It seems that there’s a pre-requisite for any New England beach town that it must be quaint and cute, and obviously Provincetown isn’t immune to that. It’s one the best Cape Cod beach towns, and maybe the prettiest beach town in America!
Even from the moments before our ferry docked in Ptown, it was obvious that this was going to be a cute town—full of Americana, but also somehow unique. The lighthouse at the tip of the bay on Long Point, the sweeping blonde-colored sand, and a large barn-like structure at the end of the dock; Provincetown is pretty.
Stretching along the coast, Provincetown’s main street, Commercial Street, runs right along the waterfront with assorted buildings and houses on either side. Balconies, terraces, and piers are dotted along the route. Restaurants, bars, art galleries, and small independent shops make up most of the local businesses in Provincetown.
But the prettiest part of Ptown are the many houses. You’ll spot them along Commercial Street, but also in the many side streets, especially along the West End.
Provincetown’s prettiest homes
As the original landing spot for the Mayflower, Provincetown has been a home for nearly 400 years (longer when including the nearby Native American population). The earliest settlement was located on Long Point, but after many decades, those original settlers eventually decided to relocate off the “arm” of Provincetown and deeper inland.
To relocate their homes, these early Provincetown settlers ended up quite literally floating their homes across the bay, using a method outlined on CapeCod.com. These floater homes still exist today and are marked with blue-and-white plaques, often on the front of the homes.
Dating back hundreds of years, the homes are generally quite small, though some have received updates and additions. They’re brightly colored and incredibly picturesque. So many of the Instagram photos you’ll see from Provincetown tourists are in front of these and other pretty homes in Ptown.
TRAVEL TIP: Rent a bike while in Provincetown so you can ride around the streets and surrounding areas to spot the prettiest homes. As you get further from the main drag along the center of Commercial Street, the roads are very quiet and peaceful—perfect for a relaxing beach-town bike ride to discover the prettiest Provincetown homes and architecture.
The Provincetown sand dunes
New England‘s long history in America has always made it one of the most historic and picturesque American regions, and Provincetown’s history makes it equally appealing. But it’s the landscape around Provincetown which makes it even more unique—and possibly more beautiful.
Henry David Thoreau was a prolific writer in the 1800s, writing a lot about the Massachusetts scenery. (I used to visit Walden Pond which he famously wrote about.) And in his essays collected under the title Cape Cod (available via Project Gutenberg), Thoreau eloquently describes Provincetown and its iconic sand dunes.
With nearly 40 miles of beaches, marshes, ponds, and dunes, the Cape Cod National Seashore is part of the USA National Park System, and therefore its unique scenery is protected. It was designated a park by one of the Cape’s own, President John F. Kennedy in 1961. And its pristine nature is strikingly beautiful—especially the sand dunes which naturally help to protect the region from erosion.
TRAVEL TIP: While the beaches and some parts of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park are accessible by bicycle and by car, the only way to access the iconic Provincetown sand dunes is on a tour with Art’s Dune Tours. There are a number of tour options and packages which include useful historical information about the dunes and surrounding region.
Cute shops along Commercial Street
While much of Provincetown’s beauty is found in its natural beauty, the unique Provincetown “spirit,” or attitude just adds to the town’s specialness. Take a walk down Commercial Street and you’ll find lots of independent shops, bars, hotels, and restaurants which add to the local flavor of the town.
And the best part? So many of them are just so picturesque and beautiful! Something about that beach air must fuel the creative spirit of Provincetown. Is everyone here an artist?!
Hand-painted business signs, boutique hotels, and bright colors on the buildings—and the people—are the norm along Commercial Street. Drag queens mix with families, young tourists, children, and plenty of gay boys & girls—it’s a hotspot of diversity, and the cute shops along Commercial Street make it the happening place to be.
TRAVEL TIP: Check out the local and independent shops on Commercial Street for a taste of that special Provincetown vibe. There’s an entire store that sells hammocks (through rumor has it, it’s closing down in 2020), an independent bookshop with a large LGBTQ selection, and many restaurants & bars with outdoor terraces. Don’t miss the view from the second floor of Spindler’s Restaurant part of The Waterford Inn hotel directly on Commercial Street.
My visit to Provincetown was supported and sponsored by the town. Discover more travel tips for Ptown on their tourism website or in my Provincetown Guide for First Travel Visitors. Additional LGBTQ tips and a guide to the town is produced by the Provincetown Business Guild, available online or in brochures and flyers throughout the town.
Provincetown Photos – Travel Moments
See below more of my travel photos from my summertime visit to Provincetown. For more Provincetown blogs and travel tips, check out my full archive of Provincetown stories here.