Wow! Just wow!
That was my first impression as we sailed towards Rovinj on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. The town is quaintly ancient and, by contrast, the ACI Marina on its southeastern side, where our compass was pointed, is pure modern magnificence! A wonderful and striking blend of old and new!
Our chartered yacht had been a pleasure navigating around the islands along Croatian's northern coastline. It was comfortable and well-equipped and our days had been filled with good winds, sunshine and laughter.
Cruising into the ACI Marina, Rovinj
We were coming in from the north and approached the ACI Marina from between St. Catherine Island and the town harbour's breakwater, at the head of which is a lighthouse. We cautiously rounded the shoal marked by a yellow and black buoy. Had we come in a southerly direction, we would have had to keep close to the marina breakwater at the end of which is a green lighthouse. Our marker for Rovinj was the church on top of the hill in the middle of the peninsula.
After dropping sail, we cruised into the ACI Marina and berthed. Firstly we went through the customary check-in at the sleek reception area (open daily from 7am to 11pm and available on call after hours), then drawing and exchanging some money, after which we relaxed in the charming bar cafe alongside, where we enjoyed a real good cup of coffee and some snacks with a view of the marina in front of us. Here we hooked up to the WiFi to check messages, emails and the sailing report for the coming week, which by the way, looked very favourable - a sailor's delight! As we had sailed in at the end of May, at the early beginning of the summer season, we hadn't booked ahead, but during the peak season anyone sailing to this exquisite area and wanting to book a berth at the ACI Marina, needs to book in advance. This can conveniently be done on their app. If people from EU countries pay ahead, they don't even need to check in upon arrival, but will communicate with the marina via the app as they cruise in.
Now it was the time to take a stroll around to get acquainted with our surroundings. It's easy to see why the ACI Marina, Rovinj has retained its position at the top of the list of the best marinas in the Mediterranean ever since its original founding 34 years ago. Rovinj is close to Italy, which adds to its popularity with Italians, and the marina is located on the southeastern flank of the city harbour, backed by aromatic pine forests.
The company ACI was established in 1983 under the acronym of ACY (Adriatic Club Yugoslavia) and in 1994 was privatised with the name change to ACI (Adriatic Croatia International Club) and currently has about 22 top-class marinas in key positions on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea.
Everything a yachtsman could desire from a marina
The ACI Marina, Rovinj underwent a comprehensive renovation and upgrade, which was completed in 2019. It can now accommodate 196 berths with a maximum vessel length of 100m. It exhibits an exceptional first-class design and fluidly designed buildings with garden terraces that blend into the natural environment. It offers leading-edge technology, excellent security and all the services any sailor might require, aligned to the paramount specifications of international nautical tourism. It's no wonder it was the first marina to be awarded the highest category of 'Five Anchors' in Croatia. We felt very at home here and everything a seagoing adventurer could desire in marine comforts was at our fingertips.
The Grand Park Hotel is sheer luxury and the beauty is that guests of the marina can benefit and get special treatment and deals at the hotel's restaurants and other venues. The marina itself has a famous Italian restaurant, Agli Amici, which is Michelin-starred and, although it is only open through the summer season, is highly popular. We were very lucky to have got a table for that evening because usually one needs to book well in advance.
There's just so much to see and do in the area and we had planned to languish around and about for a few days. Then for some good R&R (rest and relaxation), I promised myself I'd spoil myself one of these days with a pampering massage at the spa and/or a session at the beauty salon, after which, suntanning on a lounger alongside the top terrace's swimming pool with a cold Mojito, seemed like a great plan. If you're the type who needs a good workout, like our skipper, well there is a gym where you can do your thing.
There are various shops and a grocery store where we bought enough food to stock up our galley for a couple of days. There are many boat dealers too and we sighed with delight at the magnificent vessels on offer. One can always dream!
Of course, there's a laundry and all the necessary services, e.g. for maintenance and minor repairs. They can arrange for a boat to be picked up if more complicated repairs are required. The boating fuel station is 0.5 nm miles on the west side of the Rovinj town port. Special pumps are available to flush out the tanks that create no noise pollution nor unnecessary sounds. In fact, the whole marine complex is a haven of peace and quiet.
For the upper jet set flying in by helicopter, there's a helipad, or one could rent a helicopter to do a reconnoitre of the Istrian Peninsula from above, which makes a nice change for the seafaring yachting crowd. If you fly inland you will get a bird's eye view of ancient towns perched upon hilltops overseeing lush and verdant fields below. Also recommended for anyone wanting to take a drive through, you could hire a car of your choice in your price range from the most exclusive to the cheaper models. Likewise boat rentals are also available. We felt spoilt for choice!
Of course a swim in the sea before dinner was compulsory so we headed off to the nearest beach only 50m away, a public beach connected to the marina by the main breakwater. After that, we showered in the sparkling ablutions that made a nice change from the shower cubicle on our rented yacht. They are well-kitted and certainly provided a more comfortably spacious experience. There is provision for, and they even have toilets for special needs. In fact, almost every area of the marina has given consideration to guests in wheelchairs and people with kids in pushchairs.
Later, we savoured our dinner in the sumptuous restaurant, looking down onto plush yachts in the marina and watching the glorious sunset. We had a sweeping view of the old town of Rovinj with its row of charming, colourful buildings hugging the shoreline, the bell tower of the church of St. Euphemia looking down upon it and the island of St. Catherine at its foot. What a gorgeous landscape! Enough to warm any sailors heart!
Plans afoot and under sail for Rovinj and surrounds
One thing I love about sailing around Croatia is the late sunsets. At the solstice, the sun sets at about 8.45pm which makes it a great long day for travelling and exploring. As we observed the dusky sky change colour we reminisced about our travels and planned our next days' outings. The old town of Rovinj is only a 10-minute walk away and we agreed that that would be our target the next day. We were keen to learn more about the legend of St. Euphemia.
Then following that, the Lim Bay, about 6 kms north of the town, looked interesting. Often known as the Lim Fjord, it is a protected 13 km long estuary with an abundance of diverse flora. The oldest remains of early man in Istria were found in the 105 metre long Romuald's Cave, as well as 41 types of animal species. It is not permitted for boats nor yachts to cruise up the bay/fjord so we could arrange an excursion. Then taking our chartered yacht out to cruise to St. Catherine and the surrounding 21 islets of the Rovinj archipelago, was definitely on the charts. And to finish off the trip, why not a night on the town at Monvi, the largest entertainment centre in Istria where we could dance the night away?
Ah, this was the perfect way to end a day - revelling in the quiet peace of the moment, smelling the scent of sea air mingled with the aroma of a good red Istrian wine, beautiful memories flitting by and the excitement of new ones to be made. We were so pleased we had made this beautiful marina our port of call and our relaxation destination.
Author: Diana Karmela
Photos: ADRIATIC CROATIA INTERNATIONAL CLUB