Discover the Best of Cres Island, Croatia

Cres Island, Croatia, is a historic and culturally diverse destination with stunning landscapes and natural beauty. Its unique history and frequent changes in governance have left an indelible mark on the island, making it a fascinating place to visit. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the top things to see and do on Cres Island.

The Island’s History

Cres Island’s history is rich with changes in governance, starting with its independence, followed by the Roman Empire’s control in the second century. The Venetian Empire tried to take over the island several times between 1000-1797. After being absorbed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early 1800s and later falling under Italian rule after World War I, Cres Island was eventually given to Yugoslavia and became part of Croatia when the country declared independence in 1991.

The result of trading hands so often is the island’s culture and architecture, which are diverse and exciting. Cres Island is sparsely populated, providing a relaxing reprieve from Croatia’s typical tourist attractions. The island’s stunning landscapes make it one of the best Croatian islands to explore.

Beautiful Scenery

Once you reach Cres Island, you will be captivated by its scenery, dotted with numerous bays and coves that invite you to explore them. The ancient forests and hidden towns on the hilltops reflect a simpler and more mysterious time. The cliffs are impressive and in places shoot straight up out of the ocean and head skyward.

While staying on the island, you will most likely be in Cres town, known for its beautiful architecture heavily influenced by the Venetians. Things to see in Cres Old town include the Venetian Tower, Municipal Loggia, Remnants of the city walls, Old Roman Bridge, and the Beli Olive mill.

Put your adventurer’s cap on as you trek outside the city and explore Cres’s smaller settlements, including Lubenice, Beli, Valun, and Martinšćica. Perched on top of a cliff 378m above sea level is Lubenice, where you’ll find a medieval fortress and the remains of the city walls.

In summer, Lubenice hosts Lubenice Evenings, where some of Croatia’s best performers entertain visitors to the island. Directly below Lubenice is St John Beach, ranked 15th best beach globally by Bild magazine.

The village of Martinšćica sits on a breathtakingly beautiful bay with a spectacular pristine pebble beach, making it an enjoyable swim stop. Once you are finished, continue up to one of the major peaks on Cres Island, Niksa, Križić, and Sis, which will give you the best panoramic views over the Kvarner Bay. With over 100km of marked trails, hiking Cres Island is an excellent way to see the natural treasures of the island, including the freshwater lake Vrana, the Tramontana Woods with its oak, hornbeam, chestnut, and archaeological sites.

Cres Island’s hidden coves provide superb snorkeling, and there is also a scuba diving center located on the island. If you feel like meandering around the outskirts of the island, you can hire a boat for the day and find your own little private beach. Cres’s most famous beach is Mali bok, but the beaches at Martinšćice and Valun are equally lovely.

Culinary Delights

Cres Island has numerous restaurants scattered throughout the island that provide authentic Croatian food. Some of these establishments let you sit on the seaside, while others are tucked amongst the shade of trees and allow you to dine alfresco. All of them provide fabulous fare ranging from exquisite local seafood to the famous Cres Lamb, which you absolutely must try. Cres lamb is prepared one of two ways – cooked under the bell (ispod peke) or spit-roasted; it tastes fantastic cooked either way, so try both and decide for yourself. Here are a few noteworthy Cres restaurants worth trying:

  • Na Moru – This restaurant offers some of the island’s best seafood and lamb entrees, prepared traditionally with a reputation that is second to none. They own their own fishpond, allowing you to choose your fresh catch meal.
  • Mali Raj – This restaurant offers a superb dining experience, best known for its succulent and tender lamb.
  • Trs – Known for Cres lamb as well, the distinguishing difference here is that they raise their lamb. Great staff and beautiful surroundings.
  • Maris – Outdoor dining in a garden environment with beautiful and lush surroundings. The food features local dishes that not only tickle the palate but also satisfy your appetite.


During the summer, Cres Island hosts numerous festivals, such as Cres Town Summer Nights, The Summer Carnival, The Summer Festival, Vidovici Martinscica, Days of Tramuntana, and Belej St. Rocco, featuring live bands and entertainment. Belej St. Rocco is the largest festival of all and happens on August 16th every year.

Throughout the rest of the year, Cres Island is much quieter, but there are still some excellent events, such as the four islands MTB race, Kvarner Bay challenge, and foodies should not miss the days of Cres lamb and olive oil.

Traveling To Cres Island

To get to Cres Island, you must take the ferry. Check the ferry schedules beforehand to avoid waiting around. From the mainland in Brestova, a 20-minute ferry ride will take you to the island. You may also take the bus as most bus lines make several trips a day. By plane, your best bet is to fly to Rijeka and take public transport or a ferry from there to the island.


Cres Island, Croatia, is a hidden gem with rich history, stunning landscapes, and delightful cuisine. With numerous festivals and events throughout the year, there is always something to do on the island. Take some time to explore the hidden coves, hike the marked trails, and dine at the fantastic restaurants, and you will experience the best of what Cres Island has to offer.

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