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; its name is a nod to Falmouth’s own Katharine Lee Bates (1859–1929), who wrote the lyrics to “America the Beautiful,” with its verse, “And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!” The Falmouth Chamber of Commerce offers a map and brochure about the bike path. There is free parking on Locust Street; on Depot Avenue; in West Falmouth, on Old Dock Road; and at the trailhead on County Road, in North Falmouth.
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). A half-day bike rental is $17 ($12 for children), a 24-hour rental $25 ($18 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-hour) bike rental is $20, a 1-day rental $25, and a week rental $75. 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) 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). 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-hour trips $45 adults, $30 kids 12 and under; full-day trips $65 adults, $45 kids); equipment and instruction are 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 The Cape Club, 125 Falmouth Woods Rd. (tel. 508/540-4005). Greens fees are $75 (Mon–Thurs) and $80 (Fri–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
Falmouth is particularly blessed with some lovely nature preserves. Prime among them is the 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), an intriguing 49-acre collection of more than 1,000 holly trees, representing 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.
Named for its round shape, 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.
Families will find a lot to do at the 2,250-acre Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (WBNERR), at 149 Waquoit Highway, in Waquoit (tel. 508/457-0495). The reserve has a 1-mile, self-guided nature trail and a visitor center, open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, with several interesting exhibits especially for children. 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 are geared toward families. On Saturday in season, WBNERR hosts a free 20-minute cruise over to Washburn Island, where visitors can explore wooded trails or relax on 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 $10 a night. These book up 6 months in advance for summer weekends; you’ll have better luck with a late-spring or early fall booking. Advance reservations for the cruise and camping are required; call tel. 877/422-6762.
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.
Sailboarders prize Falmouth for its unflagging southwesterly winds. Although Old Silver Beach in North Falmouth is the most popular spot for windsurfing, it’s only allowed there before 9am and after 5pm. You can rent gear from Cape Cod Windsurfing (tel. 508/801-3329), which can deliver gear to a local 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 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.
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.