What to do in Dalmatian Coast

Sail Croatia's Adriatic, also known as the Dalmatian Coast, and you can snorkel azure waters, explore ruins, swim in hidden coves, and visit off-the-beaten path islands. Meanwhile, something special happens: you and your family experience history as a function of wind and waves. After all, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and others who populated these shores, whether conquerors or traders, came by sea—just like you.

More than 1,100 islands lie off the coast of Croatia and less than 70 of them are inhabited. A cruise off the Dalmatian Coast makes it easy for you and your children to experience the region. After breakfast on deck, you might go for a hike, tour centuries-old churches, or meet locals in a fishing village. After lunch in town or on the yacht, you can sail to the next destination for another outing or perhaps cool off with a swim. In the evening the captain anchors in a harbor. Dine onboard or try out the local fare at a restaurant ashore. No packing, unpacking, or driving necessary. Teens can sleep in or laze the afternoon away on the yacht's deck while the rest of the family explores. Such laid-back rhythms go a long way toward keeping peace in the family.

Most ships depart from Dubrovnik and head north or leave from Split and sail south. Split, population of about 200,000, functions as a departure point for drives and boat tours along the coast. The city's jewel is Diocletian's Palace, built by the Roman Emperor between 295 and 305 as his retirement residence. The vast structure covered ten acres. Destroyed and reconfigured over the centuries, some of the buildings now serve as residences and cafes. The arched walls and other ruins create a striking contrast to the lively neighborhood surrounding them.

Most cruises stop at Hvar, a sun-drenched, mountainous island where the locals grow lavender, grapes, and olives. But that's inland. Along the shore, the glitterati have discovered the medieval Hvar Town. Sightings include Gwyneth Paltrow and Bill Gates. When your kids tire of celebrity spotting, climb the island's fortress for panoramic views then take a water taxi to the pebbly beaches of the Pakleni Islands just offshore for a swim.

About a two-hour sail from Hvar, Vis is much less visited, although it's catching on. Komiža, one of the island's two small towns, lures yachties with sand and pebble beaches, 17th-century houses, and wineries. Biševo, an islet a few miles from Komiža attracts visitors to its Blue Grotto. When sun illuminates this cave, typically between 11 a.m. and noon, the interior glows a beautiful blue.

The highlight of Korčula, the sixth largest Adriatic island, is Korčula Town, a medieval city whose walls still have their towers. Legend has it that the island is the birthplace of Marco Polo.

At the end of the cruise, your own explorers will long remember their Dalmatian Coast journey, and you'll have saved the trouble of having to plan each stop along the way.

Tip: ROW International, a division of the ROW raft company, has much experience offering family-friendly Dalmatian cruises.

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