The compact fishing village of PROVINCETOWN (or, as it’s popularly known, “P-Town”) is a gorgeous place, with silvery clapboard houses and gloriously unruly gardens lining the town’s tiny, winding streets. Bohemians and artists have long flocked here for the quality of light and vast beaches; in 1914 Eugene O’Neill established the Provincetown Playhouse here in a small hut. Since the Beatnik 1950s, the town has also been a gay centre, and today its population of five thousand rises tenfold in the summer. Commercialism, though quite visible along the main drags, tends to be countercultural: gay, environmental and feminist gift shops join arty galleries, restaurants and bars on the aptly named Commercial Street. However, strict zoning ensures that there are few new buildings in town. Albeit crowded and raucous from July through to September, P-Town remains a place where history, natural beauty and, above all, difference, are respected and celebrated.
Provincetown lies 120 miles from Boston by land, but less than fifty miles by sea, nestled in the New England coast’s largest natural harbour. Its tiny core is centred on the three narrow miles of Commercial Street. MacMillan Pier, always busy with charters, yachts and fishing boats (which unload their catch each afternoon), splits the town in half. East of the centre (but still on Commercial St), are scores of quaint art galleries, as well as the delightful Provincetown Art Association and Museum (508 487 1750, paam.org), which rotates works from its two-thousand-strong collection.