Beyond Somerville: To Provincetown by Sea

As close as Somerville is to Cape Cod & the Islands, I never get there as much as I want to, usually heading north to New Hampshire for a quick weekend getaway instead. After a trip to Martha’s Vineyard was foiled two years ago because of a predicted hurricane, I knew I wanted to attempt another Cape weekend for Labor Day this year. But driving down can be such a pain that it almost makes the trip seem like a hassle instead of a vacation. Enter the Fast Ferry, which carries passengers between Boston and Provincetown several times daily. Add the fact that you can bring your bike onboard and I was sold!

Provincetown is unlike anywhere else I’ve been on the Cape and really, unlike anywhere else I’ve been well, anywhere. Located on the extreme end of the Cape, it’s long been known as a popular vacation destination for the gay community as well as a haven for artists and of course, let’s not forget that the pilgrims made a pitstop there on their way to Plymouth. Today, Provincetown is a vibrant small town with a bustling downtown full of excellent restaurants, beautiful art galleries and unique shops.

When To Go

Like many New England hot spots, Provincetown is best done in summer. With lovely beaches and myriad outdoor activities, Provincetown is the perfect place to go when the weather turns warm. But we spoke to some locals who recommended coming back in late September or October to see Provincetown’s quieter side.

How To Get There

As mentioned above, what really sold me on a Provincetown weekend was the Fast Ferry. The boat makes several trips a day between Boston and Provincetown and only spends about 90 minutes traveling between the two destinations. We brought our bikes onboard, which meant that we didn’t have to get into a car, bus, subway, train or plane to go away–a rare feat indeed! Taking the ferry really made it feel as though the vacation started right away because it was part of the adventure. The ride, which takes you through the Boston Harbor Islands, is beautiful and relaxing.

Once you’re in Provincetown, biking is the way to get around town. You can walk and I recommend that you do, strolling down Commercial Street (Provincetown’s main drag) and the cute side streets. But having a bike makes you super mobile, able to cover lots of ground and get places quicker. There are tons of places to park your bike, unlike parking a car, which looked like a total nightmare! If you can’t bring your own bike, be sure to rent one at one of the shops in town.

Where To Stay

We opted to try our hands at renting a condo in Provincetown via Airbnb and it turned out to be the perfect choice. The place we rented was located about a mile from the center of town, making it very convenient but far enough away from the hustle and bustle that we were able to relax (and sleep).

Provincetown is dotted with hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts, but many of them are very pricey and can fill up fast on popular summer weekends. If you can, I recommend renting one of the cute condos or cottages that dot Provincetown’s streets. It was nice to have a place to go for a little down time in between strolling, biking and beaching.

We lucked out and rented a place with a deck, which allowed us to catch some nice ocean breezes, and the owners of the condo couldn’t have been more welcoming or helpful. They provided lots of recommendations about things to do and restaurants, which made us feel as though we had an insider’s trip, allowing us to skip the more touristy bits.

Where to Eat

As I mentioned above, we were lucky to get some terrific restaurant recommendations from the women who owned the condo we rented. This was really helpful as we were able to book a couple of dinners before arriving, a must on busy summer weekends.

Our favorite dinner was at Victor’s, a modern, welcoming small-plate style restaurant near, but not on, Commercial Street. As soon as I looked at the menu I knew we’d love it and we were not disappointed. If you go, don’t miss the mushroom empanadas, fish tacos and deconstructed ahi tuna napoleon. Also delicious were the crispy sweet potato fries, flavorful beet salad and mussel special. The trio of tarts for dessert was the perfect end to an incredible meal. Also, if you love martinis as big as the boats in Provincetown Harbor, this is your place!

We also enjoyed a great dinner at Tinys, a small eatery focused on local food with many vegetarian and vegan options. Tinys lives up to it’s name, with just a small second-floor patio serving as the dining room, but it boasts a cozy, intimate vibe and stellar views. We had a great red wine here and wonderful food (the soups warmed us up on a cool night–if you’re cold, ask for a blanket, they provide them to chilly diners)!

We also had a nice dinner at Ross’ Grill, which is a dimly lit establishment perfect for a romantic night out. The calamari was crispy and served with a soy dipping sauce, which we loved, and the lobster risotto and sea scallops were decadently divine. Housemade macadamia nut cheesecake provided a sweet ending.

Lots of Provincetown restaurants have happy hour specials focusing on their fresh-from-the-sea raw bar. We hit up the Red Inn’s for oysters, shrimp and beer, which were refreshing and light. The Red Inn is situated right on the water, making it a terrific place to spend a few hours in the afternoon or evening. The only catch? You can’t bring food outside, but the dining room has nice views of the ocean.

No summer weekend would be complete without ice cream and Provincetown boasts several scoop shops. We tried Lewis Brothers and PTOWN Scoop, which serve either housemade or locally made ice cream, and loved both!

Because we had a condo, we purchased breakfast and lunch foods from a local market to enjoy on our deck. Angel Foods had a terrific selection of cheese, prepared salads, sandwiches, fruit and wine. It was really close to our condo so we went back several times and found it had almost everything we wanted (except beer, it only stocks the big names, nothing local or craft). We also stopped into 141 Bradford Natural Market, which I wished I could take back to Somerville with me! Chock full of healthy foods, like housemade smoothies and banana soft serve, it was pretty much my dream grocery store.

What To Do

  • Stroll down Commercial Street: This is the heart of Provincetown, with lots of restaurants, shops and art galleries, there’s so much to see and do right on the main drag. Be on the lookout for cute dogs while you’re there, Provincetown boasts an enormous amount of them!
  • Ride bikes: Hit the Provincelands bike trail for a fun ride that takes you up and down some small hills (who knew Cape Cod had hills?) as you wind through the sand dunes.
  • Go to the beach: We were lucky to have private beach access included with our condo rental, but there are lots of other beaches that anyone can access. The Provincetown beaches are great for walking and sunset watching.
  • Go stand up paddleboarding: We’ve been wanting to do this for a while, so when I saw that there was a place offering it in Provincetown, I jumped at the chance! It was a lot of fun and the perfect vacation activity. (Venture Athletics also has kayak rentals if that’s more your speed.)
  • Relax: We spent a lot of time in Provincetown just sitting on our deck. Away from the noise of the city, we were able to really unwind and relax. The ocean breezes felt incredible and though we weren’t that far from where we live, we felt worlds away. Find a place there that makes you feel that way and soak it up.

As you can see, Provincetown has tons of fun things to do, delicious places to eat and even an adventurous way to get there. I’m so glad we made it down and I have a feeling that while this was our first trip, it won’t be our last!

What are you favorite parts about Provincetown?

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