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Exclusive | Provincetown: What to See & Do

Exclusive | Provincetown: What to See & Do

It's hard not to love Provincetown, or P-town as anyone who has been there calls it. Great New England cuisine, sunny beaches and thriving seasonal nightlife attract a diverse, friendly range of queer folks from every walk of life.

Many gay visitors to P-town adhere to the social schedule: Cruise the beach or Commercial Street until mid-afternoon, then T-dance, After-T at the Pied, dinner, dancing and hanging out at Spiritus Pizza after the clubs close. But there's a lot more to do in P-town and the adjacent National Seashore. The Cape Cod National Seashore's [link to:] bicycle trails cover some amazing terrain: towering dunes, lovely green thickets of oak and scrub pine, pristine beaches, and the white-capped ocean. The well-developed trails make this a great way to spend a few hours and get a little exercise. The National Seashore Visitors Center (Race Point Road, 508-487-1256) offers a number of interesting ranger-led hikes (all free) that explore the Seashore's flora, fauna, and history. There's also a gift shop where you can buy the best postcards in town, as well as maps and books.

Get a beach fire permit. A beach bonfire is one of the most romantic things to do in Provincetown. Buy something to grill, a thermos full of your beverage of choice, and your own firewood. Permits are given out in limited numbers on a first-come basis. They?re usually easy to get because so few people know about them. Another tip: walk along the breakwater, constructed of massive flat granite boulders stacked one atop the other, stretching across the bay created by the curvature of the Cape's tip. You'll find it by walking or biking to the western end of Commercial Street. Allow yourself 45 minutes to cross; the isolated beach at the end is a natural (and naturist's) wonderland. Bring a camera.

Rent a bike at gay-owned P-town Bikes (42 Bradford St; 508-487-8735; rates vary from $10 for under two hours to $20 for a 24-hour period, weekly rates also available), where you can also get a free map and cable lock. Explore the nature and history of Cape Cod's waters by kayak. Venture Athletics Kayak Shop (in Whaler's Wharf; 237 Commercial St; 508-487-9442) offers kayak rentals and guided tours for all experience levels. The Dolphin Fleet (Chamber of Commerce Building at the head of P-town Pier; 800-826-9300), recently merged with Portuguese Princess, offers spectacular sunset whale watch cruises.

For an unusual look at the seashore, book a trip with Art's Dune Tours (508-487-1950; 800-894-1951), which has been providing visitors with an intimate look at the region's famous dunes and dune shacks since 1946. It's one of the best tour outfitters on the Cape. The Pilgrim Monument is the tallest all-granite structure in the U.S., built in 1910 and affording a 360-degree view from its stairway-accessed summit. The adjacent Provincetown Museum (508-487-1310; $7) chronicles the town's history.

Herring Cove is the gay beach, all the way at the west end of town. If you're driving there in season, go early. Parking gets hectic after 11:00 a.m. It's not too far to walk, but a bike is probably the best transportation option. Whichever way you go, you'll still walk 10 minutes, either from the parking lot to the gay end of the beach, or from the street-side bike rack down the path. Many beachgoers lock their bikes against trees along the road leading to the beach and walk to the beach by cutting through the woods. Just follow the path, and be sure to avoid trampling the delicate dune vegetation. Parking fees are $15 daily or $45 for a yearly pass. The path at that end will deliver you onto the women's section of the gay beach. Men typically proceed farther left along the beach, stopping either in the "bisexual section," where groups of men and women intermingle, or farther along in the predominately male section. Bring sandals, as the beach is usually rock-covered in the men's section, although sandier in the women's section. If you continue to walk west along Herring Cove for a long while, you'll eventually come to the very tip of Cape Cod and one of the most beautiful and isolated beaches anywhere. You'll also pass by pockets of nude sunbathers. Remember to bring water.

Often overlooked by gay visitors, Race Point Beach (just beyond Herring Cove) is popular with families, yet gay friendly. The beach is much wider and sandier than Herring Cove and there's a great lookout from where you can sometimes spot whales. This is the beach for enjoying spectacular sunsets. Long Nook Beach in Truro is a spectacle of dune and surf that is officially open only to Truro residents, but you can bicycle there and enjoy it no matter where you're from. One of the best beaches on the Cape, Long Nook is dramatic and private, and even has an au naturel section if you walk far enough to the right. The Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at the Marconi Station in Wellfleet (off Route 6, follow signs) offers a moderately difficult 1.25-mile self-guided nature walk. The Marconi Station is where the first wireless transmission from the U.S. to Europe was sent on January 18, 1903.

Although nude and topless bathing has always been practiced by some at the National Seashore beaches (mainly at the far end of Herring Cove Beach), it has always been illegal. Now, the town of Provincetown has a legal nude beach. It is located about 1.5 miles down from Race Point Beach.

The Provincetown Gym (81 Shank Painter; 508-487-2776) is large and low-key. In addition to Cybex free weights, machines and cardio equipment, the gym also offers a variety of exercise and dance classes. Mussel Beach Health Club (35 Bradford St; 508-487-0001) is popular with circuit boys. It?s male-oriented and cruisy. It also offers personal training and a range of classes. Parking and a bike rack are available, too, just a short walk from Commercial Street. Offering a full slate of state-of-the-art spa and massage treatments, Shui Spa (Crowne Point Inn, 82 Bradford St., 508-487-6767) is part of the fabulous Crowne Point Inn complex and is open not only to hotel guests but also the general public.

Related Articles:
Provincetown: Introduction
Provincetown: Gay Life
Provincetown: Where to Stay
Provincetown: Where to Eat
Provincetown: Where to Play
Provincetown: Where to Shop
Provincetown: Artistic/Cultural
Provincetown: Resources

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