Designed to connect Cape Cod Bay with Buzzards Bay, the Cape Cod Canal is a 7-mile-long (11-kilometer) artificial waterway built in 1914. Visitors and locals use it for both commercial and recreational boating and fishing, as well as walking and cycling along scenic paths on both sides.
For hundreds of years, seafarers making the journey south from Boston toward New York had to travel 135 miles (217 kilometers) around Cape Cod before continuing on their way. Local engineers considered creating a canal across the “neck” of Cape Cod as early as 1623, although it wasn’t actually built until the 20th century. It was created by connecting and widening the Manomet and Scusset rivers. Today, the US Army Corps of Engineers maintains the canal, which is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Many people visit the canal to spend an hour or two walking or biking, or enjoying the scenery as part of a sightseeing cruise of Cape Cod.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The canal is open to the public free of charge.
- There are restrooms at regular points along the canal paths.
- Keep an eye out for the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge. When it was built, it was the longest vertical lift span in the world.
- The canal is a commercial waterway, and using it in a private boat is not recommend for inexperienced visitors.
- Swimming in the canal is prohibited, as are kayaks and other non-motorized watercraft.
How to Get There
Pedestrian or bike access can be found all along the canal—Bourne Bridge and Sagamore Bridge are popular entry routes, while boat tours enter the canal from either bay. Parking is available at various access points along the canal.
When to Get There
The canal is open to the public year-round, although most people enjoy the walking and cycling paths in summer when the weather is drier and warmer. Sunset, when you get great views of the bridges against the colorful skies, is a popular time to visit.
Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center
Located in the town of Sandwich, the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center offers interesting information about the history and construction of the waterway for both kids and adults. You can climb onboard a retired Army patrol boat, find out about the different types of wildlife that thrive here, and try your hand at scanning the canal with a radar device to identify incoming ships.