Provincetown is at the very tip of the Cape Cod peninsula region of Massachusetts, USA. Perhaps due to being at the remote end of the Cape and because of its variety of beautiful scenes, Provincetown has attracted artists of all types over the years. One of the oldest artist colonies in America, it has produced a large number of excellent galleries, cutting edge theatre and many unique shops. There is also the persistence of an attitude of tolerance, making Provincetown a preferred home and travel destination for many gays and lesbians.

"P-town", as it is sometimes called, also has an intriguing history as the first landing site of the Pilgrims and the place where the Mayflower Compact was signed. Fishing and whaling have also been a huge part of Provincetown's past. Its large, safe harbor and prime location made it the Cape's fishing center, with thousands of ships calling it home port. The glory days of fishing are now gone and only about two dozen ships continue the traditions. The Portuguese influence brought by the fishing era still lives in Provincetown.

View of Provincetown from harbor

Provincetown is also blessed with pristine beaches and dunes on the Atlantic side. Race Point Beach has often made the lists of top beaches in America. It is also one of the few spots on the east coast where one can watch the sun set into the water.


As the first stopping point of the English settlers on the Mayflower, Provincetown grew into a colonial port, but remained small compared to other Yankee trading towns until the 19th century.

The town became prosperous in the 1800s as a fishing and whaling center. The population was bolstered by a number of Portuguese sailors, many of whom were from the Azores, and came to live in Provincetown after being hired to work on US ships. Today, the town is a hub for whale watching vessels, which provide excellent opportunities to see whales.

After the 1898 Portland Gale severely damaged the town's fishing industry, members of the town's burgeoning art and theater community took over many of the abandoned buildings. By the early decades of the 20th century, the town had acquired an international reputation for its artistic and literary output.

Some of the most famous literary lights and artists who lived in Provincetown included playwrights Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill, and Susan Glaspell; Artists Marsden Hartley, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock; Norman Mailer, author, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and co-founder of the Village Voice, beat poet Harry Kemp and Slaughterhouse-Five writer Kurt Vonnegut. Today, the town is well-known for off-beat, queer and left of center writers and media personalities, including filmmaker John Waters; Michael Cunningham, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Hours; Andrew Sullivan, author, columnist for the Daily Beast; blogger Andy Towle, poet and founder of; Kate Clinton, comedian and writer; and Anthony Bourdain, chef, author, television host.

Because of its status as the first artist's colony in the U.S., the town has a strong ethic of tolerance which supported the development of a large gay community from the 1960s on. Today it is quite common to see same-sex couples showing affection and one can expect to encounter men in drag, particularly on Commercial Street, which is the main string of restaurants, shops and galleries. In general, however, the town's attitude of tolerance extends to heterosexuals, who are increasingly present and are welcome in most establishments.


Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown (ISBN 0609609076) by Michael Cunningham. This award-winning author and resident of Ptown writes an engaging travelogue about the city at the tip at of the Cape.

The Maytrees: A Novel (ISBN 0061239534) by Anne Dillard. Set in Provincetown, this novel examines family life and the mysteries of marriage, the effect of forgiveness and human development.

Ptown: Art, Sex, and Money on the Outer Cape (ISBN 0743243110) by Peter Manso. This (now) dated, gossipy take on the people of Provincetown and the lifestyles of the somewhat rich and barely famous would make a good beach read. Published in 2003.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 37 37 44 52 62 72 79 77 70 60 51 43
Nightly lows (°F) 23 23 29 37 48 56 63 62 55 45 38 28
Precipitation (in) 3.8 3.0 4.0 3.5 3.0 3.1 2.8 3.1 3.7 3.6 4.4 3.8

View from the Pilgrim Monument

The water surrounding Provincetown has the effect of moderating temperatures in all seasons, such that the entire town is included in USDA plant hardiness zone 7a, which indicates an average annual extreme minimum temperature (1976–2005) of between 0 and 5 °F (-17.8 and -15 °C). The water also has the effect of delaying the onset of the seasons, by keeping spring temperatures cooler and fall temperatures warmer than the rest of the state.

The average annual snowfall is 19.5" per year. The record high temperature was 98°F in 1964. The lowest recorded temperature was -4°F in 1976.

Get in

Map of central Provincetown

By car

The fastest route from the Cape Cod Canal bridges is Route 6, the Mid Cape Highway. Travel time from Boston's Logan Airport (BOS) or Providence's T.F. Green Airport (PVD) is about 2.5 hours without traffic slowdowns. From the Cape Cod Canal, Provincetown is about 60 mi (97 km) and 1.5 hours. Eastham, with its 40 mph speed limit and two lane highway, is a notorious speed-trap.

By bus

By plane

  • Cape Air, 660 Barnstable Rd., Hyannis, MA 02601, toll-free: +1-800-352-0714. Cape Air flies several times a day from Boston's Logan Airport to Provincetown Airport, 20 min flight; in the summer they also offer flights to White Plains, New York, which is accessible to the greater New York City area, 60 minute flight. Cape Air operates Cessnas and is currently the only scheduled airline serving Provincetown.

By boat

Ferry service to Provincetown operates seasonally; late spring to mid fall. All services dock at   MacMillan Pier, located just to the south of Lopes Square (off Commercial St at the foot of Standish St).

To/From Boston:

To/From Plymouth:

Get around

By rented car

By taxi

By bus

Pilgrim Monument at night


  • Lighthouse at Race Point, Cape Cod National Seashore,  +1 508 487-9930. The Race Point Light is a historic lighthouse. It was first lighted on November 5, 1816. Today visitors can stay in the keeper's house and the Lighthouse can be used for events and weddings.




Carnival Week in P'town


  • Art House Theater, 214 Commercial St.,  +1 508 487-9222. Presents high quality drag shows and Broadway divas all summer long. This is the home of Varla Jean Merman.
Within the Theater are two companies:

Whale Watching & Cruises

A humpback whale breaching off the coast of Massachusetts

Dune tours



Race Point and Herring Cove beaches are popular surfcasting spots.

The following companies offer charters:


A bike trail starts at Conwell Street in the East End and loops through the dunes to Race Point in the National Seashore. The trail is well maintained and marked. About 6 miles.


Art Galleries

Childe Hassam visited Provincetown and painted this impressionist work called Building a Schooner. Long known as an artist's colony, Provincetown continues to produce and market fine art in its many galleries.



Bakeries and coffee shops


Upscale Casual Dining

Fine Dining


The Atlantic House. One of the oldest gay bars in the United States

Gay and Lesbian Oriented


This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under $200
Mid-range $200-500
Splurge Over $500




Wood End Light is at the tip of Cape Cod and is one of three lighthouses in Provincetown


Go next

Routes through Provincetown

END  N  S  Truro New Bedford

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