Oh, I see! moments
Travel Cultures Language

Travel Inspiration from the Sounds of the Sea

by Meredith Mullins on March 28, 2016

The sea organ in Zadar, Croatia, travel inspiration for music and nature lovers. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

The sea organ (Morske Orgulje) in Zadar, Croatia
© Meredith Mullins

The Haunting Sea Organ of Zadar, Croatia

Travel inspiration is born from many different sources. The power of nature. Layers of history. Beauty of land and sea. Discovery of new cultures. Freedom to wander. A feeling of community, wherever you are in the world.

The allure is irresistable.

And, if you are able to put all of those inspirations together, a truly memorable experience emerges. Such was the case for me with the sea organ in Zadar, Croatia. A convergence of “Oh, I See” moments.

Close to a Dream

A spontaneous visit to Croatia introduced me to the rugged beauty of the Dalmatian coast, the friendliness of the locals, and, in many places, the luxury of being the only traveler in town (an off-season advantage).

Zlatni Rat beach in Croatia, travel inspiration for beach and nature lovers. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Croatia’s unspoiled coastline
© Meredith Mullins

I was visiting Split—the second largest city in Croatia, with a rich history dating back to the 4th century BC— when someone mentioned the Zadar sea organ. I had read about this amazing architectural creation on the Croatian coast. It had won several urban design awards after its installation in 2005 and, even more recently, had been rediscovered in the blogosphere.

From the moment I first learned of it, I knew I wanted to go there in person. Music and nature are two powerful forces in my life.

I saw how close I was to Zadar—a breathtaking three-hour coastal bus ride away. I was ready to make a pilgrimage for the symphony of the sea.

Nature Speaks

The sea is never silent. It always has something to say. From gentle lapping rhythms on a calm day to thunderous crashing during a storm. It is scripted by the forces of nature.

It was these sounds of the sea that inspired Croatian architect Nikola Bašić. He was considering projects to rebuild Zadar—a city that had thrived for centuries but had been devastated in WWII.

Roman column in Zadar, Croatia, fragments that provide travel inspiration of layers of history. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Many layers of history in Zadar
© Meredith Mullins

Much of the city had been rebuilt after the war, using fragments of the Roman ruins in the construction of new buildings. But the open space where the city meets an expanse of the Adriatic Sea and offers vistas of the nearby archipelago had been neglected. It was just a concrete sea wall.

Bašić wanted that promontory into the sea to be something special. Because he grew up on an island near Zadar, the communion that occurs when water meets land was a part of him.

“The line between sea and land has always been resolved by sound,” he said. It was this premise that led him to think about a creative solution to the Zadar seafront.

Sea organ stairs in Zadar, Croatia, travel inspiration for music and nature lovers. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

A connection with the sea
© Meredith Mullins

A Stairway into the Adriatic

Bašić first wanted to be sure his creation provided access to the sea, so he designed a staircase that descends to the water.

Depending on the tides, wind, and weather, the steps vary in the way the water flows over them. You can stop on a step to stay dry, or you can slide into the sea for a swim.

“I wanted to make people come into contact with the sea,” Bašić explained. “I wanted to invite them to communicate with nature.”

The Creative Improv of Wave and Wind

Bašić then decided to add music and worked with a hydraulic engineer, acoustic engineer, and an organ master to create an instrument within the steps—the first sea organ in the world.

The organ is a series of 35 tubes of different diameters. Air is pushed by the waves into the tubes and then into a horizontal corridor. The music breathes through holes in the upper sidewalk.

Holes in the sidewalk where the music is channeled in the sea organ of Zadar, Croatia, travel inspiration for music and nature lovers. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

The sea organ music is channeled up through the holes in the sidewalk.
© Meredith Mullins

The organ is tuned so that it is similar to traditional Dalmatian male singing groups with roots in the Middle Ages. It sounds ancient and extraterrestrial at the same time.

The notes are completely unpredictable (an ever changing Playlist), because nature is composing in the moment. The wind and the waves choose the notes. Even a passing boat can have influence on the composition.

Wind surfer near the Riva in Zadar, Croatia, travel inspiration for travelers of all ages. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Can a wind surfer and a cyclist influence the sea organ’s sounds? You’ll have to listen.
© Meredith Mullins

A Sense of Community

Since the installation of the sea organ, life in Zadar has changed. The city has become a significant traveler destination as word of the sea organ spread globally.

Children listen to the sea organ in Zadar, Croatia, travel inspiration for all ages. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

A school group visits the sea organ and listens in the magical sidewalk holes for the songs of the sea.
© Meredith Mullins

More important was the renewed sense of community. Bašić proudly notes, “With the sea organ, the Nova Riva (new seafront walkway) has literally changed its character and become the scene of a new urban sociability.” It draws people in.

Sun Salutation by architect Bašić in Zadar, Croatia, travel inspiration for worldwide travelers. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

The Sun Salutation on the Riva near the sea organ
© Meredith Mullins

And with the subsequent addition of Bašić’s Sun Salutation, an installation that uses solar energy to charge the panels of a large circular pool of color and light, the transition from day to night casts a magical spell.

Nikola Bašić posing on the Sun Salutation in Zadar, Croatis, travel inspiration for worldwide visitors. (Image courtesy of Marina Projekt.)

Croatian architect Nikola Bašić, lit by the solar energy of his Sun Salutation
Image courtesy of Marina Projekt

A Perfect Recipe for Inspiration

Zadar is the ultimate in travel inspiration. You can walk through visible layers of history. You feel the power of nature even in an urban setting. You instantly feel a part of the community. And the mysterious music of the sea organ makes you want to sit there forever.

Panorama of the sea organ in Zadar, Croatia, travel inspiration for music and nature lovers. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

A peaceful panorama
© Meredith Mullins

After many mesmerizing hours staring at the sparkling water listening to the haunting songs of the sea, I was in a place of reverence. I found it difficult to leave. But I know I will return.

Listen …

If video does not display, watch it here.

Thank you to TravelontheDollar for the YouTube video.

For more information on Bašić’s design of the sea organ, click here.

For more information on Zadar, Croatia, click here.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


6 thoughts on “Travel Inspiration from the Sounds of the Sea

    • Hi Pamela,
      I agree that this project deserves attention. It should be shared with the world. However, in many ways, I want it all to myself when I am sitting there listening to the spirit of the sea. A dilemma.

      Thanks for writing,


  1. Mere,
    I have known of this Zadar seafront project and have dreamt of visiting. At last, I visit… through your eyes and words.

    • Hi Normi,
      I’m glad the words and images gave you some idea of the beauty . Now … it’s time to go to Zadar!

      (It is good to go in the off season, when the seafront is quiet enough to hear the sounds of the sea.)

      Pack your bags…


  2. Thank you for, at least partially, carrying me to these beautiful places. The sea organ provides reverence for beginning a new day!

    • Hi Carol,
      Yes, I think music and reverence for the sea is a perfect way to start the day.

      And a little travel inspiration thrown in for good measure. Time to plan a new trip!

      All best,


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