Something of a late-bloomer, Šibenik is growing out of the shadow of its more popular Dalmatian siblings. The restoration of its four fortresses and the construction of a shiny new marina and hotel complex are deftly transforming the fortunes of this small city: Šibenik has rocketed from a quietly industrial port town to the region's most promising destination.
Šibenik offers everything you could want from an Adriatic holiday: unhurried streets, ancient city walls and pellucid waters. Compared with neighbouring Zadar, its marina is blissfully uncramped, and the city is far better connected to the myriad of islands and islets that define this landscape. The surreal Kornati archipelago, a scattering of bone-dry islands surrounded by translucent waters is a short sail away.
Šibenik is establishing itself as an increasingly competent destination for gourmands, with a small but high-yielding crop of fantastic restaurants. Recent Michelin Star winner Pelegrini has pushed Šibenik's food scene onto the international stage. For something more casual, the family-run Barun has long been a favourite with locals out to impress their new date/in-laws/business associates. The interior is as classy as the view – antique chairs, smart tablecloths and plenty of greenery.
It's tempting to paint Šibenik as a sort of Cinderella figure when it comes to tourism in Dalmatia. Some of its most attractive monuments took a battering during the war, and its romantic city centre is locked in by an industrial sprawl: these unglamorous outliers may put some visitors off. But Šibenik has always had the power to captivate. It's just taken everyone a while to catch up.
Lacking the showy glam of Hvar or Dubrovnik, a nautical holiday in Šibenik is the perfect alternative to the usual circuit, offering a Medieval city with easy access to unspoiled wilderness.
Visitors are discovering that Šibenik is just as handsome as its neighbouring coastal resorts. Sailing enthusiasts, especially, are impressed by its wealth of infrastructure and accessible marinas. Leading charter company NCP first laid anchor in Šibenik over 20 years ago. Now, this expert company owns an array of 70 yachts, available with or without a crew.
Where to stay? These days, Šibenik offers a few luxurious options. The stately new D-Resort hotel, shaped to follow the curves of the Mandalina peninsula, is fantastically located. As is the beach-facing Amadria Park Lifestyle Jure.
Šibenik's marina D-Marin Mandalina is the first in Croatia to receive 5 Gold Anchors, meaning its a verified quality place to berth. Here, NCP runs a top sailing school, offering high-class courses on a variety of yachts.
The beauty of sailing in Šibenik is that its geared towards both new and experienced sailors. Away from the tourist throng of Dubrovnik and Split, visitors can hone their sailing skills in comparative peace - or sit back and relax while someone else does the work.