Croatia: Back to Brac Island

By Hannah Stephenson

Split from the madding crowds and head for a quieter part of Croatia, suggests Hannah Stephenson.

The stone village of Splitska. Photo / 123RF
The stone village of Splitska. Photo / 123RF

In the Northern Hemisphere school summer holidays, families flock to popular Mediterranean hotspots, vie for towel space on beaches and jostle for swimming space in seas teeming with inflatables.

No such jostling on the Croatian island of Brac (pronounced "Bratch"), separated from the mainland by the Adriatic, a 45-minute ferry ride away from the heat and madness of Split.
It's one of the unspoilt gems of the archipelago, a glorious mixture of limestone hills, ravines and gorges.

The beaches of its capital, Supetar, were last year recognised under the White Flag programme for ecologically clean sea water.

There are crystal-clear bays, coves and immaculately clean pebble beaches all along the quiet coastline of the island, the largest of the central Dalmatian group of islands and the third largest in the Adriatic at 40km long and 12.5km wide. And most of them are quiet.

You can island-hop, taking day excursions to the party island of Hvar and to sleepy Solta, but there's plenty on Brac to keep the family amused for at least a week.

Here's a selection of top quiet coastal spots the whole family can enjoy:

SPLITSKA

Around 15 minutes' drive from Supetar is the sleepy harbour town of Splitska, where small motorcraft and yachts share space with families swimming or fishing on neighbouring rocks. On the winding, rocky coastal road in the north, with beautiful traditional stone houses cut into the rock face, it's so clean that young locals happily swim off the harbour wall. It's the port from which Roman settlers sent the mined stone used to construct the Diocletian Palace in Split, stone which has also been used on the White House in Washington and important buildings in Europe. Culture vultures should head to the 13th century Church of St Mary and admire the 16th century citadel.

MURVICA

On the south side of the island, around 38km (a 50-minute drive) from Supetar, this stunning white pebble beach is a short stroll from the busier and more famous Bol, but give me Murvica any day. It's a bit of a hike to get there, as you have to park at the top and then walk down a fairly steep, rough walkway - not suitable for buggies - but when you see the azure sea as you approach, you'll know it's worth it. There's plenty of shade from the overhanging pine trees and, while you will inevitably bump into a few other visitors, the sizzling sound of cicadas will drown out any noise of tourism. Take respite in the Seven Olives, the only bar on a nearby terrace, where you can sit in a deck chair enjoying a plate of calamari under the olive trees or shelter under the wicker awning, overlooking the stunning bay.

BOBOVISKA

This gorgeous hidden harbour on the west coast, around 20 minutes' drive from Supetar on the main road, has a population of just 450 and has become a haven for rich Russians with serious yachts who buy or rent the stylish hillside houses and apartments. I suspect the concrete platforms from which visitors swim and sunbathe along this stretch of harbour are part and parcel of the rentals, although we plonked our towels down and weren't moved on.

Its name is derived from "Bob", which means broad bean in Croatian and is one of the main crops, along with artichokes.

I also see peach and almond trees following the coastal path on foot.

Top tip: Park in the little car park at the entrance to the village. If you drive along the harbour on the narrow road, there is nowhere to turn around and you'll end up having to reverse out, with the harbour wall on one side.

LOVRECINA

Perfect for families with young children, Lovrecina on the north coast, 10 minutes east of Postira, is the only sandy beach on the island. It's accessible by road but more fun by boat. Hire a traditional Dalmatian boat from Supetar (with a 3.7kW outboard engine) and you can be there in half an hour. Rental is around 450 kuna a day including fuel, and you can take it in turns to steer. If you want a beefier engine, you'll need a licence. Moor in the bay, swim to the sandy shore and enjoy a drink in the modern bar on a terrace above the beach, bordered by limestone walls.

ZLATNI RAT

The island's most famous beach, a long triangular spit of pebbled land sticking out into the sea like an enormous wishbone, which changes shape depending on the tide, is featured in virtually every Croatian tourist brochure. Adrenalin junkies can get their fix of watersports, from pedalos to parasailing, or inflatables crashing through the waves behind souped-up speedboats. There's an air of cool about this slightly more sophisticated resort, where beachside shacks sell smoothies and crepes, and couples enjoy cocktails on decked bars adorned with wicker sofas under cream-coloured parasols.

Though it's considerably busier than all the other bays, it's still pristinely clean.

Snorkellers are unlikely to find plastic bottles and other eyesores at the bottom of the sea.

Top tip: Avoid paying top dollar for loungers and umbrellas. Sitting in the pine-clad woods at the entrance to the beach is much cheaper - and you're closer to the bars.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Backroads Touring Co. has 10 per cent off 7-night Small Ship Sailing Adventures in Croatia, with prices from $3259pp, twin share. See helloworld.co.nz for more details.

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