Most visitors adore Croatia for its picturesque pebbled beaches, but outside the city limits is where you will truly experience all that the Dalmatian coast has to offer. Brimming with cypress-shaded fort walls and biodiverse, this stretch of the southernmost region runs from the island of Rab to the Bay of Kotor.

Fortunately, much of the destination is well-connected with city airports, which means you can be unwinding on a yacht in Split or Vis Island in under three hours.

And while hidden gems like Makarska Riviera and Mljet Island take a bit more time—and an offbeat route—to reach, the journey is worthwhile for idyllic coves surrounded by turquoise waters and dramatic rocky outcroppings.  

Here’s our pick of the best things to see and do on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.

Explore Old Town of Dubrovnik

A labyrinth of 11th-century stone walls with grand forts and mapped by scenic walkways that overlook the spectacular sapphire sea, Old Town of Dubrovnik is known as one of the world’s finest and most perfectly preserved medieval cities.

Take a tour of the Lovrijenac Fortress

Although this landmark is less than a mile away from Dubrovnik’s focal center, St. Lawrence Fortress is worlds away from the city’s. While much of the architecture is relatively modernist, chronologists have traced the fort back—and an important structure in resisting Venetian rule.

Spend a Sunday at Marjan Hill

Marjan Hill is a natural preserve situated on the Split peninsula, home to art enclaves of the famous artist Ivan Mestrovic. The viewpoint sits high above the Marjan Park-Forest, which it overlooks.

You get lovely views over the sea, the Old Town, and the countryside from the hill. Much of the pleasure of trekking the Marjan Hill is in wandering through the thick pine forestation and trails lined with the Adriatic Sea and admiring the preservation of nature away from the city.

Lend an ear to the Sea Organ in Zadar

Hiding in plain sight on a busy sidewalk in Zadar, the Sea Organ is an interactive art display on a 72-foot-wide photovoltaic glass created by artist Nikola Bašić. The organ–made of 35 polyethylene pipes tucked under white marble steps–transforms the breeze and the waves into an endless stream of cutting-edge sounds.

Make sure you arrive early to grab a seat on the stairs and enjoy the “music” as you watch the glowing halo of the sunset over the Adriatic Sea.

Perch up at the counter of a Konoba in Split

Welcome to the world of slow “Konobas”, which translates to a cellar or podium where is produced and held. These tavern-style establishments are rooted in Dalmatians and are among the few places that sommeliers like to keep to themselves.

In privately-owned cellars like Konoba Matejuska, Croatian waiters offer to pour tastings from several bottles before pairing with your menu. But most importantly, they will take you through each label as customary Konoba tradition. Today, these establishments store some of the most top-notch bottles in the country.