Šolta: A Brilliant Day-Trip From Split

By 11 September 2017

Island Šolta is only 45-minutes by ferry from Split, which makes it the perfect day-trip (or weekend getaway). There is more than enough to satisfy any wants: adventure, art, gastronomy or relaxation; we went over for a day to see for ourselves and it was easily a summer highlight.

After sailing the Adriatic for five years, I have become quite familiar with the islands from Split to Dubrovnik: Hvar, Vis, Brač, Korčula, Mljet... let’s call this the standard central Dalmatia route. Island Šolta was also normally on the itinerary but we normally just anchored in one of the gorgeous bays, I have never spent much (if any) time actually exploring the island, until now that is.

You see, this year, I am not working on a yacht and while I have missed being at sea, it has given me the opportunity to explore destinations from a new perspective. As of late, Šolta is one of my new loves; I have visited Šolta a few times this year for different reasons – for a regatta, a wedding, a day boat trip and the famous Martinis Marchi summer party in August. The island has since held me spellbound and I vowed to get over and explore it more – not just the ports and bays.

So, when Zorana Kaštelanac, the Šolta Tourist Board Director invited me over for a day, I was quick to take up the offer and escape Split for a day.

Šolta is the closest island to Split, just 9 nm (nautical miles) away; yet is often passed over for its famous (or infamous) neighbours like Hvar, Brač and Vis. Easy mistake to make, but I doubt it will be a 'hidden gem' for much longer. I recently wrote about Šolta being an island that hides a world of adventure and it has received a lot of international media attention this year, so it was high time I checked it out for myself.

I caught the 9.15 am Jadrolinija ferry from Split to Rogač and booked the last return ferry at 6.30 pm – it was 66 kuna (just less than €10) for a return journey, not bad for a day-trip. The ferry takes 45 minutes and was a relaxed ride compared to the often chaotic and packed catamaran to Hvar. Zorana was waiting at the port and the first order of business was of course – kava. A coffee to start the day and make a plan: art, adventure, lunch, explore, swim, vino. It all sounded good to me!


Art for the soul

Our first stop was to be the Buktenica Gallery in Grohote. Once we parked the car and walked the streets to the gallery, I was already in love. Walking through Grohote it seems as though time stands still; there was no one else on the streets, run-down houses and stone slate roofs dominate the area, it is a photographer’s dream – every corner and alleyway begged to be explored.

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The street got a little brighter as we approached the gallery, splashes of colour announcing the Buktenica gallery.

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We were warmly welcomed by Vicko (Vice) Buktenica and his assistant and they wasted no time telling us about the history of Eugen Buktenica and the gallery. Eugen Buktenica was a Croatian painter native to island Šolta who very quickly became the authority for naïve art in Croatia. His first exhibition was in 1950 and by 1952 he was included in the permanent display in Zagreb in what is now known as the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art. His works have been displayed all around the world from Amsterdam and Chicago, to Moscow, New York and Warsaw, I was even told that apparently Jackie Kennedy purchased one of Buktenica’s paintings and it now resides in the White House.

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Eugen Buktenica passed away in 1997 and it is his nephew Vice who has since taken up the paintbrush and continues his Uncle’s passion in painting as well as encouraging others by running various Art Colonies. The gallery itself is quaint, yet vibrant and Vice is currently working on Croatian-made souvenirs such as umbrellas, dresses, place mats even gumboots, all brightly designed to represent art and the Buktenica name. Croatia is so full of talent, I would be thrilled to see more initiatives and authentic souvenirs like this; when Hollywood actress Eva La Rue visited the gallery, she pre-ordered one of Vice’s dresses and purchased a painting.

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Adventure, Kayaking in Nečujam Bay

Next, we were off to Nečujam bay – the largest bay on Šolta, to go kayaking. I always profess that I love being in, on and near the water, but if I am honest, I have done very little activity related to the sea this year and if I am even more honest – I can't remember the last time I went kayaking! I was excited to hit the water and even more so once I learned it would be Zorana's first time. Here, I need to point out the fact – how many Tourist Board Directors do you think show people around by kayak?

After coming from Split, which even though it is September, was still abuzz with tourists, Šolta and Nečujam bay were a welcome relief. Nečujam literally translates to 'I can't hear' which is fitting for a peaceful paradise, just check out these photos from the 'busiest' time of day...

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We rented kayaks from Barić Nautika on the beach, sorry, no website but you can’t miss them. The price was a very modest: 30 kn for 3 hours or 100 kn for 6 hours. We definitely didn’t need 6 hours, so we rented a double kayak – a day on the water for two people for less than €5!

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We took to the water to explore the many inlets around Nečujam bay (which also offer beautiful anchorages). In one of the small inlets, beneath the sea, lies the Roman Emperor Diocletian's fish pond which was built in 295 AD. Kayaking was so much more relaxing than I ever would have thought, I found myself fall into rhythm and I no longer had to think about paddling, but could instead take in the serene scene.

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The waters in Nečujam are simply stunning, they shifted from deep blues to the bright turquoise that Croatia is so famous for. After paddling to a few inlets, it wasn't long before the waters tempted us in – but that is the beauty of kayaking, right? Paddle, explore, find a gorgeous bay with no one else around and enjoy it all for yourself! An hour and a half easily slipped by before our stomachs began to let us know it was lunch time.

A hearty lunch

We drove to Stomorska to have lunch at a cute little restaurant called Nevera, overlooking the port. I have visited Stomorska when we did a day-charter aboard Polaris and went for an olive oil tasting. It is a darling little town, full of charm with a rich maritime history dating back to the 17th Century.

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view from the restaurant 'window'...

For lunch, we ordered an octopus salad and anchovies to share, then clearly all the paddling had left us in the mood for something heartier because we both opted for pašticada with gnocchi – a traditional Croatian dish. Even though Stomorska is one of the main ports, the restaurant is still very reasonably priced (you have to love small islands), entrees were from 25 – 70 kuna, pastas were 50 – 75 kuna and our main of pašticada was 85 kuna and was more than enough.

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Explore – swim – repeat

After lunch, we drove through Gornje Selo to Stračinska bay. The drive itself was gorgeous, the roads are a little rugged (which I love) but gave some of the most breath-taking views over the island and through thick olive groves, pine and vegetation. Šolta was one of the few islands to escape the summer unscathed from the fires, so it is still very lush. Zorana informed me that they are working on more bike paths and will soon have 180 km of biking paths around the island; driving through, I can easily see the appeal.

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Driving to Stracinska bay

Stračinska bay is at the SE tip of Šolta and not easily approachable by foot, hence only those in the know and boats find themselves in this bay. As we walked down the path, towards the bay, this is the view we were left with...

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Before diving into the enticing waters, we walked around the bay for these views...

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It was so picturesque, locals collecting sardines from their nets, a man and his excited dog heading out fishing and of course, the Adriatic again showing-off with its many shades of greens and blues. 

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We managed another quick dip before it was time to finish the day with some vino.

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Vino, because – always.

Šolta, while tiny, is known for its olive oil, honey and wine production. Dobričić is a grape indigenous to Šolta, recognised by its deep almost black colour, it was originally produced simply to mix with other wines to give a rich colour. But, thanks to passionate locals, they revitalised the island by planting Dobričić vines and today are producing wine from the grape (not just for the colour). Fun fact: Dobričić along with Crljenak Kaštelanski (aka Zinfandel) are the parents of Plavac Mali, the most famous Dalmatian red.

Our day was nearing its end, so we didn't do an official wine tasting, but did have time to have a quick tipple of domače rose and Dobričić.

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Šolta, a return to innocence

I may have had a unique experience having a local as my guide but as the island is only 19 km long and approximately 5 km wide, exploring yourself is not too difficult. The slogan of Šolta is 'a return to innocence', which fits perfectly. Everything about the island felt so peaceful; the locals were friendly, there is a warm and welcoming atmosphere, yet a quiet hush over the island.

For those wanting to adventure, you can kayak, SUP, bike, dive even go quad biking. Gastronomers can spend a day tasting vino, olive oil, honey and local cuisine and if you just want to relax, you can find plenty of gorgeous beaches or bays to lose yourself for a day.

Ending the day in the best way

As 6.30 pm approached, we returned to Rogač, so I could catch the ferry. I have had a few amazing days this summer, but with Autumn approaching, I feel like this may have been my last summer’s day and it couldn’t have been more perfect. I am only sorry I truly discovered the gem that Šolta is at the end of the season but I have every intention of taking full advantage next year.

As I sat on the ferry on my way back to Split, I couldn't help but think that this is one of the best day-trips from Split, of course, to have 2 - 3 days to really enjoy every aspect to its fullest would be ideal. If you are visiting Split, please put this in your itinerary and if you can spare more than one day for Šolta, you won't regret it.

Then, on your return back to Split, this is how you will get to finish your day, could it be more perfect?...

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To learn more about Šolta, visit their official page here.

All photo by Tash Pericic.