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A Sibenik boat tour around the archipelago is a fabulous option if you’re looking for things to do with kids near Split. Exploring by boat is exhilarating and it makes sightseeing much more exciting for kids. We took a private boat tour from Šibenik to see 3 different local islands; Privić, Tijat and Zlarin.

Croatia Island Hopping Tour

While staying in the resort gave us a much needed rest, and some play time in the nearby Aqua Park we were very keen to get out and explore the local culture and beautiful nature that Croatia has to offer.

There are a lot of companies offering boat tours from Šibenik and a company that operates group tours from the beach front at Amadria Park, the resort we stayed at. You can travel around the islands by private boat (usually a rib) or on a bigger boat as part of a group tour.

We chose a private boat for a few reasons. Usually having your own boat gives you more flexibility for the tour. You can choose whether to stay a while longer in a place, or leave sooner than planned. We didn’t want to be tied to the group’s schedule, especially with a baby on board. We also chose the private boat because the boat ride itself forms a big part of the fun for the older kids. They aren’t so interested in seeing local architecture but they LOVE a speed boat ride and it really is a wonderful way to see the archipelago.

Sibenik Boat tour croatia
Croatia island tour

It’s important for you to know that there isn’t much on these islands! You really don’t need long in each place, especially if you have children in tow who don’t want to admire the local life or hike through the rocky forests. Having said that our girls still say the boat tour was a highlight of their Croatia holiday. To be honest, any day with a boat ride and an ice cream will be a hit with my kids.

Privić Island

The first island we visited was Privić. This is an unspoiled, car-free island with very traditional Mediterranean architecture. There are just two small villages/settlements on the island and you can walk from one to the other in around 20 minutes. We were dropped off at Privić Luka, a tiny sea front village with a small restaurant on the marina.

Our tour company had arranged our lunch at Mareta. It was very small, and busy but the food was excellent. I highly recommend getting stuck into the local seafood here. The restaurant is on a tiny little beach which is a great spot for kids to dip their toes while you enjoy a drink and wait for lunch. Just remember they’ll need their beach shoes so they don’t hurt their feet. We have these ones from Amazon.

In Privić Luka you will also find a memorial centre but we didn’t venture into here with the kids.

After lunch we embarked on the 1km walk to Privić Sepurine. We were told it had the best beach on the island and that it was sandy! It turns out the Croatian version of a ‘sandy beach’ is not the same as ours – it was most definitely not sandy. It was the usual Croatian rubbly, rocky beach. The walk itself was gorgeous, we passed quaint little houses, a cemetery and got beautiful sea views all the way. It felt like a lovely insight into local life. But it was hot and smaller legs than my 7 and 9 year olds might find it tough in the mid-August heat.

We arrived in Privić Sepurine to a very busy ‘beach’. A group Sibenik boat tour was spending time on the island and of course everyone flocked to the same spot. Once the group’s boat tooted it’s horn indicating it was departing soon, the people cleared very quickly. Around this time the wind suddenly picked up, as did the waves. The girls weren’t keen on swimming any longer and there wasn’t much to do so we asked for our boat to collect us. Our skipper was delayed so we waited…

We walked a little further and found a cute play area on the sea front under the shelter of some pine trees. The girls played for half an hour and then our skipper was due so we walked to the jetties to be collected. After more waiting around (but this time everyone was hot, grumpy and windswept) we got the bad news that it was too rough to board the boat. We were advised to walk back to Privić Luka which has a far more sheltered bay.

Croatia for kids

What was a beautiful walk when we were fresh and well fed was a gruelling walk on the way back. The kids complained the entire way. Once we emerged around the next bay the sea was entirely different. It was so much calmer! We met our boat and asked if he could wait for us while we treated the kids to an ice cream. They needed refuelling after the extra walking. The joy of having a private boat is that we had the flexibility to do that.

At this point we were toying with the idea of going straight back to the hotel. We’d spent far longer on Privić than planned and we weren’t feeling inspired to explore similar islands. But buoyed up with an ice cream coffee we decided we should keep going. And I’m so pleased we did.

Tijat Island

The next stop on our Sibenik boat tour was Tijat. An uninhabited rocky island. The speedy ride on the rib blew away the cobwebs and we were dropped at the jetty, alongside some impressive super yachts, at the one and only venue on the island. It was stunning. In the shade of the pine trees the was a bar playing chilled out music, serving fabulous looking food and gorgeous cocktails. It was almost 6pm so we treated ourselves to a G&T (for the grown ups obvs!) and let the beautiful setting help us wind down from the stresses of the previous island.

The bar has a range of seating, tables for those dining and low cosy sofas for us who just wanted to relax with a drink. We went for a wander and also found a plunge pool and a hammock. Heaven!

There was definitely a celebrity there too – although we have no idea who he was! He wasn’t Croatian as most of the staff couldn’t speak his language but most people in the bar went over to get a photo with him.

We finally dragged ourselves out of there and boarded our rib again.

Zlarin Island

This time we headed to Zlarin. Another small, car-free island famed for its red coral jewellery. I’m not sure where I stand on harvesting coral. I always believed it wasn’t a good idea but it seems to be very accepted here. Apparently coral fishing declined in the 1950’s due to lower supplies but there are still coral—processing workshops on the island.

We stopped for a quick coffee and loo break in a local marina front cafe and then went to find the red coral jewellery shop. They carve the coral into shape and then tumble them to get polished gemstones. We didn’t buy anything, much to my daughters dismay but all the necklaces she liked were hundreds/ thousands of pounds – way out of her budget!

Red Coral from Zlarin waiting to be carved into jewellery
Sunset on Zlarin Island

Interestingly Zlarin felt a little bit like Cornwall. The marina was small with pretty old cottage-style houses lining the hilly landscape. Again, there wasn’t much here. A few cafes, a little grocery store and Zlarin Museum on the East end of town. The museum houses finds from a Roman galley shipwreck found just off the Šibenik coast. We didn’t visit the museum as it was getting late.

The sun was low in the sky by the time we boarded our boat for the final time. We zoomed over the Sibenik riviera and our skipper offered to drop us back at the Solaris bay (walkable to our hotel) rather than into Sibenik Old Town – from where we would have to get a cab back to our hotel. Another perk of having our own private boat.

What age is the island boat tour from Sibenik suitable for?

Our girls were a fantastic age for the boat ride – age 7 and 9 years. They were old enough for it to feel safe on the rib and they could walk around the islands without complaint. The baby was absolutely fine too. I wouldn’t be so confident with a toddler on the boat unless they’re already familiar with high speed boats.

Is a Sibenik boat tour buggy-friendly?

Most of the islands we visited were absolutely buggy-friendly, yes.

Tijat Island is not buggy-friendly. We didn’t bother taking the buggy off the boat when we visited Tijat. We weren’t exploring very far and it would have been a pain to get it on and off the jetty, up the stairs to the bar. I didn’t actually find any entrance or exit to the bar that wasn’t via the water – although I assume there must be a way to access the rest of the island, but the island is uninhabited and didn’t have any obvious paths or roads. If you wanted to explore Tijat further I suggest putting non-walkers in a carrier. It’s very rocky.

We travelled from island to island on a rib – they’re small, speedy and you’ll get sea spray hitting you on board. If you’re precious about your buggy you might not want to take it on the boat. We decided to allow the buggy to get a little salty. If you travel on one of the larger group tour boats your buggy would be perfectly safe from spray.

Eating and Drinking on your Sibenik boat trip

If your kids are like mine and ask for snacks every 5 minutes you need to know how easily you can get food on a tour!

Our tour provider made sure there were plenty of bottles of water on the boat but of course you can take your own too. In fact I would recommend having water available for that walk between villages on Privic. Lunch was included on our tour and the food at the restaurant on Privic was excellent. Food was readily available at every location. Privic and Zlarin had little stores where you could buy snacks. Tijat only has the bar, and it is more pricey. The cost reflects the remote location of a stunning bar on an uninhabited island.

Water safety

We were all required to wear life jackets on the rib (apart from baby who was too small!).

At 2 months old, Max was very small to be on a rib. He sat on mine or Rich’s lap next to the driver in the middle of the boat. This means he was out of the sea spray and didn’t get too bounced around. Our driver was very mindful of Max and went very slowly over waves to make the ride as smooth as possible for him.

Always wear beach shoes such as these. Not only is it very rocky but there are spiky sea urchins living in the rocks too.

My top tips for your Sibenik boat tour in Croatia

Book a private tour. Having that flexibility is so helpful, whether you want to move on from an island early or stay a little longer for an ice cream.

Be prepared for lots of sun. Take all your usual sun protection – hats and sun cream are a must.

Take snacks and water – just in case. There is food available on all the islands but it’s reassuring to know you have some basics to hand when the kids start complaining.

Get your skipper’s WhatsApp number. It’s really useful to be able to communicate with your boat. They don’t always stayed moored at the jetty waiting for you.