16 May 2022. I love being in a boat on the water, and I’m always happy when it’s a ferry. It’s a bit like being on a train. For the time of the journey there’s nothing to be done but enjoy. And on this day the sea is calm, the sun is radiant, the sky is shining blue, and we’re off to visit the island of Brač. A day out. Finally we have all recovered enough from our unfortunate gastric collision with some oysters and have arranged a day trip from Split. It feels like a holiday.

Jadrolinija is the Croatian government ferry company, and we travel on Jadrolinija vessels several times. This time we’re on a small car-ferry. The journey takes about an hour; I wander the open-air passenger deck inhaling the salt air feeling relaxed and content.

At last the ferry docks in Supetar, and of course I can’t resist the obvious mental segue to superstar, the missing “s” from the name somehow disharmonious to my ears attuned to pretty much only the English language.

Supetar is an attractive town typical of those on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, all beige stone and orange roofs, and the inevitable church steeple.

What we see of it from the water is pretty enough. It may or may not be a superstar; we barely notice it. We are on a mission to get to the beach. As in THE BEACH! As in a beach that is frequently rated among the best in the world, and is the main reason for Brač’s fame. To get to it we must first cross the island by bus to reach the town of Bol, another journey of about an hour.

Brač has been inhabited since Neolithic times. It is a relatively dry island, but in the spring it’s green interior is punctuated with yellow broom and red poppies. Pretty. Brač olive oil is unique. The olives are of a rare variety called buhavica and there are over a half-million trees. Cultivation dates back to the 1600’s when the Venetian state insisted the island be carpeted with olive trees.

Through the bus window: olive groves,

small villages giving glimpses of authentic island life,

green rolling hills and yellow blooming broom. The backdrop: from water to sky a continuum of blue.

The journey eases by until at last we are back down to the water following a winding coastal road

and there it is, still far below: the village of Bol spread around a small bay and up the slope of the hillside; more beige stone and orange roofs.

Brač sits in the Adriatic Sea, close to the mainland of Croatia, the largest of several islands in the Dalmatian Coast archipelago, and the third largest in the Adriatic. It is home to some 14,000 souls. The population of Supetar is 3,400, on the other hand less than two dozen people live in the village of Murvica. There are several major quarries where the famous Brač building stone is excavated; it was used in the construction of Diocletian’s Palace in Split. It is usually referred to as white even though it is clearly beige. The major farming products, apart from olives, are wine and fruit.

Bol is beautiful,

and typical of the small towns in this part of Croatia. There’s a peacefulness about it despite it being the gateway for one of the most famous beaches in the world and the consequent summer invasion of tourists. We are lucky to be here in the spring as we wander what seems to be an almost deserted village.

We follow the water as the village curls around the bay, passing restaurants (where we stop for lunch), tour boats, a mail deliveryman on his yellow scooter (a glimpse of ordinary life), rich people’s yachts (though not as many or as luxurious as those we see on the the islands of Vis or Hvar, both of which are more favoured by celebrities), and fishing boats with nets piled high.

We come to the end of the bay and keep walking through the village. Before we go to the beach we want to see the painting. There’s a Tintoretto painting, or at least one that came from the workshop of Tintoretto. It’s called Our Lady with the Child and Saints, and is an altar painting in a modest Dominican monastery and S wants to see it. But the walk is long, longer than we expected, and we start becoming concerned that we’ll run out of time for THE BEACH! So we turn back before we get to it and walk back almost all the way to the ferry terminal.

Five-year-old Don is thrilled that the final leg of the journey to the beach is on this mini train. I’m a little tickled myself. We are all still children inside I think.

Zlatni Rat means Golden Horn or Golden Cape in the local dialect and lies two kilometres west of Bol on the southern coast of the island. It is surrounded by strong currents, and strong winds.

And this is Zlatni Rat Beach as it appears on websites all over the internet. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. On Shutterstock alone there are dozens of photos that look just like this. It looks magnificent – that tempting white sand between the rich cerulean sea on one side and the grove of verdant Aleppo Pines on the other. And with a name like Zlatni Rat how can you not want to go there?! It’s enough to seduce anyone.

Photo credit: Boris Kačan – Croatian National Tourist Board

The photos lie!

For a start the sand is not white it’s a browny-beige colour. Even L’s photo is a truer representation of the colour.

Photo by E. Nathan

Second, it’s not sand. It’s pebbles.

It has been listed as one of the top beaches in Europe. I guess for Europe it’s a pretty unique and spectacular beach, but I wonder if any of these people have been to Greece. And no Aussie would bother with a beach of pebbles! That’s not a beach, it’s an obstacle course. And I was completely astounded that one travel magazine rated it the best beach in the world. I guess their feet hadn’t actually touched down there, and they too were seduced by the ubiquitous internet photos. Have they not been to Fiji? Or any of the other South Pacific Islands? Or the Caribbean?

Anyway we spend a happy couple of hours there. S swims, L explores, and then finds a comfortable restaurant at the edge of the beach where we eventually meet up with her, and Don and I wander all over despite the pebbles. I have tough feet but the pebbles are still uncomfortable. Anyway there are plenty of people there who don’t seem to have my problem with them. Perhaps none of them are Aussies.

Beach people doing beachy things:

One side of the spit is calm and peaceful with not much more than a breeze. I watch as a young man and woman assemble an inflatable sail for a kiteboard,

and then she carries it to the other side, enters the water, and takes off! The wind is raging on this side and she immediately begins flying across the water. I am envious of her bravery and strength, and watch in awe as she maneuvers against both wind and water. It’s exciting just to watch her.

There is so much more to do and see on Brač than we have time for – other beaches, pretty villages of beige stone and orange tile like we glimpsed through the bus window, wineries, mountain biking, scuba diving, and an olive oil museum. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend the beach, unless kiteboarding and/or pebbles are your thing, but there is a mountain to climb. It’s the highest point in all of the Dalmatian islands, and it’s probably worth it if only for that view of Zlatni Rat. It’s the view that sells it!

One last look at Bol from the bus at the end of the day as we head back to Supetar for the ferry back to Split. It really is a beautiful part of the world.

Next post: if our day trip to Brač was a bit of a disappointment the opposite can be said about our day trip to the island of Hvar. One of the best travel days ever!

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2022.