Sailing is synonymous with Croatia, but you’ll be battling the crowds if you head for hotspots like Split. Instead, why not consider sailing in Zadar? It’s all of the beauty – without the immense crowds. Sailing in Zadar was easily one of our favourite activities during our six weeks in the Balkans – so don’t miss out on the fabulous fun!

One of the most popular things to do in Croatia is sailing. From week-long island hopping adventures to half-day speedboat tours, there are plenty of opportunities to get your sea legs.

Since Croatia is the European travel destination du jour (thanks, Game of Thrones!), even the waters can be super crowded around hotspots like Split. It was for this reason we added Zadar onto our itinerary – this ancient town has all the beauty, but fewer crowds. 

This is also true for the seas – there’s more than enough room to cruise the water without bumping into any fellow travellers.

Sailing in Zadar: the Basics

Here’s everything you need to know for sailing in Zadar.

Speed boat or sail boat?

When we first started looking for boat tours in Zadar, we were presented with an immediate choice: speedboat or sailboat?

While there are some benefits to the speed boat option (the faster boat means you can visit more islands in a day), for me there’s no real competition here. Sail boats are so much more relaxing, as you don’t have the constant hum of the motor. Plus, they’re better for the environment as they’re only wind powered!

Hire a skipper or DIY?

The next choice is whether you want to go on a tour that includes a skipper (captain!) or do it yourself. There are actually a number of websites where you can rent your own sailboat.

This choice was super easy for us because we knew nothing about sailing! And I can’t swim. So, sailing off into the sunset with no experience seemed like a pretty guaranteed way to take out an annual Darwin award.

If you are an experienced sailor, however, you might like this option. It’s definitely the most cost effective way to go, and gives you the freedom to choose your own itinerary.

We loved our trip with Marlin Sailing (more on that soon) because it included a bit of a sailing lesson as well. You can definitely find full-service tours where everything is done for you, but we really loved our more hands-on tour.

Tom sailing in Zadar
My husband Tom getting his sea legs in Zadar, Croatia

Day tour or multi-day adventure?

Another big decision is whether you’re looking to just do a day tour or whether to join a multi-day adventure. Both are available, however due to our limited itinerary, we opted for a half-day option. 

If you’re looking to do a multi-day tour, then I recommend sailing between two destinations – Zadar to Split (or vice versa) is a popular option. Not only will this give you the greatest variety of things to see, but it also means you’re saving time and money on transport.

How much does sailing in Zadar cost?

Sailing in Zadar was surprisingly affordable! It’s not the cheapest thing to do in the town, but it’s also not likely to break the bank. A shared sailing trip will probably set you back less than $100 AUD, while if you have a larger group then hiring a boat (with skipper!) for the day is a cost-effective option.

Some of the sailing trips include on-board bars, which can be quite expensive. We were allowed to BYO with Marlin Sailing, and I understand you can usually do so if you hire the entire boat. If you are intending to enjoy a few drinks on board, then a BYO option can save you a lot.

These shoes were not ideal for exploring untouched islands!

What to bring sailing in Zadar

It can be very hot on the water, and it’s easy to get super sunburnt! Therefore be sun safe and bring sunscreen and a hat. 

I highly recommend bringing a plastic bag to put things like phones, wallets and cameras in. Although things stayed pretty dry on the boat, things do happen and you’ll want to make sure they’re protected from water damage.

For exploring the islands, a pair of decent footwear is highly advisable. I stupidly wore high-heeled wedges, which were NOT great for going for a walk around the island.

Don’t forget your bathers!

Marlin Sailing Review

We ended up choosing a day tour with Marlin Sailing. It ended up being one of our favourite activities of our entire Balkans trip!

The sailing trip started at 9am from the marina, where we were introduced to our skipper and his graceful sailboat. We found out that Marlin Sailing is owned by two local brothers, who love both sailing and Zadar. 

The Marlin Sailing trip is one of the more hands-on options, and is a little less formal than a slick corporate outfit. As a result, it suited us right down to the ground – you felt like you were enjoying a fun day out with your friends, rather than participating in a tour. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking to just sit back and relax this tour might not be ideal, as you are expected to assist with the sailing. This was one of our favourite parts of the tour, however!

Sea on the island near Zadar
Gorgeous clear water on the island!

While on the tour, we had the chance to visit a beautiful island just a short distance away from the mainland. There were some lovely rocky beaches that had beautiful swimming, as well as an old flour mill which was cool to explore. Apparently, nearly the entire island is owned by one family!

For lunch, we stopped in at a larger island and took the opportunity to try the local delicacy of calamari and black squid ink risotto. Both were lovely and, of course, enjoyed with some Croatian wine. 

After our delicious meal, we headed back to Zadar, spending a few hours sailing over the water. It was really great fun, and even inspired by husband Tom to start looking at joining a sailing club back home!

Tips for sailing in Zadar

  • Although Zadar is not as busy as Split, it’s definitely feeling the massive increase in tourists to Croatia. As a result, a lot of the tours sell out quite quickly, especially during the busy summer months. Therefore, I recommend booking your tour as early as you can to avoid disappointment. The great thing about booking via Get Your Guide or Viator is that you can generally cancel your booking for free.

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