areas are normally roped off and out of bounds to passing boats.
Types of Beach
The majority of the beaches are pebble or shingle though there are some good sandy beaches and plenty of concrete and rocky ones. Zlatni Rat, near Bol, on Brac Island, is arguably the most well known of Croatia’s beaches. Shaped like a lizzard’s tongue, the long pebble peninsula changes shape with the tide and currents, and is popular with wind surfers. The islands of Pag, Rab and Ugljan seem to have more than their fair share of sandy beaches, and even a big city like Split has plenty of attractive beaches within a short walk of the city centre.
You’ll find most water sports on offer on a number of beaches. The Istrian peninsula has some huge resorts offering as many choices as you could imagine. Bol is the number one destination for windsurfing, closely followed by Viganj on the Peljesac Peninsula, and there are diving centres in most destinations of any size, with plenty of shipwrecks to visit. Naturist beaches have been around for a while and spa resorts are slowly growing in numbers. Mljet Island, near Dubrovnik, has brack water lakes and is, so far, completely unspoilt.
There are a few Blue Flag beaches and most beaches have toilets, showers and at least one restaurant or café. Some have lifeguards in the summer, some have sun beds and umbrellas. Those of any size have parking facilities but very few, so far, choose to charge for them. This seems particularly generous when trippers bring a packed lunch to a beach where all the facilities are provided by an individual who’s only source of revenue is from his bar or restaurant.
Top Ten Beach Tips
1. Keep Croatia clean – there could be more bins around but please dispose of your rubbish conscientiously
2. Fires – a few areas have been scorched by summer fires so be careful with cigarettes, matches and barbecues
3. Jelly Shoes – take some plastic shoes wherever you go as you’re never far from a beach and it can be quite painful without them
4. Sun – use plenty of sunscreen and follow the latest guidance
5. Keep your eyes open – some of the quietest and nicest swimming spots we’ve found are right by the roadside, down steps to little boat piers. Look out for a couple of local cars parked by the roadside. Better still, hire a boat, travel to a nearby island and find a deserted cove
6. Dogs – not very welcome on beaches, or in the water, at the height of the summer season
7. Shade – some beaches have plenty of pine trees and some have no shade at all
8. Boats – if you’re swimming outside a roped off area, keep an eye out for boats. They’re supposed to watch out for you but you are a lot harder to spot
9. River swims – try heading along the banks of the Cetina river, by Omis, in the height of the summer. It’s cooler and less crowded.
10. Dress – topless is fairly common but the Croatians will be happy if you cover yourself up a little inside bars and restaurants
I guess the majority of Croatians forget just how lucky they are in this respect, with most coastal settlements being just a very short walk from the nearest beach. They've certainly no chance of forgetting how important the beaches are to tourism and we can tell the season by the level and type of activity occurring on the waterfront. Even in early February, some of the advance planners are extending the beaches a little and smartening up their restaurants. Perhaps this year, the 12 week season might start a little earlier and finish a little later?