Perhaps the most famous example of an offshore National Park, the one that all of the sailing guides will point you too, is the Kornati National Park. Encompassing an archipelago of over 100 islands in 4 groups off the shore between Sibenik in the south and Dugi Otok in the north these small islands are often described as jewels peppering the Adriatic.

This archipelago National Park is a place of stark contradictions perhaps the most telling of which is the way it was created. As you slip between the moonscape of near baron islands that form the park’s ‘natural’ landscape it is worth remembering that this desolation is actually the result of a man-made environmental catastrophe. The natural tree and scrub cover that dominates most islands and coastal areas in Croatia is long gone from here - the victim of over grazing and deliberate burning to increase grazing space during the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Rock formations on one of the outer islets along the Kornati Kanal

Whilst many people upon reading this (and certainly this applied to us) might feel some trepidation at visiting this Nationally designated area of ‘natural’ beauty, prepare to make the trip if you are heading north from Split or south from Zadar. What remains is an Island landscape like none other in Croatia. It is stark and baron, terrible and wasted, and yet at the same time fascinating and unbelievably beautiful as the usually invisible rock forms surround you on all sides, changing constantly and offering a new and usual habitat not usually found amongst the Dalmatian islands. The result is an abundance of lizards, snakes, birds and insects but very few mammals. The protected nature of the park has also lead to a blossoming of sea life in the area.

Perhaps the best way to see the park is to cruise along the Kornati Kanal which separates the long thin Otok Kornati from the spread of smaller islands including Levrnaka and Piskera to seaward. While this is a very popular spot it is quite possible that you will tack up (if heading north-west) or reach down this channel in ghostly solitude, rarely if ever encountering another boat (in late June at least).

The Kornati Kanal

Mooring and anchoring is strictly controlled within the park and there are a limited number of places where you will be allowed to stop overnight. The park is also served by two excellent ACI Marinas. On the seaward side there is the ACI Piskera, perhaps half way along the Kornati Kanal, and accessed around the south side of the Piskera Otok. Here pontoons are wedged between two small islands that offer a great panorama of the outer cliffs of the archipelago generally. The marina was very quiet during our visit in late June and despite its remoteness (it is perhaps the remotest of the ACIs) offered all of the usual facilities including a restaurant and shop. It is worth noting however both shore power and water are time restricted. Even with the (well muffled) generator running to provide power to the marina shop and facilities this is an extremely quiet and tranquil location, and when the generator is stopped at night or in the middle of the day you will never find anywhere more peaceful or quiet location.

ACI Piskera

ACI Piskera Marina on Piskera Otok     

There is also a second marina, on the inshore edge of the park (actually outside the park) on the north-east side of the Otok Zut. Similarly to ACI Piskera this site operates time restrictions for water and shore-power, but unlike ACI Piskera, ACI Zut is joined in the bay of Luka Zut by two other micro marinas laid on by two of the restaurants that can be found along the shore there. The quality of food and service offered by these establishments is excellent and one at least also offers accommodation (in what it describes as an Eco Hotel) though we have been unable to discover any listing for a regular ferry service to Zut and most visitors seems to be on yachts. Another great opportunity here is to climb to the top of the hill to the north-east of the marina and take advantage of the 360 degree views with Otok Pasman inshore, Otok Kornati to the south and Dugi Otok to the north.


ACI Zut, Luka Zut on Otok Zut

While entrance to the park is free, if you intend to spend a night within its boundaries you must obtain a pass (around 250 Kuna) from either one of the park offices or at Marina Hramina (Otok Murtur) or Marina Kremik. Visitors are requested not to make excessive noise, to refrain from fishing with a spear gun and with a line unless a permit has been purchased. Rubbish must only be left in designated collection sites. It is worth noting that several areas are also restricted for access (you must keep at least 500 m off-shore) and that these whilst mentioned in some of the pilot guides are not marked on the Admiralty charts.

While the wild desolate beauty of this park is a ‘must see’ if you feel the need for something more green after your visit here, there are two other parks within 1 day’s sail of the Kornati National Park. A short distance to the north is the Telesica Nature Park which was originally managed as part of the Kornati National Park but is now managed separately. The contrast here is stark as, approaching Dugi Otok, where the nature park is located, you suddenly realise what the natural habit of these islands should look like with a rich arboreal cover. You will find mooring buoys and facilities at Mir Bay.

Sunset over the Kornati (from Primosten)


Services and sites    -    Photographs