Cycle Cruise Holidays. Island hopping in Croatia.

cycle cruise holidays

We’ve just returned from a fabulous trip to Europe and one of the things we really enjoyed was a Cycle Cruise with the Katarina Line in Croatia.

As the weather is wet and windy in South West Australia and I’ve been hibernating, I thought it might be nice today to whisk you away with me to a place which is becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination for West Australians.

Cycle Cruise Holidays

Cycle cruise holidays are a great way to explore the islands off Croatia.

Fact File:

We sailed on the good ship Dalmatinac (details here) which can accommodate  22 people.

We went on the southern Dalmatian island cruise which offered bike rides of various levels.

The trip was 7 days long and departed from Split.

I’ve written about the Reasons to book a cycle cruise on my blog Lifestyle Fifty so today I’m going to concentrate on where we went, what the cycling was like and the things we really enjoyed because when I was researching for information I found all that sort of thing quite hard to find.

Day 1: Split to Milna on the island of Brac

Bike Course: Milna – Bobovišća – Milna (approx 17 km)
Surface: Paved, gravel
Inclination: Partly hilly – partly flat
Highest point : 175 m

It’s a beautiful two hour sail from Split to Brac island and after lunch on the boat we set sail for Milna where we docked for the night. The first bike ride started off with a taxing uphill climb which sorted us out into the hardy and not so hardy cyclists!

cycle cruise holidays

Some of us got a little lost cycling to Bobovisca, which wasn’t a good start! But we made it … laughing, and luckily our guide laughed too. The little hamlet is on the western side of the island tucked under a mountain and incredibly pretty. When we returned to Milna we had a ride along the coast … some people also had a swim – before choosing between a number of harbour restaurants for dinner.

cycle cruise holidays

Day 2: Brač Island

Bike Course: Milna – Bol (approx. 43km)
Surface: Paved, short part to Gažul village is gravel
Inclination: Very hilly, partly flat, last 8 km downhill
Highest point at: 570 m

It was a hot day when we set off for Bol from Milna, having first had breakfast on the boat, and the climb was long with a headwind.

cycle cruise holidays

It was made more acceptable by beautiful sea views as we climbed and  fields of poppies, mulberry, fig trees, pine forests, olive groves and vineyards. We came to a marble quarry and found out that the white marble was used for, among other things, parts of the White House in Washington and the Reichstag building in Berlin.

After 35 kilometers we turned onto gravel road and wound our way to Gazul, a little shepherd village with stone houses,  where a traditional Peka lunch was optional . In the photo below you can see the Peka which is cooked over hot coals – oh and us enjoying a reviving glass of the farmer’s home grown Schnapps!

cycle cruise holidays

Then it was downhill all the way to Bol – 10kms in all, with breathtaking views of the neighbouring island of Hvar. The descent was fast and concentration was required, but arriving in sunny Bol and cycling around the quaint harbour was so picturesque. After sharing biking tales, some of us rode to the famous Golden Horn beach (approx 2,5 km from the port) and then wound our way back to the Dalmatinac for a late afternoon siesta.

We didn’t overnight in Bol as planned due to high winds, but instead we cruised on to Starigrad.

Food:  The food in Croatia is fresh, simple and without much complication – think Mediterranean cuisine – core ingredients are olive oil, wine, and everything from the sea; fish, crabs, mussels, octupuses and cuttlefish are popular and lamb on a spit is a delicacy. Peka is a delicious traditional dish with meat and vegetables slow roasted in a cast iron dome which is cooked over coals. We also enjoyed the king of Croatian red wines, Plavac Mali.

 

cycle cruise holidays

Day 3: Hvar Island

Bike Course: Jelsa – Starigrad – Hvar (approx 33 km)
Surface: Paved, gravel
Inclination: Flat on the way to Starigrad, hilly from Starigrad
Highest point at: 415 m

Today we were meant to cycle from Jelsa, but because the Captain deemed it necessary to change our route due to weather conditions we over-nighted in Stari Grad, and then rode to Jelsa and back after breakfast. Those that wanted to do the harder cycle and climb the hill to Hvar set off after lunch, others stayed on the boat and sailed around to Hvar.

Hvar island is famous for its rosemary and lavender. The morning bike ride took us through small island settlements, fields and vineyards.  It was an easy ride and very pretty. We rode along a coastal gravel road on our return from Jelsa to Stari Grad, one of Croatia’s oldest towns, dating back to 385BC when it was a Greek colony called Faros. We cycled close to the Stari Grad Plain on which was laid by the ancient Greek colonizers and is  listed as a UNESCO sight.

Fortified by a good lunch on the boat some of us set off up the hill for Hvar in the afternoon. It was a hard climb to the summit. We went through the village of Grablje,  known for high quality wine, honey, olive oil, and lavender, and also Brusje. We bought lavendar honey from an old man selling his wares from a stall by the roadside and then cycled down to the historical city Hvar.

When we had showered and recovered we explored the historic town – tourist numbers here can swell to 30,000 during high season, so visiting in April was a great option. We climbed up to the Španjol, a citadel built on the site of a medieval castle to defend the town from the Turks. We had dinner in the bustling square and over-nighted on the boat in Hvar harbour.

cycle cruise holidays

Day 4: Korčula Island  (B, D/L)

Bike Course: Vela Luka – Korčula (approx 44 km) or Račišće – Lumbarda – Korčula (approx 24 km) – to be confirmed on the spot as Vela Luka – Korčula is very demanding trail and not suitable for less fit groups.
Surface: Paved
Inclination: Partly flat, partly hilly, last 5 km downhill
Highest point at: 500 m

Again due to bad weather the plan was changed a little and we sailed from Hvar to Racisce and biked to Korcula before the rain hit.

cycle cruise holidays

It was a relatively easy ride with few hills and we passed some beautiful bays. Once we reached Korcula, some people cycled to Lumbarda and back in the afternoon. Korcula is apparently the island with the most abundant vegetation on the Adriatic and along with Venice claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo. We had a fabulous and very merry four course dinner on the boat as rain lashed down. Overnight in Korčula.

cycle cruise holidays

Day 5: Mljet Island National Park

Bike Course: National park Mljet (approx. 15 km)
Surface: Paved, gravel
Inclination: Flat
Highest point at: 65 m

Again due to rain and wind we didn’t sail to Mljet but instead we went to the Peljesac Peninsula and after a morning bike ride in pouring rain from Kuciste to Orebic we sailed on to Makarska for the night. The scheduled route however should take you to the island of Mljet also known as Honey-Island. Mljet National Park has two connected salty lakes – Great Lake, covering an area of 145 ha, and the Small Lake with an area of 24 ha. You cycle around the saltwater-lake, in which there is another island where in the twelfth century Benedictine created a monastery.

cycle cruise holidays

Day 6: Pelješac Peninsula & Makarska Riviera

Bike Course: Kučište – Orebić – Lovište (approx 30 km)
Surface: Paved
Inclination: Partly flat, party hilly to very hilly, last 6 km downhill
Highest point at: 270 m

The weather in Makarska turned on us again and very early in the morning the Captain decided to set sail for Omis, so our itinerary for Day 6 altered somewhat. Arriving in Omis around lunchtime gave us time for a cylce ride which included an amble along the river, and a tough hill both up and down, after which some of us walked up to the Omis fort. In fact we did the Day 7 itinerary today instead:

     cycle cruise holidays

We rode to Radman’s Millis, a popular resort with a natural park set in the canyon of the Cetina river. There’s an old stone mill  dating to the 17th century and a busy cafe. Afterwards we explored the historic town of Omis and walked up to the Mirabella fortress which once provided safety for local inhabitants from the infamous pirates of Omis. The view from the top was incredible and stretching over the entire old part of the town and the entire Channel across to Brač island. We overnighted in Omis and had difficulty choosing which restaurant to go to for dinner because there were so many.

cycle cruise holidays

The scheduled route would be as follows from the itinerary on the Katarina website:

“Sail towards Pelješac Peninsula where the life is very much like that on an island. The climb ahead of you is not an easy one, but you will enjoy the landscape, which will help you get through the difficult part. The cycle-tour leads you into the back-country and past the most famous wine growing area. Once we reach a viewpoint an extraordinary sight over Korčula’s old town on the other side opens. How much this ride will be difficult depends how fit you are. Those who feel tired can join the ship in Orebić, the picturesque townlet, the town of sea captains and sailors. The rest of the group will continue the 18 km long road towards Lovište where lunch will be served on board. In the afternoon our boat brings us to one of popular holiday resorts on Makarska Riviera on the base of the 5,500 ft high Biokovo mountain range. Overnight in Baška voda or Makarska.”

cycle cruise holidays

Day 7: Omiš & Split

Bike Course: Omiš – Radmanove Mlinice – Omiš (approx 12 km)

Surface: Paved
Inclination: Partly flat, partly hilly
Highest point at: 160 m

As our itinerary had changed we sailed from Omis to Pucisca on Brac island and visited the very interesting Stonemason’s School, where students are schooled in the old and traditional ways of stonemasonary. The school was founded in 1909 and emphasis in the curriculum is on the manual manufacturing of stone using hand tools only.

cycle cruise holidays

Afterwards we enjoyed a stunning inland and coastal ride to Supetar where the boat met us, after which we sailed back to Split in the afternoon. We had the rest of the day at leisure in Split.

We loved Split, the history, the buzz,  the variety of restaurants and the amazing architecture. You’ll find buildings from the Classical Period such as the Diocletian’s Palace,  as well as Romanesque, Gothic , Renaissance and Baroque buildings.

We spent several happy days after the cruise wandering where once Roman Emperors trod, climbing to look out spots, and sitting on the Riva (waterfront) having a beer and watching the world go by.

But that’s not all we did … if you’d like to find out more about Plitvicke Lakes and Trogir, you’ll have to pop back to ZigaZag soon!

cycle cruise holidays

Day 8: Disembarkation Split  (B)

Breakfast at 9:00 am, a debrief session with a representative from the Katarina Line, and then it was a sad farewell to all our new friends and time for onward journeys.

Fast Facts

  • We sailed with the Katarina Line which offers a variety of cruises including sail, hike, bike or sun and fun trips around Croatia.
  • The crew of the Dalmatinac were awesome (top chef too!).
  • Booking on a cruise means that you don’t have to worry about finding out about and booking ferries to other islands, you don’t have to think about shopping for food or cooking when you are tired.
  • Two meals a day were supplied on the boat and included in the price. Either lunch or dinner each day was at our own cost off the boat. Meals on the boat were 3 or 4 courses, and breakfast consisted of cereals, toast and fruit, although a cooked breakfast cost extra.
  • Bed linen and towels were supplied
  • Bikes were hired at extra cost.

If you’d like to read more about the cycle cruise, and reasons to book one, please pop over to my blog Lifestyle Fifty : 10 Reasons to Book a Cycle Cruise.

Disclaimer: My cycle cruise tour was courtesy of the Katarina Line.

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Comments

  1. A truly interesting way to see the islands. How lucky you were to do this cruise. Matching the laid back cruise with the exercise of bike riding would be perfect. Croatia is next on my list :)
    jan recently posted..Pamukkale or Twenty Photos of a Cotton Castle in TurkeyMy Profile

  2. Great photos, Jo :)
    Muza-chan recently posted..Old Japanese stories, Kitsune and Hoshi no tamaMy Profile

  3. Hi Jo, so so jealous of this trip of yours. It looks incredibly fun.
    What an amazing way to experience the different beautiful hamlets of Croatia. I like that you can stay fit while enjoying all those delicious food. We don’t normally do cruises but this is they type of cruise I don’t mind doing.

  4. It was Marisol, and it’s a cruise but not a cruise! We loved the diversity. I think you’d love it too :)

  5. Thanks Muza-chan!

  6. So you’re off to Croatia next Jan, and I’ll be following your lead (and blog posts) and hoping for Turkey! Although I’d love to go back and see more of Croatia too.

  7. This trip looks divine. I would love to do this and will most definitely be putting it on my bucket list. Wonderful photos.
    Kathy Marris recently posted..Walking and TalkingMy Profile

  8. Glad you like the look of it Kathy and hope to read about it on your blog one day too :)
    Johanna recently posted..5 Tips for creating a Balinese Garden and a sneak peak of ours in WAMy Profile

  9. Beautiful views! Cycling is not my idea of fun, but if you like it then a great way to go :)
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday — 7/17/14 — Georgetown GlimpsesMy Profile

  10. Thanks Nancie! Yes, the views from the bikes were fantastic – but you’re right, you do have to enjoy cycling and a bit of huffing and puffing up hills ;)

  11. What a great overview! I loved Croatia, my only regret was that I wasn’t there long enough. Split had some beautiful old buildings to explore, and the sea water was just amazing to swim in. Such a contrast to the chilly waters of WA!
    Tori recently posted..Traditional HummusMy Profile

  12. Thanks Tori! Yes we also wish we’d had longer to spend in Split – so much to do and explore.

  13. I’ve heard quite a lot about sailing in Croatia recently. It looks really interesting. Thanks for posting.
    Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon recently posted..Zhalong Nature Reserve in Qiqihar – bird watching heaven in HeilongjiangMy Profile

  14. Thanks Zoe!

  15. Lots of my friends have been to Croatia and they all rave about it. I still haven’t gotten there yet, despite it having been on my bucket list for almost 10 years, haha!

    I’d never thought of it as a cycling destination before and I think that would be great because I love exploring places by bike. From your descriptions it sounds a bit hilly though!
    Bonny recently posted..10 Great Reasons to Visit Rottnest in WinterMy Profile

  16. It is quite hilly in places Bonny – but what goes up must come down ;) and that’s fun. It’s a fabulous country to visit.

  17. What a great cruise and wonderful photos! We just did a small ship cruise and, although we loved it, we were not sorry to leave that tiny cabin behind!
    Jan Ross recently posted..The Coastal Arts Center of Orange BeachMy Profile

  18. Wow, this looks like so much fun, I would love to cruise Croatia – need to get back during the summer time and enjoy all those islands.
    noel recently posted..Game of Thrones set for Alcazar in Seville, SpainMy Profile

  19. Oh boy, great timing! We are planning travels for this fall throughout the Adriatic/Balkans, and I’ll check into these tours specifically.
    Kristin Henning recently posted..Tallinn, Estonia: Fascinating Capital CityMy Profile

  20. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    Twitter:
    says:

    Long on our list has been a visit to lovely Croatia. This great post confirmed we must get there on our next trip to Europe!
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru recently posted..Grand Breakfast Budapest StyleMy Profile

  21. Suzanne Fluhr
    Twitter:
    says:

    Not sure I could handle some of the uphills, but probably in the near future, I should “suck it up” and find a bike/cruise tour for my husband who is 1) very nice to me and 2) enjoys bike riding. This one sounds nice!
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted..Montecristo (and His People) Visit Brigantine and PhiladelphiaMy Profile

  22. My favorite kind of trip – beautiful views, learning about history and earning a beer at the end of the day. Oh heck, I deserve a beer even if I didn’t earn it. You really had a wonderful trip.

  23. It is a great kind of trip for earning a beer at the end of the day, Neva! But I reckon with all the activity you do in a day, you’ve earnt a beer anyway ;)

  24. Ha Ha Suzanne, If I’m honest, that was one of the main reasons we tried a bike cruise too. Don’t think for one minute that this would-be-lazy-carcass would suggest puffing uphills in favour of a cocktail lying by a pool in a tropical oasis! But go for it, it’s fun, and if you’re like us, create some great memories together.

  25. I’m so glad that this post might have inched you nearer to visiting Croatia Betsy. Thanks for popping by today :)

  26. Fabulous Kristin! It’s always so great when we can recommend something that others might enjoy too :)

  27. Yes Noel, the islands are gorgeous and so many to discover!

  28. Ha Ha Jan! I know what you mean. We slept well, but when we got back into a hotel room afterwards we didn’t know what to do with ourselves – so much space around our bed it felt like a desert! Small ship cruises are fun though aren’t they, no crowds, no queus to get on and off the boat especially.

  29. I hope everyone who’s looking at doing this trip finds your post as I certainly would want to know the details – How far was I really expected to pedal each day for those (like me) where the mind is willing but the flesh could be a let down!!
    I love cycling and the thought of having an on-board berth awaiting me at the end of each day sounds divine –
    You’re inspiring me you realize?!! :)
    Linda ~ Journey Jottings recently posted..“One Special Summer” – The Travel Journal of Jacqueline & Lee BouvierMy Profile

  30. I’m so glad Linda to be inspiring you! Yes, these were the details that I would really have liked to know before we went because like you the mind is often more willing than the flesh and bones ;)

  31. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    This trip looks fantastic. I’m not a strong enough cyclists to tackle this amount of cycling, but a friend of mine did something very similar and loved it. I love how you’ve done the collages of photos to give us a flavour of the places you visited.

  32. A Taste for Travel
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’d never heard is a cycle cruise holiday but it sounds like a perfect way to combine two of my fave activities – cycling and eating!
    A Taste for Travel recently posted..8 weird foods to try in Puerto Escondido, OaxacaMy Profile

  33. What a wonderful guide for a bike tour of the islands off Croatia. I’ve been crossing my fingers for a chance to visit sometime and would absolutely love to follow in your tire tracks. Had never heard of this cycle cruise before. Very cool!
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Discovering Nova Scotia Wine and FoodMy Profile

  34. I felt like I was right with you. Your narrative and photos really bring your adventure to life! Thank you for sharing this beautiful part of the world!!

  35. It’s a fab trip Cathy! Hope you do get there one day soon :)

  36. So glad I could bring it to live for you! THank you Marilyn :)

  37. Absolutely Michele! And because of the exercise not feel guilty about the eating!

  38. Thanks Donna – my hubby does the more beautiful collages on another programme. I generally use PicMonkey because it’s easier. Yes, there is a lot of cycling on this trip, and some big hills, but having said that they do accommodate different abilities.

  39. I love this cruise: it seems like a perfect combination of sailing, cycling and eating (my favorite part!). I’ve been in Croatia for nine years now, and I still haven’t taken any cruise or sailing trip. I will definitely need to do it as it sounds like lots of fun. Glad you enjoyed peka. It’s my favorite Croatian dish. Thanks for sharing, Johanna!
    Frank recently posted..Introduction to yacht charter in CroatiaMy Profile

  40. You have a beautiful blog! Your photo collages are amazing! I haven’t ridden a bike in so long, but it would be a great way to see an area. I love the oufit you are wearing at the top of your blog. Safe travels :)
    Michelle recently posted..Desperately Seeking Sunsets in SantoriniMy Profile

  41. What a treat to bike through Croatia with you from my swivel chair!

  42. Hi Carole! Glad you enjoyed !

  43. Thank you Michelle that’s lovely of you to say.

  44. So happy to have inspired you to do a cycle cruise Frank! Wow 9 years! Wondering which part of Croatia you live in. We loved the Dalmatian coast and yes Peka!

  45. Awesome tour, looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing!
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) recently posted..In The CloudsMy Profile

  46. Thanks for reading :) Nat!

  47. Thanks Carole, hope you enjoyed the ‘swivel!’

  48. Thanks for your lovely compliments, Michelle!

  49. Hi Jo,
    Logged on, at last ! Clearing out my handbag I found your card, which I thought I’d lost ..
    Lovely to relive our fab holiday cruising and cycling in Croatia, and such good company !
    We’ve still to sort out photos from all 4 cameras, will do when the weather changes, – we’ve had a record breaking warm summer. Glorious !
    Packing for a week in the UK – reunion with the class of ’73 . Should be fun !
    So glad I’ve subscribed to your blog. Photos superb.
    I’m sure Astrid, Marianne and Keth send love too.
    :) Faye

  50. Hello lovely Faye! Great to hear from you :) Oh, have a fab week in the UK and the class of ’73! Hope the memories come fast and furious. Can’t wait to see some photos – I know it takes a long time to sort out. I shall send links to everyone to the posts about cruising and Croatia tomorrow – yes, it’s taken me this long. Thanks for getting in touch :) So good to be connected again.

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