Going Ashore

It's no surprise that the town website leads off by stating "Provincetown continues to issue licenses to out of state same-sex couples. . ." Descriptions of P-town routinely begin with some variation on the theme of New England's premier gay resort and thousands of visitors every summer prove the point. Crowds arrive by car, by air, and literally by the boatload on ferries from Boston, to enjoy the Tea Dances and bars, the mostly-but-not-all-gay B&Bs, the festivals and carnivals, the "romance of freedom itself."

Still, uncorroborated estimates put the town's visitation at roughly half straight. In the afternoon, you're more likely to see a mom & dad couple pushing a baby stroller than you are to see a well-built man in a low cut dress riding his bike down the street.

While Provincetown as we know it today dates to roughly the mid-70s (the Business Guild formed in 1978 to promote gay tourism), it is also the current incarnation of a century-long embrace of diversity. Hippies avoiding 60s-era civilization found relative seclusion at the end of the Cape. Greenwich Village writers and intellectuals (frequently socialist-leaning) congregated for summers here. A group of these called the Provincetown Players, in 1916, staged the first-ever production of a Eugene O'Neill play at their waterfront theatre.

Charles Hawthorne's Cape Cod School of Art may have started Provincetown's association with the arts in 1899, but not the town's sense of being a bit apart. Nineteenth century fishermen and whalers, as in any port, in any era, already lived to a rhythm distinct from their shorebound contemporaries. Heck, even the Mayflower Pilgrims were already living an alternative lifestyle when they stopped here on their way to Plymouth.

The legacy of all this for the visiting sailor is a waterfront concentration of restaurants, film, theatre, art galleries, quirky shops, quiet beaches and fabulous streetscapes that is unrivalled on the east coast. It also means you probably won't hear the last chorus of "YMCA" drifting out of the beachfront bars and across the mooring area until after midnight.

whale watch boat
Geoff Rand

One Hour Ashore

Be ambitious. Climb the Pilgrim Monument.

Off the Beaten Path

The Cape Cod National Seashore begins at Long Point and spans all of Provincetown's Atlantic coast on its way down to Chatham. If you don't feel like walking 3 miles north of town to the Province Lands Visitor Center, or anchoring across the harbor and rowing ashore, Flyer's runs a boat to Long Point.

Maritime History

At the Monument, the Provincetown Museum has several rooms of exhibits on P-town's (thinly documented) maritime history.
The Whydah display at MacMillan Wharf has pirate stuff.

Or read the Mayflower Compact.

Rainy Day

There are enough galleries, theaters, shops and restaurants for a rainy week.

Facilities

  • Launch
  • Dinghy
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Trash
  • Public Trans

Flyer's and Provincetown Marina offer launch service with their moorings. Each of the mooring providers has some sort of dinghy dock. Ask the launch driver when you arrive.

P-town Marina and Flyers's have showers. At P-town Marina, the showers operate with tokens available in the office - get two. The water has a reputation for going straight from cold to scalding. Shower veterans soap up before inserting the rinse token.

Restrooms at Flyer's, the Marinas, Town Hall, the beaches. . .

Boston Harbor Cruises and Bay State Cruises offer ferry service from Boston. Cape Air has flights from Logan.

Visitor information is not tough to find, rather there's too much. Here's an overview.