Last taste of summer at Kornati National Park

kornati islands

Technically, the autumn equinox has not hit yet in this hemisphere. I still have a few more hours to squeeze out of summer. I’m still wearing white jeans, and I took the kids for ice cream after school. I’m not quite ready to let go of this season.

Spending the summer in Croatia has me hooked on this place. The sun-drenched coast, the crystal-clear water, the ancient olive trees, the crowds that gather in Old Town to watch the sunset each evening – I’ve soaked in it all.

But there’s one Zadar acquaintance I have yet to write about, and I will always associate him with summer. I met him one day in the rain. We had coffee together in a neighborhood café and talked about his business – or at least one of his businesses. He’s one of those Croats who has multiple jobs depending on the time of year. He works with tourists in the summer, teaches sports when school is in session and works for a chiropractor when he finds the time.

branko.jpg

His name is Branko, and he has a daughter who shares my name. He spends his summer days riding his bicycle around beaches selling tourists boat trips to the Kornati islands aboard the Plava Laguna (“Blue Lagoon”), a boat run by Kornat Excursions.

Croatia’s coast has more than 1,000 islands. In my time here, I’ve been to just a few. I knew that before the summer was over, I wanted to get to Kornati National Park. While it’s open year-round, summer is the best time for a boat tour that goes to a beach and has an outdoor lunch.

So when Branko invited me to go out on the boat he manages, I took him up on it.

boat rosary.jpg

The tour is an all-day adventure that leaves the marina at 8 am on a boat that can seat 90 people and returns at 6 pm. We didn’t have many empty seats on our excursion. I sat side-to-side on the front of the boat with people who shared blankets and beach towels to block the wind. I tried to brace for the sea breeze under my hoodie, reminding myself that it was still summer.

brandy.jpg

A deck hand warmed us up before 9 am with the traditional Croatian offering: a shot of rakija (brandy), compliments of Captain Igor. My body really wanted coffee at that time of morning, but you’d be surprised how cherry brandy can wake you up.

boat lunch.jpg

The 50 Euro ticket (about 380 kuna or $60 US) from Zadar includes a two-hour trip to the islands and back and several stops along the way. It covers food, including a ham-and-cheese sandwich for breakfast; a fish, meat and salad plate and fruit for lunch; and water, wine and juice. It also includes an entrance ticket to the national park, a stop at a rocky beach for swimming, hiking, cliff diving or sun bathing and lunch at the captain’s house, one of the only buildings on the mostly uninhabited Kornati islands.

boat beach.jpg

The islands, the densest archipelago (or chain of islands) in the Mediterranean, are clustered between Zadar and Sibenik. Aside from being around other tourists and boats, going there reminds you of a Robinson Crusoe-type adventure. You can almost imagine castaways on remote, other-worldly looking sand-colored islands with cracks, caves and cliffs.

cliffs.jpg

On the way back to the marina, the other passengers and I sat in the sun and looked for dolphins that Branko told us often accompany the boat. We didn’t see any on this trip. As we passed the Sea Organ on the western edge of Zadar’s Riva on the way back to shore, we saw the crowds had already thinned out from the height of the season. The next time the sun goes down, it will officially be fall here and the winds might turn bitter soon. For Branko and the Plava Laguna, there’s always next summer.

fish in water.jpg

29 thoughts on “Last taste of summer at Kornati National Park

  1. We loved Croatia when we visited but we unfortunately didn’t get far out of Dubrovnik which we really wish we did. Branko sounds like so many of the people we meet when we travel absolutely amazing. I am always surprised at local peoples kindness and generosity to travellers.
    The trip sounds like a brilliant day out and I have to agree I would be needing a coffee at that time of morning. Glad the cherry brandy warmed you up!

  2. Looks like an amazing place to visit. I know this was on my bucketlist when I was younger. Still is. Great to see it through your lens.

  3. Oh my gosh, our daughter was in Croatia earlier this year and now it is top on my places to vacation at next. This looks like a wonderful day trip, the people seem to be so friendly and hard working there.

  4. Oh, this place looks so beautiful! I mean, look at the color of the water. I think you got a great deal (with food and everything). I will sign on for sure!

  5. What an adventure! I had planned a trip to Croatia this summer, for Split,Zadar,Plitvice,Korcula and had Kornati in mind too. Unfortuately, it got postponed but I’m really looking forward to going there.Just wondering when to go there. Are you based in Croatia for a while?

  6. Brandy instead of coffee for breakfast, wow, I need to try that one day, lol. Kudos to you for agreeing to go on a tour that was sold on a bicycle! The very city girl in me would be worried about being scammed =x Great travelogue on your island-hopping trip =)

    1. There’s something about Branko that makes you feel at ease. I have a feeling he doesn’t drink brandy for breakfast 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply