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Croatia by Bike and Boat

Below Deck Croatia?

Sometimes the worlds align. That’s what happened  on the Dalmatinka as Ray and I and ten of our closest friends embarked on a week of cycling and cruising the Adriatic Sea. 

For months our group of Manitoba friends planned this cycle holiday through Croatia. There are 12 of us so finding a boat that had room for all of us was one challenge. Finding a date when a dozen busy retirees can all make their way to Europe is another. Somehow we pulled it off and now, two by two we arrived in Split. Once there we did what we always do. Had a potluck at Ken and Louise’s place.  Finally, after months of planning we are ready for the main event.

Like giddy teenagers we make our way to the port in Split. The Dalmatinka is moored three deep, so we have to cross two other boats before getting our first look at our home for the next week.  We are not disappointed. After depositing our luggage (mostly backpacks) into assigned cabins we all met on the deck to meet the crew and other guests.

The Dalmatinka

boat and bike CroatiaOur ship, the Dalmatinka is one of the smaller boats in the Katarina Line, and is absolutely perfect for us. She sleeps 20 guests and there are 19 of us. Built in 1968, she was reconstructed to her current beauty in 2005/2006.

Our rooms are not fancy – bunk beds and a private bathroom with shower. We realize soon enough that those of us with e-bikes will be juggling our one receptacle to keep all batteries and phones charged. Below Deck this is not.

We share the deck with about 22 bicycles and a great big boom box. Oh boy, this is going to be fun.

Meet the Crew

Tiho, Natasa and Ante on our boat and bike Croatia tourThere are only 5 crew members aboard. Nataša and Tiho greet us with shots, but they are “not liquor” . What? Not liquor? What kind of boat are we on? Oh wait – they are nut liquor – that’s better. Walnut rakija actually and there’s more where this came from. “živjeli!”

Tiho is our bartender, food server, bike lifter, boat docker and whatever else needs doing. Nataša is our  beautiful blonde cycling guide, who briefs us every morning about the day ahead. We all happily nod and ignore her, preferring surprise to preparation apparently.  This doesn’t always work out well.

Captain Miro - boat and bike Croatia
Captain Miro – boat and bike Croatia

Ante, the ships engineer also happens to own the Dalmatinka. He is the fittest man I’ve ever met. A super marathon runner, we often meet him out on our cycling excursions, running laps around us. While we retire after a hard day of e-biking he comes back to run the boat. On our last night aboard, Ante left to run the night-shift of a 24 hour race. He couldn’t complete it because he had to work in the morning. The man is a machine.

The elusive Captain Miro drives the ship, or so we are told. We hardly ever see the guy. Kim did manage a photo of him in the bridge. Ray somehow always found himself drinking shots with the crew at the end of the night. Below Deck this is not.

Nada feeding the swans on our bike and boat Croatia tour
Nada feeding the swans on our bike and boat Croatia tour

Nada, the  most important crew member of course, is our cook. Her soups, pastas and Croatian specialties wow us every day. What was described as a continental breakfast is actually scrambled eggs with ham, pepperoni, cheese, fruit, juice and bread every morning. One will not get skinny on this ship.

Cast of Characters

There are 12 of us on board from Manitoba, 8 from Pinawa. We are Ken & Louise, Christine and Danny, myself and Ray and Kim and Eleanor, Barb and Ken and Adele and Dale.Our pre-cycling dinner in Split, CroatiaBesides our group we have Sue, from British Columbia who fits into our group like an old glove. Sue’s not an old glove, she just fits in with our group well. The Smithereens, Alan and Irene are more British Columbian’s from, did you guess? Smithers, BC. Nicky and Mark are the Brits and the Czechs  round out the group. The Czechs do not speak English so there’s just lots of smiling and nodding when they are around.

And We’re Off!

Our cycling itinerary in CroatiaPrecisely at 1, the Dalmatinka pulled away from the dock in Split and  motored off into the Adriatic. We are heading for Rogoznica. We pretend to listen carefully as Nataša briefs us for the first time. Something about 14 kilometres, difficulty of 2. Sounds good, is there any more nut liquor?

lifting down the bikes - Cycle CroatiaThe bikes, most of them heavy e-bikes are stored on the top deck of the boat. Somehow I imagined a ramp of some sort becoming magically available to get the bikes onto shore. Nope. They were lifting the bikes down manually, one after another.  Our men quickly got into the mix to help. If I’d stepped in those bikes would be at the bottom of the sea pretty quickly.

cycle CroatiaAfter lots of fiddling, adjusting seats and helmets, figuring out the panniers we are finally cycling Croatia, and it is absolutely spectacular! I can’t tell you how many times someone said “pinch me, I think I’m dreaming,” or “have we died and gone to heaven?” Everyone is on a dopamine rush!

dinner in Primosten, CroatiaFor a difficulty level of 2 there were plenty of hills. I’m super glad to have an e-bike. There’s a view around every corner.

We spend the night moored in Primošten, a quaint little walled touristy village with a beach just outside the walls.  We are on our own for dinner, so we head out to explore our new port. This becomes the rhythm of the week. Cycle, swim, cocktail hour, explore…

Tonight is our first night’s sleep on the boat. The gentle rocking of the ship is like a cradle and all of us sleep like babies. Splashing outside my window, that has been wide open all night, wakes me in the morning. It’s fish in a feeding frenzy. Maybe Nada has thrown something overboard for them.

The Rhythm of the Sea

For the next 7 days we are immersed in this rhythm of the sea. Early risers like me get to enjoy spectacular sunrises from the upper deck of the Dalmacycling Croatiatinka. If you’re a coffee lover you might want to bring your own Nescafe. The Croatians do not seem to understand the Canadians fixation on our morning java but they do have hot water available all the time.

Our breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, sausage and bread exceeds expectations. Lunch is always hearty and delicious. There were no complaints about the food. Sometimes we cycle right from our mooring, but often we motor off to some new port during breakfast. Every day we cycle, swim, maybe snorkel.  We even anchored at sea and jumped off the boat a couple of times – an exhilarating experience!

We ride through small villages, countryside, islands, parks, campgrounds and cities. Once in a while we even have to negotiate busy freeways and cities, Nataša doing her best to guide her flock safely through it all. This is an amazing way to see a country.

Our most northern port is the historic city of Zadar. It’s Roman history makes Ray and I feel like we’ve almost been to Rome.

By the time our motley group arrives back in Split we are nowhere near ready to get off the boat. The Dalmatinka is moored 4 boats deep this time, forcing us to tour three other boats just to debark. We realize how basic, and wonderful our little ship really is. We have all become adept at leaping onto her without a gangway. She has become home.

Things to Know

After an exhaustive search, we booked our tour through We departed from Split on October 1, and did have concerns that this might be too late in the season for nice weather. We may just have got lucky but we had gorgeous weather every day. The sea was beautiful for swimming.


These are NOT all-inclusive tours. The €665 cost per person turned out to be about half of the total tour cost for us, mostly because Ray and I are booze-tanks. Renting e-bikes for the week was an additional €165. Drinks on board are reasonably priced but rather plentiful so expect a healthy bar tab at the end of the week. Other fees include park entrance fees, dinner and drinks in port and the tip.


The standard tip in Croatia is 10%, for everything including this tour. If you have the crew we had  you’ll be tempted to give more. There are two tips – one for the guide, and another for the crew. Both the tip and the bar tab are cash only. We spent our last night on board in Split, where ATMs are plentiful so no worries about carrying buckets of euros. Credit cards are widely accepted everywhere else in Croatia.

So, where to next gang? Thinking about Italy …


1 Comment
  1. Caryn says

    Sounds like an amazing trip. Well written blog in it – Thanks for the entertaining morning

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