Kvarner has some wonderfully diverse islands in the famous Kvarner Bay. The two largest islands in Croatia are here – Cres and Krk where we feature the four star Hotel Kanajt on Krk and the luxuriously contemporary Villa Ca Veia in a tiny wooded clearing and complete with infinity pool.
Most visitors arrive at Rijeka airport situated on the island of Krk (connected by bridge to the mainland) which is just 40 minutes transfer to Opatija or at Pula airport which is just over an hour’s drive to Opatija. With excellent mortorways, some people combine a short stay in the capital Zagreb with the Kvarner coast, two hours drive to Opatija, often with a night or two at Plitvice Lakes on the way.
The region is squeezed between the Istrian peninsula and the Dalmatia region and brings together many of the Croatian coast’s most enticing features: coastal hills and mountains, an archipelago of stunning islands, fishing villages with narrow alleys and gardens groaning under the weight of subtropical plants. Not to mention that a colony of over 120 bottle nose dolphins live in the Kvarner Bay and are often sighted.
The mainland coast here looks like Vienna on Sea due to the history and is completely different from the Istrian coast. The Kvarner islands of Cres, Rab, Krk and Losinj are a complete cocktail and simply stunning.
Bears and lynx live in the forests of the Risnjak National Park (Sunvil plans to introduce bear watching stays in early 2024). Trails for hiking and biking are simply everywhere both on the mainland and on the islands.
Rijeka is Croatia’s third city and was the European City of Culture in 2020. It is well worth a visit and the views from Trsat castle are spectacular.
There is a daily catamaran to all the islands and the journey to the island of Rab takes 90 minutes.
Just west of Rijeka, the Opatija riviera is a 20 kilometre stretch of coast and home to stylish resorts and small seaside villages. At the centre of the riviera, Opatija stands out. Her 19th century popularity made it the Austro-Hungarian empire’s answer to the Cote d’Azur.
The longest lungomare (seaside promenade) is here, at 12 kilometres it runs from Volosko in the east to Lovran at the western end. It is a glorious walk and we strongly recommend a stop at Lucica (which is actually ON the lungomare at Icici) for a great fish lunch. Simple, locals love it and call it “the fish shack”.
We feature hotels in Opatija and in Lovran and both have the excellent number 32 bus connecting them in just 15 minutes if walking isn’t on the agenda. There are numerous boat trips to the islands and along the coast.
Opatija started life as a winter resort for wealthy Viennese and today it has a beautiful Christmas fair called “Advent by the Sea” with music, seasonal foods, concerts, candlelight and exquisite decoration surrounded by Nutcracker figures, seemingly watching over the Adriatic. The Open Air summer Theatre transforms into an ice rink. From 1 December until 5 January. In summer, Opatija has some wonderful events and festivals, again many in the open air and a wonderful café society feel.
The Kvarner Bay islands are easily reached and we feature the islands of Rab and Krk for a stay. If short of time and if staying in Lovran or Opatija we recommend the day trip boat excursion with stops on Krk and Cres with lunch served on board.
The island of Krk is easily reached by a bridge and we feature Hotel Kanajt in pretty Punat and a private luxury villa near Vrbnik. Catamarans from Zadar in Dalmatia also stop on Krk.
The island of Rab is completely different because it has over 20 sandy beaches, and one is two kilometres long. Film location scouts are open spotted here and there are always rumours abounding. Rab town is a beautiful walled town with endless alleyways and hidden squares. In July, the Rapska Fjera medieval fair turns back time in Rab with three days of music, dance and even a medieval fishing village recreated on the beach. Reached by catamaran from Rijeka in 90 minutes, by ferry from Valbiska on the southern tip of Krk island or by ferry (15 minutes) from the mainland from the port of Stinica. If staying only on Rab, Zadar airport can be used and is just over a two hour transfer – and another beautiful drive. A twin centre holiday combining the North Dalmatia coast with Rab makes a wonderful choice
Did you know?
- The Kvarner Bay island of Cres is almost untouched by modern development and is (unusually) home to the rare Eurasian griffon vulture who have made their home on the cliffs.
- Easily reached by ferry from the Istrian port of Brestova, from Valbiska on the island of Krk, (both take 25 minutes) by catamaran from Rijeka or by excursion boat from many places
- One of the few hilltop villages in Kvarner region is Kastav, about 10 minutes inland from Opatija. It is stunning with medieval architecture, panoramic views of the Kvarner Bay and home to a rather unusual drink – mistletoe brandy, made with leaves not the berries so it’s quite safe.
- Kvarner Bay scampi (langoustine) are as famous in Croatia as fresh crab from Norfolk’s Cromer is in England. Served in many ways.
- There are two Michelin star restaurants in the region: Draga di Lovrana in the hillside above Lovran and in Rijeka, the Nebo Restaurant by Deni Srdoc is located in the five star Hilton Costabella Resort. Deni is a local boy from the island of Krk and something of a Kvarner “Jamie Oliver” of which locals are very proud
- Kvarner has some fantastic long pebble beaches, worth seeing are Medveja and Mocscenicka Draga both on the Opatija Riviera
- White water rafting excursions are available on the River Kupa, bookable at many local travel agencies.
- Day trips to neighbouring Slovenia and Italy are offered by many local travel agencies so one stay in the Kvarner Region means visitors may experience three countries.
- The television series “Hotel Portofino” was mainly filmed in Lovran and Opatija, with the riviera standing in as the Italian coast