The Pilgrims arrived on a sandy land spit in the New World on a wintry day 400 years ago. Contrary to popular legend, that Mayflower voyage from Plymouth, England, did not first arrive at Plymouth, MA, but where we now call Provincetown. The new settlers stayed for five weeks before pointing sails across Cape Cod Bay to the more celebrated Plymouth Rock landing on December 16, 1620.
The curving tip of Cape Cod nicknamed P' Town offers much more to see and do than in 1620, but a robust Pilgrim spirit remains four centuries later. Provincetown is naturally stunning with sand dunes, heather and sea pines. Its incredibly diverse community of 3,000 swells to 60,000 in summer thanks to visiting families, boaters, artists, beach lovers, party goers and a vibrant LGBTQ community. Pride flags fly high in this small seaside peninsula that epitomizes fun, friendliness, seafaring tradition and social open-mindedness. Ironic in that it all started with a Puritan landing.
A robust Pilgrim spirit remains four centuries later
When you visit, dock or moor your boat at Provincetown Marina. Located in the heart of Provincetown Harbor, it's the place for yachters with 100 slips along Fisherman's Wharf, 85 moorings and efficient dockhands at the ready. From this modern, well-kept marina, you are steps away from P' Town's shops, galleries, dining, beaches and bike rentals, or you're a quick dingy ride to a secluded sandy beach if the bustling town is too much on a peak summer day.
A must-visit attraction is the Pilgrim Monument, a 252-foot-tall tower that commemorates the Mayflower's 1620 touchdown. If the 1910 iconic granite monument resembles Siena Italy's, that's by design. Pay $12 to power up its 116 steps and 60 ramps for a breathtaking panorama view above sea level over P' Town's picture-perfect harbor.
Province Lands Bike Trail, a five-mile bicycle loop from Province Lands Visitor's Center on Race Point Road, passes by hills, dunes, cranberry bogs, beautiful beaches, and through shady forests. Reserve your bike ahead with Gale Force Bikes (a short walk across town) for $12 for two hours to ride the loop or spend the day savoring beach and picnic time.
A stroll down Commercial Street is a feast for the eyes, ears and senses. The parade of humanity is as entertaining as the colorful kitschy boutiques that sell things nautical to naughty. The quaint New England sidewalks are lined with brilliant flower boxes, homey cafes and hip shops.
When you're ready to hit the beach, start with Bayside Beach in town overlooking the harbor. It's accessible with plenty of sand at low tide and stranded row boats, too. Race Point Beach is spectacular, earning Cape Cod National Seashore distinction for its soft sand dunes stretching around P' Town's tip beyond the old Life Saving Station to the Lighthouse. Race Point's name references the racing currents crossing here, so beware of swimming and be on the lookout for whales off shore. Herring Cove Beach on P' Town's west side is another popular seaside location.
P' Town's three lighthouses guard the treacherous peninsula where more than 3,000 shipwrecks have been recorded. Built in 1816, Race Point Light is the granddad marking P' Town's northwest tip. Erected in 1872, Wood End Light perches on the southern spit, while the 1827 Long Point Light marks the northeast hook and is often photographed for its square pattern.
To explore P' Town's culinary scene, start at Relish, a cozy café and deli for homemade breakfast sandwiches or picnic provisions for the beach. The Mews Restaurant & Café dishes up outstanding seafood fare, displays stellar views at the window seats, and specializes in fresh fish or Lobster Vindaloo. The Squealing Pig has fish n' chips that folks go hog wild for at lunch and dinner.
P' Town is a party town, with grand night clubs such as The Piano Bar at Crown & Anchor, and the Post Office Café & Cabaret have lively entertainment. Ross' Grill has a scenic upper deck on Whalers Wharf for quiet drinks overlooking the harbor, with a glimpse into the Crown & Anchor pool party next door.
Provincetown hosts a collection of local galleries, art studios and sculpture gardens, especially concentrated on the East End. All this is heralded during its 400th birthday celebration, along with special events and the return of the Mayflower.
Opening Ceremony of the Plymouth 400th Commemoration
Kick off activities include musical headliners, historical readings and a time capsule.
Mayflower II Visits Provincetown
The ship arrives on Thursday and departs on Monday, weather permitting, with daily re-enactments.
Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum Gala
Sept. 12 at 5:30 p.m.
A special formal event commemorates the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims' landing.
Mayflower Compact Re-enactment Ceremony
Sept. 13 at 11:00 a.m.
Relive the landing and join a VIP party on MacMillan Pier for a re-enactment of the signing of the Mayflower Compact aboard Mayflower II.
Sunrise Toast and Bon Voyage
Sept. 14 at 5:30 a.m.
Bid a fond farewell to the Mayflower II as she journeys to her home in Plymouth, MA.
Provincetown's Portuguese Festival
June 25- 28
Don't miss this lively cultural celebration with dancing, food and a blessing of the fleet.
Provincetown's 4th of July Parade
Join the action on Commercial Street in the morning and catch the fireworks over the harbor at night.
Provincetown Carnival Parade
August 20 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Enjoy music, dancing and fun for the entire family at this colorful event.
Located in the heart of the shopping, dining and historic district, this marina offers 100 slips that accommodate boats up to 100 feet and has 85 moorings.