The Many Things To Do on the Cape Cod Canal

For many, the Cape Cod Canal is a source of great frustration. It’s that thing that stands between you and your vacation destination. It adds significantly to your travel time on the beach and just in time for you to get over that inconvenience, it adds to it again on your way back to the mainland.

But the canal means more than traffic and residents and visitors alike would be well-served by making the area an asset to their time on the Cape rather than a hindrance.

The Cape Cod Canal is an activity hub for the Cape and there are any number of things that you can do there whether you’re by yourself, with friends, or traveling with kids. With annual visitation exceeding three million, the Cape Cod Canal is one of the Cape’s biggest attractions and serves as the gateway to historic Cape Cod. Here are some things for you to do on your next visit:

Biking / Skateboarding / Rollerblading:

The Canal Bikeway follows along the Canal through sections of Bourne and Sagamore. Maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, it offers great views of the canal’s various boat traffic, along with the area’s quaint shoreline scenery of unique homes and natural beauty.

The path is actually the Corp’s access road, a paved route designated for government vehicles, foot traffic and non-motorized vehicles only. It runs for approximately 7 to 8 miles between both Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. Featuring a generous width with minimal grades, it’s ideal for casual cyclists, especially families with younger children.


This very same bikeway is ideal for a scenic walk or run. The pathways are wide enough to accommodate all of the pedestrian traffic. The paved, relatively flat surface make the journey doable for those of all ages, and markers at every half mile make it easy to track your progress. Should you find yourself in need of a break, the Army Corps has taken the liberty of placing a number of park benches along the way for your relaxing pleasure.

Have a Picnic:

The Canal’s Midway Recreation Area is a beautiful wooded area, ideal for families, offering individual and group picnic options with charcoal grills, volleyball and more. Midway has a large picnic pavilion with grills, tables, and a fireplace that can be reserved for group functions at no cost via a Special Facility Permit request. There are trash receptacles and seasonal restrooms available to the public as well.

Watch the Ships:

The Canal provides a unique, close-up view of ocean going ships and tugs underway as they utilize the canal route between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay. Cruise lines, cargo ships and jumbo car carriers can be seen from the canal banks. From the simple lines of a working harbor tug to the sleek look of a luxury yacht, the canal provides a continuous parade of vessels to observe and enjoy.

Hike/Scope out Wildlife:

The Bournedale Hills Trail extends 1.4 miles along the north side of the canal from Bourne Scenic Park to the Herring Run. The trail includes a .8 mile self-guided loop which interprets the canal’s historic and natural features.

Within Scusset Beach State Reservation, the .7 mile interpretive trail to Sagamore Hill provides access to an area that was once a Native American meeting ground and later the site of a World War II Coastal Fortification. The top of Sagamore Hill commands a view of the canal’s east entrance and Cape Cod Bay.

Visit the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center:

Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center offers excellent insight into the rich history, fascinating features, and vigilant operation of the Cape Cod Canal. Inside you will discover a museum that is fun, fascinating, family friendly and free. Interactive exhibits offer something for visitors of all ages.

Go Fish:

Fishing is permitted from the canal banks in almost all areas, with an access point for handicap fishing available as well. A staple of the Cape Cod fishing scene, there is plenty of space to fish the popular spot. The canal offers herring, mackerel, whiting, and of course striped bass. Word of advice: the currents are strong and often unpredictable, plus there’s trees, bushes, and slippery rocks so it’s probably best if you have some idea what you’re doing.

Take a Train Over that Other Bridge:

Most of us have spent much too long making our way across the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges, but there is another that really should be experienced.

The Cape Cod Central Railroad offers a train departing from Buzzards Bay and traveling across the Cape Cod Canal’s Railroad Bridge, then along the canal to Sandwich. It continues to the Great Salt Marsh in West Barnstable before returning to Buzzards Bay. Along the way, a narrator will share interesting facts and information regarding the famous canal as well as other points of interest along the route.

Travelers can also enjoy a ride over the Railroad Bridge – and avoid traffic – with the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority’s Cape Flyer Service between Boston and the Cape. The service runs from Labor Day through Columbus Day taking commuters and vacationers to and fro while also offering the scenic experience.

Look Around:

The view at the Cape Cod Canal is spectacular, and a real part of that has been the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. When first constructed they were deemed the “most Beautiful Steel Bridges” around by the American Institute of Steel Construction. For all the grief that they cause in traffic delays, the bridges a piece of history and not bad to look at either. That being said their days appear to be numbered.

By Staff
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