Sailing in Croatia: Exploring Submarine Tunnels in Dalmatia
Sailing in Croatia, a guide to the submarine tunnels along your sailing itinerary.
Looking at all of the bright and glossy images of Croatia today or sailing up and down the gorgeous Croatian coast, it is sometimes hard to believe that this is a country which has had such a turbulent history. However, from bullet holes, monuments and museums to Military tunnels, there are things which remain to remind us of Croatia’s difficult past. If you are sailing in Croatia and don’t necessarily fancy doing a complete tour, you can still create your own military tour by exploring the submarine tunnels along your sailing itinerary.
Island Vis, is one of the more well-known islands in terms of remains from its Military past. During WWII, Tito, the ex-Yugoslavian leader took shelter on the island and it became the Military base for the Yugoslav army and of great strategic importance. Vis was closed to the public from 1944 and only became accessible again in 1990 (possibly why it has retained its authentic charm). Nowadays, Vis has numerous tunnels, bunkers and barracks which can be explored (we highly recommend doing a Vis Military tour, read more about it here), including a submarine tunnel which is accessible by boat (foot, bike and scooter, coming from Vis town).
This military tunnel is one of the more well-known in the world of sailing but there are more scattered up and down the coast that many don’t know about. So, we thought to share some lesser-known submarine/military tunnels, accessible by boat.
Dugi Otok, or the ‘long island’ is a treasure trove for sailors, including the unique Telaščića Nature Park which houses a saltwater lake and is famous for its magnificent cliffs which rise up 160 m and fall to depths below 85 m.
It also has three submarine tunnels accessible by boat hiding around the island in – Zagračina, Paprenica and Bukašin bays.
Credit: Hotel Bozava
Moving south, we come to Šibenik one of the more underrated Dalmatian destinations (read more about Šibenik here) and the ‘Hitler’s Eye’ tunnel. Upon entering the Šibenik channel, you will pass by the impressive St. Nicholas Fortress, the military tunnel is almost at the end of the channel, on the right, below steep cliffs and also the chapel of St. Anthony. We have sailed past it often but never stopped, technically it is illegal to stop and swim in the channel because it is so narrow and there is high boat traffic but there is the possibility if you request from St. Ante (CH 71) traffic control or smaller boats and dinghies are usually fine.
The Sibenik Canal, credit: kanal-svetog-ante.com
Credit: Strel-swimming.com – perhaps not so illegal to swim here?
From the longest, to the tallest island. Island Brač is more well-known for its stone (rumoured to be in the White House), lamb (roasted lamb is a must on your Croatian sailing culinary journey) and Zlatni Rat beach – the beach that it is photogenic as well as ever-changing (with a peak that can shift up to 50 m in either direction depending on the winds and currents).
But, what you may not know is that there are three submarine tunnels on the island of Brač: Maslinovo, Smrka and Kručšica bays.
Credit, Tash Pericic
I recently visited the submarine tunnel in Smrka bay just last autumn, I had sailed past this cute bay more than a dozen times but had never stopped in. My last visit was with Brač Excursions, we pulled into Smrka bay and were greeted by Andrea and Ivo Tomas, who own the house that stands at the end of the bay. A suggestion to all skippers, get in touch with Andrea and Ivo to organise an afternoon of domestic products or even a lamb on a spit in an authentic, intimate setting.
Credit: Tash Pericic, The house of Ivo and Andrea Tomas, in Smrka bay
Ston was formerly part of the Dubrovnik Republic and was of high importance thanks to its salt production; today it is more famously known for Croatia’s version of the ‘great wall’ and its seafood, in particular mussels and oysters. Mali ston is just a stone’s throw away (1 km NE of Ston) and connected to Ston via the wall.
Here you will find three submarine tunnels in Duba, Brijesta and Soline.
Credit: Paluba.com, Brijesta
Credit: Paluba.com, Duba
Lastovo island is part of the Lastovo National Park and Archipelago (which consists of 46 islands). This is another paradise for sailors, a little more off-the-beaten-path. Here, you will find two submarine tunnels in Sito and Kremena.
Credit: jna-sfrj.forum, Lastovo, Sito
While these tunnels are out of use in a military sense, during winter they are havens for a lot of fishermen during the off-season, a good place to shelter your boat
Credit: screen-shot, 24-sata, tough break, Dugi Otok
Happy exploring and mirno more!
Information researched and extracts taken from Strel-swimming