Travel

A Queer Guide to Where to Stay, Party, and Chill in Provincetown

Discover the spots to eat, drink, and dance, plus the best LGBTQ events throughout the year.

Unsplash
Unsplash
Unsplash

Provincetown, Massachusetts, is one of the most popular LGBTQ holiday destinations in the US-cherished by gay and straight travelers alike-and it’s no wonder why. The small beach town, often referred to as P-town, is located on the northern tip of Cape Cod and has all the makings of a quaint New England coastal town: clapboard houses, charming B&Bs, white steeples, serene beaches, and excellent drinks and seafood. Consider this your guide to discovering why to choose P-town, when to visit; and where to stay, eat, drink, dance, and find the best queer events all year.

What makes it so special

It’s so gay: P-town is arguably the coolest and most accepted place to be if you’re LGBTQ. Even though the town has a population of only 3,000 people, it’s home to 10 gay bars, two gay beaches, and over a dozen annual LGBTQ events. The town boasts plenty of art galleries, over 200 independent shops, a thriving restaurant scene, and over 40 queer-owned B&Bs and inns. In fact, Provincetown has more lesbian-owned businesses per capita than any other place in the US and the highest concentration of same-sex households in the country.

The local vibe and charm: Instead of large hotels, you’ll find small inns along with independent shops and restaurants. It is a refreshing change to walk through town and not see the familiar big box retailers or restaurants. Provincetown also holds the title for the oldest gay bar in the US (the A-House), the gayest main street (Commercial Street), and one of the top 10 gay beaches in the world (Herring Cove Beach).

It’s Pride all year: Most of the nightlife and activity occurs during the summer months, but it celebrates queer culture-inclusive and welcoming of any gender and sexual orientation-year-round. All dates and information for P-town events can be found at ptowntourism.com, but here’s our rundown.

When to go (and hit the queer events)

Visiting P-Town for a queer event will make your trip a hit. The most popular LGBTQ celebrations happen during high season (May through October), but we’re giving you all the year’s fun right here. Note: This is the typical annual schedule, but as always, check before you go.

July

Girl Splash: A weeklong summer event just for women including dances, stand-up comedy, and other events.

Family Week: The largest annual gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying families in the world.

August

Bear Week: The largest gathering of bears in the world, drawing tens of thousands of men from all over the world.

October

Carnival: The annual Carnival is P-town’s largest queer event and attracts 90,000 visitors.

Women’s Week: The final party of the season is a festival that celebrates women in a big way, typically in mid-October.

Fantasia Fair: A weeklong celebration for transgender and gender questioning people as well as cross-dressers.

Though the colder months are quieter (many bars and restaurants close between November and March), there are a few things still happening:

November

Mr. New England Leather Weekend: A three-day event during which the Mr. New England for the following year is crowned.

December

Holly Folly Weekend: The annual LGBTQ-themed holiday event in Provincetown, with a holiday market, a jingle bell run, sing-alongs, dance parties, and other festivities.

First Light ProvincetownFirst Light Provincetown is a five-day celebration to ring in the New Year (usually from December 30 to January 5). There are parties, dances, performances, and fireworks.

February

Snowbound Leather Weekend: Under the motto “Get outta the cold and into the HEAT!”, leather gays meet in P-town for a weekend of celebration and debauchery. This is the first big gay event of the year, which usually takes place in late February.

March

Out of Hibernation Bear Weekend: This weekend is what it promises: the “bears” come out of hibernation. There are parties, daytime events, drag shows, and brunches.

May

Single Women’s Weekend: A three-day event with plenty of parties and activities designed to help single gay women meet other lesbians.

June

Womxn of Color WeekendWoCW Ptown is a four-day Pride that was created in 2007 in order to celebrate LGBTQ folks of color.

PrideProvincetown Pride is a 3-day celebration of LGBTQ culture.

How to get there

With various modes of transport to P-town, it should be easy to get there from any east coast jumping off point. If you’re in the New York area, car or air is your best bet. If you’re closer to the Boston area, you can also go by sea.

By car: From Boston, it’s just over 100 miles, which is about two-and-a-half hours by car. From New York City, it’s just under 300 miles, which is about five hours by car.

By air: From Boston, Cape Air offers daily flights from Boston’s Logan International Airport and is a 20-minute plane ride. From New York’s Westchester County, between June and September, Cape Air also offers flights from Westchester (White Plains) to Provincetown. From New York City, JetBlue offers flights from JFK Airport to Hyannis on the Southern Cape. You can rent a car at the airport (book in advance), and from there, it’s just an hour-long drive to Provincetown.

By boat: From Boston, the most convenient way to get to P-town is to take the fast ferry which brings you there in only 90 minutes-and you won’t have to deal with any traffic. A one-way ferry ticket is around $60; a round-trip ticket costs about $90. There are two different ferry operators: Bay State Cruises and Boston Harbor Cruises (each offer three daily trips between mid-May and mid-October).

By bus: From Boston, the Peter Pan bus has a couple of rides per day. Tickets are $20 and it takes just under 3.5 hours.

Where to stay

The first rule of staying in P-town is never to arrive without a hotel reservation, especially if your dates happen to align with an event-Carnival, for example-when the town turns into one huge party and all accommodations are fully booked. The good news is that when planning ahead, you’ll have a choice of tons of cool places: mostly privately-owned small guesthouses and B&Bs. Almost all of the B&Bs are in walking distance to the pier and the town center. You can also find entire apartments and homes for rent. Here are a few of our favorites:

Land’s End Inn (22 Commercial Street): Small, high-end B&B with 18 rooms on a hilltop overlooking the ocean.

8 Dyer Hotel (8 Dyer Street): A sophisticated, intimate guesthouse with only seven rooms. The hotel also has a swimming pool and a hot tub.

Harbor Hotel (698 Commercial Street): Inexpensive motel with retro-chic rooms right on the waterfront.

Pilgrim House Inn (336 Commercial Street): Stylish boutique hotel in a historic clapboard building, just minutes from Provincetown’s Historic District.

The Red Inn (15 Commercial Street): Historic inn, built in 1805, right on the waterfront.

The Boatslip Resort & Beach Club (161 Commercial Street): Famous for its daily tea dance, the Boatslip also has rooms and a swimming pool. The waterfront rooms offer views over the harbor and MacMillan Pier.

The Brass Key Guesthouse (67 Bradford Street): A small boutique hotel with rooms in nine historic buildings and a terrace deck surrounding a swimming pool, right in the heart of Provincetown.

What to see and do

In addition to the cool queer events, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time:

Boogie down at the Boatslip Tea Dance: At the famous daily afternoon dance party at the previously mentioned Boatslip, the deck fills up every afternoon when visitors dance the afternoon away to a set by resident DJ Maryalice from 4pm to 7pm (during high season). Going to the Tea Dance is a rite of passage for every P-Town visitor, and it’s a great way to meet other queer travelers.

Chill on the beach: Provincetown is a beach town, after all, so of course a visit to the sand is a must. There are several beaches in and around P-town, but Race Point Beach is known for being the sunniest one. It sits at the mouth of Cape Cod Bay at the northernmost point of Cape Cod National Seashore, facing the Atlantic Ocean. If sun worshipping gets boring, take a stroll to one of the oldest lighthouses on the Cape-the historic Race Point Beach Lighthouse, which dates back to 1816, is on the far western end of the beach.

For calmer waters than those at Race Point, head to Herring Cove Beach, a hugely popular spot; the section to the left of the pavilion is known as the town’s unofficial nudist beach. Facing west on Herring Cove Beach is also the best beach to watch the sunset from.

See local art: Stroll down Commercial Street and check out the over 40 art galleries, many of them queer-owned. (Bowersock Gallery and Berta Walker Gallery are two that shouldn’t be missed.) The galleries feature local artists and range from traditional landscapes to contemporary abstract art. If you’re not too tired after a morning of gallery-hopping, visit the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, which has a permanent collection of over 2,500 objects, including both historical and contemporary artworks.

Learn the history of the Pilgrims: The 252-foot tower in the center of Provincetown is the Pilgrims Monument, built to commemorate the arrival of the Mayflower in Provincetown in 1692; and the best place to learn about the history of the Pilgrims. While the history books note that the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World was actually in Provincetown before passing onto Plymouth. Climb the monument’s 116 steps for a breathtaking (quite literally) view over the town and Cape Cod.

Tour the dunes: There are miles and miles of sand dunes just outside Provincetown you can explore, but Art’s Dune Tours will make it easy with their off-roading tours, which include sunset tours, dune tours, and dune & water tours that combine off-roading and kayaking.

See whales and seals: If you are visiting Provincetown during the summer months, you’ll want to join a whale watching tour (which typically last three or four hours). Whale sightings are pretty much guaranteed between June and September. Even though there are less than 15,000 whales left-a far cry from the 17th century, when the humpback population in the area was still half a million-boat tours get so close to the whales that it almost feels like you can touch them.

Whale season starts mid-April and runs through October, and you’ll likely see humpbacks whales, mink whales, and fin whales, as well as Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Tour operators for whale watching tours include Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch and SeaSalt Charters, which both earn high praise in traveler reviews.

There are also plenty of harbor seals and gray seals in the waters around Provincetown, and Provincetown Seal Tours and Flyers Boats both offer 45-minute seal tours of Provincetown Harbor, LongPoint, and the Cove.

Explore by bike: Provincetown is extremely bike-friendly, and even beginners will enjoy exploring the town and the surrounding seashore on two wheels. There are several bike shops in town that rent bicycles and helmets, including Provincetown Bike Rentals, The Bike Shack, P-Town Bikes, and Gale Force Bikes.

An easy bike ride would be from the center of town to Herring Cove Beach, which is less than three miles; or Race Point Beach, which is just over three miles from the same starting point. The Province Lands Bike Trail, a 6.6-mile loop that includes both beaches and takes you through pine forests and sand dunes, is a perfect way to get some exercise and explore the Cape at the same time. Another great bike journey is a trip to the Long Point Peninsula, where you can visit the historic Wood End Lighthouse (just under an hour from P-town).

See a queer performance: There are daily events at the Art House, an arts venue with live performances ranging from stand-up comedy to theater productions, and regular shows by queer celebrities.

Where to eat and drink

For a small town, Provincetown has an incredibly diverse food scene, and you should definitely take advantage of the variety during your visit.

The Canteen (225 Commercial Street): A Cape Cod institution and the best lobster in Provincetown. They also offer local oysters and delicious cocktails, served in a historic building.

Front Street (230 Commercial Street): This is one of the oldest restaurants in P-town, offering an ever-changing eclectic menu, mainly focusing on Italian dishes.

Lobster Pot (321 Commercial Street): Seafood dishes and cocktails served right at the pier.

Provincetown Portuguese Bakery (299 Commercial Street): Tasty Portuguese baked goods, including the famous fried dough “malasada,” meat pies, and sandwiches.

Fanizzi’s (539 Commercial Street): Italian and American fare served with the most expansive views over Provincetown and the bay.

Lewis Brothers Ice Cream (310 Commercial Street): Homemade ice cream, including boozy flavors, as well as sorbets and smoothies.

Spiritus Pizza (190 Commercial Street): Popular late-night hangout spot (open until 2am) famous for their thin-crust pizza.

Chach (73 Shank Painter Road): Scrumptious authentic Mexican cuisine and classic brunch dishes such as eggs Benedict and French toast.

The Mews Restaurant & Cafe (429 Commercial Street): Fantastic seafood with views over the water.

Relish Bakery & Sandwich Shop (93 Commercial Street): Popular bakery offering sweet pastries and savory sandwiches, including many vegan and vegetarian options.

Ciro & Sal’s (4 Kiley Court): Intimate restaurant with exposed brick and scrumptious Northern Italian dishes.

Mac’s Fish House (85 Shank Painter Road): Seafood (shellfish, oysters, and sushi) including $1 oysters and clams during happy hour.

Strangers and Saints (404 Commercial Street): A Mediterranean restaurant and cocktail bar in a nautical-themed historic building (a former sea captain’s home).

Liz’s Café, Anybody’s Bar (31 Bradford Street): A popular breakfast place by day and a cocktail bar by night. The flippers (Portuguese fried dough served with Vermont syrup) are said to have cured many a hangover.

Mistralino (133 Bradford Street): A sophisticated Italian restaurant, run by a gay couple.

Where to party

If you want to dance the night away, there are a few spots you’ll want to hit during your stay:

Crown and Anchor (247 Commercial Street): A historic gay bar with nightly entertainment ranging from drag shows to cabaret to themed parties. There are six different gay bars on the premises.

A-House (6 Masonic Place #4): Atlantic House is the only year-round dance club in Provincetown, with dance parties seven nights a week.

Club Purgatory (11 Carver Street): A gay nightclub in the basement of the Gifford House Inn with theme nights such as “The Popular Underwear Party.”

The Club (193a Commercial Street): Opened by lesbian icon Lea DeLaria in 2019, The Club is a great addition to P-town’s nightlife scene. While it’s a restaurant during the day, The Club offers free live jazz Sunday through Wednesday night at 9pm.

Orbitz believes everyone should be able to travel freely, no matter who you are, who you love, or where you’re going. Discover LGBTQIA-welcoming hotels, plan queer-friendly trips, and get inspired to vacation. You’ll feel welcomed whenever you book with Orbitz. Travel As You Are.

Dani Heinrich is the vagabonding writer and photographer behind GlobetrotterGirls.com. She has travelled through over 70 countries on four continents and has no plans to stop any time soon. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.