Croatia’s coast is speckled with a multitude of islands. Sit with locals in quaint harbourside restaurants, explore uninhabited national parks or join an all-night beach party.

Croatia’s coast is speckled with a multitude of islands, each with its own special appeal. Sit with locals in quaint harbourside restaurants, explore uninhabited national parks or join an all-night beach party.

Northern Dalmatia
Comprising 147 mostly uninhabited islands, some of which are designated a national park, the Kornati Islands have no source of freshwater and so are mostly barren. The white rock formations are stark against the blue Adriatic. There is no public ferry, so to visit book a tour from the mainland – you can take a daytrip from Zadar for £35.

Dugi Otok (long island) is 26 miles long and in parts less than a mile across. At the southern end, Telašćica Bay is dotted with islands and is one of the largest, most beautiful natural harbours in the Adriatic. The saltwater Lake Mir (peace), sandy Sakarun Beach and panoramic drive along the rocky coast are also real delights. The tourist office can connect you with some great out-of-the-way accommodation, including a house on its own island.

Pag is dry and rocky, with vast empty landscapes stretching across the horizon. Although not so much of an island now it’s connected to the mainland by a bridge, it still feels independent in terms of culture and produce. Tough sheep graze on herbs and salty grasses, lending their milk a unique flavour and producing the famous paški sir (the olive oil-soaked Pag cheese), which can be found at the daily fruit and veg market in Pag town.

Central Dalmatia
Off the main trail and off-limits to foreigners for about four decades (it served as a base for the Yugoslav army), Vis’s lack of development is its appeal. It also produces some of Croatia’s best-known wines: vugava (white) and plavac mali (red). Visit Roki’s restaurant in the village of Plisko Polje – owned by a local winemaker – to try it and they’ll pick you up and drop you off at your hotel too.

The third-largest of the Adriatic islands, Brač sports one of Croatia’s most famous beaches, the alluring Zlatni Rat (golden horn), near the pretty town of Bol. This is also the windsurfing capital of Croatia, since the sea channel between Brač and neighbouring Hvar provides ideal conditions: gentle in the morning for beginners, lively for adrenaline junkies later on. Big Blue Sport rents boards and runs classes. Make time to explore the island’s sleepy stone villages too.

Hvar gets the most sun of any of the islands – and the most tourists thanks to Hvar town where, come high summer, there’s no better place to party. Well-dressed people descend from their yachts in droves for après-beach soirées and full-moon beach parties. Hvar is also famed for the lavender fields that dot its interior, which is largely unexplored by those who visit. Book the Hvar Offroad Tour run by Secret Hvar to discover the island’s hidden beauties (£70).

Southern Dalmatia
Legend has it that Odysseus was marooned on Mljet for seven years, and it’s easy to see why he’d take his time leaving. The western section is a national park, where you’ll find cobalt lakes, an island monastery and the sleepy port of Pomena. In the east is one of Dalmatia’s top restaurants, Stermasi, which has an awesome view (wild boar with homemade gnocchi £45 for two).

Korčula is rich in vineyards, olive groves and small villages, while its main settlement, Korčula town, is a coastal citadel of marble streets and Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Age-old folk music and dances are still performed on the island, which is a favourite with families. One of the most colourful is the Moreška sword dance – you can see it in the Old Town every Monday and Thursday evening in high summer.

Lokrum, a Unesco-protected reserve, is a forested isle of holm oaks, black ash, pines and olive trees, and is an ideal escape from urban Dubrovnik, a 15-minute boat trip away. It has a fine botanical garden with giant agaves and palms native to Brazil and South Africa. No-one is allowed to stay overnight, so be sure to catch the last boat back (about 6pm, timetable at Dubrovnik Old City Harbour).

Three airports serve the Dalmatian Coast – Zadar in the north, Split in the centre and Dubrovnik in the south. Flights from 11 UK airports are offered by BA, easyJet, flybe, Jet2, Monarch, Norwegian, Ryanair and Thomson Airways (from £100). Jadrolinija runs a network of car ferries and catamarans along the coast plus local ferries connecting bigger islands with each other and the mainland. On most lines service is less frequent between October and April. Buy tickets at a Jadrolinija office or stall near the ferry (Split–Korčula £11 on deck, from £28 in cabin).

Where to stay
Dubra Apartments is located in Komiža, a small fishing town on the western coast of Vis. Each of the five apartments or studios has a kitchen, and a terrace or balcony with views over the bay (Mihovila Pavlinovića 11; from £30).

Boškinac on Pag is a rural hotel surrounded by vines, and has its own winery, pool and superb restaurant. The eight rooms and three suites are huge and elegant, with handmade furniture. (from £120).

Spread over several town mansions, Lešić Dimitri Palace’s five residences are named after Marco Polo’s journeys (it’s said that he was born in Korčula in 1254). Exposed beams and ancient stone walls are combined with iPods and espresso machines (from £300).

The article 'Mini guide to Croatia’s islands' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.