Our favorite activity while traveling in Dubrovnik Croatia recently was taking an Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour. The Elaphiti Islands are situated just north of Dubrovnik. Three of these scenic islands are populated and welcoming to visitors. The easiest way to check them out is via an organized Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour. We spent a fantastic day on a boat named Bobara, cruising through the Adriatic, and spending time on all three. Let me show you what touring the Elaphiti Islands is all about.
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Choosing an Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour Company
A 3-Island Elaphiti Tour is one of the most popular activities in the Dubrovnik area. In fact, I was later told that 9 different companies offer their own version of an Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour. Wherever you roam in Dubrovnik, you will see advertisements for various daylong 3 Island Tours that usually include lunch and unlimited drinks.
I generally avoid experiences like these. They can be too touristy for me. I had originally intended to visit the Elaphiti Islands ourselves, using the public ferry network.
However, once I started to look closer at putting a day trip to the Elaphitis together, I found that the ferry schedule to each island is somewhat limited. This made it difficult to visit more than one island in a day. And required a longer stay than I wanted on any one island.
Ultimately, I decided an organized tour made the most sense. Our Airbnb host had given us a few recommendations for activities in the area when we arrived, including an Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour. I trusted that he’d know which of the many options was best, and he offered to schedule our day with the company he recommended. I found out later the name of the company is Dubrovnik Boat Tours.
(And good news! You don’t need my Airbnb host to schedule it for you. You can book with them directly via this Viator link)
Morning Pick Up
On the morning of our Elaphiti Island Boat Tour, we were told that we’d be picked up below our Airbnb at 8:45 am.
At that time, a large van came along, and the driver confirmed he was with the tour. We hopped in, joining another tourist inside. We were dropped off next to the Dubrovnik harbor, and our driver pointed to three boats docked and tied together a few hundred feet away. He told us the big one was our boat, and that someone would greet us there and help us board. He then left to gather more of our soon-to-be boat mates.
Later on, I discovered that our van driver was also our boat captain. His name was Srdjan, patriarch for the three person family that runs Dubrovnik Boat Tours. And it was our first indication of the outstanding personalized service that we would continue to receive throughout the day from Srdjan and his family.
We walked over to our boat called the Bobara. Carlo welcomed us on board. He would be our guide for the day. Turns out he is Srdjan’s son.
The three boats tied together at the dock are all owned by the family. They are different sizes and are used for different types of outings. The Bobara is the largest and accommodates up to 85 people. It’s used when larger groups are scheduled for their daily Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour.
The bottom deck has two rows of tables and benches, along with a small kitchen and two bathrooms.
The top deck has even more tables and benches. It’s covered with an awning – the Bobara offers great sun protection on both levels.
Upon boarding, we headed straight to the top level, took a seat, and waited for Srdjan to return with another load of people. By 9:30, we were off, with around 30 people on board.
Leaving the Harbor
As we headed out to sea through Dubrovnik’s harbor, passing a cruise ship and Dubrovnik’s suspension bridge, Carlo covered all the safety pointers for the day and told us the agenda. 45 minutes on the first two islands…lunch…and then 2.5 hours on the final island.
He told us the ride to our first island would take 45 minutes, and invited us to just relax and enjoy the scenery. Scenery that included the coastline along one of Dubrovnik’s more affluent suburbs called Babin Kuk…
…and this lighthouse on the small uninhabited island of Daska, at the entrance to Dubrovnik’s harbor.
Elaphiti Island #1 – Koločep
The first island we visited on our Elapahiti Island boat tour was Koločep. It’s the geographically smallest of the three and has a population of around 300. As we pulled into its small harbor, Carlo described some of things we could see on the island, and gave us a departure time 45 minutes later at 11 am. He told everyone to be back on board by that time, because the boat would definitely not wait for anyone.
Once on shore, we immediately passed by a helpful island map which showed the exact location of the sites Carlo had covered on the boat.
I will admit that I felt rushed with only 45 minutes here. Koločep is a charming island that feels lost in another time. And very quiet. Wandering around Koločep was the perfect antidote to the crowds and over-tourism we experienced in Old Town Dubrovnik (outlined in my 11 Dubrovnik Travel Tips post).
Colorful seaside houses surrounding a small harbor….
A small town square with kids at play….
Vegetable gardens dotting the adjoining countryside…
I definitely found myself wanting to linger and explore even more. But I also did not want to experience the forced hours of exploration that would result if we missed our boat’s departure.
And at 11 am, right on the nose, we departed for the next island. We’d also picked up an additional group of riders at Koločep bringing the total number on our boat to 47 (more on them later).
A Stiff Morning Drink
During our ride (40 minutes again), Carlo wandered the boat with an herb-filled bottle, offering everyone a “welcome drink”. This was a homemade rakija. A fruit brandy infused with herbs – the typical style of rakija in this part of Croatia. He jokingly told us (at 11:15 am) – don’t worry, it’s only 40% alcohol. And I really liked it – probably better than any other that I’ve had in nearby Southern European countries.
And speaking of drinks, we did have easy access to various drinks throughout our Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour. It was all self-service. Each deck had a cooler with water, soda, and wine – replenished as needed. And several sleeves of plastic cups nearby.
Elaphiti Island #2 – Šipan
Next up on our Elaphiti Islands Boat Tour was the island of Šipan. It’s the largest of the Elaphiti Islands, has a population of around 470, and is the only Elaphiti island with a road – connecting two different port villages on opposite sides of the island. As we pulled into the village called Sudurad, Carlo shared a couple of interesting facts about the island.
The Island is famed for its olive oil. And is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest density of olive trees per square meter.
Šipan’s fishermen, based in island’s fishing villages, always have and still supply a significant portion of Dubrovnik’s fresh fish.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the island was a preferred place for wealthier Dubrovnik residents to build their mansions. These included one with its own castle tower for protection from pirates – a tower that still stands. (And as we walked around, it became clear that lavish homes are still built on Šipan.)
As on Koločep, we had only 45 minutes on Šipan. Unlike Koločep, I was satisfied with my 45 minutes. Because the island is bigger, there wasn’t really a point in trying to see a lot. We mostly hung out and watch the comings and goings in the scenic fishing port.
But we didn’t just sit for our entire 45 minutes. We did take the time to walk to the other side of town, and had a chance to check out the castle tower and adjoining buildings on our way back. It’s privately owned now and isn’t open to visitors, but is still worth admiring from the outside as an important part of the island’s history.
An Impressive Lunch At Sea
When our time on Šipan was up, we returned to the boat where lunch was waiting for us. All the tables had been set, and as we passed by the kitchen, we grabbed a plate of food. Lunch options on the Bobara include grilled fish, chicken, or a vegetarian meal (we’d already indicated our choice at the time of booking).
We opted for the fish, and the quality exceeded my expectations. We enjoyed an entire grilled hake, covered in herbs, along with a plate full of sides. Plus fresh bread in the basket.
I’ve been on several similar tours in the past, where lunch often just comes in a sack. I already thought the tour was reasonably priced, but even more so after we ate. This lunch alone would have cost the two of us over 50 Euro anywhere in Dubrovnik.
And a big shout out to Tanja, who somehow cooked lunch for 47 people inside the small kitchen on the boat, and also managed to serve it warm. Impressive! (And certainly even more impressive during peak season when the boat is at its 85 person capacity.)
And this is the perfect time to also mention that the family provided top-notch service throughout the entire day. Carlo attended to everyone through the meal, making sure we had everything we needed. I saw them all cleaning tables and picking up after everyone routinely in every new port. The bathrooms were always clean. Truly outstanding!
Elaphiti Island #3 – Lopud
While we ate our lunch, the boat made its way to our final stop – the island of Lopud, only 20 minutes away.
Lopud is the Elaphiti island with the least number of residents (around 200), but is the most touristic of all the the Elaphitis, with the most things to do. This is the reason that we were given 2 hours and 45 minutes to explore Lopud. In his pre-landing introduction, Carlo declared it his favorite Elaphiti Island.
Lopud’s most famous historical site is its Franciscan Monastery built in 1483. It’s surrounded by fortified castle-like walls, and as we visited the church inside, we learned that monastery also served as a protective gathering place for the village residents during times of attack. Other than the church, the rest of the monastery is not open to the public and is now a privately-owned event center.
Sunj Beach, on the opposite south side of the island, is considered one of the finest beaches in the entire Dubrovnik area, and several of our boat mates spent their Lopud time there (a golf cart taxi system transports people back and forth across the island.)
We however chose to explore the north side of the island…
And relax along Lopud’s seaside promenade…
It did feel that 2 hours and 45 minutes was a little long for our visit. Though I’m sure if we’d gone to Sunj Beach, it wouldn’t have seemed long enough.
After finishing up at Lopud, it was time to call it a day and head back to Dubrovnik. But first, we made a brief return to Koločep, the first island we visited. Remember, I mentioned that we had picked up another group of boat mates while there?
Well it turns out that these folks were a group from the UK, all celebrating their friend’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary (40th). They were all wearing shirts commemorating the occasion. And on their final boat leg of the day, with 80s music playing through the boat’s speakers, they made sure our ride back to Koločep was not dull.
They involved all of us in their boat top celebration. The 40-years-later groom came around and spoke with each of us, just as if we were his guests. And someone made sure our “wine glasses” stayed full.
And as the group left the boat, they all shook our hands and gave us a hearty goodbye, as though we had known each other for years not hours. Certainly not everyone that takes an Elaphiti Island Boat Tour gets to participate in a Ruby Wedding Anniversary, but it definitely added to the richness of our experience.
The boat was a bit quieter after we left Koločep on our final journey to Dubrovnik. But it’s hard to beat 40 minutes of simply taking in the ocean as the sun drops in the sky.
Jumping into a Waiting Van
We arrived back at the Dubrovnik harbor shortly after 5 pm. Srdjan had arranged for several different vans to meet the group immediately as we disembarked. He directed everyone to the appropriate van for their appropriate destination within greater Dubrovnik, and our driver dropped us off just below our Airbnb.
Once again, we were really impressed with the level of organization and service shown by Dubrovnik Boat Tours.
I’m sure you can now see why taking an Elaphiti Island Boat Tour with Srdjan, Tanja, and Carlo on their boat the Bobara was such a Dubrovnik highlight for us.
We were able to get to know each of these beautiful islands a little bit. Plus it’s hard to beat a day at sea on a comfortable boat.
And the service from Dubrovnik Boat Tours was amazing.
Here’s one more chance to book this great experience for yourselves using this Viator link.
If you are looking for some other things to do in the Dubrovnik area, then here’s a few additional experiences on Viator:
And if you would like to read about some other favorite tours we have taken around the world, then check out these posts: