Zlatni Rat Beach, Bol and Inland: Brac Island, Croatia

Updated on May 25, 2018
Polly C profile image

I love the written word, and the ability to catch an idea, moment, or experience, and share it with others. I write on a range of topics.

Imagine water so clear you can see shoals of fish darting around your legs. Imagine a long sandbar stretching out as though it is taking you to a peaceful haven far away from a busy world. Imagine protective pine trees, surfers, and passing cruise boats, all under a warm sun and blue skies. Imagine a place where all your stresses can drift away with the breeze. Imagine Zlatni Rat.

Zlatni Rat, often known as the Golden Horn because of its shape, is one of Europe's most famous beaches. In 2009, it was named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten best beaches in the world. It deserves the title. Situated in laid-back Bol, on the island of Brac, Croatia, Zlatni Rat is certainly a unique treasure. Quite simply, there is no other beach quite like it.

A view of Zlatni Rat from Vidova Gora, the highest point in the Adriatic at 778 metres
A view of Zlatni Rat from Vidova Gora, the highest point in the Adriatic at 778 metres

Zlatni Rat sits a short walk west from picturesque Bol Harbour, along the tree-lined promenade. As you approach it, tantalising glimpses tempt you through the trees. Although on photographs it may appear to be a stretch of silky white sand, Zlatni Rat is actually a pebble beach. In fact, many Croatian beaches are pebble, but this should not deter you, not even if you have children. I took my oldest son to Croatia twice - once when he was four and then again at seven. There was no mention of sand. He spent his time filling buckets with 'interesting' stones and attempting the impossible task of trying to catch a fish.

Pebble and shell beaches are also the perfect formula for crystal clear waters. Paddle in the clean shallows, don a snorkeling mask or try your hand at kite surfing, windsurfing, or jet skiing. You could hire a pedalo and give your legs a workout. Or, if you're feeling lazy, simply sit back and watch the yachts and surfers. And don't forget to wear high factor sunscreen; Zlatni Rat is a deceptive sun trap. The breeze from the Adriatic can easily fool you and give you the impression that the sun is not as hot as it really is.

Ever Changing

The phenomenon that is the Golden Horn is really quite interesting. It is unique and ever-changing. The current from the tide and wind shapes the 'horn' so that the tip can bend one way or the other. As a local guide informed us, apparently it can actually disappear altogether, but it will always return. Zlatni Rat is half a kilometre long, from the coast to the tip.

Head for the Woods

During summer, Zlatni Rat bears all to the Mediterranean sun. The shady pinewoods offer respite and another side to beach life. Under the cool shelter of the trees, there is just as much going on as on the beach itself. You will find people buying ice-cream and drinks at the laid-back cafe as music plays; a small children's playground and a basic canteen-style outdoors restaurant with great lunches at bargain prices. Zlatni Rat is happily lazy. There is no need to rush - here, stress is redundant. Spend a couple of peaceful hours, or while away the entire day and head back when the sun sets like a golden furnace, bleeding onto the horizon.

Bol Town

Nestled before the Bolska Kruna mountain range, Bol is both pretty and quaint. It is an ancient seaport dating back many centuries, and its harbour is choc-a-bloc with boats of all kinds. Little fishing boats and luxury motor boats are moored at dusk and the water shimmers under the evening lights. At night Bol is stunning. The illuminated quayside is abundant with low key bars and restaurants from which you can look out over the water whilst relaxing over a meal or a drink.

In June, the summer festival begins—a colourful programme of music and entertainment. We visited during a busy food event, with tasty dishes being cooked up in the most enormous frying pan I'd ever seen!

Bol, from the Quay
Bol, from the Quay
The frying pan,before the cooking began
The frying pan,before the cooking began
Bol Harbour
Bol Harbour

The Dominican Monastery

At night, Bol sparkles with life, but there are still places to visit during the day. We visited the Dominican Monastery and the Church Of Our Lady of Mercy, located in a peaceful spot to the far east of the harbour. The Dominican Monastery was built around 1475, on the site of a twelfth-century episcopal palace. Part of the site is now the monastery museum, the main attraction being Tintoretto's altar painting of Madonna with Child and Saints. Tintoretto was one of the greatest Venetian painters and the Madonna with Child dates from 1563.

The Dominican Monastery
The Dominican Monastery

Inland Brac

I'm not sure a stay on Brac would be complete without a trip inland. It is a fascinating experience, for Brac has a long and colourful past. Historically, inhabitants of the island faced difficult times. The first known settlers were the Illyrians and then the Romans. They were forced to move inland because of the constant threat from Dalmatian pirates. Living inland, though, meant that they had no water - apart from a few water springs around the mountain range near Bol, Brac does not have its own water supply.

Nowadays, there is a pipe from the mainland to supply fresh water but this is quite a recent development. In the past, there was not even a stream from which to obtain water. Rainwater could be collected, but Brac has a very dry climate in summer and rainfall is sparse. Instead, the islanders invented a drink called 'smutica', which is a mix of sheep's milk and wine (sheep were plentiful on Brac despite the terrain). This strange drink was not very healthy when consumed too much but perhaps made the settler's hard lives seem a little rosier!

Brac is famous for its white stone, found in abundance. It was used to build the Diocletian Palace in Split and has even been used for the White House in Washington and for other landmark buildings. Quarrying the stone was one of the main occupations on Brac. In the past, it was back-breaking work, though inhabitants were strong and hardy, with plenty of stamina.

In many areas, you can see the stone piled at the side of the road. These seemingly untidy piles are there because the stone has to be broken up and moved before the land can be used for farming. Even when this arduous task is completed, growing things does not get much easier as the poor soil is not very fertile.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Skrip: Brac's Oldest Settlement

Skrip is thought to be the oldest settlement on the Island of Brac. To visit it is a fascinating experience. Steeped in history, it was surrounded by an old stone wall built by the Illyrians; there are ruins of the wall remaining today, as well as the derelict remains of ancient houses.

The landscape around Skrip is beautifully rugged - hilly; rocky; sometimes sparse and sometimes tree-covered. It leaves you with a real sense of how hard inhabitants must have had to work just to survive on this difficult land. Though Skrip does seem like an old, forgotten ghost town, there are still a few residents today.

We visited the ruins of the Fortress, with its pretty gardens; the Parochial Church of St. Helen (Helen is thought to be the daughter of Emperor Constantine) the Church of the Holy Ghost and the Museum of Brac, which is situated in the Radojevic Tower, built during the times of the Turkish Invasions. The museum contains many ancient artefacts. After departing the museum we visited a little courtyard garden where local women were selling olive oil and a pretty kitten dashed about our legs!

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Outside the Museum in SkripChurch of the Holy GhostThe Pretty Kitten!
Outside the Museum in Skrip
Outside the Museum in Skrip
Church of the Holy Ghost
Church of the Holy Ghost
The Pretty Kitten!
The Pretty Kitten!

Pucisca: The Stonemasons' School

The city of Pucisca is home to the internationally renowned Stonemasons' School. You can take a tour of the school and even see the students at work if you visit during the correct hours. The white marble stone is beautiful and famous around the world. As mentioned before, it has been used for many important buildings, including the White House. It takes a student four years to graduate from the school, and to obtain a place there is thought of in very high regard.

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The Stone Mason's School, Pucisca
The Stone Mason's School, Pucisca
The Stone Mason's School, Pucisca

The Mysterious Pine Tree of Nerezise

At Nerezise, on the way to Skrip, you will find a stunted 200-year-old pine which survives in this roof, despite having no nutrients whatsoever
At Nerezise, on the way to Skrip, you will find a stunted 200-year-old pine which survives in this roof, despite having no nutrients whatsoever

The Horizon Is Calling

To visit Brac, we had to catch a ferry from Split as the island does not have its own airport. The journey was definitely worth it. It is beautiful and clean, with its stunning 'Golden Horn' beach, laid-back lifestyle, and friendly people. Brac, though popular, especially in the height of summer, remains unspoilt by tourism. Our tour inland was fascinating - Brac is much more than a beach holiday. You can be as active as you like, or you can do nothing at all. The history of the island is fascinating - it even kept my then seven-year-old son interested!

Then, when you have seen all there is to see, you can look across the shimmering Adriatic where the dark outline of Hvar, the land of lavender, beckons to you. Come on, can't you see it? It's calling you; inviting you to discover its own treasures. It's so close it would be a shame not to go. A short boat ride can take you there, but that's another trip.....

Approaching Hvar
Approaching Hvar

Questions & Answers

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      • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

        Polly C 

        7 years ago from UK

        @ marriedwithdebt - I absolutely loved it and don't know of many other people who have actually been there. Not the quickest of places to reach, but so worth it once you are there. I intended to write a follow up piece on our visit to Hvar, another beautiful island, but so far haven't got around to it. Anyway, thank you for reading, appreciate your comments :)

      • marriedwithdebt profile image

        marriedwithdebt 

        7 years ago from Illinois

        Great article! I have been to Brac once and remember it very much as you describe. I actually wrote a short piece about it here http://marriedwithdebt.com/?p=47

      • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

        Polly C 

        7 years ago from UK

        @ A, Farcich, thank you for reading and for your comments, it's very interesting to hear from someone who went to the school and who lived through such times.

        Best Regards

      • profile image

        A. Farcich 

        7 years ago

        I went to School at the Dominican School in 1940 & 1941 until the Italian invasion of the mainland....then it was to the family home on Korcula....then an escape to Italy

        during the Allied occupation.

      • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

        Polly C 

        8 years ago from UK

        Hi travelespresso - I'm so pleased you enjoyed it, I can only say that Croatia is one of the nicest places I've ever been and you should definitely visit, you would love it! I've been to Dubrovnik and the surrounding area as well and that is also beautiful and so well preserved, but I'm not going to write about that as I don't have any of my own photos (it was before the time of my digital camera)

        Anyway, thank you for reading and for your wonderful comments. I will have a look at Ohma's profile about the hubtrails :)

      • travelespresso profile image

        travelespresso 

        8 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

        Hello Polly. This is a wonderful hub and I enjoyed it so much that I want to add it to "my list" of places to visit.

        You may want to consider adding this to hubtrails. The profile of Ohma has details.

        I'm off to join your fan club.

      • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

        Polly C 

        8 years ago from UK

        Hi James, thank you so much for your comment. Travel is one of my favourite things to write about and I'm really happy you enjoyed it.

      • James A Watkins profile image

        James A Watkins 

        8 years ago from Chicago

        This is a fabulous travelogue. I could not have enjoyed it more. The journey was wonderful. You are an excellent writer and the pics were great, too.

      • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

        Polly C 

        8 years ago from UK

        Hi Rebecca, thank you for reading, and for your lovely comment.

      • Rebecca E. profile image

        Rebecca E. 

        8 years ago from Canada

        cool hub, love it, great work.

        PS I think I answerd your question tell me what you think!

      • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

        Polly C 

        8 years ago from UK

        vox vocis and Sandyspider - thanks for reading and commenting :-)

      • Sandyspider profile image

        Sandy Mertens 

        8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

        Very beautiful country. Thanks for sharing.

      • vox vocis profile image

        Jasmine 

        8 years ago

        I´ve been to many places in Croatia :-) A very beautiful country! I will definitely be coming back whenever I can!

      • Polly C profile imageAUTHOR

        Polly C 

        8 years ago from UK

        Yes it is, scarytaff, one of the nicest places I've been.

      • scarytaff profile image

        Derek James 

        8 years ago from South Wales

        Looks really beautiful there, Polly.

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