Best of Croatia: family holidays, festivals, beaches and adventure

August 3, 2013

Croatia appeals to all ages – with a thriving club scene in Hvar and Tisno, gorgeous white sand beaches of Bol and Brela, and family fun in Istria

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Where to party

Festivals have become huge in Croatia. Dimensions (5-9 September, tickets from £145) is a dance music festival in a large, disused fort in Pula, with boat parties; acts this year include Gilles Peterson and Mount Kimbie. Soundwave (18-22 July, £119) hosts dub, soul, funk, reggae and electronic acts (Bonobo, Doom, Quantic and Ghostpoet are on this year’s bill) in a beach setting in gorgeous Tisno, on the island of Murter (attached to the mainland with a bridge), 45km from Zadar.Party buses provide cheap transport. Ultra, based in Miami and one of the world’s premier electronic festivals, is in Split and Hvar for three days this summer (12-14 July, from ¤119).

For nightlife, Hvar is pretty popular, though it also attracts a yachtie set; big clubs, and beach bars like Hula Hula, on the waterfront, and Ka’Lavanda keep young clubbers entertained.

Elsewhere, Primošten, in the south, Vodice and the island of Pag also have all-night parties. On the latter, Zrce beach is the focal point of the action, lined with open-air clubs – such as Aquarius Zrce, Papaya and Kalypso – with no noise restrictions.

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For families

Northern Dalmatia is a good base for trips to the Kornati islands, and Roman architecture in the cities of Pula, Zadar and Split. Inland the scenery is lovely, and cheaper than staying by the coast.

Istria has lots for families, such as lessons at the Valley of Horses Riding school, the Parenzana (an old railway track turned into a hiking and cycling route) and nine lighthouses to visit. Istriana Travel organises day trips to places such as Hum, “the world’s tiniest town”, and fresco painting workshops and truffle hunting.

The Makarska coast offers 60km of beaches, and although they’re mainly pebbly the water is clear, warm and perfect for little ones. Krk island has a good reputation for family beaches.

Activities and adventures

Huck Finn offers a wide range of activities, from a relaxed biking, hiking and rafting break in Samobor (€490 for five days) to a challenging, unguided kayak camping adventurefor experienced sea kayakers, paddling to hidden beaches and camping out on the Elafiti islands (from €292 for eight days, must be at least 14 years old). Porec, a port in Istria, is a good place to learn to sail; try the marina (marina-porec@pu.tel.hr) or istra-yachting.com.

Culture and food

The Motovun Film Festival (27-31 July) focuses on independent and world cinema, with films screened in unusual venues and even projected onto the outside of buildings in the medieval town. Buzet, a hilltop village near the Slovenia border, celebrates its truffles in November. Opatija, on Istria’s east coast, has some fancy places to eat, as well as posh spas and Viennese-style coffee shops, while nearby Volosko, a fishing village, is home to renowned restaurant Le Mandrac.

Beaches

Bol, on the island of Brac (an hour from Split), is a stunning white sand spit. Korcula, one of the most beautiful islands, has sandy beaches. Between Split and Dubrovnik, Brela has pretty coves, cafes and huge boulders next to white sands. Saharun on Dugi Otok (Long Island) is a pale sandy beach with parties in the summer, and there are beaches at nearby Pantera Bay.

Gemma Bowes

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