Travel

Lauren Simmonds: My Top 5 sandy beaches in Croatia

If you’ve ever been to Croatia, you’ll know that this rugged, mountainous country boasts an astonishing coastline. Irregular and heavily indented, it is full of coves, caves, small bays, rocky outcrops and sheer drops down into the alluring Adriatic Sea, one of the world’s cleanest waters.

What it doesn’t abound in, is sandy beaches.

Leisurely strolls along the sand as the waves gently lap your toes aren’t commonplace here, but they do exist. You just need to know where to find them.

Sunj beach – an island paradise on Lopud

If you’re spending time in Dubrovnik and craving a sandy beach and some peace and quiet, the nearby island of Lopud, part of the Elaphite archipelago just northwest of the city is the place to go. Dubrovnik’s city beach, Banje, is also a mixture of sand and very fine pebbles, but being smack bang in the centre of the city, a stone’s throw from the old town, makes it less than zen-inducing.

Hop on a ferry to Lopud and your quest for peace, quiet and sand will be answered in the most perfect way imaginable. Lopud is inhabited and as such boasts hotels and private accommodation. It’s a car-free zone and is a living time machine, a relic of times gone by ticking by lazily under the scorching haze of the Dalmatian sun.

There are plenty of ferries operating daily during the summer season and beyond it from the Port of Gruž in Dubrovnik to Lopud. Once there, you can either walk from the ferry port to Sunj beach following the clear directions – do not recommend you do this in summer, southern Dalmatian heat is no joke – or you can take a ride on a golf cart for a few euros to transport you to the other side of the island where Sunj beach is located.

Gently indented and pleasant for the feet, Sunj is lapped by gentle azure waters and is every beachgoer’s dream.

Zlatni rat (Golden horn) – Brač’s globally famous gem

You’ve most likely seen this beach without even realising. It’s by far the Adriatic’s most famous beach, and it can be found in a town called Bol on the island of Brač. Ironically, Bol translates literally to “pain” in English, but this extraordinary beach provides anything but.

Bol sits below Vidova Gora, the highest peak in the Adriatic, from which Italy can be seen on clear days. As if carved out by the hands of God himself, Zlatni rat is a stark contrast to the rugged stone that dominates this central Dalmatian island which lies just across the Brač Channel from bustling Split.

Zlatni rat has featured on countless international lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The shape of this beach changes with the will of elements, albeit not markedly. Exposed to Dalmatia’s famous winds, the beach almost appears alive from above as the seasons see its formation alter.

While not sand in its truest form, Zlatni rat’s pebbles are so fine that they may as well be.

Brač is excellently signposted, exceptionally clean and full of dense Mediterranean pine, providing much needed shade in the boiling heat of summer. Finding your way there won’t pose a challenge at all.

A dip in the turquoise waters which surround Zlatni rat is an experience that cannot be missed.

Sakarun on Dugi otok, Croatia’s own “long island”

Dugi otok translates into English as “long island” and is part of the Zadar archipelago. I’ll be the first to say that there are several remarkable beaches on Dugi otok, but Sakarun will take your breath away at first sight.

This astonishing work of nature is one of Croatia’s most famous beaches, and that isn’t a title one wins easily in a country that abounds in beauty like this one does. It is located on the northwest part of the island and is a must visit for anyone who loves to lounge the hot summer days away, while taking refreshing dips in Croatia’s transparent seawater.

At 800 metres in length, the contrast of the white sand against the bright blue of the Adriatic Sea is striking, and the shallows this beach provides as it descends only very gradually into the depths is ideal for children and those who simply want to relax.

Kraljičina plaža (Queen’s beach), an oasis for Nin’s famous healing mud

Kraljičina plaža (Queen’s beach), an oasis for Nin’s famous healing mud. Nin, Croatia’s oldest royal town, isn’t an area that gets a lot of press, certainly not in comparison to the likes of Dubrovnik and so on. Nin is situated close to Zadar, and stands out from the crowd in that it boasts a staggering 8,000 kilometres of sandy beaches – and they’re all naturally occurring.

This beach has also found itself on multiple “most beautiful beaches” lists from publications across the globe, and with good reason. Close to this long, sandy beach lies the largest therapeutic mud site in the country. Nin was listed as a health resort in 1960, and different types of therapy have been carried out there ever since.

Kraljičina plaža boasts not only shallow waters but warm ones, making it ideal for children. This beach, and indeed others in and around Nin, are all about relaxing swims, long strolls as the sun goes down over the panoramic views of the rugged Velebit mountain range, and giving your skin some love with the healing mud this exceptionally rich area naturally abounds in.

Slanica, Murter island’s salty local favourite

Slanica is the island of Murter’s most popular sandy beach. Shaded by the dense canopies of thick Mediterranean pine trees, it boasts both rocky outcrops on the eastern and western borders of the beach itself, while the rest of it is fine, soft sand and pebbles.

Murter is part of the beautiful Šibenik archipelago and can be reached by regular ferry from that city. Slanica itself sits a kilometre or so from the very heart of the island of Murter, and is popular with families for its shallow waters and soft seabed. A popular island getaway from the cultural, historical but often busy city of Šibenik, Slanica provides the same type of zen for visitors to Šibenik as Sunj does for visitors to Dubrovnik.

That isn’t to say that one has to stay in Šibenik in order to visit Slanica, as there are private properties open for tourist rental all over Murter.

If a more relaxed, quintessential Dalmatian island experience is what you’re after as far as accommodation is concerned, you won’t go wrong here.

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Read more about Croatia here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more from Lauren here.

Lauren Simmonds

Lauren Simmonds is the editor of Total Croatia News, the largest English language portal in Croatia. She lives in Zagreb, Croatia, and is a translator, content writer, interpreter and the co-author of "Croatia - A Survival Kit for Foreigners," which was published in 2022.

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