Best Islands to Live On: Brac, Croatia

Why Brac? Off the coast of Croatia, the rocky Dalmatian Islands -- more than 1,000 of them -- dot the warm, blue Adriatic Sea like diamonds scattered on velvet. Brac is one of the largest and perhaps the best polished. Limestone formations loom above jagged coves, then give way to gorgeous sand and gravel beaches. Green olive trees soften the surroundings and contribute to the region's storied cuisine, including fresh fish, local cheeses and Plavac red wine. Lamb, fed on grass salted by the sea, is a particular delicacy. Life moves at the right speed, guided by an appealing old-world ethos.Life of an "Expat" "The people live quite differently here," says Tony Duzich, who five years ago left his job as a restaurant manager in Houston, Texas to take a position at the Waterman Resort on the island of Brac. "And maybe it's the way it's always been and they just carry that on." View Larger Map
"But to them, family is really important, health is important, enjoying life is important." Tony, 36, grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, and was raised in the restaurant and seafood businesses. His father's family is Croatian, so when he was offered the opportunity to live and work on Brac, Tony was intrigued. "My first impression was that it was one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen," he says. "Every little village here has a beautiful old church. Most of the buildings and houses are made of blocks of stone, which has its own special kind of beauty. And the air is clean -- we don't have any smog. After Houston, I was ready for some fresh air." Tony, now a dual citizen, lives with his Croatian wife and 1-year-old son on the grounds of the resort in an apartment "footsteps from the beach," with direct views of Croatia's second-largest city, Split, 10 miles across the water. "It's really beautiful at night with the lights and the stars," he says. Summer activities center on the sea -- swimming, paddle boating and windsurfing, while in winter, when the wind kicks up, shopping and culture are a 45-minute ferry ride away in Split. Still, Brac has year-round attractions of its own, including its restaurants. "We have some of the best lamb in Croatia," Tony boasts. "We also eat a lot of fish. If you order fish in a restaurant at night, most likely you're going to eat a fish that was caught that day." Since moving to Brac, "I've really learned how to enjoy life," Tony says. "A big thing here is to go sit out and drink coffee. In the States, we hit the drive-through, we take the coffee and we go. But here people will sit on the riva, look at the water and drink coffee for an hour or two. I think sometimes in the States we get so caught up with work that we don't take time to enjoy our family or have time for ourselves." ** Your New Home** * $ Four-bedroom furnished stone house above a church and marina with terrace and view. $230,000 * $$ Three-bedroom stone house located on a secluded bay which is only accessible by boat. $700,000 * $$$ Newly built solar powered, stone house split into nine units with housekeeper's quarters. $3.4 million * Find more real-estate listings at milenkarealestate.com.Facts of Life * Climate: Mediterranean * Population of island: 14,000 * Percentage expats: 1% * Population of main town: Supetar, 4,000 * House starting price: $200s * Travel from U.S.: Flights to Split are through Zagreb and other major European cities, then a 45-minute ferry ride from Split to Supetar on Brac. * Closest hospital: Supetar * Price of local beer: $1.60 for Karlovacko * Languages spoken: Croatian, English, German, Italian * Ease of immigration: Medium * Ease of buying a home: Medium * Website: dalmatia.hrExplore More * Find more islands to live or retire on at islands.com/live.