Five best car-free Croatian islands to visit instead of Dubrovnik

Aerial view of Vrnik from
For most Brits, holidaying in Croatia means Dubrovnik.
But what if you pine for more peace and quiet than this much-loved Adriatic gem can offer while still visiting Croatia?
You can opt to explore islands away from crowds, with car-free destinations meandering through unspoilt fishing villages.
Croatia expert, Toni Hrelja, founder of rental company, has prepared a top five alternatives to a busy city:

Silba – wild turquoise beaches and a cosy little village

Silba is a secluded island in northern Dalmatia, with a population of 200 locals where the “heaviest transport” are delivery trolleys. This car-free island can be reached by a catamaran passenger boat from two Croatian cities that are connected with direct flights from five UK cities during the summer season:

  • Direct flights to Zadar airport are available from London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds, and a trip with catamaran from Zadar’s port to the remote island takes only one hour and 40 minutes.

  • Direct flights to Pula airport are available from London and Glasgow, and the catamaran ride from Pula port to the island takes three and a half hours.

This remote island offers the right mix of wild nature, turquoise-clear water (beach Sotorišće) and laid back Mediterranean atmosphere you can soak up along with a glass of local wine.
This is a secluded place, but it won’t leave you trapped in the middle of nowhere. In the one and only village on the island you will find two grocery shops, two bakeries and there are 14 restaurants and bars. There are no camps or hotels on Silba, only private accommodation.

Unije – pack your medicine and enjoy

In the same archipelago as Silba, there’s Unije, a true Mediterranean getaway. It’s so secluded that their tourist board recommends visitors to bring paracetamol, ibuprofen, allergy medicine, and band-aids as a must. In the main and only village, there’s one shop, one bakery, and five bars and restaurants.
Although there’s an airfield on the island, it’s not been working for years.
From the UK, it’s reachable from the same airports as Silba, direct flights from five UK cities during the summer season:

  • Direct flights to Zadar airport are available from London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds, and a trip with a passenger boat from Zadar’s port to the remote island takes three and a half hours

  • Direct flights to Pula airport are available from London and Glasgow, and the passenger boat ride takes only 1 hour and 15 minutes

Prvić – tiny island near mainland 

There’s also no cars on the little island of Prvić, close to Šibenik – a bigger city on the mainland, another Game of Thrones shooting location (Braavos).
The main transport here are little boats, bicycles and an occasional multi cultivator. It’s a hiking heaven as it’s only 10 km long, filled with history on macadam roads and dry stone walls.
This peaceful island can be reached by boat from the mainland, from Šibenik or neighbouring villages that operate every 10 to 20 minutes. The nearest airport from the ports is only 40 km away in Split that’s connected directly with four UK cities during summer season:

  • Direct flights are available to Split airport from Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  A taxi is required to take you to the port Vodice and the boat ride to the island is only 10 minutes.

Prvić is really close to the mainland, but the atmosphere will make you feel you’re miles away. In the two villages, there are seven grocery stores and bakeries plus enough restaurants and bars to keep you happy.

Ošljak – one road, one hill and one village

Like Prvić, Ošljak is another perfect destination if you want to spend a vacation on a tiny island (only 0.1 square miles) with no cars and you still don’t feel confident enough to go far from the mainland.

This is the easiest carless Croatian island you can reach as:

  • There are direct flights from London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds from Ryan Air during the summer season to Zadar airport. The ferry boat ride from Zadar to the island then takes 15 minutes and you need 10 more minutes to get to a bigger island called Ugljan and its biggest village Preko.

Ošljak is a home to 33 people and that number is a bit bigger during the summer. Still, you won’t find any crowds there.  The island has one village, more or less one road, one hill, and only one restaurant. There’s no shop on it, but you can just hop on to a ferry boat to the neighbouring village of Preko on Ugljan or rent a taxi boat.

Vrnik – island surrounded by islands

Like Ošljak, Vrnik is another tiny island (0.11 square miles) close to another island – Korčula in the south of Croatia, in the Dubrovnik region. Neighbouring village Lumbarda on it is a five-minute boat ride and the place to shop for groceries.
Vrnik is part of a little archipelago, a Mediterranean postcard scene where seeing a pack of dolphins is nothing unusual. Ošljak has a bit of an artistic vibe; you will see old fisherman houses turned into holiday homes and enjoy the beaches and cricket sounds.
The accommodation on the island is private, with apartments or houses to rent. There is one restaurant and a fast food bar. The wonderful thing about staying on the little island is that you have the choice of absolutely disconnecting yourself or just hopping on a boat and exploring the neighbouring little places and islands.

To reach Vrnik, you can do it by flying to two Croatian airports:

  • There are direct flights from Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow to Split airport. From Split harbour there’s a 2.5 hour passenger boat ride to Korčula from where you need to take a taxi boat to Vrnik.

  • There are direct flights to Dubrovnik airport from Glasgow, London, Leeds, Edinburgh and Manchester. A catamaran from Dubrovnik harbour to Korčula takes 2 hours where you need to take a taxi boat to Vrnik.

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