A Day Trip To Zavratnica and Rab Island: A Magical Croatian Escape

Posted in   Uncategorized   Updated on February 26, 2024    By Jelena Samaržija  

Picture it like this: You've been hitting the Zrće Beach clubs hard, the music still pounding in your ears. Your legs could use a break from dancing, and your soul craves a shift from the neon-pumping energy of Novalja.  

Time for a change – a day where the loudest sound is the splash of crystal-clear water against ancient cliffs, and historic island towns replace the pulsing nightclubs.

That's where a day trip to Zavratnica Nature Park and Rab Island comes in. It's the perfect cure for the Novalja hangover. 

Think dramatic coastal scenery, a sunken World War II ship begging to be explored, and all the charm of a medieval island town. Get ready, this is one adventure you won't want to miss.

Zavratnica & Rab Island

If you're hanging out in Novalja and want a change of scenery from the beach clubs and bars (although we love those, too!), I've got the perfect day trip idea for you: Zavratnica Nature Park and Rab Island. Buckle up, because this is one adventure you don't want to miss!

Zavratnica Nature Park Rab Island day trip

image credit: Rab Tourist Board

What Makes Zavratnica Special

Zavratnica is one of those spots that makes you go, "Whoa, Croatia is gorgeous." This picture-perfect bay is nestled into the mainland coast. Think dramatic cliffs, super clear turquoise water, and a lush green landscape. It's breathtaking!

One of the coolest things about it – besides the obvious beauty – is the sunken German warship from World War II.

It rests on the bottom of the narrow fjord, so you can see it clearly if you go snorkeling or diving. History buffs and nature lovers alike will dig this unique feature.

Setting Sail from Novalja

The best way to experience Zavratnica and Rab Island is on a sailing boat tour from Novalja.  

Plenty of companies offer them, and you'll usually find options leaving from the main port in town. Tours make things super easy because they handle all the logistics.

The boat rides themselves are a blast! You get to cruise along Croatia's gorgeous coastline, soaking up the sun and sea breeze.

Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins – they love to play in these waters!

Falling in Love with Rab Island

After exploring Zavratnica, most tours head to Rab Island. Rab Town, the island's main hub, is an absolute charmer. Think medieval streets lined with historic buildings, bustling cafes,  and inviting shops to browse.

One major highlight is Rab Town's four famous bell towers. They're seriously iconic, and you can even go up some of them for a killer view of the town and harbor. 

Since you'll probably be hungry after exploring, grab lunch at one of the many restaurants. 

The seafood here is always fresh and delicious – trust me, I've tried more than my fair share.

More Things to Do on Rab Island

If you've got extra time on Rab Island, here are a few bonus things to check out:

Beaches: Rab has some beautiful beaches where you can swim, sunbathe, and chill out. 

Pudarica Beach is popular for its sandy coast and happening beach bars.

Hiking and Biking: There are tons of trails for hikers and bikers alike, with stunning views around every corner.

Kampor Forest Reserve: A protected forest area with lovely walking paths and a peaceful atmosphere.

Zavratnica Nature Park day trip

image credit:  Rab Tourist Board

Insider Tips from a Novalja Local

Since I've called Novalja home for a while now, let me share some insider tips:

Book your tour in advance: Especially during the peak summer season, tours fill up quickly, so don't leave it to the last minute.

Pack the essentials: Sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a swimsuit, a towel, and a refillable water bottle are a must.

Mobile Phone: This is a day full of incredible photo ops. Don't forget your digital camera or a fully-charged phone!

Explore at your own pace: While tours give you a nice structure for the day, don't be afraid to wander off and explore independently.

Try the local food: Croatian cuisine is fantastic! Be sure to try local specialties, especially Rab Cake – a delicious almond treat.

Why I Love This Day Trip

Okay, let me be real for a second.  Novalja knows how to throw a party. We all do.

But sometimes, it's good to escape the crowds and take in the awe-inspiring beauty that Croatia has to offer. 

A day trip to Zavratnica and Rab Island is the perfect way to hit that refresh button. 

You get the gorgeous scenery, a good dose of history, and a change of pace that'll make you appreciate Novalja even more when you get back.

Choosing Your Boat Tour 

Here's the thing: not all boat tours are created equal, so pick one that matches your vibe. Here are a couple of options:

The "Chill Out and Explore" Tour: These are perfect if you just want to relax, see the sights, and soak it all in. You'll have time for swimming, exploring Zavratnica, and wandering around Rab Town.

The "Party Boat" Tour: Looking to keep the energy up? Some tours have a more lively atmosphere with music and drinks on board. Great if you want a fun, social experience while cruising the coast.

Don't be afraid to ask the tour companies about the vibe before you book, especially if you have a clear preference.

Zavratnica: More Than Just a Pretty View

Zavratnica fjord is a protected nature park, which means the area is special. While exploring, be mindful and respectful of the environment. Here's how to be a responsible visitor:

Stay on the marked trails: This helps prevent erosion and damage to the vegetation.

Pack out what you pack in: Don't leave any litter behind– it harms the wildlife and spoils the natural beauty.

Be mindful of marine life: If you're snorkeling or diving, admire the underwater world, but don't touch or disturb anything.

Contact Sunturist travel agency in Novalja for the best boat trip offers.

Zavratnica Nature Park and Rab Island day trip

image credit:  Park prirode Velebit

The Best Time To Go

The absolute best time to do this day trip is during the shoulder seasons - late spring (May-June) or early autumn (September). You'll still have amazing weather, fewer crowds, and potentially even find better deals on tour prices.

Of course, any time you can escape the Novalja club scene for a day is a good time. But if you have some flexibility in your schedule, definitely consider the shoulder seasons for a more relaxing experience.

Beyond the Boat Tour

Got a little more time in the area? Here are some ways to extend your adventure:

Spend the night on Rab Island: Rab has tons of accommodation options, from cute guesthouses to swanky hotels. Relax and explore the island at a more leisurely pace.

Explore neighboring islands: Take ferries from Rab to places like Pag (known for its otherworldly landscape and delicious sheep’s milk cheese), or the charming island of Lošinj.

Hit the hiking trails: If you're a nature nut, check out the trails in the Velebit Nature Park that surrounds Zavratnica. The views are unreal!


How much does a day trip to Zavratnica and Rab Island cost?

Costs can vary depending on the tour company and the type of tour you choose. Expect to pay anywhere from €40 to €80 per person.  It's always best to compare options or inquire with a few companies to get the best price.

How long does the trip take?

Most tours are full-day excursions, lasting from 8-10 hours, including travel time to and from Novalja. This gives you plenty of time to explore both Zavratnica and Rab.

What should I bring?

Essentials include sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a swimsuit, towel, and a refillable water bottle. You might also want to pack a light jacket or sweater in case the weather gets cooler, especially on the boat.

Can I do this trip independently instead of with a tour?

Technically, yes, but it's more complicated!  You can reach Zavratnica by car and Rab Island by ferry.  

However, a tour takes care of all the logistics – transportation, timings, insider knowledge – so you can just focus on having a great time.

If you're up for the challenge of planning everything yourself, go ahead and DIY, but for most people, a tour is the most convenient and enjoyable option.

Zavratnica Nature Park and Rab Island

image credit:  Park prirode Velebit

Day Trip To Zavratnica and Rab Island: Final Thoughts

Croatia isn't just about beaches, festivals and parties (although we love those things too!).  A day trip to Zavratnica and Rab Island is a reminder of the incredible diversity this country has to offer.  

From the awe-inspiring beauty of a protected nature park to the cobblestone streets of a historic town, this adventure gives you a taste of another side of Croatia – one that nourishes the soul as much as Novalja fuels the party spirit.

So, if you're ready for a break from the non-stop energy of Novalja and craving a mix of stunning scenery, a dash of history, and island vibes, Zavratnica and Rab Island are calling your name.  

Pack your swimsuit, and your sense of adventure, and get ready to experience a different kind of magic that Croatia has to offer.

About the author

Jelena is a Novalja Local. She is an expert in local tourism as she worked for a tourist agency for over a decade, received her tourist guide license, and also organized tours all over Croatia. Local cuisine is her forte as both of her parents are renowned chefs who specialize in Dalmatian food.

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