New England is famous for the rugged beauty of its coastlines, from the rocky coast of Maine to the sandy shores of Cape Cod. There’s nothing like riding your bike along the New England coast, watching the waves roll in as you feel the salty ocean breeze in your face. Here are ten of the most popular coastal bike paths in New England, from north to south.
1. Sipayik Trail
The Sipayik Trail includes a panoramic vista of Passamaquoddy Bay with a view across the bay of New Brunswick, Canada. It’s a fantastic place for bird watching as there are always an abundance of gulls and migratory seabirds along the shore, besides birds of prey, songbirds, and others. During the summer months, marine mammals like seals, harbor porpoise, and whales can be seen from the shoreline. Another highlight of the trail is the tide pools. When the tide is out, the intertidal zone reveals several kinds of rockweed, soft shell clams, mussels, periwinkles, whelks, rock crabs, and green crabs.
2. Belfast Rail Trail on the Passagassawaukeag
This rail trail runs through Belfast, a historic seaport with a wealth of antique architecture in several historic districts. Because of its historical significance and “Olde New England” feel, it remains a popular tourist destination. The Belfast Rail Trail is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a network of trails that stretches from Maine to Florida.
3. Back Cove Trail
This three-mile loop around Back Cove is one of the most popular trails in Portland, and rightfully so. It offers a scenic view of the Portland skyline as you bike through a peaceful natural environment. The Back Cove Trail is part of the East Coast Greenway.
4. Eastern Promenade Trail
The Eastern Promenade follows the coastline around Portland’s East End. You can see Fort Gorges from the trail, a fort that was armed and active during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. There are other historical gems along the trail, so it makes for a great excursion for those who enjoy both history and nature. The Eastern Promenade is part of the East Coast Greenway.
5. Clipper City Rail Trail & Harborwalk
Though short, the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk traverses a mix of environments: an industrial park, a neighborhood, and the waterfront. Cyclists will find urban amenities close by, including ice cream parlors, bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants. Perhaps the trail’s most distinguishing feature is the fanciful artwork found along the corridor. Sculptures, murals, and artfully designed landscapes make for an enjoyable ride or walk and reflect the creativity of the city’s inhabitants.
6. Cape Cod Canal Bikeway
The Cape Cod Canal Bikeway is a popular but peaceful trail that runs on both sides of the canal. Each year, 14,000 commercial and recreational vessels use the canal and the trail offers a fascinating viewpoint for watching them go by. On the west end of the canal, you’ll have a stunning view of the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, one of the longest lift bridges in the U.S., which carries trains across the canal and rises 135 feet above the water. If you can bring your fishing gear, you’ll be able to drop a line for striped bass almost anywhere along either side of the canal.
7. Province Lands Bike Trail
Opened in 1967, the Province Lands Bike Trail was the first bike trail created by the National Park Service. The twists and turns and ups and downs of this trail make it one of the most enjoyable options for a challenging ride or run on Cape Cod. It is located at the tip of the cape, only a mile from popular tourist destination Provincetown. The trail consists of a main loop around Beech Forest, a densely wooded area home to several ponds and lots of wildlife, and a couple of short spurs through natural sand dunes that will take you to beaches on Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
8. Shining Sea Bikeway
The Shining Sea Bikeway is our favorite bike trail in Massachusetts. This paved path follows prehistoric Wampanoag Indian trails, offering beautiful views of woodlands, marshes, salt ponds, and expansive seascapes to the observant cyclist. It is perhaps the most scenic bike trail in the entire state. Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuary is a 60-acre preserve between the bikeway and the ocean that offers a network of footpaths from which you can spot many species of shorebirds as well as river otters and muskrats. The southern terminus of the trail is in Woods Hole, a historic seaside fishing village home to an internationally known scientific community.
9. East Bay Bike Path
The East Bay Bike Path is our favorite bike trail in Rhode Island. The trail takes you through an alternating landscape of stunning natural areas, as well as more urban enclaves. It offers a fairly flat ride with scenic views of Narragansett Bay and local marshlands as well as easy access to myriad downtown eateries, several small state parks and conservation areas, and the Rhode Island Audubon Society Environmental Education Center, which provides a great educational experience for young and old alike. The East Bay Bike Path is also part of the East Coast Greenway.
10. Savin Rock Trail
The Savin Rock Trail runs along West Haven’s coastline for a little more than a mile. You’ll enjoy picturesque views of Long Island Sound along the way and can turn off to walk any of its sandy beaches. This trail is also part of the East Coast Greenway.