7 Most Beautiful Beaches in Zadar
Author Meagan Drillinger explored the beaches surrounding Zadar as part of her month-long adventure in Croatia in the spring of 2023.
Zadar is at the very top of Croatia's iconic Dalmatian Coastline. This dramatic stretch of scenery is famous for its rugged limestone peaks that plunge down to the turquoise-and-crystal Adriatic Sea and beautiful white pebble and sandy beaches that extend for kilometers.
Zadar, a city whose history dates back to the Romans, enjoys an enviable location on the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by dozens of beautiful beaches to explore. North of Zadar, small villages like Nin and Vir have their own hidden coves and bays that are fringed with beaches, as well.
Much of the beach scene in Zadar is dominated by the nearby island of Pag, one of Croatia's islands that you do not need a boat to access. The landscape here is rocky and wild, with broad stretches of undeveloped, uninterrupted shoreline. The island is home to some of Zadar's most epic and unspoiled beaches, like Plaža Ručica Or Simuni Beach.
Of course, Pag is also home to one of the most energetic and lively beaches in Croatia — Zrce Beach, known for its buzzy restaurants, social scene, and calendar of outdoor music events.
What's unique about Zadar's beaches is that many of them are actually sandy, as well, which can be a welcome change from the ubiquitous rock or pebble beaches that you'll find along Croatia's coast.
If you're ready to discover the northern tip of the Dalmatian Coast, read on to learn about the best beaches in Zadar.
1. Plaža Ručica
Part of the beauty of Plaža Ručica is the adventure that goes into finding it. This wild-and-rugged beach sits at the tip of one of the branches that extend off of the island of Pag. Pag is a long, skinny island accessible by car that is north of the city of Zadar. Its Plaža Ručica can only be described as "otherworldly."
It takes a lot of bouncing and bumping along skinny, unpaved roads to reach this undeveloped, but spectacular beach. The beach itself is sheltered in a cove, but because of its position, you have to be prepared for strong winds. The day I visited it was almost impossible to walk down the hill from the parking lot because the winds were so intense.
But locals absolutely adore this beach, which is just past the small village of Metajna. It's easy to see why. Stark mountains protect the turquoise-colored sea, which is rimmed by bleached-white pebbles. Ancient stone walls show signs of the area's past. It seems over the centuries that not much has changed — and that's how the locals like it. It's a beautiful spot and one that is very different from other beaches in Croatia.
The beach has one small restaurant, but you can also stop at the market in Metajna to pick up provisions. You will have to bring your own umbrellas and chairs, however.
One of the top things to do at the beach is to hike the (appropriately named) Life on Mars Trail. The rugged trail starts from Metajna and links to several of the more beautiful and remote beaches on Pag. The hike can be done in sections as short as four kilometers, but the entire trail is a 15-kilometer loop and includes Via Ferrata.
2. Zrce Beach
If you're looking for energy, excitement, live music, and a lot of other people, Pag's Zrce Beach is the number one beach to visit in Zadar. Zrce may not be the most beautiful beach around, but it certainly is the most exciting and plays host to a number of live music festivals throughout the season.
Sheltered in the crook of two branches of Pag, Zrce's shoreline is made up of brown-colored pebbles and its water is more emerald than clear and turquoise. It's still a Croatian beach so beauty is baked right in, especially when you consider the cloud-capped mountains in the distance.
What makes Zrce Beach so popular is its entertainment scene. The area is practically bursting with restaurants and music venues. In fact, when I visited in May, the beach was in the process of setting up its stage for a long season of live events.
I cannot stress enough that during high season this is not a tranquil beach. Expect large crowds, long lines, and high prices. But if you love dancing and meeting people from all over the world, Zrce Beach is the spot.
3. Simuni Beach
"This was my favorite beach in Zadar. The water was so wonderfully blue, and the beach was so clean and wide."
Simuni Beach, on the other hand, is a wonderfully calm and mellow beach. But calm and mellow does not translate to boring. Simuni Beach is located within the expansive Simuni Camping Village. This palatial camping estate is packed with restaurants and peppered with beaches. It has campsites for RVs, as well as tents and cabins for rent. You'll find everything from a bakery to a spa for massages. It's really quite the place.
But you don't have to be a guest to access the beach. You can park your car in the parking lot before the gate and walk to the beach on foot. The beach is less than a five-minute walk from the parking lot and has a wonderful restaurant overlooking the pebbly shore.
This was my favorite beach in Zadar. The water was so wonderfully blue, and the beach was so clean and wide. We spent several hours hanging out at the restaurant above the beach, chatting with travelers from all over Europe who came for a little slice of paradise. Tip: The Caesar salad is excellent.
The water is calm and glassy, perfect for swimming and snorkeling, or kayaking. A small barrier of land keeps the water nice and gentle. You can even swim to a floating dock just offshore.
I wish that I had known about the camping village prior to our trip because I would have booked a few nights at this Adriatic playground. The village has six beaches, including ones with both pebbles and sand. Two of the beaches are also dog-friendly.
4. Kolovare Beach
As far as city beaches go, Kolovare is certainly the best beach in Zadar. It's located just a few minutes from the gates of Old Town and is one of the most popular beaches for city residents.
Directly in front of the beach is Ugljan Island, which keeps the sea in front of the beach protected. The water here is calm, clean, and beautiful for swimming. Because the beach is located so close to the center of town, it does get crowded in the high season. Come early for a good spot. It also is one of the best beaches in Zadar to watch the sunset.
After a full day exploring the historic sites and attractions of Zadar's Old Town, this was the perfect spot to cap off the day. It's less than two kilometers from the walls of Old Town and has a beautiful vantage point from which to see the sunset.
If you want to stay near the beach, you'll find a huge selection of Zadar hotels within walking distance. The beach itself does not have any restaurants that serve food, but you will find plenty of restaurants in the area where you can get something to eat. Otherwise, bring whatever you like with you to the beach.
Address: Kolovare ul. 11, 23000, Zadar
5. Ninska Laguna Beach
North of Zadar, where the bottom fingers of Pag Island create large bays and coves with the mainland, sits the shallow and calm Ninska Lagoon. The Lagoon is protected from the larger bay behind it. An inlet allows passage of water from the bay into the lagoon and a very long boardwalk extends out over it.
This calm beach is one of the most popular near Zadar for its shallow, warm waters, sandy shoreline, and views of the mountains of Pag just across the water. In fact, if you are craving a sandy beach after all the rocky coastlines in Croatia, Ninska Lagoon is the perfect fix.
The beach is also packed with facilities like chair and umbrella rentals, toilets, outdoor showers, and changing rooms.
Families love this beach because the water is so shallow and gentle because it is protected from the deeper water on the other side of the beach. At low tide, the water drains almost completely creating a sandy playground to explore. You'll also find free parking located just at the top of the small hill overlooking the beach.
Ninska Lagoon is also within walking distance to one of Zadar's other top beaches, but more on that in a little bit.
6. Pag Beach Prosika
As you return from Plaža Ručica driving back towards Zadar, be on the lookout for the views of Pag from the top of the hill. These sweeping views capture the small town of Pag and its lovely waterfront, with cloud-capped mountains in the distance. It's worth it to stop the car and take a picture.
As you descend into town, you'll come upon the long stretch of beach that takes up the entire front of the village. The pebbly shore extends on either end, with beautiful blue water that gently laps on shore. Pag sits at the crux of a long, skinny U-shaped bay and has stunning mountain views from every angle. Because it's sheltered on all sides, the water here is very calm and perfect for swimming. It's far less windy than Plaža Ručica, too.
Backing the beach is a string of restaurants and places to sunbathe. Families love this beach because of the facilities and the shallow sea, which is great for swimmers of all levels. The stones here are also well-worn and easy on the feet, which is a nice change.
Residents love the beach because it's in the heart of town and an easy walk from everything. While exploring the beach, make time to enjoy its beautiful 15th-century architecture and charming cafes and restaurants. Konoba Bodulo is worth a stop for its fantastic seafood, cheeses, and Mediterranean menu.
7. Queens Beach
While you're exploring the Ninska Lagoon, you may as well walk over to the sea-facing side of the lagoon, which is where you'll find Queen's Beach. Unlike most other beaches you'll find along the Dalmatian Coast, Queen's Beach is completely sandy, with a long stretch of soft, warm sand and views that face the mountains of Pag.
Believe it or not, the entire stretch of beach is actually around eight kilometers long, though the main part of the beach is directly in front of the lagoon. If you find the prime beach area to be too crowded or noisy, you have literally kilometers of seafront to explore.
Medicinal Mud Baths
One of the unique things to do at Queens Beach, and in the town of Nin in general, is to explore the medicinal mud baths. Surrounding Queen's Beach are areas that are known for their medicinal mud, which has been used by the Zadar Health Institution to treat ailments like rheumatic diseases, muscular problems, and skin diseases. In fact, the mud of Nin has been used as far back as the time of the Romans.
Treatments usually take 10 to 20 days and involve slathering yourself with the therapeutic mud and baking in the sun on the beach. You'll probably see quite a few beach-goers taking part in these healing regimens when you visit. It's said that after rinsing with warm seawater, the healing begins. I can't speak from personal experience as the best time for mudding at Queen's Beach is in July and August, but it is a practice that is organized by the city and something that wellness gurus may want to give a shot at.