Croatian Island Hopping in the off Season: The empty beaches of Zlatni Rat on Brač Island

Wednesday, November 6 to Saturday, November 9, 2019
Vagabonding Days 37-40
Bol (Brač Island) Croatia

Rugged and beautiful, the islands along Croatia’s coastline are a favorite destination for travelers. A comprehensive system of ferries and catamarans link the islands together with the mainland, enabling visitors to hop from one island to the next. Daniel and I were keen to explore the islands, so after exploring Croatia’s mainland for three weeks we headed to the ferry terminal in Split.

We initially planned to travel by boat from Split all the way to the historic town of Dubrovnik, stopping along 4 or 5 islands along the way. But then reality set in. We are travelling in the off season which means fewer options are available. Some ferry routes are cancelled altogether, and others run on a limited schedule. And to complicate matters further, ferries can be cancelled with limited warning due to inclement weather (more about this in an upcoming blog post).

After a close examination of the ferry schedule, we scaled back our itinerary to the following 3 islands: Brač, Hvar, and Korčula. We scrapped visiting the remote island of Vis because the limited ferry schedule this time of year made things… complicated. And we had to get creative about travelling from Korčula to Dubrovnik as direct ferries between the two cities don’t run at all in the winter. But on the bright side, visiting fewer islands meant going slower and spending more time in each place. That’s always a good thing.

We began our island-hopping adventure in the town of Bol. Situated on Brač, one of Croatia’s largest islands, Bol is best known for the famous Zlatni Rat beach (which means “Golden Horn” in Croatian). A spit of land extending into the Hvar Channel, Zlatni Rat is a gorgeous beach comprised primarily of white pebbles – and is perenially mobbed with tourists in the summertime. However when we visited Zlatni Rat in November, we had the beach entirely to ourselves.

In fact, we were pretty sure we were the only two tourists in Bol during our stay. The town only has a permanent population of 1,630 people and we felt a little out of place as we walked around town. We’d heard that many businesses shut down in the winter months but we weren’t prepared for the full extent of closures. There was only one restaurant open in the entire town. Thankfully, we were within walking distance to a grocery store so we ended up cooking most of our meals at our apartment (which we should be doing more of anyways to keep costs down).

Restaurants aren’t the only businesses that shut down in the off season. Hotels, resorts, museums, bike rental companies, tour agencies, and various shops of all sorts either shut down altogether or have limited hours in the the low season. Some restaurants stay open in the winter but only serve beverages. This took a little getting used to. It was pretty disappointing to walk up to a restaurant filled with people – with our stomachs growling – only to learn that food is not being served.

Once we started expecting all businesses to be closed or to offer limited services, things got a little easier. This way we could be pleasantly surprised when we found one that was actually open. And traveling in the low season has the added benefit of dealing with hardly any other travelers.

One such business that happily surprised us was the local theater, Kino Mediteran Bol. The animated children’s movie Adominable was playing during our visit so we treated ourselves to a night at the movies. Known as “Everest: Mladi Jeti” in Croatia, the film was entirely in Croatian with no subtitles. With a crowd of enthusiastic kiddos laughing at all the funny parts, however, we managed to follow along just fine despite the language barrier.

I also took a day to hike Vidova Gora, a mountain located right behind the city of Bol. More details about my hike are available here – Vidova Gora Trail: Hiking the Tallest Mountain in the Adriatic.

It was fun to experience a different side of Bol from the one that all the tourists see. Although I would like to go back sometime when the weather is a *little* warmer and a few more businesses are open. Perhaps in September or October?

Read on for some photos from our visit to Bol.  Details about the other islands we visited are available in the following blog posts:

The ferry terminal in Split. We took a catamaran from Split to Bol.

Welcome to Bol! The ferry dock in Bol.

The view from our bungalow in Bol. I spent hours sitting on the front porch and working on my blog.

Our bungalow was located behind this cute apartment building.

Our first sunset on Brač Island.

More sunset. Pretty!

Walking along the promenade from Bol to Zlatni Rat. All the merchant stands and shops are deserted in the off season.

One of the beaches along the promenade to Zlatni Rat.

It’s a giant chair! I feel compelled to sit in it.

Our first view of Zlatni Rat, or, The Golden Horn.

Daniel feels compelled to look over the cliff’s edge.

The Zlatni Rat! Aka “The Golden Horn”. The beach changes shape every year due to water currents pushing around the beach’s pebbles.

The city of Bol would like to remind you to not run around in your birthday suit.

We have Zlatni Rat entirely to ourselves.

Daniel chills out on Zlatni Rat.

Hello from Zlatni Rat! Yes, we are wearing matching jackets.

The city has implemented this cool exercise equipment near the beach.

Our second sunset. Wow!

The city of Bol at sunset.

Everest: Mladi Jeti.

Walking along the coast towards the Dominican Monastery.

The Dominican Monastery.

The graveyard at the Dominican Monastery.

At the graveyard.

We passed this abandoned hotel on the way to the monastery. It’s been completely covered in amazing graffiti.

More graffiti at the abandoned hotel.

Settling in at a bench with a view of the sunset.

Daniel takes a photo of the sunset.

Our third sunset in Bol. We are 3 for 3 in the sunset department!

Moonrise over Bol as we head to the ferry dock.

Here comes the catamaran to take us across the strait to Hvar Island! Good-bye, Bol! It’s been real.

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