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travel Dubrovnik

personally curated for you by Julie Stafford


There’s a reason why Croatia is one of the most popular sailing destinations in the world.  It covers an area of over a thousand islands, located in crystal, clear, blue waters, in one of the sunniest coastlines in all Europe. But these are not just any old islands.  Some are National Parks, and several are so significant in their rich history that they are UNESCO-protected. Along the coastline you’ll find well-preserved historic cities, quaint villages, secluded bays and beaches only accessible by sea, vineyards and olive orchards, fresh food markets, nightlife, and unexpected traditional and gourmet gastronomic offerings. For those who want to taste Croatia from the water, there are over 50 marinas, and just as many leisure ports and harbors to give more than 100 places to tie up your boat at the end of your sailing day.



Julie's personally curated Sail Croatia adventures will rescue you from your chaos and introduce you to a gentler pace in some of the world's most beautiful waters where five star restaurants hide in out of the way bays where you'll need to dinghy to forests to then hike tracks among the pines to be rewarded with food and wine beyond your imagination. To top it off, you'll find a different community at sea. They're a friendly, relaxed bunch, but there's plenty of space to do your own thing and take as much of the salty, fresh air for yourself that you need.   


Imagine morning swims in warm, turquoise water, breakfast on your bow, and a day where hard decisions will have you tossing up between reading, writing or lazing; red wine or white wine, eating out at a fabulous five star restaurant or cooking your fresh fish catch on your boat.


So, what’s your next decision

Will you go solo for a transformational travel experience … to step away from your chaos and to reboot your internal rhythms so that when your heart whispers to you, you will hear it above all the other chatter.

Perhaps you are just looking for the right location, without interruption to dream build your future?

Will you go as a couple (partners, mothers and daughters, girlfriends), a corporate getaway or as a group to bond and build relationships?

I sailed Croatia, solo, early August on a 4 berth with a skipper provided to me. Thirty minutes into my sail, I knew I was in good hands. His knowledge of the local area was important to me, but when he didn’t have the answers to my questions, he communicated to the Skipper’s on Water WhatsApp Hotline. He also allowed me the opportunity to brush up on my rusty sailing skills.  We both had plenty of room to move around our boat without getting underneath each other’s feet. I swam, meditated, read, listened to music through the boat’s BOSE system, wrote, wore out my camera, swam, planned my year ahead, ate extraordinary meals, drank delicious wines … counted the brightest stars, slept like a baby and checked my emails only once a day (Yes, all boats are fitted with WIFI for those who can’t completely be free of communications home and work). My solo sail will remain one of the most magical times of my life.


What time of the year should you go?

Sailing season in Croatia is between April and October. As one of the sunniest regions in the Mediterranean, with more than 2.500 hours of sunshine per year, it’s easy to understand Croatia’s popularity for summer lovers. Winters are mild and summers are hot. Peak months are July and August. It can get hot at this time of the year. Days can be as high as 38°C. If you love the heat, you’re a water sports junkie, you don’t mind the crowds, and you can stretch your budget, then go at this time of the year. Guaranteed you’ll come home with a Mediterranean tan! June and September will be crowded, but the weather is cooler. You can be lucky and hit a late summer with days still very warm and sunny, and water temperatures still warm.  April, May and October tend to be less busy and these months too can deliver unexpected high temperatures. You’re more likely to get rain at this time of the year, but having said this, I’ve struck some serious storms (both wind and rain) in mid-July too. Most would say that these months will guarantee you peace on the water, less crowds on the streets of the islands you’ll stop off along the way and most definitely good sailing winds.


This extraordinary city has taught me that destinations call you when you’re ready to know their lessons. Sometimes, those destinations plant seeds, deep inside you, so that when the time comes for you to travel there you’ll know without question or reservation to pack a suitcase and buy a ticket, even though you know no one there; you don’t speak the language; you’re not even sure if the country is still at war or even if it’s a safe place for a woman to be travelling solo.

In 2006, when I needed a destination to run to, to hide and heal from grief, having just lost my husband, Dubrovnik called me loudly. And in its calling, I was reminded of the seed it planted in me some 16 years prior when the nightly television news played live footage of the ‘Siege of Dubrovnik’. Bombs were being dropped on one of the greatest examples of European history. Lives and livelihoods were decimated in minutes of foul strikes. The anguished faces of women and children haunted me well after I turned my television off. Dubrovnik’s isolation in fighting its enemy to save itself, undertaken by civilians - those who mostly lived and worked within the Old City Walls,  affected me, even though I had no ties to this country or its people so very far away from my home, and my peaceful life in Australia.

It would be a sequence of unlikely coincidences that turned up the volume of Dubrovnik’s voice in my ear, in 2006. Since that first visit, I’ve returned every summer. I’ve stayed inside and outside the Old City. I’ve traveled inland and along the coast roads - north and south; as well as sailed from the south to the north, as far as above Split. Every year I leave, I wonder what the reason might be that I might ever return, and then I give over my control to the power of Dubrovnik’s call and I trust in its reasons. I’ve never been disappointed. My lessons so far have been many. Dubrovnik is a perfect destination for the solo woman traveler. It’s not just the most perfect place to hang out if you love summer and all the expected things that come with a Mediterranean summer. It’s the unexpected things that always happen in Dubrovnik that have me coming back. Plus its a perfect landing  place to launch yourself further into the depths of Croatia, both inland and to the many hundreds of islands - each with their own unique history and raw, beautiful landscapes and stories beyond just entertaining. 

The people of Dubrovnik have healed their wounds from a difficult period in history, and they’ve taught me how to heal from grief too.        




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