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MV Bike Tour # 0: Shining Sea Bikeway (in Falmouth)

Language: English
13 Stops 19.5 miles · Bicycle · Adult, Teen, Elementary
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  • Go from any SSA long-term Falmouth parking lot to the ferry on your bike!
  • The beautiful 10.7 mile Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth
  • Beautiful beaches, wooded nature preserves and historic farms


You can ride your bike on the beautiful Shining Sea Bikeway ON THE MAINLAND, from any of the four Steamship Authority (SSA) long-term parking lots to the Woods Hole SSA ferry dock! The Bikeway actually runs through the Palmer Ave. parking lot, which is the closest (4 miles), year-round, long-term parking lot, and the tour directs you to that entrance, so even novice riders can ride safely on the Bikeway all the way to the ferry! This tour also describes the routes to the Shining Sea Bikeway from the other three farthest SSA long-term parking lots, (Cataumet, Landers and Gifford), none of which are more than 2 miles from the Bikeway. These routes are on quiet or moderately trafficked roads (but no bike paths), which are easily ridden by intermediate or better riders. The tour does not describe the magnificent scenery along the Bikeway, however. This is extremely well done by the Friends of Falmouth Bikeways organization, which has wonderful maps, descriptions, pictures and a video on their website: https://www.friendsoffalmouthbikeways.org/ The Shining Sea Bikeway is a beautiful, dedicated 10.7-mile shared use path (SUP) for bicycles, runners, walkers and other non-powered vehicles - NO autos, mopeds, or motorcycles!. The Bikeway path itself is well maintained, flat, 8-10 feet wide and center-lined to separate the northbound and southbound lanes - see the picture. There is a 15-mph speed limit, and 1/10-mile markers embedded in the surface. It passes multiple nature preserves and bird sanctuaries a working, century-old cranberry bog, an historic farm with cattle tunnels under the path, Falmouth Harbor, several salt- and fresh-water ponds and marshes, and beautiful Vineyard Sound and Buzzard’s Bay beaches. The Bikeway has drinking water fountains, air pump stations, several (non-SSA) parking lots (none overnight), restrooms, restaurants and snack bars, information kiosks at viewpoints, and rest stops with bike racks and benches all along its length. It is part of a nationwide effort to repurpose unused railroad rights-of-way into community trails and parks, and is a “shining” example of that success. At one time, a railroad did run directly to the Woods Hole ferry dock, and the Bikeway follows its route! The author of “America the Beautiful,” Katherine Lee Bates, was a Falmouth native, and a monument to her stands near the 2-mile point at the southern end of the Bikeway. Even if you had planned to visit only the Vineyard, the Bikeway is an extremely worthwhile half or full day excursion, before, during or after your island stay. As one end is at the Woods Hole SSA dock, you can take your bike on the ferry from the Vineyard to Woods Hole, ride the Bikeway, and either take the ferry back or collect your car at an SSA parking lot, or vice versa. A round-trip ride is a maximum 21.4-mile flat ride, which is a quite reasonable 2-hour non-stop excursion – but you’ll probably want to stop at various points along the way! There are restaurants along the way or within easy reach of the Bikeway, so you can do lunch on the trip! Or, if you're riding with novice riders, you can make it any length you want. If you choose not to ride the Bikeway, all the SSA parking lots provide shuttle bus service to the ferry dock, and every bus has a triple bicycle rack on its front. There is also a dedicated “Bike bus" in-season with multiple seats and interior hooks to hang the bicycles by their wheels during the ride to the ferry. Difficulty: Easy Bike paths: 100% on the Bikeway. None on the connecting roads prior to the bikeway, but light to moderate traffic on those roads. Distance: 4 to 12.3 miles from parking lot to ferry dock. The Bikeway itself is 10.7 miles. Elevation Gain: 82 ft over entire length of Bikeway Elevation Loss: 135 ft over entire length of Bikeway
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Route Details

Cataumet SSA Parking Lot

1.0 miles

Old Main Road

0.7 miles

Shining Sea Bikeway - Northern Terminus

1.52 miles

10 more tour stops

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