The age of Aquarius runs parallel to the rise of Croatia as an independent nation. Established as a prime club by Lake Jarun in Zagreb in the earliest days of techno here, Aquarius has kept ahead of the field musically since 1992, establishing this beachfront venue at Zrće a decade later. Aquarius-on-the-Adriatic makes perfect sense, a seaside dance club with a quality sound system run by people who know what it takes to make a great party. Beach bar and eaterie by day, this open-air, two-floor nightspot comes into its own after dark, its agenda of big-name domestic and international DJs complemented by the co-hosting of the Hideout and Sonar festivals, and the newly established Area 4 Festival in July. Aquarius also caters to VIPs with comfortable, waterside cabanas, a new feature of the 2017 party season.
Set on the seafront of Novalja itself, allowing you relief from the crowds of Zrće and spare you the need for shuttle bus or taxi, Cocomo recently brought London’s Shapeshifters and Brighton’s Freemasons to this unsung but much deserving venue. Its urban location means you can barhop at your leisure before party time, while admission and drinks prices are kept at realistic levels. It also contains separate lounges and dining areas connected by glass walkways for mixing the night up a little and enjoying a little privacy.
Another Hideout festival host, Euphoria is often overlooked for the Zrće’s big four of Aquarius, Kalypso, Noa Beach and Papaya. Without their clout and international pulling power, this self-styled ‘Groove Club’ sells itself on affordability. ‘Cheapest cocktails on Zrće’ is the boast, and it’s actually quite refreshing to share its open-air dance space with kids from Karlovac or Karlobag rather than wonga’d up holidaymakers from the Home Counties. Most nights it’s free admission, and given Euphoria’s location right in the middle of Zrće beach, it’s easy to wander in, take in the action and neck a frighteningly strong – and, indeed cheap – cocktail.
Calling itself the ‘cradle of clubbing on Zrće’, Kalypso celebrates its 30thanniversary in 2017. Starting out as a humble beach bar, pine-fringed Kalypso helped launch the Croatian Ibiza phenomenon at this once isolated spot outside Novalja.
Renovated for its 30th birthday summer, Kalypso now features a new VIP area and has always played up its local gastronomic credentials, Pag specialities produced by the renowned kitchen at the Boškinac.
Part of the Zrće quartet of nightspots that shares hosting duties for the major festivals here – Fresh Island, Black Sheep and now Area 4 – Kalypso invariably opts to hire local DJs when there’s no major event on.
During the day, team sports take over, beach volleyball and football, and there’s a more communal feel here than at the more commercial, showcase stages nearby.
Opened right next to Papaya, Noa Beach is two-thirds the size and often just as packed. This is another Pag party venue planned out on an industrial scale, its USP being a platform that stretches out into the Adriatic, with docking facilities for yachts, 3D projections and a kicking sound system. A ladder leads down into the water if you need to freshen up and fly right. On land, Noa has its own restaurant, spa, food court, after-beach party area, cash machine and ambulance station. Eleven bars cater to a maximum 4,000 guests.
Long-established Papaya is, basically, huge. Happy to accommodate up to 5,000 revellers around two pools and several dancefloors, Papaya is industrial-scale fun, its Sunset Boat Parties a must every summer. Like the other big-name venues around Zrće, Papaya is pretty much a 24-hour operation from June to September, daytimes a chance to relax amid the palms and exotic wood specifically chosen for its Mediterranean ambience. Special events here include the Big Beach Spring Break, ARMADA Croatia and the Fantasy Festival, as well as Area 4 in July.
Pretty much the only nightspot in Pag, waterfront V Magazin is right by the bridge that connects the two halves of the town, near a string of bars and restaurants for pre-club socialising. This is a disco rather than a superclub of international standard but operates for most of the year and keeps a mainly local clientele drinking and dancing until 6am. It’s set in a converted old building, so you’ll be partying amid stone and brick rather than sea and sand.