If you look at a map of Cape Cod, Race Point is at the very northern tip, that little wispy bit of land stretching out into the sea. Part of the Province Lands and the Cape Cod National Seashore, Race Point is a federally protected wildlife area. The beach is fantastic, easily one of the best in New England, and because it is part of the National Park it has good facilities such as changing rooms and nice clean bathrooms. There is a fee for parking, and there are strict rules about staying off of the sand dunes and trash disposal, etc., but it's all for the best.
On my last visit here we saw seals swimming just off of the beach. It was great, lots of fun to watch.
The beach is also home to the Race Point Lighthouse Station, still operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. Before the Cape Cod Canal was built, ships heading to Boston used this to navigate around the Cape's dangerous shoals.
Race Point gets very crowed in the summertime, so get there early. Coolers and food are allowed, but no alcohol and no public nudity (in case you're interested!).
Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, a U.S. National Park, the Province Lands are perhaps one of the only untouched natural coastal areas left in Massachusetts. With sand dunes stretching as high as fifty feet into the air, pristine wetlands, and gorgeous sandy beaches, the Province Lands are full of wildlife, birds and plants that are today rarely seen in other coastal areas due to pollution and loss of habitat. Use of the beaches is allowed for a fee (which goes to the National Park Service to help maintain them), and hiking and biking are allowed on marked trails--straying from trails is frowned upon due to the risk of damage for nesting birds and other wildlife (and if that's not enough to convince you, much of the area is loaded with poison ivy).
If you plan on being in Provincetown you should definitely set aside some time for a trip here. Directions, maps and other practical information can be found on the National Parks' Web site below.
There are a lot of places to rent bikes from, and it's a great way to visit the National Seashore Park and surrounding area. We got ours from Arnold’s (address/phone below). The bikes appeared to be decently maintained (although I had trouble getting my mountain bike to shift back into first gear, and the chain fell of my friend’s hybrid twice), and the staff was helpful and efficient. Rates for bikes in 5/2008 were: $5 hour; $16 half-day; $20 full day.
They also have for rent tandem bikes, those trailers for little kids you can attach to a bike, strollers, and beach gear. Open daily 9-6.
“Sit back, relax and enjoy the most interesting and informative trolley tour in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
This narrated tour lasts about 40 minutes, and goes through downtown Provincetown and into the National Seashore Park. The driver/narrator knew her stuff, touching on history, architecture, and local specialties. She also seemed to know everyone along the way, often calling out parts of ongoing conversations with them as we passed. People waved and yelled hellos to the passengers. It was fun.
Trolleys run 10-4 (and sometimes later), and leave every half hour from in front of the Town Hall. In May 2008 it cost $11 per person.
A trip through the parabolic dunes on the north side of Provincetown is something no visitor should miss. You can go out on Art's Dune Tours (big comfortable off-road vehicles) and get a good sense of the beauty and history of the dunes and shore of the Provincelands of Cape Cod National Seashore. You can also hike out to the Atlantic by following Snail Road, (a road in name only once it crosses Rt. 6 to the North) a sand path that meanders out past cranberry bogs and dune shacks. It's about a 1/2 hour walk & can be pretty strenuous if you're not used to walking on sand... some steep dunes to climb. If you walk take plenty of water and protection from the sun and wind... the weather can change quickly and dramatically. If you prefer walking on a hard surface there are over seven miles of bike paths that loop through the Provincelands offering views of the ocean, dunes, ponds and beech forest.
The Provincetown trolley leaves several times a day from in front of Town Hall on Commercial Street and can drop and pick up in a few other locations as well. If you are new to town and/or are visiting for only a short time, it's a good way to get an overview of the immediate area. The ride takes you through town on Commercial Street and on a loop through the Provincelands of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The driver keeps up a running commentary on the history of the town and area (maybe a few tall tales thrown in too), often quite amusing.
The Province Lands Visitor Center makes for a nice stop at the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown. Displays explain the natural environment of the area. The structure of the Visitor Center is well designed with an observation deck that offers some wonderful views.
I have heard that August and September are the best time to do this. We encountered many people who have been returning every years for over 30 and I suspect that I will make the pilgrimage too now.
We booked with a company called the Portuguese Princess because they do whale research and send marine biologists out on each boat trip.
There are generally 3-4 trips a day and each cost about $35 USD.
Seeing Provincetown on the map gives you a better idea of what the place is like, I think. You are definately driving out into the ocean here. It's quite a special place. Wish I could have ridden in a dune buggy. We talked about it, but rain was threatening so we changed the plan.
Natural shingles, picket fences, interesting gates framing precious little gardens filled with perennials...large or small...each house has its own beauty. So much to see walking down one street. First we turned right from the main intersection.. and that's where most of the retail is...but turn left from the intersection and things quiet down. You will find many marvelous galleries as well as all the beautiful gardens, homes, and quick little views in between the houses. Things are packed pretty tightly on this little spit of land, but there are volumes included for your pleasure.
Marlene found one for sale! She picked up the information, but think it was a bit too pricey for her.
I don't know who is doing all the gardening out there at the end of the Cape, but whoever it is...they are certainly spending plenty of time on making their homes and yards look picture perfect. It would take me 8 hours a day to keep my property looking like some of the gardens we enjoyed.
The Cape is known for its Hydraengers...and they really are striking.
I didn't visit this museum but I'm told their collections are wonderful. They outgrew their original building...next door. Lots of discussions and arguements ensued as they came to this design for an addition that would be modern, spacious and appropriate for the expanded needs. Unfortunately I think they missed the mark. Preservationists will continue to complain until one day perhaps there will be some alterations to make the building more appealing. Wish I had time to visit the interiors, tho...as I'm sure the space works wonderfully if you are inside and looking out.
You can find some wonderful Asian imports in one of the shops. Some of the things in the specialty shops are expensive, but one of a kind focus items which you would use and treasure for many years. Each shopping experience and architectural style seems to differ from the last... for a complete sensory experience. We enjoyed the space behind the Asian store where there was a perfectly serene Zen garden with garden elements for sale. It was a welcome resting place.
Shopping is more fun when the building is interesting. Such is the case with this arcade filled with colorful treasures for you to carry home. As you pass through the elaborate three story mall, you walk towards the light of the beach beyond. You can step outside onto the sand and see a bit of the harbor. I was actually distracted by this concept so much so that I didn't pay much attention to the things in the shops. I'm sure you could spend hours poking around to find your special soulvenir.
The Masons built the tower as the PILGRIM MONUMENT on Provincetown many years ago during the Roosevelt Administration. I'm not sure why it was a project of the Masons...maybe one of you can enlighten me... but it stands as a landmark today. The town hall serves as a meeting place, public space, and all around handy building to have around. The library, (not pictured here) is being totally restored and hopes for a bright future.
The old post card is a pic of Teddy Roosevelt laying the first stone for the tower to be built on August 20, 1907.
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