Dugi Otok, which means “long island”, is one of the five longest islands in Croatia. The National Park Kornati, Telašćica Nature Park, fantastic beaches and coves for swimming, the largest lantern lighthouse on the Adriatic, and charming villages are among the top destinations for visitors on this beautiful island. Read more to plan your trip to Croatia’s Long Island.
The island Dugi Otok is located in the Adriatic Sea and is surrounded by thirteen smaller islands. There are several villages and many natural wonders to see on this island. Veli Rat in on the north side of the island and its lighthouse can be driven to. To the south is the Telašćica nature preserve and the beginning of the islands that make up the Kornati National Park. En route, there are several villages with hotels, apartment rentals, fantastic restaurants and café bars. Adventurous travelers can make their way via dirt roads to pristine bays, caves, cliffs, archeological sites, and even a sea cave.
How to Get There
Ferries travel from Zadar, so if you’re taking your car, you’ll need to take one. From the port outside the city center, take the Jadrolinija ferry from Zadar (Gaženica is the name of the port outside of the city center) to Brbinj, or Božava. If you’re not taking a car, take the catamaran from the Zadar city center with G&VLine.
If you’re bringing your dog, make sure that the catamaran company allows dogs. The ferries allow dogs on the outside deck, and there are no size restrictions. All dogs must be with their owners and kept on a leash.
Where to Go:
There are so many amazing places to see and visit on the island! I’ve listed them below by geographical location.
Northern Part of the Island:
Visit Soline for the best beach walk and cool cafe beach bar called Beach Bar Sol. There is also a pretty 15th century church in the village. The best beach on the island is Beach Sakarun, which is on the other side of the main road from the village Soline. It’s a dirt road, but easy to drive. The parking is twenty Kuna per hour, so be sure to bring cash.
The northernmost village, Verunić, is near Sakarun and the lighthouse Punta Bjanca.
Veli Rat was founded in Roman times. This favorite of sailors and nature lovers is home to the Punta Bjanca Lighthouse, which has the highest lantern on the Adriatic. There are also some beautiful coves for swimming nearby. We bought some of the home grown produce and some local wine from the woman selling inside the courtyard of the lighthouse grounds.
Dragove – This is a picturesque village with beautiful views. The village is surrounded by four islands. The lovely islet Mežanj is located southwest of the village.
Božava – Note that you will not be able to drive into town because it’s a pedestrian-only village. Parking is outside of town, and you will have to carry your luggage into the village from the parking area. It is at least 50m to walk into the village, which is very cute with a few restaurants and a port. This is a touristy village with hotels and home rentals. It is also home to historic fortifications built by the Illyrians.
Central Part of the Island:
The village of Savar is most known for a beautiful church called Saint Peregrine, which was built in the 7th or 9th century. There is also a well-known cave named the Strašna Pec, which was visited by Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph a hundred years ago.
We met Milo, one of only a few people who make their own alcohol products on the island. He makes his own walnut rakija which is the best I’ve ever had, along with some others we found nice but not as remarkable as the walnut. He also makes his own wine, and vints enough to share with others.
He claims to make a blend to present the right balance of what is called krhka (more juice less quality) and krupa (drier, less quantity more quality). He mixes the grapes, combining Plavina graphs at a percentage of 70%, along with 30% which is Merlot, Syrah, and Grenache. He’s a small vintner, only producing 500 liters a year from a vineyard behind his house.
Located on the other side of the main road from the entrance to Savar, a dirt road will lead you into the Brbinjšćica Bay and the Dragon’s Eye Sea Cave. These are best visited by boat, but if you’re brave and have a vehicle that can handle the narrow rocky road, it is a fun and scenic drive. Spiaggia Prasna is a beautiful sandy beach with blue waters which is a popular stop for boaters to take a swim.
A Franciscan monastery and the church of St. Michael characterize the village of Zaglav. This is a little port village with a gas station and one restaurant by the sea, and there is a charming historic old town village on the mountain above. There are also two diving schools located here.
Luka boasts beautiful sea views from above and lovely bays for swimming. The surrounding islands and views are incredible. Herds of goats graze outside the village in the hills, but they usually aren’t visible from the roads. The Bay of Boka is where healing mud can be found for a relaxing spa-like effect on the skin.
Brbinj is the ferry port for cars, but it’s also worth stopping in to visit a couple restaurants and an amazing goat cheese and sausage maker. The shop also sells olive oil, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They claim to only use green olives which are pressed right away, fresh. They don’t wait anytime for it to cure before using. I’m sure it’s fantastic when pure, but what she sold us had vegetable oil mixed with it. The village has a couple small restaurants and a nice wild beach beyond the port.
Žman is an agricultural village known for its produce. There is a lake outside the town center next to the old church during autumn and winter months. During the spring and summer, the lake dries up and the fertile soil is used to grow delicious fruit and vegetables. I’m told that during the autumn the grapes are harvested right from the waters of the lake as it fills.
Located near Žman is the Žampera Family farm, where they have a goat cheese shop selling meats, olives, and cheeses from their collection of cheeses that vary from fresh to one year old. Some are pasteurized, some cured in local olive oil, and others non-pasteurized. Their meats and cheeses are really good. The store is also situated near the sea.
Above the sea on the hill there is a lovely tiny center with historic buildings, stone houses, and stone corridors leading to alleys. It’s a small area, but just enough variety to be truly charming.
South Side of the Island:
On the south side of the island, Sali is the last village before you reach Telašćica Nature Park. The nature preserve has a whole day’s worth of activities and sites to see. The fantastic cliffs, the Salt Lake, the pristine sea vistas, archeological sites, and caves are included in the entrance fee of only 40 Kuna per person. If you’re driving, your car permit is included in the price.
You may want to stock up on provisions for your day at the park. Inside the market area near the grocery store by the port, there is a woman selling fish and olive oil. The oil is greener than normal and fragrant of olives; I found her olive oil to be the best of the island options.
Traditional Dalmatian olive oil is mixed with olives and then cured for 6-8 months before use. Istra tends to win all the awards, but they are only interested in making the right standard for winning. In Dugi Otok, they don’t care about competition, so they make their olive oil the way they have been making it forever, and they prefer it this way. Personally, I think this woman’s oil is the best I’ve tried anywhere in Croatia.
Sali is a hillside village with most of the houses located on a grade, so if you’re renting an apartment, make sure to ask where it’s located. There are lots of restaurants and a few nice swimming spots. Next to the tourist center, there are ladies selling homemade household goods. We bought a lovely olivewood tray for forty percent less than we have seen them for sale in other places.
One of Sali’s most famous tourist attractions is the cultural folk festivital called Saljke Usance, which includes performances of Salijska Tovareća Mužika.
What to See:
Veli Rat Lighthouse is a treat to visit; the lighthouse is large and it sits with the sea behind it, creating a lovely view. There is a pretty stone church and a woman selling produce there too.
The Nature Park Telašćica is beautiful, and worthy of its own blog to explain all the sites and activities, which you can find HERE.
The U-Boot Bunker is unique; this is an old warship bunker, but today it’s used for modern boats and also houses a museum.
Veli Zal Beach is one of the best beaches to just relax, sunbathe, and swim.
What to Do:
If you’re driving, be sure to go to Veli Rat Lighthouse and Beach Sakarun. Spend one morning in the Nature Park Telašćica. Take a full day group trip, or a private boat tour of Kornati. The private boat tour was about 900 Kuna, about $150 USD, and you can arrange either a private or group tour with Adamo in the town Sali. Adamo also rents scooters and cars, and provides taxi services.
Rent a bike or bring your own for so many lovely places to explore. Keep in mind there are a lot of hills.
Diving and snorkeling are amazing. There is a shipwreck dive site, but you would need to charter a boat to get there.
Where to Stay:
There are many lovely apartment rental options on Booking.com, and Sali and Božava are the largest villages with more of a town feel. The hard part will be picking just one!
Where to Eat:
We really liked Konoba Kod Sipe the best. Their octopus salad and black cuttlefish risotto were some of the best I’ve ever tried!
Spageritimo was also really good quality fare, with generous portions for a good price.
In Žman Konoba, Regula is amazing, but they make everything from scratch so it can be a longer wait. Internet is very slow on this island and mobile data is nonexistent in many areas, so do research ahead of time. This restaurant was one of the few with good WiFi if you do need to make an informational or communication pitstop.
If you have a car, bring it. I would even recommend renting a car because there are a lot of sites you will miss if not driving on the island, and the bus doesn’t seem to be reliable. The nature park Telašćica does not have any transportation provided. You can rent a bike if you’d like to cycle, but it’s a very long island and the nature park is quite large.
Wherever you are eating on this island, make sure to ask for the bill. There are some on the island that will just give you a price with no bill. When you ask for the bill it’s often lower than the price they quoted. I’ve never experienced this anywhere else in Croatia.
Most places on the island have no cell service, so make sure to get whatever you need done in the villages. The best village for cell service is Sali.
Bring lots of cash! A lot of places are cash only, and ATMs charge higher fees on the islands.