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Hundreds of Croatian Islands make up the Zadar Archipelago, part of Northern Dalmatia. The Zadar islands range in size, but unlike their southern counterparts, these islands are mostly barren, with fewer inhabitants and attracting less visitors.
The communities that do exist on the islands near Zadar survive on olive production, the fishing industry and very seasonal tourism. From Zadar, it’s easy to hop on a Zadar ferry and explore these sleepy islands of Croatia.
Zadar Ferry Boats
Croatia ferries are how both locals and tourists move between the islands and to the mainland. There are multiple companies that ferry Zadar passengers from the Zadar Ferry Port to various destinations (currently, the system includes 27 destinations!).
We have used two of the companies for Zadar boat trips: Jadrolinija and G & V Line. On our Zadar excursions, we took the Zadar ferry to the islands of Ugljan and Dugi Otok.
Setting sail on the Adriatic Sea is one of the best things to do in Zadar. The ferries provide an economical – and very local – way to experience the islands off Zadar…and simply a chance to spend the day at sea!
Zadar Ferry To Ugljan, Croatia
Located directly across from Zadar, Ugljan is one of the larger islands in the Zadar Archipelago. The island of Ugljan has 7,500 residents, beautiful coastline and miles of hiking and biking trails.
Zadar ferry boats cross the Zadar Channel several times a day, making Zadar day trips easy, even in the off-season. We took a morning ferry so we could spend the entire day visiting three of the Croatian island’s towns on Ugljan: Preko, Kali and Kukljica.
Visiting Ugljan, Croatia
On our Zadar boat trip, we docked in Preko (which literally translates to Opposite, as in Opposite of Zadar), but didn’t stay long. Instead, we followed the waterfront path south toward Kali. The route along the tranquil beachfront prompted our usual gawking – a reaction that we hope never dulls.
There were dark clouds in the sky, but the sun was shining during our walk and turning the water pale teal. Cats walked with us along the stretch between the two towns, which felt somewhat rustic, with only a few structures completely renovated, while others sat abandoned.
Kali, Ugljan, Croatia
When we arrived in Kali, we were greeted with open stares. The small village is dedicated to fishing and off-season tourists are unusual. It didn’t deter us, however, from wandering the narrow, hilly streets to the church and bell tower at the top of the town.
In the compact space, most homes had enough land for a personal garden. Although it was impossible to blend in, we joined a crowd of locals at the café and sipped on a coffee along the harbor.
Kukljica, Ugljan, Croatia
The weather was turning misty and we wanted to see Kukljica, so we continued on. We found the bus station on the main road above Kali town and waited out a downpour. A surprisingly packed bus arrived and we squeezed on for a standing-room-only ride to Kukljica.
Unlike Kali, Kukljica is more reliant on tourism – and if we thought Kali was quiet, then Kukljica was closed. Although the weather was only a light drizzle, the others who departed the bus with us quickly disappeared into homes. We were hard-pressed to find any sign of life at all: hotels were closed; cafes were closed; shops were closed. This was our third trip to Croatia in the off-season and we had finally succeeded in finding a truly closed-down town.
In seclusion, we walked past the harbor to the beach. The rain stopped and we ate our picnic lunch by the sea (thank goodness we packed sandwiches!). We walked into Kukljica town to the church, but the isolation almost felt too eerie for us. We got back to the bus stop in plenty of time – as we didn’t want to chance missing our ride back to Preko!
Preko, Ugljan, Croatia
Back in Preko, we found life again (although, we wouldn’t call it lively). We walked north from the ferry port into town, passing villas and restaurants facing the sea. Preko felt like a combination of Kali and Kukljica, moving toward tourism, with a strong foundation in fishing. Past the marina is a beach and, across from it, a small island which houses a monastery of Franciscan friars.
The clouds cleared, encouraging us to walk into the town. At the church we noted that, just like in Kali and Kukljica, the immediate grounds circling the church were used as a cemetery, something we haven’t seen in other parts of Croatia. We made our way through the mix of holiday rentals and personal residences and eventually to the ferry landing for our ride back to Zadar.
Tips For Zadar Trips To Ugljan, Croatia
Ugljan is one of the best islands near Zadar for a day trip. Even with only one day in Zadar, a trip across the channel is possible (if for no other reason than to see Zadar by boat!).
The boat trip from Zadar to Preko (Ugljan) takes 25 minutes. We took the Jadrolinija Ferry, and you can check their website for current Zadar Ferry Schedules and Zadar Ferry Ticket Prices. The tourist office in Kali, south of the bus stop, has maps, area info and a current bus schedule and prices.
Zadar Boat Trips To Dugi Otok, Croatia
Further out from Ugljan, but still one of the islands close to Zadar, is the sparsely populated is Dugi Otok, which means Long Island. Croatia ferries dock in the sleepy town of Sali, but the main draw is its connection to Telascica Nature Park. Boating to Dugi Otok is a popular Zadar one-day trip: take an early ferry, stay on Dugi Otok for a few hours and then ferry back to Zadar in the evening.
However, with beautiful sunny skies, we really just wanted to spend the day at sea – and hopping on one of the ferries from Zadar to islands nearby is the perfect opportunity to do so. We opted to make the round trip on the Zadar ferry to Dugi Otok without actually stepping foot on the island!
The Zadar-Dugi Otok Ferry leaves Zadar and passes between Ugljan and Pasman (the two islands are connected via bridge). Once through the passage, the boat sails into open sea, with shadows of other Croatian Islands in the distance. Occasionally, we would pass a lone sailboat. In Sali, we exchanged passengers and mail and picked up the day’s fresh catch packed on ice.
We made a second stop in the even smaller town of Zaglav, where again we picked up passengers and packages, but no one departed the boat. We arrived back in Zadar in the mid-afternoon with salt sprayed faces and plenty of light left in the day.
Tips For Zadar Boat Trips To Dugi Otok
The boat trip from Zadar to Dugi Otok and back to Zadar (without departing the boat) takes 3 hours. We took the G & V Line Ferry – opting for the roundtrip route on the Anamarija boat, as it has outdoor seating. Check their website for current ferry from Zadar schedules and ticket prices.
Popular Zadar, Croatia Boat Tours
There are many Croatia islands near Zadar ideal for boat trips! Boat excursions in Zadar transport passengers to many of the small islands that are not easily accessible by ferry boat.
The Kornati Islands are a collection of 89 islands that together are better known as Kornati National Park. Several boats depart on a Kornati Islands Tour, but there is no Zadar to Kornati Islands ferry. Choose a Kornati tour based on desired activities (snorkeling, hiking, swimming) and length of trip.
Book a tour to Kornati National Park from Zadar in advance!
Telascica Nature Park Tours
Zadar excursions are offered to tourists to Telascica Nature Park on Dugi Otok (usually with a stop in Sali, where the ferry docks). Most tours include lunch and beverages on the boat.
Book a tour to Telascica Nature Park from Zadar in advance!
Sakarun Beach on Dugi Otok
The great things about having so many islands close to Zadar is that there are an incredible number of beaches! The Sakarun Beach on the northern end of Dugi Otok is one of the most popular beaches to visit. Private boat tours from Zadar take guests from the city to the sand!
Book a tour to Sakarun Beach from Zadar in advance!
Zadar Sailing Trips
Want to see more islands around Zadar? Join one of the fabulous Zadar sailing trips for a relaxing day at sea or set sail on a romantic sunset cruise – one of the best boat trips from Zadar, Croatia!
Book your Sunset Sailboat Cruise from Zadar in advance!
More Things To Do in Zadar, Croatia
Although we think island trips from Zadar are a great way to spend a vacation, there are more things to do around Zadar!
Zadar Walking Tour
If you are looking or a free walking tour Zadar, check out our Zadar Self-Guided Walking Tour! The Zadar free walking tour loops through the Old Town, passing by 26 Zadar Tourist Attractions.
Zadar Day Tours
There are several other super options for Zadar day tours, such as Krka Waterfalls, Split, Plitvice Lakes and Sibenik! Check out our complete list of 8 Fantastic Day Trips from Zadar for your Vacation to Croatia!
Where To Stay in Zadar, Croatia
During our visit to Zadar, we stayed in an awesome Airbnb Apartment in the Old Town, which is the best place to stay in Zadar! We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, often, more space. Zadar holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which part of TripAdvisor) or VRBO.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Zadar Hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated Zadar, Croatia hotels (based on guest reviews) for your upcoming trip: Art Hotel Kalelarga, Hotel Niko and Bastion Heritage Hotel.
Getting To Zadar, Croatia
Zadar can be reached by plane, boat, bus or car. Flights to the Zadar Airport (ZAD) operate seasonally from popular connecting hubs like Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Munich. If arriving by bus, the bus station is not very convenient to the Old Town, but within reasonable walking distance. Although not 100% reliable (we always confirm at the bus station), bus schedules can be searched on Bus Croatia and Get By Bus. It’s best to get around Zadar on your own two feet – as most of the Old Town is a car-free zone.
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSettingFools, after all!) and when we need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner.
Before You Go To Zadar, Croatia
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable travel shoes for the city and boat shoes for your Zadar day trips! I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip to Croatia! Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for high quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures and is a slim and and lightweight budget camera).
- Be sure to have a good guidebook for Croatia prior to arriving and a great day pack to organize all your everyday travel items!
- If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
Want more travel planning tips for Croatia? Check out all our Travel Guides to Croatia and head over to our Travel Planning page to book your trip! Also have a peek at our complete packing tips and other destination travel resources!
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