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Biking Cape Cod Canal: Cape Side


This bicycle trip from Sandwich to Bourne includes stops to watch oceangoing freighters, pleasure yachts and working fishing boats pass by, a visit to a trading post opened in 1627 and three picnic lunch site options. On the return trip cycle around Sandwich Marina to visit the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center to learn more about the history of the widest sea level canal in the world.

History of the Cape Cod Canal

The Cape Cod Canal opened in the late 1920s, having been built to allow ships to avoid the treacherous trip around the peninsula in stormy weather. Access roads were built on either side of the canal for maintenance. Today, those roads also serve as recreational trails with only a few official vehicles allowed on them.

Near the Bourne end of the trail visit the Aptucxet Trading Post Museum Complex which includes the trading post, opened in the early 1620s and now a museum, a windmill, salt works and the remains of the Gray Gables Railroad Station, built for President Grover Cleveland’s regular visits to Cape Cod. While at the Bourne end of the trail it may be possible to watch the working railroad bridge in action as it is lowered into place over the canal for trains and then raised for boat traffic.

Biking the Canal Trail on the Cape Cod Side

On the Cape Cod side, the trail has fewer access points and is slightly less busy. It will be necessary to pack a picnic lunch or pick up food and drink in Sandwich or Bourne Village, as there are no concessions on the trail.

The bicycle trail itself is reasonably level with only a few small rises. Even in winter, except after big snowstorms, the trail is usually rideable.It can be biked roundtrip in a couple of hours. But it is worth taking time to savor the views. Benches are placed at various points along the way to sit and watch the boat traffic go by. The Cape Cod Canal hosts everything from recreational fishing boats to private yachts to container ships.

On returning to the parking lot in Sandwich, it is worth the extra ride, walk or drive to visit the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center just the other side of the marina to learn more about the canal’s history and function and the plants and animals of the area. Open from May to October, admission to the Visitor Center is free.

Access to the Trail from Sandwich and Bourne

The trail can be accessed from Sandwich by taking Tupper Road off of Route 6A. Follow signs for the Canal and Town Marina onto Freezer Road. The road will lead into the Sandcatcher Recreation Area.

To access the trail from the Tidal Flats Recreation Area, take Trowbridge Road off the Bourne Rotary to Shore Road and then Bell Road and into the parking area.

For the Bourne Recreation Area entrance take 6 West from the Bourne Bridge, then take the first right toward Monument Beach and follow it to the T-junction and taking a right into the parking area.

All three areas provide public restrooms (Bourne and Tidal Flats in season only, Sandwich year round) and picnic tables.

Winter Holiday Trip to Cape Cod

While everyone can picture Cape Cod in the summer with its miles of beaches packed with people, winter on the Cape is a much less hectic affair. And come the holidays, buildings, public gardens and boats are lit up. While few will brave the waters for a swim, outdoor activities are still possible.

One of the things that makes Cape Cod unique is that it is a peninsula, an arm of land surrounded on three sides by water. Water based activities are central to the Cape. And it is no different on the holidays. Although the waters tend to be a bit rough for spending much time offshore, that’s no reason not to go to the harbor to view the boats. Many of them are beautifully decorated with lights. And in several towns, Santa abandons his sleigh for a boat.

Christmas Lighting Ceremonies and Festivities

Out on the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown hosts a Thanksgiving weekend lighting ceremony, with the 252 foot Pilgrim Monument as its centerpiece. Barnstable is noted for its boat parade while Chatham, Brewster, Hyannis, Bourne, Dennis, Harwich and Falmouth each host their own holiday events with candlelight processions, carolers, and individual town activities. For a complete listing visit the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce website. Accommodation and other information is found there as well.

The Heritage Museums and Gardens in historic Sandwich will open their Holidays at Heritage celebration on Friday November 27. A community based celebration will replace the Spectacle of Lights in 2009. Trees decorated by local organizations will be displayed in the museums and area landscapers will showcase their talent with special lighting vignettes.

Visitors can make their way through the Hart Family Maze or have their picture taken with Santa in the Model T in the J. K. Lilly Automobile Museum. The antique carousel in the Art Museum will be decorated and ready to take guests on a ride into the past.
Winter Outdoor Activities

So what to do during the day? Cape Cod’s winter weather is somewhat tempered by the sea. There is less snow and it is a bit warmer that inland. So hiking and bicycling on the Cape’s many trails continues year round. In muddy weather there are plenty of paved bike paths to choose from. With the end of summer parking restrictions at most public places are gone. And there are no fees for enjoying the Cape Cod National Seashore’s beaches, walking and biking trails.

Those empty beaches just beg to be walked as well, as seals and seabirds feed just offshore. There’s always a chance of spotting a fin whale or even an endangered northern right whale. Keep an eye out for a Cape Cod tradition of decorating trees and shrubs near the beaches with shells and other beachcast treasures. Everyone is welcome to contribute.

After enjoying a day in the great outdoors, many restaurants and inns provide a warm cozy fire to sit next to and sip a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate before its time to set out to view those wonderful light displays.