Most visitors adore Croatia for its picturesque pebbled beaches, but outside the city limits is where you will truly experience all that the Dalmatian coast has to offer.
Brimming with cypress-shaded fort walls and biodiverse national parks, this stretch of the southernmost region runs from the island of Rab to the Bay of Kotor.
Fortunately, much of the destination is well-connected with city airports, which means you can be unwinding on a yacht in Split or Vis Island in under three hours.
And while hidden gems like Makarska Riviera and Mljet Island takes a bit more time—and an offbeat route—to reach, the journey is worthwhile for idyllic coves surrounded by turquoise waters and dramatic rocky outcroppings.
Here’s our pick of the best things to see and do on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.
Explore Old Town of Dubrovnik
A labyrinth of 11th-century stone walls with grand historic forts and mapped by scenic walkways that overlook the spectacular sapphire sea, Old Town of Dubrovnik is known as one of the world’s finest and most perfectly preserved medieval cities.
Take a tour of the Rector’s Palace, and other Game of Thrones landmarks, before climbing up the Minčeta Fortress for a panoramic view of the King’s Landing.
Take a tour of the Lovrijenac Fortress
Although this landmark is less than a mile away from Dubrovnik’s focal centre, St. Lawrence Fortress is worlds away from the city’s history. While much of the architecture is relatively modernist, chronologists have traced the fort back to 1018 or 1038—and an important structure in resisting Venetian rule.
Pop by the historic landmark standing upon a 100-foot rock, or take a 15-minute walk around Kolorina Bay and climb the stairs after sundown for breathtaking views.
People watch from the pavements of Riva in Split
Riva in Split is a busy boardwalk lined with shaded beaches and a great place to get a cocktail and do some people-watching. First, there is the southern wall of Diocletian’s Palace, with its maze of cafés and cobblestone alleys lined with palm trees. Stroll through the Marmontova shopping strip, where most shops are open way into the night.
There are also art galleries, local craft boutiques, hole-in-the-wall tavernas, and a lively curbside market. Toss in several European-style restaurants—plus a three-mile-long white-tiled promenade—and you will get why this waterfront in Split is the most recommended place to be.
Spend a Sunday at Marjan Hill
Marjan Hill is a natural preserve situated on the Split peninsula, home to art enclaves of the famous artist Ivan Mestrovic. The viewpoint sits high above the Marjan Park-Forest, which it overlooks.
You get lovely views over the sea, the Old Town, and the countryside from the hill. Much of the pleasure of trekking the Marjan Hill is in wandering through the thick pine forestation and trails lined with the Adriatic Sea and admiring the preservation of nature away from the city.
Visit the Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik
It is impossible to make your way through Sibenik’s old town without being gripped by the grandeur of this Gothic stone-founded basilica.
Built by Northern Italian, Dalmatian, and Tuscan artists, the Cathedral of St. James is a proud UNESCO World Heritage site and the most monumental landmark of the Renaissance in Croatia.
Lend an ear to the Sea Organ in Zadar
Hiding in plain sight on a busy sidewalk in Zadar, the Sea Organ is an interactive art display on a 72-foot-wide photovoltaic glass created by artist Nikola Bašić. Inaugurated in 2005, the organ–made of 35 polyethene pipes tucked under white marble steps–transforms the breeze and the waves into an endless stream of cutting-edge sounds.
Make sure you arrive early to grab a seat on the stairs and enjoy the “music” as you watch the glowing halo of the sunset over the Adriatic Sea.
Bike along the Mljet Island National Park
Mljet Island National Park is home to two of the world’s most unique saltwater lakes: Veliko and Malo Jezero. Grab a wood-fire lobster lunch at Barba Ive, a Mediterranean restaurant popular for its fresh seafood and cafe that makes a perfect stopover destination.
Start your journey at the 12th-century Benedictine monastery located within the park’s borders, then bike through the verdant orchards of Pomena and Polače. Hikers won’t want to miss the two-mile climb up to Velji Grad, nor the chance to kayak through the Soline Bay. Stay in nearby Hotel Odisej Mljet for an island-style stay and proximity to the quiet rhythm of Sobra fishing village for sightseeing.
Perch up at the counter of a Konoba in Split
Welcome to the world of slow-drinking “Konobas”, which translates to a cellar or podrum where wine is produced and held. These tavern-style establishments are rooted in Dalmatian’s history and are among the few places that sommeliers like to keep to themselves.
In privately-owned cellars like Konoba Matejuska, Croatian waiters offer to pour tastings from several bottles before pairing with your menu. But most importantly, they will take you through the history of each label as customary Konoba tradition. Today, these establishments store some of the most top-notch bottles in the country.
Fill up in style at Sibenik’s Michelin-starred restaurant
A meal at Pelegrini is like an art exhibit: there is art, aesthetic, vibrant decor and platters of epicurean bliss. Inspired by the Venetians, the Ottoman Empire, and French cuisine, chef Rudolf Štefan has created tasting menus that are opulent, delectable and often surprising – for instance serving sea snails or sea urchins.
Top dishes in the four-course include mussels with lemon sorbet and peaches. There’s also an extensive wine list that includes Croatian vintages like Bura and Jugo – a curated pairing for your tasting menu starts at £290.
Discover the Adriatic Sea by kayaking to Makarska Riviera
Every corner of the Croatian coast of Makarska Riviera, on the Adriatic coastline, is achingly picturesque. But it’s the idyllic beaches here that attract travellers—stretches of glittering white sand framed by the dramatic Biokovo mountain range and turquoise blue waters.
One of the best ways to explore this area is by Kayak. Head down to Brela and rent a kayak to tour the Podrače beach lined by olive groves and a string of pretty cafés.