While island hopping up/down the coast of Croatia sounds quite fun, if not glamorous, it’s not easily done. Even guidebooks make it sound easy to travel the country’s stunning island studded coast hopping (ferrying) from one island on to the next…however, be prepared for a good bit of frustration. First of all, information is not easy to come by. The national ferry line, Jadrolinija, http://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/home, just revamped its website, but there is no information about the 2014 coastal ferries that run between Rejeka in the north to Dubrovnik in the south. International and local ferry lines have posted timetables, but the schedules change from winter season, to shoulder spring season, to June-September high season, to fall shoulder season, and finally back to winter season. Reading timetables is also a bit of an art if not a daunting challenge for the dyslectic. Sundays and Croatian holidays differ from the Mon-Sat schedule- know your Croaian holidays because there are lots of them. The right side of the timetable is generally ourbound from the coast to islands, read for botom to top, and the left side is the islands to coast return schedule, read from top to bottom, but there are always a few asterics noting deviations in the schedule.
Back to the coastal ferries…based on previous year’s timetables, the Rijeka to Dubrovnik ferry departs Rejika Monday and Friday evenings around 7 pm, arriving at stop 1, Split, at 7:30 the next morning (Tuesday & Saturday). Stops 2, 3 and 4 are Hvar Island (9:15), Korcula Island (1:30 pm), and Mljet Island (4:15 pm), before arriving in Dubrovnik around 7 pm. Let’s say you board the ferry in Rejika Monday evening and hop off at Hvar at 9:15 am Tuesday. You must wait until Saturday for the next southbound ferry. You catch the Saturday ferry to Korcula, intent on spending a day or two before proceeding to Dubrovnik, however the next ferry south isn’t unti Tuesday. Thus “island hopping” is not for travelers on a time budget, as 3 or 4 days pass before another ferry arrives. For 2 months of the year, July & August, Jadrolinija supliments the regular ferry schedule with passenger-only (no bikes or big things) island-to-island catamaran service. Those schedules can be superimposed on the regular ferry timetables for more efficient island to island travel.
Ferry schedule nightmares aside, rides aboard the Jadrolinija ships are experiences not to be missed. See earlier blog post, The Postira Ferry: Sea Kayaking Croatia. The boats are 1950-1960s “old-school” ships with great character; no two boats are alike in design or flavor. Local lines are designed for the “locals”; it’s the olnly way to get regrigerators, beer, bread, toilet paper, etc out to the smaller islands without roads and cars. The larger islands, likewise, are without airports, so everything comes in by boat. Ride the ferries, for sure, just don’t be in a hurry to get from A to B.