Clear blue Adriatic Sea, a coastline that never seems to end, magnificent views, full of history and friendly people should make Croatia on your must-visit list. Croatia is a very welcoming country for families and there is a lot to see and do. We explored this country for 16 days and if the opportunity ever comes up again we would definitively revisit this wonderful country again. Here is the 16-day itinerary of our travels through Croatia with kids.
What You'll Find in This Post
- Day 1: Arrive in Dubrovnik
- Day 2: Beach Day in Zaton
- Day 3: Visit Old Town Dubrovnik
- Day 4: Walk the Walls of Dubrovnik & Beach Day
- Day 5: 3 Island Cruise – Lopud, Sipan & Kolocep
- Day 6: Travel to Split
- Day 7: Bacvice Beach & Split at Night
- Day 8: Bene Beach in Split
- Day 9: Day trip to Hvar Island
- Day 10: Bene Beach in Split – Again!
- Day 11: Brac Island day trip
- Day 12: Split day
- Day 13: Drove from Split to Krka & Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Day 14 & 15: Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Day 16: Departed from Split
- Foods We Loved:
- What did we learn and will do differently next time?
- Insider Tips:
Day 1: Arrive in Dubrovnik
We arrived by Air into DBK, which is located 25 km outside of old town Dubrovnik. The airport is easy to find your way around with money exchange, ABM, bus and taxi services onsite. We arranged for our Airbnb host to pick us up and take us to our place in Zaton. As usual, our first order of business is finding a close grocery/market to fetch items for the morning and evening. We usually do a little walking around our accommodations to get our bearings. Depending on where you are staying and your arrival time you may be able to wander around and see some sights.
Day 2: Beach Day in Zaton
We stayed in Zaton, which is a suburb about 15 minutes by bus outside of Dubrovnik. We loved the beach and the water in Croatia will invite you to dive right in, especially when it is 37 degrees Celsius! The pebble and rock beaches line the coastline of the aqua blue waters. Clear, turquoise shades of blue make it refreshing for your family to go for a swim. The kids enjoyed a bit of snorkeling, searching for shells and little hermit crabs in the sea. Hours will pass by and give your family an opportunity to relax by the water. A day where we could sleep in and then enjoy a day relaxing in this beautiful water. We highly recommend Zaton for a very small town feel and family friendly place to stay and visit.
Day 3: Visit Old Town Dubrovnik
Wander the streets of Old Town Dubrovnik and get lost. Look through streets, shops and all the hidden treasures in the confusing labyrinth of this old town. It is majestic and many museums if you want to check them, but we ventured for the wandering day and enjoying the beauty of the architecture and pinching ourselves that this is real.
After wandering, we went up the cable car for a bird’s eye view of Dubrovnik. A quick ride up with amazing views, this also gave the kids (and us) a break from walking. Bathrooms and food are up top too! You can drive up or hire a driver but we opted to go for the cable car ride for the experience!
Day 4: Walk the Walls of Dubrovnik & Beach Day
We got up early and walked the walls which I highly recommend. It is about 2km so our kids were okay with the walk and a bribe of a special drink at the end. As you walk the walls you get an inside view of what the old town looks like below and be amazed by the terra cotta rooflines. You’ll be able to get an amazing view of the Adriatic Sea and see all the scattered islands that make up the coastline.
Getting up nice and early allowed us to escape the heat of the afternoon and come back to relax by the beach in Zaton. We decided to find our own little private beach in Zaton. We hiked up through the forest for about 15 minutes and discovered paradise.
Day 5: 3 Island Cruise – Lopud, Sipan & Kolocep
We looked into renting a boat and exploring on our own, but in the end, it was cheaper for us to go on a 3 island cruise with a tour company that started their tour from Zaton, Zaton Water Sports. An easy 10 minute walk down to the pier and we were off for the day. We choose to go for this day tour because it basically just took us to the islands and then we would have free time to do what we wanted on them, which is exactly what we needed with our kids. At their ages, we didn’t want to have too much to do on the islands – the boat trip itself was an adventure for our kids. We also were able to get a better rate with the kids. The boat trip was very relaxed and not a “party” boat tour, so that was perfect for us. We did not like the food too much on the boat, but luckily we had snacks packed along with us.
Lopud was by far the island that we enjoyed the most. We were able to hop on a 5-minute golf cart cab ride to the other side of the island to find an amazing soft sand beach. Highly recommend that if you go to this island to check out this beach. Great for kids and a nice break from rock beaches.
Day 6: Travel to Split
We took the ferry from port Gruz in Dubrovnik to Split. It took about 5 hours with Jadrolinija. We stayed in Split for 7 nights and used this location as a base for islands to explore. We used both Jadrolinija and Krilo ferry services to visit the islands, check their websites for updates schedules.
Day 7: Bacvice Beach & Split at Night
Split’s main beach in the city is Bacvice Beach. It is a sandy beach that can get very busy and can work for kids but probably more appropriate if you want a more action-packed and party beach. We found the sand to be very nice but unfortunately, lots of litter are throughout the sand which was disappointing. The water level of the beach is nice for kids and very shallow for a very long time so you can relax a bit and let the kids play in the water without a sharp drop off. They also have activities like paddle boats, a kids water bounce area and small playground nearby. Beach chair rentals, changing stations, restaurants, and bathrooms are available on the beach.
We strolled the streets of Split at night in the old town. If you only have one day in Split I would suggest seeing the city at night with the magnificent views of the architecture and lighting.
Day 8: Bene Beach in Split
Bene Beach is located inside the Sunja Park in Split. I would recommend this beach over Bacvice Beach if you had to choose. This beach is amazing for kids and families. Restaurants, change area, a great playground, and bathrooms. You can also pay extra for a trampoline, riding toy cars, kayak, and paddle boat rentals. Perfect for the day and even just half day if that is all you can squeeze it. Bus routes can take you there, Bus 12 was the one we caught from the main dock area. This beach is more kid-centric but is smaller than Bacvice Beach.
Day 9: Day trip to Hvar Island
Hvar is a quick 1h15 ferry ride from the Split port. Hvar is known for a more wealthy lifestyle with sailboat and yachts lining the port docks. As we strolled along the main walkway, it appeared that you could swim anywhere along the coast. But, with the kids, we went to Bonj Beach. You could rent chairs for the day but we settled for our sleep sheets as towels on the concrete. Hvar offers many beaches and sites to explore but it was 37 degrees Celsius on the day we visited so we relaxed by the beach for the day and spent time at an awesome park close by (it is right along the walking path just past where the boats are docked).
Hvar was more expensive than any other place we had been to yet in Croatia – $8 for a bottle of water. But, go in a few streets to the grocery store and you can find cheaper prices for drinks and make your own sandwiches. Hvar has fines for certain activities in the town – no alcoholic drinks, swimwear or picnicking in the squares. So just be aware of where you decide to relax to get out of the sun. It appeared to have been more resort type hotels and pools so if you are more interested in that type of experience this would be your island. Hvar offered a great day to relax on the beach and enjoy watching the sailboat, yachts and super yachts go on by. My favourite game was to find out the names of their boat – Prosecco is so far leading my “Best Boat Name” category ;)
Day 10: Bene Beach in Split – Again!
The kids got to choose what we did this day, and they chose Bene Beach again. Which made it easy for us and they must have liked it.
Day 11: Brac Island day trip
Brac Island is probably one of the most photographed islands of Croatia. The Bol beach is where we spent the day and fell in love with this island. This pebbled beach is a peninsula that always changes shapes and if there is an opportunity for you to get a bird’s eye very of this beach it would be amazing. The water is extremely clear and we absolutely loved this beach. You can hop on a small shuttle that can take you to the Bol beach from just past the harbor for a few Euros each, well worth the cost. Bol has many restaurants, bathrooms, change areas and a kids park so it is great for kids. Get there early since it gets very busy. We would recommend this island to stay at if you are looking to spend a couple of nights.
Day 12: Split day
We spent the day exploring Split, checking out the markets and finding ice cream for the kids. We debated on venturing out to another island, but with the long island day before and a big day planned next, we decided to take it easy. The one island we seriously considered was Vis, to see the Blue Grotto. Next time!
Day 13: Drove from Split to Krka & Plitvice Lakes National Park
After Split, we rented a car and drove to the Plitvice Lakes National Park for 3 nights. We got up early and along the way we detoured to stop and explore Krka National Park. Krka National Park has amazing waterfalls and the biggest attraction to see. There are a few entrances to the park, so plan your route out in advance. We used the Skradin entrance and took a boat ride into the park. The kids loved the boat ride, but get there early to avoid crowds and the heat. We walked around the waterfalls and lakes for about 2 hours and the best part of the park for us was swimming in the amazing waterfalls!
We then continued on our drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park to get there for the evening.
The best advice I can give is to get up early and see the park before the crowds. We were at the park by 8 am and loved the tranquility of the park before the tour buses and crowds came. We decided to do two days for the park, which worked out well for us because the kids were exhausted from a lot of walking. Being able to split up the day into basically 2 half-days was perfect for us. In the afternoons we went back to our place and relaxed. If you can’t make your way up to Plitvice Lakes National Park for at least an overnight trip, I would still recommend the long-day tours that are offered by the tour companies. Although I don’t think it would be as good of an experience, I still think the park is a stunning MUST SEE in Croatia. I have heard that starting in 2018 they will be limiting the number of people that will be allowed into the park, so be sure to check their website for these changes.
Day 16: Departed from Split
Our flight departed from Split, so on our way back, we stopped in the small city of Togir to check out this city. An easy day trip from Split which can provide a calmer atmosphere with more amazing architecture.
We stayed at Airbnb for the entire duration of our stay in Croatia, it worked great and we had great hosts. If you are booking an Airbnb consider using our link and you can save $45 CAD toward your first booking! We also get a referral credit of $25 too, since you hopefully found our post useful in your planning :)
- 5 Nights in Zaton
- 7 Nights in Split
- 3 Nights in Plitvice Lakes National Park
*If you want to know the specific places we stayed just send me a quick note here and I will share that info with you :)
If you prefer hotels check out the following for rates on hotels.
Foods We Loved:
- Octopus Salad
- Dalmatian Risotto
- Fresh fish and salads
What did we learn and will do differently next time?
- We probably wouldn’t stay 7 nights in Split again. We should have spent that time on two different islands. That being said, it was nice to stay in one spot with all our luggage (since our kids don’t carry their own stuff). The ferry service was great from Split, it just made for some very long day trips out the islands. Plus, it was more cost effective to stay in Split versus the islands.
- Although Croatia has been part of the European Union since 2013, they do not generally accept Euros. Ensure you have their currency, Kuna for most purchases. The only items we could use Euros for if we wanted to was booking our boat tour and a few other very touristy things.
- Almost everyone spoke English, so it was very easy on buses, ferries and in stores.
- If you have smaller kids (stroller age), I would suggest using a baby/toddler carrier in Dubrovnik and at Plitvice Lakes. Lots of steps and uneven terrain!
- Bring or buy water shoes for rock beaches – save your feet.
- If you see chairs and umbrellas on the beaches, they are for rent/hire for the day. Anywhere between 100-200 Kuna/day was what we found.
- Most city buses you pay the driver for a ticket. Keep your original ticket so you can figure out the stop you need to get back to :)
- Uber was available in Dubrovnik when we didn’t use buses, ferries or when we hired a car.
- We used two ferry services in Croatia, Jadrolinija and Krilo. Both were great, clean and easy to transport/store our luggage (backpacks and rolling suitcases). They were sometimes a bit behind schedule and very limited food selection, so be sure to pack snacks with you. Bathrooms and variety of drinks were fine.
- School year break is July & August so there are many local kids to run into at parks. This also means a lot of festivals and activities happening in the evenings, so be sure to check out their local websites for current activities. Many places had the festival calendar on billboards on the streets.
- Usually, at any island port, there is a tourist information center that can give you a map and provide any information you are looking for. We always stopped in and grabbed a map and asked where the best beaches were for kids.
We travelled to Croatia from July 25 – August 9, 2017.
Our kids were 5 & 7 years old
Use this as a guide to start planning your own itinerary to Croatia with kids. If you have any questions or think we have missed a great part of Croatia, let us know in the comments below so we can check it out next time!
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