If the Pilgrims Could See Us Now

In 1620, the Mayflower carrying 100 separatists from England and Holland landed on the tip of Cape Cod and anchored just off the shore of what is now Provincetown. It was a brutal November day, as Novembers can be in P-Town.  Within the week, the Pilgrims decided that the place was a little too rough and exposed for their needs, and they continued on to Plymouth rock directly across Cape Cod Bay on the mainland.

Before they left the tiny tip of Cape Cod, however, they signed the Mayflower Compact, which established the laws that governed this group of religious extremists who formed the backbone of America’s original colonies. The village of Provincetown was eventually taken over by Portuguese fisherman who found the harbor a perfect launch point for their daily fishing runs. And so it remained until the mid-30s when artists and writers discovered this remote spot and began its rise into one of the gayest spots in America.

You arrive in Provincetown through Boston International Airport, connecting to P-Town on Cape Air (866-CAPE-AIR) or via high-speed ferries (carrying people, pets and bicycles, but no cars).  Book a seat on Bay State Cruises (877-PT-FERRY) or the slightly slower and cheaper Boston Harbor Cruises (877-SEE-WHALE) with transportation provided at the airport in Boston to either ferry via water taxi.

From P-Town airport, taxis or shuttles make the quick five-minute haul into the center of the village, where you will find a choice of luxurious guest houses, family motels, or the famous Gifford House Inn (9 Carver St., 800-434-0130)—the original hotel which was the final stop of the stagecoach in 1858, and is still in business today. Run by Jim Fosse, The Gifford House provides straightforward rooms on three floors reached via the original stairs. While all the rooms have private baths, ask about AC—some rooms have it, some do not–though that poses no problem since the hotel was positioned on a crest overlooking the harbor and receives cooling bay breezes year-round. Rates start under $100 a night. The CastAways restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch, with the Lobby Piano Bar open nightly at 10 p.m. The Purgatory Leather Dance Bar is in the cellar and appropriately dark and nasty, particularly on Sunday nights where there’s always a line for admission.

For the ultimate in luxury and she-she-indulgence, just across the street is the Crowne Pointe Historic Inn & Spa (82 Bradford St., 877-276-9631) where the innkeepers provide working fireplaces, pillow-topped beds, homecooked breakfasts, and a heated pool complete with towel boys and drink service. The Bistro at Crowne Point is a highly recommended gourmet restaurant, where the views are nearly as splendid as the cuisine. Dress up and act the part.

For longer stays, contact the legendary girls at Pied Piper Real Estate (199 Commercial St. # 8, 508-487-1528). Our favorites Betty Newman and Phoebe Otis are privy to all the choice rentals for a week, month or throughout the whole season. Personalized treatment is the hallmark here, and you will end up recommending these gals to your friends. They will be the first to tell you that a bike is the most you’ll ever need to get around, while much of the town’s action can be reached on foot, walking down the packed main throughfare—Commercial Street.

Next week, we’ll fill you in on all the restaurants, clothing stores, clubs, galleries, cruise spots, and gyms—plus the oh-so-special public library which is a must visit on anyone’s vacation schedule.  Like many things Provincetown, it’s old, it’s colorful and oh-so-gay.