The Shining Sea Bikeway (tel. 508/548-7611) is a 12-mile beauty that runs along an old railroad right-of-way from North Falmouth past cranberry bogs, farmland, and the Great Sippewissett Marsh, and then skirts Vineyard Sound from Falmouth center to Woods Hole. This is one of the Cape's most scenic bike paths and one of the few that travels alongside a beach. There is free parking on Locust Street; on Depot Avenue; in West Falmouth, on Old Dock Road; and at the trail head on County Road, in North Falmouth. The Falmouth Chamber of Commerce offers a map and brochure about the bike path.
The path's name is a nod to Falmouth's own Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the lyrics to "America the Beautiful," with its verse, "And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!"
The closest bike shop -- convenient to the main cluster of B&Bs, some of which offer "loaners" -- is Corner Cycle, at 115 Palmer Ave., at North Main Street (tel. 508/540-4195; www.cornercycle.com). A half-day bike rental is $17 ($12 for children), a 24-hour rental $25 ($18 for children). For a broad selection of vehicles -- from six-speed cruisers to six-passenger "surreys" -- and good advice on routes, visit Holiday Cycles, at 465 Grand Ave., in Falmouth Heights (tel. 508/540-3549), where a half-day (4-hr.) bike rental is $20, a 1-day rental $25, and a week rental $75. The surreys rent for $20 to $30 an hour. Holiday Cycles does not accept credit cards.
The Shining Sea Bikeway is a great spot to bird-watch, especially near Oyster Pond, where there's an osprey nest. Keep an eye out for yellow-breasted chats and orange-crowned warblers, as well as such waterfowl as mallards and buffleheads. You may also see herons and egrets.
Patriot Party Boats, 227 Clinton Ave. (at Scranton Ave., on the harbor), Falmouth (tel. 800/734-0088 or 508/548-2626; www.patriotpartyboats.com or www.theliberte.com), offers one-stop shopping for would-be boaters. The Patriot fleet includes a poky fishing vessel, the Patriot Too; and a 74-foot, three-masted schooner, the Liberte (2-hr. sails; $20-$35 adults, $15-$20 children 11 and under). On the Liberte, Chris Tieje hauls up the sails and regales passengers about his custom-made schooner, while the impressive vessel cruises the sound. The most expensive trip -- and the most popular -- is the sunset sail at 6:30pm. Other trips leave at 10:30am and 2pm.
Cape Cod Kayak (tel. 508/563-9377; www.capecodkayak.com) rents kayaks (free delivery in North Falmouth or West Falmouth) by the day or week and offers lessons and ecotours on local waterways. Kayak rentals are $35 to $60 for 8 hours ($5 more for tandems). Lessons are $52 to $65 per hour. Four-hour trips are $49 to $75.
If you want to explore on your own, a great area for exploring is Waquoit Bay. Washburn Island, a protected reserve with wooded trails and pristine beaches, is about a 45-minute paddle from the town boat ramp near Edward's Boat Yard on Route 28 in East Falmouth.
Falmouth has six fishable ponds. A complimentary fishing map and guide are available from the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce. Freshwater fishing and shellfishing licenses can be obtained at Falmouth Town Hall, 59 Town Hall Sq. (tel. 508/548-7611). Freshwater fishing licenses ($29 for Massachusetts residents, $38 for nonresidents for the season) can also be obtained at Eastman's Sport & Tackle, 783 Main St. (tel. 508/548-6900). Saltwater fishing licenses can be obtained by calling www.mass.gov/marinefisheries or by calling tel. 866/703-1925.
Surf Drive Beach is a great spot for surf-casting once the crowds have dispersed. Other good locations are the jetties off Nobska Point, in Woods Hole, and Bristol Beach, on Menauhant Road, in East Falmouth.
To go after bigger prey, head out with a group on one of the Patriot Party Boats, based in Falmouth's Inner Harbor (tel. 800/734-0088 or 508/548-2626; www.patriotpartyboats.com). Boats leave twice daily, at 8am and 1pm, in season. The Patriot Too, with an enclosed deck, is ideal for family-style "bottom fishing" (4-hr. trips $45 adults, $30 children 12 and under; full-day trips $65 adults, $45 children; equipment and instruction provided).
For deep-sea fishing enthusiasts, about a half-dozen sportfishing outfits operate out of Falmouth Inner Harbor, cruising around Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound, and the Elizabeth Islands for bass, blues, tuna, and shark. Trips cost about $500 for a half-day, $700 for a full day. Call the chamber (tel. 508/548-8500) for info.
If you're jonesing for time in the gym, the Falmouth Sports Center, at 33 Highfield Dr. (tel. 508/548-7433), offers weight-training facilities for $9 per day. Racquetball costs an extra $12 per person per hour. Tennis is $26 per person per hour.
Falmouth has four public golf courses. The most notable is the challenging 18-hole championship course at Ballymeade Country Club, 125 Falmouth Woods Rd. (tel. 508/540-4005; www.ballymeade.com). Greens fees are $65 (Mon-Thurs) and $80 (Sat-Sun) and include carts; there are reduced afternoon rates.
Public skating ($5 per person; rental skates $4) is possible year-round at the Falmouth Ice Arena, 9 Skating Lane, off Palmer Avenue (tel. 508/548-7080; www.falmouthicearena.com); call for information and hours.
Nature & Wildlife Areas
Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary, operated by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, at 186 Ashumet Rd., off Route 151, in East Falmouth (tel. 508/362-1426; www.massaudubon.org), is an intriguing 49-acre collection of more than 1,000 holly trees spanning 65 species culled from around the world. Preserved by the state's first commissioner of agriculture, who was concerned that commercial harvesting might wipe out native species, they flourish here, along with more than 130 species of birds and a carpet of Oriental lotus blossoms, which covers a kettle pond come summer. The trail fee is $4 for adults and $2 for seniors and children 15 and under.
Close to the center of Falmouth (just follow Depot Rd. to the end) is the 650-acre Beebe Woods, a treasure for hikers and dog walkers. From here you can wend your way to the Peterson Farm (entrance off Woods Hole Rd.; take a right at the Quissett farm stand), purchased by the town of Falmouth in 1998. The 90-acre farm has paths through woods and fields, as well as a flock of sheep grazing in a meadow near historic farm buildings. Bluebird boxes (special birdhouses for bluebirds) line the path on the way to a quiet pond. There is no charge to walk in Beebe Woods.
Tiny but dazzling, the privately owned Spohr Gardens, on Fells Road, off Oyster Pond Road in Woods Hole, invites visitors to explore 6 magical acres beside Oyster Pond. In the spring, thousands of daffodils bloom, followed by rhododendrons and day lilies. Paths wind past a collection of nautical treasures, such as huge anchors and millstones. Remarkably, this private garden is free and open to the public. Donations for garden maintenance are accepted.
Named for its round shape that sticks out into the harbor, The Knob (13 acres of trails at Quissett Harbor, at the end of Quissett Road) provides a perfect short walk and lovely views of Buzzards Bay. There's very limited parking at this small, secluded harbor, so try it early or late in the day. The Knob, owned by the nonprofit group Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, is free and open to the public.
The 2,250-acre Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (WBNERR), at 149 Waquoit Hwy., in Waquoit (tel. 508/457-0495; www.waquoitbayreserve.org), maintains a 1-mile, self-guided nature trail. The reserve also offers a number of walks and interpretive programs, including the popular "Evenings on the Bluff," on Tuesday nights at 6:30pm, which is geared toward families. The visitor center is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. You'll find several interesting exhibits especially appropriate for children. On Saturday in season, WBNERR hosts a free 20-minute cruise over to Washburn Island. Once on the island, visitors can explore its wooded trails or relax on its pristine beaches. The 12-passenger motorboat leaves at 9am and returns by 12:30pm. The reserve also manages 11 primitive campsites on Washburn Island. Permits cost a mere $10 a night. Advance reservations for the cruise and camping are required and can be made by calling tel. 877/422-6762. (The campsites book up 6 months in advance for summer weekends; you'll have better luck with a late-spring or early fall booking.)
Among the courts open to the public are those at the Falmouth High School, 874 Gifford Rd., Falmouth Recreation Department; and at the Lawrence School, on Lakeview Avenue, a few blocks from the center of town. Call the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce (tel. 508/548-8500) for information. Both are first-come, first-served. Commercial enterprises with outdoor courts -- clay, Har-Tru, and hard -- include Ballymeade Country Club and the Falmouth Sports Center, which has six indoor courts in addition to three outside. Rates are $52 an hour for singles.
Falmouth is a sailboarding mecca, prized for its unflagging southwesterly winds. Although Old Silver Beach in North Falmouth is the most popular spot for windsurfing, the sport is allowed there only prior to 9am and after 5pm. You can rent gear from Cape Cod Windsurfing (tel. 508/801-3329; www.capecodwindsurfing.com), located on Old Silver Beach. There are windsurfers ($70 for a half-day; 2-hr. lessons $75); kayaks ($50 for a half-day), sailboats (a Sunfish costs $150 for a half-day; lessons are $75 an hour); and the newly popular stand-up paddleboards ($50 for a half-day). There are also jet skis and bikes for rent. The Trunk River area on the west end of Falmouth's Surf Drive Beach and a portion of Chapoquoit Beach are the only public beaches where windsurfers are allowed during the day. Concessions rent windsurfing equipment at Surf Drive Beach. Windsurfing races are held at Trunk River Beach, about a mile west from Surf Drive Beach, Saturday mornings in the summer.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.