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As beautiful as Zadar Old Town is, a sun holiday for me must always incorporate a beach element. Having searched the coastline north and south of Zadar on Google Maps, it became apparent that only an island would offer the secluded coves and relaxed pace that I was looking for.
And as some car hire companies were not permitting their rentals on ferries then I would have to choose an island with a bridge. Pag Island was the only option fitting that criteria in the Zadar region. My positive experience on Pag got me hooked on Croatia.
PAG ISLAND GEOGRAPHY
Pag Island is a long and narrow island on the north east coast of the Zadar region. It is connected to the mainland via a bridge near Razanac village. The island is a contrast of grey, barren, rocky landscape interspersed with small sections of fertile areas where sheep feed on herbs to produce Pag’s unique cheese, Paški sir.
The two main urban areas are Pag Town in the south and Novalja in the north of the island. Quaint Pag Town, where I stayed, dates back to the 15th Century and looks a little like a mini version of Dubrovnik. It was no surprise to discover that one of the key designers of Pag Town was Duraj Dalmatinac, an architect who contributed to much of Dubrovnik’s design.
I loved meandering among the narrow lanes and old stonework buildings of Pag Town. In the centre of the town is the Church of St. Mary on the Main Square (Trg Kralja Krešimira IV). Concerts are held in this square and it was here that the local Pag dignitaries celebrated Croatia’s entry into the EU during my visit.
Pag Island’s specialities are salt, cheese and lace. All three can be purchased in Pag Town although it is cheaper to purchase the cheese directly from the farmers who sell it in their roadside shops and from the cheese factories.
Novalja, on the other hand, is packed with bars and multi-story hotels and is as far architecturally and culturally from Pag Town as you can get. Nearby Zrce beach is considered Croatia’s party capital. I really didn’t take to Novalja at all and even less so to Zrce.
Check out accommodation options on Pag Island on booking.com.
PAG ISLAND BEACHES
Pag Town’s beach is an excellent option for travellers without private transport. Its pebble and sand structure also means a pair of sea shoes will not be necessary.
Multiple small coves are dotted around Pag Bay although not all are accessible by foot. According to the map that I picked up in Pag Town’s tourist office, there are 14 off-road coves on the Novalja road between the town and Sveti Duh, a large beach with an adjacent camp site. Some of these coves require a taxing descent and even more challenging climb back up to the road.
On the east side of Pag Town lie the beaches of Ante Starčevića and Bašaca serving the nearby hotels and apartments.
Mandre is an urban area on the south coast of the island that has a rock and shingle beach. Šimuni is another south coast urban area that has a far superior beach to Mandre. Šimuni’s pine-backed shingle urban beach was shallow and spacious and I would highly recommend Šimuni to families.
While I didn’t get to visit Smokvica and Vlašići beaches, they came recommended by locals.
GETTING TO PAG ISLAND
I flew into Zadar Airport with Ryanair and picked up a pre-booked rental car. This was a perfect way of reaching and traversing the hilly island but booking in advance is essential.
Check out the Jadrolinija website for ferry connections to Novalja and Zigljen.
Buses travel between Pag Town and the major Croatian cities. Further information and ticket purchases can be found on the GetByBus website.
GETTING AROUND PAG ISLAND
Obviously, with the car I didn’t pay too much attention to public transport although I understand several buses a day travel between Pag Town and Novalja. Outside of this, the island will be pretty difficult to get around with your own wheels. This Visit Pag Island site lists other transport options.