Whether you make a day of it or simply take the scenic route to the beach, these five family-friendly joyrides are Cape classics.
Shining Sea Bikeway
Distance: 10.7 miles
Route: There’s a reason Falmouth native and “America the Beautiful” author Katharine Lee Bates saved “the shining sea” for last. You’ll pass cranberry bogs, farmland, salt marsh, kettle holes, village centers, and a herring run on this stunning paved Falmouth path, but the sweeping vistas of Vineyard Sound, and the silhouette of Nobska Light on the horizon, are the masterpiece.
Rest stop: If you follow the route down to Woods Hole, enjoy lunch with a view at Quicks Hole Tavern. In Falmouth village, a quick detour down Main Street will bring you to the Quarterdeck Restaurant or Liam Maguire's Irish Pub for a post-ride family meal.
Shawme-Crowell State Park
Distance: 700 acres
Route: Many families have discovered Shawme-Crowell after finding the campgrounds at (beautiful) Nickerson State Park already booked, and many have made this Upper Cape treasure their first choice for years afterward, thanks to its quiet beauty and scenic off-road (not too hilly) trails, with paved roads that are easy to explore by bike.
Detour: If your family is feeling geared up for adventure, you’re within biking distance of Heritage Museums & Gardens. Wooded trails along tranquil Shawme Pond await, as well as Heritage’s Hidden Hollow outdoor discovery center, a Labryinth maze and vibrant gardens throughout.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
Distance: 27.6 miles
Route: If you’re on the Mid- or Lower Cape, chances are you’ll know about the Rail Trail within minutes of arrival, either because you spotted bicyclists coasting alongside you on wooded side roads, or because the family in the cottage next door just returned from a walk, ride, or run on the picturesque trail––popular for its paved, easy paths and scenic variety. (Anywhere on the trail, you’re somehow only minutes away from rivers, villages, and forests, or cranberry bogs, harbors, and beaches). Traversing seven towns from Dennis to Wellfleet (and a recent extension into Yarmouth), it’s not only a must-see way to explore the Cape, it’s a legit mode of transportation.
Rest stop: If you plan your entire ride around exactly when you will hit Hot Chocolate Sparrow café along the path in Orleans, or Guapo's Tortilla Shack on the trail in Brewster, you won’t be the first.
Cape Cod National Seashore
Distance: Nauset Trail in Eastham, 1.6 miles; Head of the Meadow in Truro, 2 miles; Province Lands in Provincetown, 5.45 miles (with shorter spurs)
Route: Perhaps you have a dear soul joining you on your family vacation who’s chronically hard to please, fussy, or bored. Let this curmudgeonly one choose among the paved trails at the Cape Cod National Seashore (tip: the shorter Nauset and Head of the Meadow trails are decidedly easier on beginners than the hilly and more challenging—but incredibly gorgeous—Province Lands path). If biking past sweeping shoreline vistas and winding tree-lined stretches, perhaps creaking over a weathered boardwalk on a swath of salt marsh, doesn’t win over this cranky soul...there’s no end to that sentence. It has never happened.
Rest stop: Whichever you trail you choose, you can’t get there without passing the Box Lunch (with locations in Wellfleet, Provincetown and Truro). Stock up on sandwiches pre-ride for the perfect picnic break.
Cape Cod Canal Bikeway
Distance: 7.5 miles
Route: Your family vacation doesn’t need to end in tears, with little ones (or grown adults) growing weepy as the bridge fades into the rear view mirror. End on a high note: Plan one last morning or afternoon at the Cape Cod Canal, where you can wind alongside the tugboats and sailboats as you follow the paved path on the water between the Bourne and Sagamore bridges.
Rest stop: You had to have known the fudge, salt water taffy, or penny candy you bought to bring home would never make it there. Dig in at one of the picnic areas located along the scenic bikeway and begin planning your return visit.
Now get out there and start pedaling! Need a bike rental? We've got you covered!
Find more info on Biking on Cape Cod