- Listen to Zadar's Sea Organ play its unending melody
- Say "Hello" to the 3,500-year-old sphinxes brought back from Egypt in Split
- Snorkel and fish on Croatia's remote and idyllic Krapanj Island
- Splash in the emerald-green lagoon of Krka National Park's waterfalls
- Kayak with the family from Hvar Town to the wooded Pakleni Islands
|Day 1||Arrive in Zadar||Zadar|
|Day 2-4||Relax with the Kids on Krapanj Island||Krapanj|
|Day 5||Krka National Park with the Family||Split|
|Day 6||Day Trip to the Island City of Trogir||Split|
|Day 7-8||Split Exploration||Split|
|Day 9||Ferry the Family from Split to Hvar Island||Hvar|
|Day 10-13||Hvar Exploration||Hvar|
|Day 14||Return to Zadar & Depart||Zadar|
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Day 1: Arrive in Zadar
Welcome to Zadar! An ancient walled port city and former capital of Dalmatia, Zadar is chock-full of Roman ruins, medieval churches, cosmopolitan cafés, and quality museums. An intriguing city not overly crowded, it's famous for its picturesque coastline full of islands and vibrant blue waters, fresh seafood, and unforgettable sunsets, as well as two unique attractions, the Monument to the Sun and the Sea Organ.
For a great way to entertain even the youngest family members, head to the northwest tip of Zadar's peninsula. Here you can listen to the Sea Organ play its unending melody, fueled by the ebb and flow of the Adriatic Sea's current and dance around artist Nikola Basic's solar-paneled Monument to the Sun. The 72-foot (22 m) disc absorbs the sun's rays during the day, emitting colorful patterns of light as the evening approaches.
Days 2-4: Relax with the Kids on Krapanj Island
Take the morning to relax before you venture farther south along the Dalmatian coast to the unremarkable village of Brodarica (about an hour transit). You'll board the five-minute shuttle ferry to Krapanj Island and check into your hotel.
Krapanj is the smallest inhabited island in Croatia and is right off the coast of Brodarica, just south of Šibenik. It has a long history of deep-sea diving to harvest and sell sea sponges—the main source of income for families living on the island. Due to the dangers of this occupation, there's little evidence of it now, though it has given rise to a great scuba diving, freediving, and spearfishing culture.
For something beyond lying out on the beach-studded coastline, there's the 15th-century Franciscan monastery a short walk north of the harbor. Next to that is the cemetery, where you might like to point out the carved reliefs of diving suits and diving helmets that commemorate the sponge-diving families that are laid to rest. If you're searching for a restaurant, look no further than Pansion Zlatna Ribica in Brodarica (near the Krapanj ferry pier) for one of the area's best places to eat seafood.
Day 5: Krka National Park with the Family
Return to the mainland this morning and transfer north to nearby Krka National Park, one of Croatia's top-rated parks, using the Skradin entrance. With seven waterfalls—the largest and most impressive being Skradinski Buk—Krka National Park is home to a network of striking waterfalls. The Krka River, another highlight of the park, carves through the limestone and creates a spectacular canyon on its 44-mile journey (70 km) from the foothills of the Dinaric Alps to Šibenik.
You can request to have a local private guide take you throughout the park or opt to discover Krka on your own, following the well-marked winding wooden paths. You'll traverse emerald pools and river islands to prime lookout spots in which to view the falls, where you'll even have the opportunity to take a dip in one of the lagoons as Krka is the only national park in Croatia where swimming is allowed. You can also visit the Krka Monastery on a boat tour of the Krka River, Visovac Island (home to the centuries-old Franciscan monastery), and Ključica, a huge fortress ruin, which will have the imaginations of your children running wild.
Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and Mother Nature saved the best for last. Cascading 78 feet (24 m) down into an emerald lagoon wider than the falls are tall, you'll find restaurants, snack stands, and ice cream shops at the base of this postcard locale to satisfy any food-related cravings, perfect for lunch. Afterward, you'll transfer to your hotel in Skradin.
Day 6: Day Trip to the Island City of Trogir
Set on a small island, a stepping stone between the mainland and the much larger Čiovo, is the ancient coastal city of Trogir. It's a small place, and it doesn't take longer than about five minutes to walk from any point in Trogir's historic center to reach the sea. With kids in tow, navigate the narrow stone streets, starting with the Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace, working your way to the Cathedral of St. Lawrence to admire Radovan's 13th-century Romanesque portal and count the bizarre creatures around the doorposts.
Stroll along the Riva, admiring the Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture and medieval fortress walls as you find your way to the 15th-century Kamerlengo Fortress. Ascend its ramparts for sweeping views over the island. And don't be surprised if you're serenaded by traditional acapella groups called klapa, along your way.
From Trogir, you'll continue your journey farther south to the Roman city of Split to check into your accommodation in the late afternoon. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you choose. A dynamic ancient coastal city, Split was founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian, and today its UNESCO-protected Old Town includes a number of impressive sites, including Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world and an ideal place to take intrepid kids to explore, learn, and burn off excess energy.
You might like to start at Pjaca Square for pretty views of white marble tiles, the Iron Gate (the western entrance to Diocletian's Palace), a Romanesque clock tower with the remains of a medieval sundial, and the 15th-century Town Hall. Meanwhile, you can enjoy Renaissance architecture, influenced during Split's Venetian era at Voćni trg ("Fruit Square"), and for a bit of shopping and a bite to eat, head to Marmont Street, though you'll want to make your way to the waterfront to catch the sunset.
Days 7-8: Split Exploration
The next few days are yours to explore Split at your family's pace. You might like to spend the morning (before the crowds arrive) in Peristyle Square and let the kids seek out the 3,500-year-old sphinxes Emperor Diocletian brought back from Egypt. Or climb the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus (St. Duje)—considered the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use—for stunning views over the city and Adriatic. Another option is to hike or bike to the top of Marjan Hill. The "lungs of the city," the entire Marjan peninsula is dotted with tiny centuries-old churches, large cypress and black pine trees, and Mediterranean plants and herbs.
In addition to the stunning vistas, you'll be rewarded with attractions less visited: the Jewish cemetery and 13th and 15th-century churches, St. Nicholas and St. Jerome. Though if it's the beach you're after, head to Bačvice Beach to relax on the sand warmed by the morning sun. You can explore the coast and find any number of suitable beaches where most near Split are popular with families with little ones as they're easily accessible and shallow.
Alternatively, Split acts as a great jumping-off point to explore nearby islands like Brač, Šolta, and the idyllic Blue Lagoon of Drvenik Veli and discover the zagora, the Dalmatian hinterland beyond the city. Consider going on a full or half-day sailing expedition to enjoy the sun and sea or joining an exciting ATV tour of the zagora.
Day 9: Ferry the Family from Split to Hvar Island
After an easy morning in Split, board a catamaran to the island of Hvar and check into your accommodation. A Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar is a popular destination with tourists due to its natural setting, mild climate, and historic port town of the same name. Highlights of Hvar Town include its 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress, and the main square anchored by the Renaissance-era Cathedral.
For some of the best views of the island, Hvar Town, and the nearby Pakleni Islands, take a short walk up to the 16th-century Španjola Fortress. Or opt to take the kids to the beach. Near your hotel along the southern coast are a number of pebble beaches the children are safe to explore, including Velo Zaraće, Dubovica, and Sveta Nedilja.
Days 10-13: Hvar Exploration
You have free range to explore Hvar and its surroundings as you see fit.
A great way to discover much of the island is to rent a scooter in Hvar Town and drive along the coastline through olive groves, lavender plantations, pine woods, and vineyards, stopping along the way to lie out on a beach you happen upon. Another option is to join a cycling or hiking tour around Hvar. Alternatively, you could embark on a hike from Hvar Town to visit Velo Grablje, a near-deserted 500-year-old town, and Malo Grablje, a nice hike that takes you down a canyon into the village. Here you can stop for lunch to enjoy a delicious meal at perhaps the most authentic of the island's taverns.
One evening, you might like to bring a bottle of wine (and a kid-friendly bevy) and head to Tito's Caves, just north of Stari Grad, for a picnic as you watch the sunset from these hidden-away caves.
One last option is to spend a little time exploring the nearby Pakleni Islands. You can rent a private taxi boat to tour around the archipelago for the day, where you might consider taking a 15-minute water taxi to Jerolim and Stipnska or continue on to other islands farther out to walk around and explore. If the kids are older, there is the option to go on a guided full-day or half-day sailing or kayaking tour of the islands—a great way to discover the many secluded beaches and lagoons! Check out more things to do in Hvar for more options.
Days 14: Return to Zadar
Start the day early with a one- to two-hour ferry to Split and then transfer up the coast to your hotel in Zadar (2.5 hours). You'll have the rest of the day to unwind. You can stroll the marble streets of Zadar's famous Old Town—once the mightiest fortress city in the Venetian Republic—or wander beyond its Venetian gates, past stone walls and examples of Roman and Byzantine architecture in the form of the first-century remains of the Roman Forum, the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, and the 9th-century Church of St. Donatus.
Enjoy one last Dalmatian sunset and come the evening, partake of Zadar's to-die-for seafood. There are plenty of great restaurants in the historic center with options like Pet Bunara, serving traditional Dalmatian cuisine, like octopus, and Kornat, with views over the harborfront, and Hotel Bastion's Kastel, for a fine-dining experience with a modern take on traditional Croatian cuisine with a mix of French and Italian.
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