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Island Cres – Sailing Guide
Enjoy some nature, history and wildlife on Cres island while sailing around it.
Without a doubt, Cres is one of Kvarner’s most fascinating islands. And the best way to discover and really appreciate its beauty is from the sea. Fortunately, you can rent a boat at our charter base in Pula.
Cres island’s coastline is indented and dotted with coves and pebble beaches in the west and south. While high and sharp cliffs cover most of the northern and eastern parts of the island. It’s connected by a swing bridge to the island of Losinj in the south. Read our full blog on Losinj island to learn more. It opens for boats at 9 and 17 h every day, and vessels from the north need to give way to vessels from the south. This is due to heavy currents and the fact that only one vessel can be in the channel.
The heritage and history of Island Cres
The Liburnians were the first known residents of the island of Cres. They were a tribe of Illyrians and they lived here as early as the 7th century BC. At that time, Cres and Losinj were one island. Then in the 2nd century BC, the Romans set foot on the island and decided to dig a channel in order to shorten their sailing around the two islands. Cres was a major maritime and commerce center in ancient times, particularly the city of Osor, where this channel is located. According to some speculations, the town’s name comes from Apsoros, most likely the brother of the fatal Medea, the ancient hero Apsyrt. However, traces in the foundation of the city walls, date the presence of humans even in the prehistoric era, namely the 9th century BC.
Late Middle Age
Once the Croats arrived to the island in the late 10th century, they mostly remained outside of towns. Even though they were the majority of the population in later centuries, the influence of the official rulers, the Venetians, prevails. In particular, on the façades of palaces, churches, city towers, and gates in the island’s major center, the town of Cres. We recommend visiting the Franciscan monastery, where you can even rent a room in the dormitories. The complex consists of various buildings, including the church of Saint Francis of Assisi with the bell tower, two cloisters, dormitories, a refectory, and gardens with an olive grove. The bell tower has fascinating stone heads near the top, that represent the 4 winds. Their expressions depict the character of the winds.
The monastery museum safeguards some important religious artwork, silk liturgical vestments, and ceremonial objects, and one of the most important books in Croatia. It’s one of only three remaining copies of the “Senj Misal”. This incunabulum, that was printed in 1494 at the Glagolitic printing house in Senj, was the first book in Europe that wasn’t printed in Latin language or Roman script. Markedly, the publishers printed them in Glagolitic script and a Croatian version of the Church Slavonic language.
Another significant Glagolitic scripture heritage is the Valun Table. The table is a bilingual and two-script memorial plate from the 11th century, and it’s now part of the parish church of St. Mark in Valun from the 19th century.
Griffon vultures on island Cres
The unique configuration of the island’s natural environment makes it a perfect habitat for a protected and endangered bird species: the griffon vulture. They are predatory birds, and are among the largest flying birds. Moreover, they are gentle partners – after selecting their partner, they remain together for the rest of their lives. They live in groups of many couples, nesting, eating, and resting together. Cres is one of these rare birds’ last remaining natural nesting habitats.
If you want to learn more about these fascinating birds head on over to the “Beli Visitor Centre and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures“. A former school is now home to the center, with the educational exhibition on the griffon vultures, but other wildlife on Cres as well. From 1 June to 31 August, the Centre is open every day, and in the off-season it is open every day except Monday. Learn the exact working hours and pricing of entrance fees and workshops on the Centre’s official website.
Anchoring is possible in front of the beach but the weather conditions need to be extremely favorable! Undoubtedly, the safest option is the ACI marina Cres, and then getting a taxi to Beli.
Dolphins around Cres
It’s not unusual to come across a common bottlenose dolphin. There are around 200 specimens inhabiting the Cres-Losinj archipelago. So, when sailing around Cres, you are bound to come across some dolphins.
Dolphins unite in smaller groups and are extremely playful and adventurous. They frequently approach boats and like to compete with them. One fascinating thing about them is that they sleep with just half of their brains active and with one eye always open. This is due to the fact that they inhabit open waters and are constantly in danger.
Common bottlenose dolphins assist one another in hunting, giving birth, and even when they are sick. When a dolphin is hurt, others assist, support, and help it to the surface to get air.
You can take steps to protect common bottlenose dolphins by adopting one. And if you’d like to learn more about these stunning marine mammals, read our previous blog and/or visit the Marine Education Centre in Veli Losinj.
Where to go on Cres island
The islands’ numerous bays and protected beaches are excellent for daily, and some even overnight anchorages. The Cres underwater is stunning, so make sure to snorkel, or dive in, in order to fully appreciate the biodiversity.
Cres has a reputation as the most picturesque harbor in the Adriatic. The natural and cultural-historical heritage of the region makes the island an exceptional destination for nature lovers. Certainly, you will want to enjoy its beaches.
Martinscica – the number one boating destination on Cres
The picturesque settlement of Martinscica (Martinshchizza, we dare you to try and pronounce it :-), is situated on the western coast of the island. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the island Cres. It got its name from the church of St. Martin. With its sheltered anchorage and tranquil pebble beaches, it is a dream destination for travelers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Also, the lush landscape of the island, fills the aerosol with Mediterranean herbs and adds to the admiration for the untouched nature.
Although Martinscica is an ideal destination during the summer and when the weather is nice, you need to be careful during bad weather, especially when there is a Bora. On such days, it is necessary to secure lines to the eastern shore for boat safety. Meanwhile, during fine weather, you should visit smaller places near Martinscica, especially village Vidovici. Fun fact – just after the Bora stops blowing, enjoy a unique view that extends all the way to Italy (some 89 NM or 169 km away).
Beach Mali bok, Orlec
The bay of Mali Bok is located near the little town of Orlec, on the eastern side of Cres island, and it features a pebble beach surrounded by towering cliffs that provide shade. A challenging route leads to the beach, that’s why chartering a Nava boat is the easiest and simplest way to reach it. However, we don’t recommend anchoring there. It’s a great stop for swimming, but the cove is very exposed.
Sv. Ivan Beach, Lubenice
St. John beach is located in the bay below Lubenice and is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, and Croatia. The best way to enjoy it is by boat. The beach is secluded but getting more popular every year. So, expect to see more than a few excursion boats and yachts here. Anchoring is possible but not recommended during the night, due to strong winds.
While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Blue Cave, that is actually in the next cove – Zanja. This sea cave is on a cliff at the very edge of the beach. There are two entrances. You can reach the bigger entrance by swimming or in a canoe. The cave is about 20 meters in length, with a large chamber. There’s even a small pebble beach inside. The second entrance is narrow and a few meters below the surface. Sunlight reaches though cracks in the ceiling and walls, and makes the cave particularly fascinating. In the summer, late afternoon offers probably the most interesting play of light and water, with reflections of all shades of blue. The water temperature inside is much cooler and more refreshing, due to the lack of actual sunlight. So once you leave the cave, warm up at the beach.
Punta Kriza is practically a labyrinth of footpaths and promenades with diverse vegetation and animals.
Nowhere else you will see so many picturesque meadows with sheep grazing calmly, pine forests and different kinds of shrubs, with fallow deer herds passing quietly by. These are authentic Mediterranean landscapes in a wonderful mix of colors, from dark green shaded pine forests to green meadows, and turquoise peaceful coves. These deep and isolated bays entice with their privacy, plus they are a safe shelter for yachts.
There are about 50 km of marked paths made of asphalt, macadam, or soil. They are perfect for walking and biking (MTB).
A few tips to keep in mind:
- stay on the paths, do not wander off
- for more difficult paths, you need to have suitable footwear, and plenty of water or juice, especially in the hottest summer months
- do not mess up centuries-old stone walls (gromače). If a stone rolls away, put it back
- when passing through wooden hatches (lese) close them behind you
- if you meet some animal, act naturally, stand still and just watch as quietly as possible
When heading there with a boat, there are several nice coves to anchor in for the day, and even for the night. Just make sure to check the weather forecast and your position regarding winds and depth. Cove Vrc is the safest during strong bura wind.
Because the northern part of the island of Cres has a subcontinental climate, thick forests cover those areas. Tramuntana is Cres’ most famous forest. And, it is the green paradise of Kvarner islands, with forests of oak and chestnut trees that are over a century old and 30 meters high. They are full of mushrooms and mossy rocks, and wild animals such as rabbits, deer, wild boars, mouflons, and even moles (no other Adriatic island has moles). Snow is quite common in the winter periods. But, the forests offer a pleasant and refreshing retreat in the summer, especially compared with other parts of the island, and other islands in the Adriatic.
Abandoned villages, labyrinths, a cave… there’s so much to discover.
The Tramuntana hiking trails
The tight relationship between man and the environment is especially visible in the Tramuntana hiking trails through the forests. Those used to be oxen paths that connected the nearby villages and the best grazing grounds. Today, we have 7 labyrinths and 7 hiking trails, 7 tourist trails, and 3 cycling trails. The pathways are ideal for hiking, trekking, and contemplation. The tourist paths are color-coded, and some are also suited for kids. This whole network of paths has 21 stone sculptures by the academic sculptor Ljubo de Karina at stations along the trails. A local poet and philosopher Andro Vid Mihicic (born in Beli) who was a great admirer of Tramuntana is the author of the verses that are engraved on the sculptures.
The labyrinths are located on meadows, and the entrances are also the exits. The different paths in the labyrinths always present their visitors with a new challenge. When following the Tramuntana labyrinths, think of them as a meditation in motion. Each maze is dedicated to a fertility or nature deity from different religions:
- Ishtar: Mesopotamian goddess of love and fertility. The labyrinth symbolizes Mother Earth.
- Isis: Egyptian goddess of love, fertility, and medicine. The maze is a symbol of birth and wealth.
- Lada: the goddess of summer. It’s a replica of the Roman labyrinth in Pula.
- Osiris: Egyptian god of fertility, agriculture, and vegetation (the only male deity). It is the only labyrinth made of local wild plants (sage, thyme, and immortelle) and not of stone.
- Rusalka: a Slavic water fairy.
- Tara: Hindu goddess of the stars (the savior).
- Vesna: the ancient Slavic goddess of spring. It’s a replica of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth.
If you are looking for pristine nature, crystal clear waters, and tranquility on secluded beaches and enchanting forests, you should definitely visit Cres. Reach out to our charter team to spend worry-free and unforgettable sailing vacations.
Explore the sailing routes that include Cres and use them as an inspiration for your own itinerary. Enjoy this sailing route that takes you from Pula, to Losinj, Ilovik, Rab, Krk and Cres, and back to Pula. Or, opt for Unije, Losinj, Rab and Cres.