Both bike and boat in The Netherlands are very popular. In combination they’re common. Too common even. Many Dutch locals don’t even realise how often they use both transport modes at the same time.  These are my 3 favorite bicycle & canal boat combinations




When are bicycle and boat most used together in the Netherlands?

Holland is known as the cycling country, but also is one big Delta. The Rhine , Meuse, Waal,  are the main rivers flowing through the Lowlands. They all have many branches. So, when you’re riding a bike in Holland, you’re likely to hit a canal or lake. So, how do you cross when the next bridge is miles away? Exactly, by ferry. There are 330 pedestrian/ cyclists ferries and counting.  Yes, that’s right: these ferry boats are for pedestrians and cyclists only.

Bike boat ferry Holland used for recreation and work
The how-many-bicycles-can-fit-on-a-ferry-challenge

Many Dutch cyclists use this form of urban water transport everyday to get to work or visit the city.  On the useful website Veerponten you can find a map of the ferries with their routes, time tables and prices. Some of them are free, like the ferry across the IJ-river in Amsterdam (backside train station Amsterdam Centraal). Others, like the popular Rotterdam- Kinderdijk waterbus, you can pay with your OV- chipcard. Then there also the smaller pedestrian/cyclists ferries manned and maintained by volunteers. Here you can pay online or on board. And don’t forget about the small watercrossings with a mini DIY ferry. I’ll get to that one later.

Dutch bicycle parking boat
When you don’t have space on land to create a bicycle parking facility, use a boat

What is the most surprising bike and canal cruise combination?

Sometimes I wonder if the Dutch ever get impressed. There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands. There is always need for bicycle parking, but no space . We live in houseboats, collect garbage by boat, so why not create a parking facilty on water?  You see them pop up in every city and town: barges used as bicycle parking boats. Every time I see one I’m amazed: it is the most surprising bike and canal cruise combination.

Water bike catamaran sup floating flower parade Verita's Visit holland celebration
The waterbike catamaran- bicycle crossover as seen during Verita’s Visit floating flower parade celebration

Which activity combines boating & cycling?

The sup bike, a bicycle attached onto a sup board. The newest trend. After the rebranding of the water bike, a cross between a catamaran and a bicycle, it’s now cycling & supping time. The pedal boat is in Dutch called waterfiets and therefore often translated as canal bike or water bike. So, when you want to rent a water bike in Holland and are not looking for the traditional pedal boat don’t search for water bike rental. The best option is the sup bike. Like many Dutch, I’m still a fan of the old fashioned pedal boat. It’s not my favorite activity which combines the boat and the bicycle.

DIY bike ferry Delft Verita's Visit

What is your favorite boat bike route?

First, let me tell you what my favorite bike-boat activity is. It actually is a ferry. The cyclists ferries, from the big waterbusses to the small ships, I talked about earlier are all manned. The DIY ferry is a completely different experience. It usually is a small platform for 8 to 10 people and is used to cross small waterways and ultrashort distances. These are cable ferries, meaning you either have to pull the actual chain or use the wheel on board. It’s an activity only very strong people can do, so I challenge you to try it! On the bike tour from Delft city to countryside we pass a lot of water and there are different ways to cross the canals. Same for the cycling route we take on the Leiden bike tour. The Leiden Kager Lake area is great to experience the different ways to cross the Dutch waterways.

ferryboat & bike ride Leiden lake area
A ferryboat ride during Verita’s Visit flower & food festival celebration in April in Leiden region

Can I go for a 1-day bike and barge tour?

You might be interested in a bike and barge tour in Holland. The ultimate way to explore our lowlands.  The Dutch are famous for their canals, watermanagement and bicycle infrastructure. So the choice makes sense.  These bike boat cruises are usually for multiple days, you sleep on board and meals are full or half pension. Nice!  When you’re more into finding your own apartment rental, cooking your own meals ánd still want to experience a tour that combines boats & bikes, Verita’s Visit can help. The following tours are not bike and barge tours, but a good alternative. They not only pass cute harbors, scenic bicycle paths along typical Dutch canals, but also give you the chance to interactively experience the boating and cycling culture of Holland. And if you’re looking for a boating experience, check this group activity

Recommended tours:


Bike tour Delft blue countryside

Leiden 3 uur fietstocht gids Verita's Visit guided cycling

Tour Leiden lake & windmills by bike