Exploring Kvarner Gulf, Croatia’s Beach Empire
Croatia is a country which is full of places to visit and a population to know and be acquainted to. And for every country, there had been divisions for trade and commerce, for the sheer activity of shopping, for long tables of local food and for the sun-doused coastlines which travelers had to choose from.
Sheltered by soaring mountains, the Kvarner Gulf has long been loved by visitors attracted by the mild climate and cobalt waters, and those in search of more than just beach appeal. In the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the wealthy built holiday homes here, bestowing places like Rijeka and Opatija with a rich legacy of stately Habsburg-era architecture. From both of these neighboring towns you can easily connect to hiking trails inside the protected forests of Ucka Nature Park and Risnjak National Park.
The islands of Cres, Losinj, Krk and Rab all have highly atmospheric old port towns and stretches of unspoiled coastline dotted with remote coves for superb swimming. Wildlife puts in an appearance too: Cres has an important griffon vulture population and Losinj has a marine center devoted to preserving the Adriatic’s dolphins and turtles.
The Kvarner Gulf is the area in Northern part of Croatian Adriatic, bordered by Croatian mainland and Istria Peninsula.
Kvarner is one of the closest points of Adriatic Sea to Central and Western Europe, therefore, because of its vicinity and mild climate, Kvarner was very popular tourist destination for Western Europeans since the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 19th century. Kvarner Gulf includes some of Croatian islands as well as coastline cities and towns.
The area is known for its mild and sunny climate, with temperatures above 20 °C between April and November. The Maestral wind provides a fresh breeze during the warm summer weather. It is often windy at night, but the wind subsides during the morning hours.
During the winter season, the wind rips through the area for a longer time and often lasts a few days at a time. There is a typical Mediterranean climate, with warm, sunny summers and mild and humid winters. The average temperature during the summer is 24 °C, and it is 4° C during the winter. On average, there are 2,600 hours of sunshine a year at the Adriatic coast.
Kvarner also has two airfields – one on the island of Losinj, the other in Grobnik, in the hinterland of Rijeka. And since Kravner is a land near a body of water, options to travel by sea are available through ferry lines, high-speed boat service and coastal ferries.
The public transportation of Kravner includes buses running on town (Zone 1) and suburban routes (Zone 2, 3 and 4).
Bus tickets can be purchased at kiosks. A single bus ticket is valid for two bus rides. The ticket is validated using an automated machine upon entering the bus. Single-ride tickets can also be purchased, although at a somewhat higher price, from the driver in the bus. The town public transportation runs from 5 a.m. until 11.30 p.m. at 15 minute intervals. Daily and weekly tickets can be purchased at all KD Autotrolej outlets.
The Primorje-Gorje County is connected with larger Croatian and European towns by regular international and local bus lines.
Information about bus schedules and fares is available at the Autotrans website.
What to See
Losinj and Cres
Separated by only an 11m-wide canal and joined by a bridge, these two sparsely populated and highly scenic islands in the Kvarner archipelago are often treated as a single entity. Although their topography is different, the islands’ identities are blurred by a shared history.
Nature lovers will be in heaven here. Both islands are criss-crossed by hiking and biking trails, and the surrounding waters are home to the only known resident population of dolphins in the Adriatic. Much of the sea off the eastern coast is protected by the Losinj Dolphin Reserve, the first of its kind in the entire Mediterranean.
Rab has some of the most diverse landscapes in the Kvarner region, leading to its declaration as a Geopark in 2008. The more densely populated southwest coast has pine forests and beaches, while the northeast coast is a windswept region with few settlements, high cliffs and a barren look. In the interior, fertile land is protected from cold winds by mountains, allowing the cultivation of olives, grapes and vegetables. The island’s Lopar Peninsula offers the best sandy beaches.
The cultural and historical highlight of the island is enchanting Rab Town, characterized by four elegant bell towers rising from the ancient stone streets. Even at the peak of the summer season, when the island is overrun with visitors, you still get a sense of discovery wandering its old quarter and escaping to nearly deserted beaches just a quick boat ride away. In spring and autumn, Rab Island is a lovely place to visit, as the climate is famously mild and visitors are scarce.
Rijeka, Croatia’s third-largest city is an intriguing blend of gritty port and Habsburg grandeur. Most people rush through en route to the islands or Dalmatia, but those who pause will discover charm, culture, good nightlife, intriguing festivals and Croatia’s most colorful carnival.
Despite some regrettable architectural ventures in the outskirts, much of the center is replete with ornate Austro-Hungarian–style buildings. It’s a surprisingly verdant city once you’ve left its concrete core, which contains Croatia’s largest port, with ships, cargo and cranes lining the waterfront.
Walled Rab Town is among the northern Adriatic’s most spectacular sights. Crowded onto a narrow peninsula, its four instantly recognizable bell towers rise like exclamation points from a red-roofed huddle of stone buildings.
A maze of streets leads to the upper town, where there are ancient churches and dramatic lookout points. It’s quite a scene, the glinting azure waters of Rab’s pocket-sized harbor set against the island’s backbone of hills that shelter the bay from cool bura winds. Once you’ve soaked up the town vibe, there are excursion and taxi boats waiting to whisk you off to lovely beaches scattered around the island.
Genteel Opatija, 13km west of Rijeka, was the most fashionable seaside resort for the Viennese elite during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – as evidenced by many beautiful belle époque villas that remain.
Although it lost some of its luster during the Yugoslav period, the town has spruced itself up and once again attracts a mainly mature crowd, drawn to its grand spa hotels, spectacular location and agreeable year-round climate. Some excellent restaurants have sprung up to cater to them, with a particularly good cluster in the pretty Volosko neighborhood.
Six kilometers southeast of Krk, the small town of Punat has an attractive promenade lined with gelaterias, a marina much loved by yachters, and decent beaches on its outskirts.
The main attraction here is the monastery islet of Košljun, only a 10-minute boat ride away.
The Kvarner Gulf Guide | Croatia Travel
Kvarner – Croatia