One of the great things about biking on Cape Cod is the many wonderful places to ride: quiet back-country roads, dirt trails, and paths that go from your cottage to the beach. My favorite — and this is as tough as picking the best homemade pie at the Barnstable County Fair — is The Shining Sea Bikeway.
The Bikeway is a 10.7-mile paved path that sits atop what was once a train line. It begins in North Falmouth near Route 151, about seven miles south of the Cape Cod Canal, and winds its way down to Woods Hole.
The first two miles are heavily wooded, but just past the 9-mile marker the trail opens up as it passes between two working cranberry bogs. If you’re biking there sometime in mid-October, you might get to see the cranberries being harvested. At dusk the bog is a perfect place to observe bats, foxes, rabbits, and red-tailed hawks. Less common are deer, coyotes, and once in a while, a wild turkey who likes to hide behind rocks.
Just south of these cranberry bogs is Bourne Farm, which dates to 1775. Nearly 35 years ago I spent a summer there pulling weeds and picking vegetables, though mostly I just pulled weeds. Working on a farm sounds romantic. It wasn’t: The work was hard and some weeds were as thick as my wrist. None of that mattered at the end of the day, as I pedaled home with a brown paper bag full of freshly picked basil. The faster I pedaled, the sweeter that basil smelled.
West Falmouth Village is less than one mile past Bourne Farm, just off of Old Dock Road. This is one of those quaint little villages that Patti Page sang about in “Old Cape Cod.” So small you might miss it, though. Clapboard homes, a pokey little harbor (that happens to have a small, sweet July 4th fireworks display, only it’s held on July 5th), and Eulinda’s Ice Cream, which makes the best Oreo frappes on Cape Cod.
Once you finish your ice cream, continue south; in less than one mile you will reach Chapoquoit Road. Chapoquoit Beach is less than a half mile to your right. The water is warm (it lies in Buzzards Bay), and when the wind kicks up late in the day, the acrobats on kiteboards perform their afternoon show.
If you’ve stopped at each of these points of interest you’ll need to get moving if you wish to reach Woods Hole before nightfall. But first slow down as you pass Sippewissett Marsh to watch the ospreys circling high above, fishing for their next meal.
A few miles further, the Bikeway crosses Depot Avenue. Take a right here to visit the town’s curling club, Highfield Hall (home of the College Light Opera Company), and Beebe Woods, whose trails lead to Peterson Farm, home to sheep and Scamp, a very protective but not terribly friendly llama.
If you take a left at Depot Avene, you can cross Route 28 and pedal into Falmouth town center. It’s not quaint the way West Falmouth is, and it’s far larger, with a bike shop (Corner Cycle), a bakery (Maison Villatte), and a well-stocked book shop (Eight Cousins), plus a historical museum and lots of good restaurants,
Back on the bikeway, you’ll soon reach the coast. To your left is Surf Drive Beach, which offers a perfect view of Martha’s Vineyard. Last spring I watched two seals playing in the surf just a few yards from shore as I pedaled there at sunset.
Surf Drive is a great place to watch the 4th of July fireworks display, as long as the weather cooperates. Last year the fog crept in just before sunset and obscured most of the show.
The Bikeway terminates in Woods Hole less than two miles from Surf Drive Beach. Here you can explore two world-renowned research institutes, a child-friendly aquarium, a drawbridge that follows a schedule that is best described as quixotic, a summer film festival, a hotel where Mr. Rogers once slept, a geodesic dome designed and built by Buckminster Fuller, and a dock that is perfect for fishing with kids (it’s where my son has caught a flounder, a black sea bass, and a brass bird cage with a stuffed parakeet inside. Yes, really).
At this point you may be wondering, “How can I possibly make it back to the other end of the bikepath?”
Fortunately, the Pie in the Sky Bakery & Café, one block from the end of the bike path, has got you covered: Their bread pudding is a performance-enhancing drug that will make your return trip a breeze.
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Jonathan Simmons can be reached at JonathanSimmons@me.com