Hopping on a bike is one of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Cape Cod. You can meander at a pace that allows time to really take in the view yet still travel at a pace that ensures you can pack a lot of activities into one day. Three local bike trails have seen improvements or extensions recently that make them worth the visit…or maybe a re-visit. But keep in mind it’s not just the destination that matters. Side trips to explore area attractions can make your ride that much more enjoyable.

Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth
The Shining Sea Bikeway now extends 10.7 miles from County Road in North Falmouth to the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole. The path’s name honors Falmouth resident Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote America the Beautiful and the song title could certainly describe the bikeway itself, which offers stunning views of salt marshes, ponds, a working cranberry bog and a bird sanctuary as well as barrier beaches and Vineyard Sound.

If you start in North Falmouth at the main parking lot, Falmouth Village is about seven miles away, making it the perfect stopping point for a bite to eat. Order a lobster roll at the Flying Bridge Restaurant overlooking Falmouth’s yacht-filled harbor. Another eatery with a different type of nautical theme is the Quarterdeck Restaurant on Main Street. Its use of salvaged wood from local boatyards creates the feeling of being “below decks” and the handcrafted stained-glass window from a church in Maine creates a beautiful glow. The nearby Soft as a Grape, with their line of super-soft cotton clothing made right on Cape Cod, is the perfect place to grab a souvenir.

The remaining three miles of the bikeway takes you along the only stretch of bike path on the Cape that runs alongside the ocean. The trail ends in Woods Hole, home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Spend a little time in the Woods Hole Science Aquarium learning about 140 species of marine animals found in New England waters. Kids will love their touch tanks filled with lobsters, horseshoe crabs, starfish and hermit crabs. If you’re craving a sweet treat, make a stop at the Pie in the Sky Bakery and Café, and try one of their famous chocolate chip cookies.

Old Colony Rail Trail between Harwich and Chatham
The newest addition to the Cape Cod Rail Trail provides a direct route from the center of Harwich to downtown Chatham along a 7.5 mile bikeway. It’s a peaceful ride through a wooded alley that offers stopping points for exploration at ponds, the Chatham playground and the Chatham Railroad Museum.

Before starting your day, stop by Ruggie’s Breakfast and Lunch in Harwich Center for a hearty homemade breakfast such as their “Melting Pot” egg casseroles that win rave reviews. Or stop for breakfast or lunch at Hangar B at the Chatham Municipal Airport and watch the planes take off and land. In downtown Chatham, the Wild Goose Tavern at the Chatham Wayside Inn offers a cozy atmosphere and a creative menu that includes sandwiches, Panini and pizzas.

Main Street in Chatham has an old-fashioned village center feel, with large windows full of colorful merchandise. Spend some time browsing the shelves at Yellow Umbrella Books, a book lover’s dream store with an extensive selection of local literature.

If you begin the trail in Chatham, bikes in many styles as well as trailer or tag-along bikes for kids can be rented at Chatham Cycle, conveniently located on Depot Road just a couple of blocks from the trail. They can be rented starting with two-hour increments.

The Province Lands Bike Trail in Provincetown
The Province Lands Bike Trail in the Cape Cod National Seashore has been renovated to make it both safer and easier to navigate. This is a more challenging route than most with many hills and occasional sand-swept trails. The 5.45 mile loop trail is easily accessed from the Province Lands Visitor Center, which is definitely worth a visit before you start pedaling. It offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the dunes and ocean from indoor and outdoor observation decks, informational films, a well-stocked gift shop and staff members to help plan activities.

The trail winds through sand dunes with three spurs that offer the chance to fully explore. The half-mile Race Point Beach spur takes you to one of Cape Cod’s most popular beaches. Park your bike and lie in the sand or walk the shores looking for beach glass. Other spurs include a quarter-mile jog to the shores of Bennett Pond and a one-mile trek to Herring Cove Beach, a perfect sunset spot.

After you’ve finished exploring the wilds of the dunes, it’s time to head down to Commercial Street for a different kind of wild. All that biking is sure to leave you famished and there are plenty of restaurants to sate your appetite. Napi’s is a legendary dining spot that guarantees to tickle your tongue with exotic vegetarian dishes and super-fresh seafood. Be sure to try their award-winning Portuguese kale soup for a taste of local flavor and savor the incredible collection of local art on the walls.

Fanizzi’s Restaurant by the Sea is waterfront dining at its premium. You can sip a cocktail in the bar or have a meal in the restaurant while gazing out the wall-to-wall windows overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Burger lovers should try owner Paul Fanizzi’s “Favorite Burger,” which is marinated in micro ale and herbs and then char-grilled with cheddar cheese and bacon and served on a large English muffin.

Provincetown is a shopper’s mecca with stores lined up in a delightful jumble of the funky, the unique and the just plain fun and this is certainly true at Marine Specialties, otherwise known as “the Army-Navy store,” which has been a town staple since 1961. It’s such a feast for the eyes that it’s hard to know where to look first. Merchandise including salvage, surplus, close-outs, mistakes and vintage treasures is crammed in bins, boxes and hanging from the ceiling

For a different kind of fun, the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch offers the opportunity to view the ocean’s most awesome creatures in the Stellwagen Bank National Sanctuary off the shores of Provincetown. There is a naturalist on every cruise to educate visitors about marine life, shorebirds, and of course whales. In fact, if you don’t see at least one, you’ll receive a free ticket for a future trip. Afterwards, stop by Lewis Brothers Homemade Ice Cream, where frozen confections are made fresh in-store daily, for a cone full of sweet satisfaction.

Parking at Each Location:

SHINING SEA BIKEWAY: Drive on Rte. 28 south to Falmouth. Bear right onto Locust Rd. The bikeway parking area is a mile down on the right just past Pin Oak Way. Parking here is free for cyclists. There is also paid parking at the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole.

OLD COLONY RAIL TRAIL: There is on-street parking on Depot Rd. in Chatham and you can park in the public parking lot behind Harwich Town Hall, 732 Main Street, Harwich.

PROVINCE LANDS BIKE TRAIL: Drive north on Rte. 6 to Provincetown. Turn right on Race Point Rd. at the first stoplight. Look for signs marking the Beech Forest area and Province Lands Visitor Center. Parking is free and guide maps can be picked up at the trailhead entrance.