Out here at Land’s End in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the light is everything. But sometimes timing comes in a close second.
Bear with me, as I roll back the clock a handful of weeks. It’s the day after Columbus Day weekend (madness) as we spin out of town and head south, to Provincetown, at the far end of Cape Cod.
It is a Monday. We cross the Bourne Bridge and we’re breezing down Route 6, the wind beneath our wings, in a manner of speaking. Meanwhile, traffic leaving the Cape is thick and spectacular—like ants swarming a gelato spill.
What a difference a day makes.
An hour later, we’re in the Province Lands, just minutes from the heart of Provincetown, feeling like we’re at the end of the world, and all thoughts of traffic evaporate in this place of surreal beauty. Pictures are worth thousands of words, but how do you convey all this space? Vast plains of water? Cobalt blue skies? Mountainous dunes rubbed with bits of fall? The sensual rollingness of it all?
We head straight for the beach at Race Point, where the sand-to-human ratio is about 600 gajillion to one (roughly six people, as far as the eye can see). And only a handful more at Herring Cove. Subsequently, we’ll discover that the massive breakwater near Pilgrims First Landing Park, where the Cape coils into its tight scorpion stinger, has so little foot traffic that the gulls outnumber us.
We head into town, ambling down the middle of Commercial Street, I swear. If you’ve ever been here in high season, you know that this qualifies as a miracle.
And yes, we’ll mosey out of the way when the occasional car stalks us, but mostly we’re just weaving from side to side, into art galleries, shops,
restaurants, and Marine Specialties (who can resist all that clutter and dust).
It’s Provincetown at its best. With enough people to make the streets hum,
and most shops and restaurants still open. Street performers out and about.
People hanging out on the town beach,
and boats bobbing near MacMillan Pier.
And though town is lively enough, there are actually rooms available, places to stay.
Unbelievable places like the Land’s End Inn, on the far reaches of the West End, near the breakwater. With views of the bay and the Atlantic from second story porches that are like ships’ decks. Rooms drenched in stained glass and antiques,
and a magical little bedroom at the top of a circular stairway that feels like a secret at the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.
We found its sleek counterpart, 8 Dyer, on a quiet side street in the thick of downtown,
where the East and West Ends meet. The cool gray living room kept drawing us all together…
or maybe it was the transcendent breakfast, or possibly our friendly innkeepers, Brandon (a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef) and Steve (former lawyer, and a genius with homemade Greek yogurt).
Everything was right. Sheaves of golden grass, cranberry-red leaves—just a hint of autumn in the air. Still plenty to see and do, minus insane crowds. Weather so unpredictable at this time of year that it just might bathe you in tropical breezes (it really did). Sea-scrubbed air and vistas that will lift your heart.
Who says the season’s over?
Have you ever visited Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the off season?
This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.