Provincetown and Wellfleet

I took some time off from work a few weeks ago, to recharge and enjoy the summer at my parents’ house on the South Shore while they were on vacation.

By the second day of frustrating pool maintenance, I was ready to escape, so I jumped in the car and hopped on Route 3 south toward Cape Cod’s National Seashore. Being a Thursday, traffic wasn’t bad at all; in fact, I bailed off Route 6 in Yarmouth to take the much more scenic Route 6A toward Provincetown.

If you find yourself bound for the lower Cape with time to burn, I have to suggest taking the Old King’s Highway as long as you can. It has to be one of the finest roads in New England, lined by electric-blue hydrangeas, chaotic tiger lilies and clapboard cottages. Wanting to spend some time in the sand, I didn’t stop at the fantastic Brewster Bookstore, though I was thrilled to see it still in business — my mom used to take me there while we stayed at the nearby Ocean’s Edge when I was much younger.

Forced back to Route 6, I drove all the way to the end of Massachusetts and Race Point Beach, and was surprised to find myself alone on the road for much of the trip. It’s a long drive, through undeveloped scrub trees and wide-open hills, thanks to the protection of the national parks service. Once there, I didn’t go into the water, because it’s cold and kind of sharky, but again I was surprised at how relatively uncrowded the beach was. My guess is that the drive out to the remote point turns off too many people, who would rather go to Nauset or Coast Guard Beach.

After a while, I doubled back toward Provincetown’s Commercial Street, where I managed to find street parking (!) and dumped the car for a few hours. I had never been to P-town before, and I instantly fell in love with it. It was crowded, full of characters, replete with great shops and incredibly walkable. I didn’t end up doing too much spending, but I popped into tons of stores, and I’m not sure if it was just luck, but every worker I encountered was friendly, helpful and seemingly unperturbed by the crowds or oppressive heat.

An open-air mall filled with gift shops and art galleries

Provincetown’s identity as a long-established vacation spot for the LGBT community shines through on Commercial Street, as does its vibrant arts scene, creative fashion and history as a maritime town.

By the time I went back to my car, I was hungry and craving oysters. I was so close to Wellfleet, after all. So I sped through Truro, a completely agreeable, if a little boring, Cape town, in search of a sign directing me toward a raw bar. It’s worth noting that at this point, my superphone was not being cooperative, so I was relying only on road signs to main village areas. I should have stopped at the Wicked Oyster, but I didn’t realize at the time that would be the only obvious option on my route home. Plus, it didn’t look like a place where I could just casually slide up to a bar and get a beer and some newly dead shellfish. I wanted a view like this:

You would think there would be tons of casual harborside restaurants, a la the Cabby Shack in Plymouth, but it still seems to me that many Cape Cod towns offer the following three options only: The combination ice cream/hot dog/fried seafood stand; the impossibly dated casual restaurant and the hyper expensive fancy restaurant. The only thing that came close to matching what I was looking for is the Beachcomber, but it was jam-packed.

Wellfleet is beautiful, though. On its ocean side, the beaches are unbeatable. The small town center is homey and cute, with a few shops and a lovely harbor. The Wellfleet Flea Market at the drive-in theater is a great time.

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