We had been looking forward to riding the Croatia coast for several weeks and it would not let us down. Rocky headlands, sandy beaches, aquamarine seas and warmth were what we had been craving. The Istrian peninsular has some of the best naturist sites anywhere and we took full advantage of them. It also give us an opportunity to revisit the town of Vbriska on the island of Hvar, where we took our fist ever foreign family holiday.
Our ride descriptions give an account of the ride that we completed. As part of the description we also provide links to Wikiloc or Google maps and elevation profiles based on mapping data available through the internet. The ride profiles are smoothed to give what in our opinion is a more beneficial view of the profile. We use paper maps, GPS and on line data to plan and conduct our rides. We are happy for you to use our descriptions, but be aware that we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided as situations surrounding any ride change over time.
Croatia Coast - Trieste to Piran Ride Profile
Today's journey would take us through three countries in one day. Starting in Italy, crossing to Slovenia and ending in with our die along the Croatia coast.
It was the usual problem finding a quiet route out of the city. In theory we just had to follow the coastline out of Trieste and around the small headland to the south, but between the two was a large industrial estate. We avoided the busy raised road which had mainly heavy lorries but then found ourselves on the slip road for the motorway. Avoiding this meant a long climb back into the Trieste suburbs on what appeared to be the old main road.
Returning to sea level we found the coast road which took us through a couple of slightly jaded old holiday resort towns before reaching the Slovenian border. This was the usual European, low-key affair with a big gateway but no-one at all interested in the passing traffic.
The next destination was Koper, Slovenia's only Mediterranean port. The signs were that it was doing very well with acres and acres of brand new Audis awaiting export. Just along the road was a new built massive retail park. We were dreading trying to find our way through it but there was a well signposted cycle route on a separate track that went all the way from there to the border of Croatia.
Following the coast we passed through a couple of Slovenian resorts, Isola and Portoroz before reaching the Croatian border. This was a much more formal affair with passport checks for both exit from Slovenia and entry to Croatia. After the border there is a long climb up into the hills that form the top of the Istrian peninsular. At the top for the second time that day we realised we had turned onto the motorway slip road and had to do a hasty retreat.
We camped on a small site next to the sea on the Cr3oatia coast This side of the Adriatic coast is rocky, in contrast to the lovely sands of the Italian coast, but the sea is amazingly clear and we couldn't wait to get in for a swim.
The campsite had its own private beach with sunbeds to hire so we had a relaxing day in the sun and both got a little burnt. There was a five masted sailing boat anchored across from the campsite and we waited all day, hoping it would put up its sails. Eventually it set off into the sunset, a spectacular sight.
Croatia Coast - Piran to Porec Ride Profile
From the campsite it was quite a stiff climb back up to the main road past the old salt-pans along the Croatia coast.
Once at the top it was a gradual descent, heading to Savudria at the northern tip of the Istrian headland. There were quite a few small lanes and tracks along the seashore which meant we could escape from the fairly busy main road, turning south towards Umag. This took us through several small towns and villages before arriving at Novigrad.
We treated ourselves to lunch at a restaurant on the harbour side before continuing down the coast to a much bigger campsite just before Porec. It was at the side of the sea with a restaurant, shop and swimming pool. It was very crowded, mainly with Austrian and German campers but the end of the holidays was approaching and lots of them were leaving.
We just couldn't drag ourselves away from the sea so swam and sunbathed all day.
Croatia Coast - Porec to Pula Ride Profile
Overnight, as predicted on the weather forecast, the clouds had moved in and there were a couple of short showers. It was a mad dash to get the tent packed before it got wet.
As we rode into Porec there were black storm clouds with lightening flashes over the sea. It started to rain lightly but after sheltering for a few minutes we decided to put on the ponchos and carry onalong the Croatia coast, as we had to get to Pula to catch the Zadar ferry which only runs on Saturdays and Tuesdays.
There was no choice today but to ride the main road and it was very busy. As the weather wasn't suitable to lie on the beach all the holidaymakers had decided to do some sightseeing. After about 5km the storm hit and the rain was torrential for about 30 mins. The visibility was almost zero and by now the traffic was bumper to bumper in both directions. There was absolutely nowhere to shelter so we just pulled off the road and stood with the rain pouring down our necks and legs until it abated a little.
Setting off again there was lots of water on the road which made the brakes ineffective. Steve stopped to check the sat nav and Karen, trying to stop quickly, skidded and slid about 3 meters along the wet road on her poncho before coming to a halt. Luckily the traffic was stationary and she had her helmet on so was relatively unharmed.
The next town we rode through must have been the barbeque capital of Istria. It was only small but had at least 5 restaurants, all with wood fires and numerous small animals, too young to die, all sizzling on spits. As it was just starting to rain heavily again we stopped and sampled some of the suckling pig. After our large meal the waiter offered us a schnapps on the house and we couldn't resist.
By now we should have learnt our lesson......the road dropped down a steep hill to the Limsky canal and then climbed an equally steep hill on the other side. With full stomachs and wobbly legs it was torture. Once on the top there was another near disaster as a car slowed down behind Karen and the car behind him ran into his rear bumper. Luckily he didn't hit the bike but as he pulled out to overtake his whole rear bumper fell off. By now we were sick of the road and the rain until at last there was an escape on a quiet lane into Pula.
The first thing we did was buy our ferry tickets for the next morning. As the ferry departed at 7.30am we wanted to get accommodation near to the port. We tried the hotel but it was too expensive. The person at reception just happened to know a lady in the block of flats opposite who had a room to let at a more reasonable price.
For our evening meal we walked into the old town past the impressive, partially rebuilt Roman ampitheatre which is used for concerts. Again it rained very heavily so we had to buy an umberella to get back. There were a number of teenage Brits in town, on their way to a big pop festival nearby. The cold wet weather was not what they had expected.
This section was by Ferry.
In the morning it had stopped raining but it was dull and windy. The ferry was a passenger catamaran so the bikes traveled on the rear deck. The wind was causing quite a swell and for the first hour the route was in open sea, some distance from the Croati coast. Quite a few of the passengers were a bit green and the staff were handing out plastic bags.
Despite the five hour journey time there was no food available, just plastic cups of revolting coffee. After the first stop we were in more sheltered waters, between the islands, so the sea was calmer but now the rain was torrential again. Among the passengers we saw a familiar face. Laurent, who we met on the way to Trieste. He had left his bike and trailer in Porec and was touring Croatia with his brother.
Zadar is a lovely place with an ancient walled city. The sun was now
shining but the rain had caused a lot of flooding, especially in the
cellars of the houses.
We walked past the lovely cathedral and thought it was strange that it was built in the middle of a lake. Only later did it become clear that this was just the flooded square.
Tourist information put us in touch with a lady who had a small, newly decorated apartment in the old town, just above a bar and we spent the afternoon sightseeing. That evening we had a lovely meal in the old town with the best lasagne of the whole trip. Steve had no appetite and a bad headache.
Steve developed painful joints, a stiff neck and swollen hands overnight so we decided to have a quiet day and see if it got any worse. There was a wedding at the cathedral so we stopped to watch for a while. As a guard of honour all the groomsmen lit flares as the couple came out of church. The small square was soon filled with smoke and no-one could see anything.
Later, we spotted this motorbike that had been done up in a "Madmax" theme.
Croatia Coast - Zadar to Biograd Ride Profile
Steve was a bit better, the swelling had gone down but his joints still hurt so we just planned a short ride. Karen had an appointment to get her hair cut. The word for hairdresser here is Fizerski which is a bit off putting but the hairdresser had trained in England so communication wasn't a problem.
There wasn't much alternative but to ride on the main road along the Croatia coast for most of the time but there were a few sections of tracks and roads through the coastal villages and even through a camp-site! It was fairly flat riding, along a pine tree lined coast with just light traffic. Biograd was a popular holiday resort with fast food outlets and bars along the shore. There was another thunder storm threatening so we booked into an apartment and shopped for food for tea before it poured yet again.
Croatia Coast - Biograd to Primosten Ride Profile
Today there was little escape form the main road again and it was
busier, but most of the heavy lorries were on the motorway. There was
more climbing toady as the road made its way through the higher hills,
away from the Croatia coast. For the first time for several days there was no
rain and by the afternoon the skies were clear and the sun hot.
By lunchtime we reached Sibenik and had lunch at the harbour. This town has a Unesco heritage listing but the sights were all up the hill and we couldn't spare the time to de-tour.
From Sibenik the road returned nearer to the coast and the ride was stunning, against a backdrop of rolling hills, the road climbing and falling along the coast with the perfectly clear turquoise sea below. It is a popular motorbike tour route with many of the bars and accommodation advertising themselves as 'biker friendly'.
Croatia Coast - Primosten to Split Ride Profile
After a first short section along the Croatia coast the road climbed into the hills through low growing shrubs and pines. We dropped down to the city of Trogir, with its walls and castle. We wondered if there was a ferry from here to Split, to save us from having to ride along the road in the heavy traffic. After a bit of searching and asking we did find one but it was a passenger boat and the ticket seller did not think it would take our bikes. We could ask the captain but would have to wait 2 hours before the next one.
Giving up on this idea we continued riding along the Croatia coast towards Split, finding several long sections of old promenades in the many dated holiday towns that line this coast. With rain threatening we tried to find somewhere to have lunch but most places were closed. In the end we had to make do with toasted sandwiches from a fast food kiosk and eat them in the bar next door.
Getting into Split wasn't pleasant but not as bad as we feared. There was a long section of road through a massive industrial estate and then an anxious time trying to avoid ending up on the motorway. We followed the old road, which climbed up above the suburbs and then over the old river bridge and along a section of cycle track and some quiet roads to arrive at the historic city centre.
Our plan for tomorrow was to take the ferry from Split to Hvar, on the island of the same name, and ride to Sucuraj, at the opposite end. The Hvar town ferry was passengers only and wouldn't take bikes so instead we would have to get the car ferry to Stari Grad, a little further east. At the harbour were the usual crowd of accommodation sellers. One lady tried to persuade us to go to her hotel but at 75E it was beyond our budget. Then she offered us a room close to the harbour for 35E. It was a pretty poor place but we were too tired to search around for anything better.
The main problem with the room was that it was on the ground floor and had a missing pane of glass in the window which meant that every sound from the street was audible and there was plenty of noise.
Today was the most enjoyable ride of our Europe trip so far.
The ferry left at 8.30 for the two hour journey to Stari Grad. At the port we sat and drank a coffee to allow all the traffic to clear. It was a lovely sunny day and we were looking forward to revisiting the town of Vrboska where we had holidayed with our three young sons 27 years ago. It was only about 8km to the turn-off for Vrboska and riding down to the little harbour there seemed to be very little difference from our last visit. The buildings were smartened up, there were parasols and tables outside what had previously been just little, all male bars but otherwise it was just the same. The main difference is that the harbour, instead of little fishing boats, is now full of expensive cruisers.
There is a quiet,shady, traffic free road all around the headland from here to the next town, Jelsa where we had lunch. After a couple more kilometers along the sea we started on a long climb to the highest part of the island. It was a nice gradual gradient, mostly about 7%. The tarmac was quite rough in places but there was hardly any traffic. A trio of road cyclists came past downhill and warned us of the long climb. At the top the road followed the spine of the island with fabulous views over to the pale, sparsely vegetated mountains on the main Croatia coast and the Adriatic to the west.
There were vineyards and small villages but mainly pine forest and only the occasional car. The road was undulating with some draining long slow ascents but the day finished with a massive fast descent to the village right at the eastern end of the island, Sucuraj.
From here there was a little car ferry back to the mainland at Drvenik where we stayed the night.drv
This section is by ferry.
In the morning we got a different car ferry over to the island of Korcula. It sailed along most of the south side of Hvar Island so we could see the route which we had followed the day before. Coming into the port at Korcula town we had fabulous views of this typical Croatian walled town with its cathedral at the top. There are a couple of campsites near the town so for the first time in a couple of weeks the tent got to see the light of day. We also managed to have a swim and lie in the sun for a while.
This section is by ferry.
Today was our final ferry ride back from the islands to the Croatia coast. This time it was on a large car ferry which runs from Split to Dubrovnik twice a week, stopping at several of the islands. Unlike most of the other boats which serve the islands it is not a roll-off ferry. There was a side door on the car deck and as only a few vehicles were disembarking at Korcula there was no room to turn round on the deck so most of the drivers had to reverse across the narrow ramp.
Unlike the other ferries serving the islands, this one had a lot of old world charm about it. The crew all wore sparkling white uniforms and shoes and there were cabins, a bar and a restaurant. It was a long journey, about four hours, but the sea was flat calm and the sky was blue so we just sat on the deck watching the islands slip past.
The ferry arrived at the new port at Dubrovnik and as usual there was a
throng of people offering rooms to rent. We negotiated with the first
lady and agreed a price for a room not far from the port and an
assurance of absolutely no steps to get there. She was picking up three
backpackers off the same ferry so suggested we follow her car back to
the house. Despite her assurances that she would go slowly we had to
work hard to keep up and the last hundred meters was up a hill. She
parked up in a supermarket carpark and pointed to the house, up a flight
of about 15 metal steps. Luckily one of the backpackers helped to lift
That evening we ate at a pizza and a litlle cafe further up the hill whilst watching Murray win his semi-final of the American Open.
Read about our ride from Dubrovnik as we continued south through Montenegro and Albania before finishing in Greece.
You can link back to our Tours page from Cycling and Island Hopping Along The Croatia Coast.
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