The last in a series.
PROVINCETOWN — There was more fur on display than a 1970s game show prize package from Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills. Hirsute, barrel-chested, and beer-bellied gents doffed their tees to display hair sprouting from head-to-toe-to-back-to-front while packing dance floors, restaurants, and beaches.
This was Bear Week in Provincetown, where full-figured gentlemen and their admirers gathered to celebrate the wonders of their untamed shag carpets. For the uninitiated, a bear is slang for those in the LBGTQ+ community who embrace their hairier and heavier sides. During Bear Week, folks prowled the streets and bellied up to the bars. Also prowling the streets of Provincetown during Bear Week were the Boston Globe’s food writer and travel writer. Neither of us can be considered a bear, or even any of the subcategories: otter, cub, chub, Ursula, wolf, or polar bear. Still, it was tough not to get caught up in the revelry, or snagged in a pelt or two.
This is the fourth and final installment of our seaside summer exploration of Cape Cod, and we end with a bang and a shark sighting (!) on the Outer Cape. Provincetown may steal all the attention, but we also stumbled out of town a couple of times to see what else the Outer Cape has to offer. For Devra that meant ponds (so many ponds). For Christopher that meant carbs (so many carbs).
Before we hit the beach, this is the official disclaimer: It would be impossible to visit all of the restaurants, shops, and Outer Cape activities on our list. Eventually, we admitted defeat and simply tried our best.
Christopher: Shortly after Devra and I began writing this series, I received an e-mail with a subject line that read, “Don’t write about us.” It was from Ed Miller, editor of the Provincetown Independent. Miller said he had found my reporting “Sorely lacking in the past,” citing a story I wrote two years ago that prominently featured Provincetown. With all due respect, Mr. Miller (please read this sentence as Dixie Carter would in a scene from “Designing Women”), the last time I checked, the First Amendment of the Constitution of these United States guarantees me the right to travel to Provincetown and do my job as a red-blooded, white trash, homosexual American journalist. So if you’ll kindly stand aside, I will be turning left on Shank Painter Road!
Devra: As Christopher’s wingvixen, I’ll defend his reportorial integrity to the death! But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up my paid subscription to the Independent, which is an excellent local newspaper. We dwell in the gray areas. Anyhoo, not even prime journalistic beef can detract from my love for this eccentric corner of the world, with its beautiful beaches and welcoming climate. And there is no better way to get there than by sea, which puts you in vacation mode before you even arrive.
PROVINCETOWN FAST FERRY: Hop on one of Bay State Cruise Company’s fast ferries in Boston, and an hour and a half later you’re in Provincetown. And if you see three — three! — whales along the way, as Devra was lucky enough to, the $100-plus roundtrip fare pays for itself by doubling as a whale watch. There is no more festive journey, even at 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. Passengers are popping bottles of bubbly, brandishing fans like they’re in “The Mikado,” making new friends and lewd jokes about the wet seats. Ptown is our happy place, and we are on our way. (The return trip is more Gatorade, hangovers, and harried work calls, but no one’s thinking about that right now.)
200 Seaport Boulevard, Boston, 617-748-1428, www.baystatecruisecompany.com
What traffic? Devra was already as outer as the Outer Cape gets, and Christopher hadn’t even left home yet. She set out along Commercial Street to do some reconnaissance (that’s French for drinking frosé).
BOOZING AND BROWSING: Commercial Street was still sleepy — everywhere, that is, except joe coffee, a bakery-cafe that offers a super-social scene, every kind of coffee drink, and croissants, scones, and other breakfast-y fare. Rather than mingle on the packed patio, Devra gulped a cold brew and forged onward. She wanted to hit the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery, longtime purveyor of sweet bread and linguica rolls, before the sweet, doughy, fried malassadas ran out. Although the owners have changed, this bakery has been here since 1936, representing the area’s Portuguese community. At tea bar and boutique The Captain’s Daughters, she coveted some of the area’s cutest and sassiest souvenir apparel. Instead of a crop top reading “Provincetown Country Club” (with the o and the r conveniently omitted from “Country”), she purchased a Golden Goddess: iced Golden Girls tea (turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, and more) sprinkled with something called Sex Dust. Why not! She was in Ptown! Visions of a randy Bea Arthur dancing in her head, she threw in the towel on browsing and proceeded directly to The Canteen for frosé en plein air. No Wi-Fi, no work-i. As she closed her laptop, a friendly bear leaned over: “Are you a novelist or are you a vampire?,” he asked. Yes?
joe coffee, 170 Commercial St., www.joecoffeeptown.com; Provincetown Portuguese Bakery, 299 Commercial St., 508-487-1803, www.provincetownportuguesebakery.com; The Captain’s Daughters, 384 Commercial St., 774-593-3010, www.captainsdaughters.com; The Canteen, 225 Commercial St., 508-487-3800, www.thecanteenptown.com; all in Provincetown.
When would car-bound Christopher arrive? Devra commandeered his nearby hotel room for a disco nap.
TEA DANCE AT THE BOATSLIP: Cue Christopher’s delayed arrival, and his insistence that happy hour should commence immediately. Although when he looked at Devra’s bloodshot eyes, he realized that happy hour had started without him hours before. Tea dance is one of the many pleasures of a Provincetown vacation that is seldom experienced in the outside world. Imagine a massive ocean-side pool deck filled with shiny happy people on a sunny afternoon sipping boozy rum punch and dancing to thumping club tunes while modeling risqué ensembles. Rainbow flags snapped in the wind as we bopped along to Cyndi Lauper (it was a 1980s theme tea with DJ Chris Ewen). The bears embraced body-positive (skimpy) leather shorts and harnesses; we embraced the top-shelf people-watching and delicious cocktails. See you tomorrow, hangover!
161 Commercial St., Provincetown, 508-487-1669, theboatslip.com.
We didn’t hear any music by Queen at tea dance, but we found a touch of Freddie Mercury nearby.
THE MERCURY HOTEL PROVINCETOWN: This was just too much for Christopher to resist. Provincetown now has a Freddie Mercury-inspired hotel at the site of the former Beacon Light Guesthouse. Would there be mustache pillows and fat-bottomed girls? The Mercury homage was a bit more subtle (such as paintings of Queen album covers). The vibe was beachy, not “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it was still crazy-little-thing-called-love-at-first-sight. The Mercury’s lobby was bright and modern, the rooms were comfortable, and persnickety Christopher “Killer Queen” Muther slept well that night. During high season the room rates have been hovering between $450 and $550 a night. It’s almost as much as a night at the opera (OK, we’ll stop now).
12 Winthrop St., Provincetown, 508-487-9603, www.mercuryhotelptown.com.
ENDLESS COAST, A BOUTIQUE HOTEL: Endless Coast’s aspirations are right there in its name. (It’s not its fault that “boutique hotel” sounds more like “booty call” when spoken by Christopher’s smarmy Australian Siri.) Located in Wellfleet, where by-the-night accommodations are harder to come by, this midcentury motel is still midtransformation. The bed is comfy, there’s a Keurig with Starbucks pods, and there are dog-friendly rooms; the furnishings are basic, the walls are thin, and plumbing can be iffy. The staff, however, is super: attentive, accommodating, and responsive. Devra received so many texts asking how her experience was, “booty call” started to seem accurate. Can a hotel be thirsty?
2068 State Highway (Route 6), Wellfleet, 508-349-2350, www.endlesscoast.com.
We were now hungry as bears ourselves. Dinnertime!
MAC’S SHACK: If you eat fish in these parts, at some point you’ll wind up at one of chef Mac Hay’s spots — Mac’s Market & Kitchen in Eastham, Mac’s on the Pier and Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet, and Mac’s Fish House in Provincetown, plus Mac’s Chatham Fish & Lobster in Chatham and several additional markets. Hay grew up fishing on the Cape with his grandfather during the summers, and he and brother Alex have been buying, cooking, and selling local catch since the mid-’90s. For family excursions, Devra favors Mac’s on the Pier, where customers eat at picnic tables on the beach and every meal ends in soft-serve. But for work-spouse date night, this old, never-mistaken-for-married-on-this-part-of-the-Cape couple chooses Mac’s Shack. Which is more a nice outdoor restaurant with some stylish shack-like touches, plus a creative menu and good cocktails. Christopher and Devra shared delicious shrimp and scallop dumplings; Hawaiian poke with tuna, avocado, and seaweed salad; and a platter of sushi rolls. The clam chowder was the best we’d had on the Cape, brothy yet creamy, with plenty of clams. Devra had the terrible idea (egged on by Christopher) to order a Drunken Flute, a Wellfleet oyster shooter with vodka, sour cream, and black tobiko. She is sorry, Wellfleet oyster. You didn’t deserve to go down that way.
91 Commercial St., Wellfleet, 508-349-6333, www.macsseafood.com.
There are some movies we have zero interest in seeing, but then they’re playing at the drive-in and suddenly we’re all in. “Top Gun: Maverick” is just such a movie.
WELLFLEET DRIVE-IN THEATER: There were so many times that Christopher sped past the Wellfleet Drive-In en route to the beach, the bars, or some other less-wholesome activity that it was time to rectify the situation. Devra couldn’t wait to indoctrinate him. We set up our lawn chairs and watched “Top Gun: Maverick” under the full Buck Moon. It was the perfect drive-in movie on a perfect night. Devra and Christopher could noisily shake their box of Junior Mints (that’s not a euphemism), grumble at the cornier scenes, and complain about Kelly McGillis’s absence without disturbing other patrons. Did we eventually get pulled into the movie’s ridiculous plot? Affirmative.
51 US-6, Wellfleet, 508-349-7176, www.wellfleetcinemas.com.
After a late night at the movies, we had a late start the following morning. What we needed was a power breakfast, or at least a lot of calories.
CARB CRAWL: After hearing good things about the Hole In One Bakery & Coffee Shop in Eastham, it was our duty as journalists (did you hear that, Ed Miller?) to investigate the goods. Christopher enjoyed his cake-y sour cream doughnut, and Devra was ready for her jelly. But wait, there’s more! After the sweetness of the doughnuts, we were craving a savory offset. The Bagel Hound, the latest offering from former Salty Market owners Claire Adams and Ellery Althaus, serves up dense, chewy homemade bagels that could be the best that we’ve tried anywhere on the Cape.
Breakfast slid into lunch, and we slid into a table at relative newcomer the Lobster & Chowder House.
THE LOBSTER & CHOWDER HOUSE: A.k.a. the Lobster Pot South? This Wellfleet offshoot of the venerable Ptown restaurant opened last year, and it’s recognizable as a relative by its cheerful red, white, and crustacean-adorned exterior. Whoever created the menu decided lobster can and should go in just about anything, so lobster egg rolls, lobster grilled cheese sandwiches, and lobster Reubens join the lineup of seafood shack fare. (No onion rings! Gasp! Truffle fries and fried pickles are there to fill the void.) There’s a bar and a covered outdoor seating area, where we listened to fellow customers talk Jan. 6 and insurrection. Were they fer or agin? We couldn’t tell, and once the food arrived we didn’t really care. We were too busy eating fried native scallops and something called The Lobstercado — undressed hunks of fresh lobster meat on a griddled bun with arugula, avocado, and squiggles of sriracha mayo. We thought we were lobster roll purists. Today we discovered we were wrong.
975 Route 6, South Wellfleet, 508-349-9090, www.lobsterchowderhouse.com.
In the heat of the afternoon, we required a cool-down. We knew just where to go.
THE BEACHCOMBER: There’s an easy way to perk up a pair of gluttonous writers after hours of eating, and that’s to hear someone yell “Shark!” at the beach. Christopher and Devra decided they needed some essential beach time (again, reporting!), and opted to visit Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. This decision may or may not have been influenced by the presence of the Beachcomber, a 50-plus-year-old restaurant and bar that is perched on a dune overlooking the beach. It was a hot, sunny day, so we stopped into the Beachcomber for water, or perhaps something stronger. A gentleman with impeccably groomed eyebrows sitting next to us was imbibing a frozen concoction that was red, white, and delicious all over. He informed us it was called a Miami Vice, made with frozen piña colada, frozen strawberry daiquiri, and a rum floater. The lesson we learned that day was to always trust drink recommendations from a man with well-groomed eyebrows. Feeling warm and woozy, we dropped down to the beach. Christopher put his toes in the water and watched a pair of adorable seals frolic nearby. But where there are seals, there are... the lifeguard blew her whistle and swimmers yelled “Shark!”
1120 Cahoon Hollow Road, Wellfleet, 508-349-6055, www.thebeachcomber.com.
We needed to find a body of water where sharks would not be a problem.
KETTLE POND HEAVEN: Cape Cod is home to plentiful kettle ponds, thanks to glacial melt thousands of years ago. These sparkling swimming holes have fragile ecosystems, and scientists worry they’ll suffer as oceangoers seek shark-free alternatives. But that’s not why locals are so tightlipped about their favorites and where to find them. We get it. We’d be the same way if marauding randos swarmed our peaceful paradise like ants on candy every summer. So: Treat the ponds (and the taxpayers) gently, but also seek them out, because they are tranquil, tree-lined slices of heaven, reflecting back the blue sky and hawks wheeling above, with water that’s just the right temperature for floating. Most require beach stickers; ride your bike if you can. This trip, we took a luxurious, refreshing dip in Truro’s Great Pond, located just off Route 6. Although the town does not maintain any parking spaces for the pond on Collins Road, it’s possible you might find a spot to stow your car there.
It’s not a trip to the Outer Cape without a pond swim, or a visit to at least one bookstore. In nature’s thrall, we were suddenly feeling literary.
HERRIDGE BOOKS: Cape Cod is a place where independent bookstores (and public libraries!) still flourish, and you’ll find excellent examples all along its stretch. We’re partial to the tiny, treasure-filled Herridge Books in Wellfleet, where one can pick up great works of literature, pulpy beach reads, mysteries penned by local authors, tomes of poetry, and everything in between. Devra found a charming kids’ book called “The Adventurous Life of a Cape Cod Dog” to bring home for her son. Christopher invested in a copy of Patricia Highsmith’s “This Sweet Sickness.” “This one’s seen better days,” said the man behind the counter, and knocked the price down to $2.50. We love a bargain!
140 Main St., Wellfleet, 508-349-1323.
Those who have time to relax can stroll across Duck Creek on nearby Uncle Tim’s Bridge to reach Hamblen Island, a swell place for a nature walk and/or reading sesh. But not us, not now! We had dinner reservations, and we did not want to miss them.
SAL’S PLACE: Making reservations is not something we love to do on vacations, which we prefer unstructured and loose as a beach caftan. However, we make an exception for this characterful Italian restaurant from Siobhan Carew (Pomodoro, Matt Murphy’s Pub) right on the water in Ptown, otherwise we’d never get to eat here. This visit, we joined old friends for a repast of salads (cauliflower Caesar and roast beet), meatballs in red sauce, garlicky linguine alle vongole, and rich Bolognese lasagna. When the power failed, our charming server knew just what to do: Keep the wine flowing, and all would be well. Cash only.
99 Commercial St., Provincetown, 508-487-1279, www.salsplaceprovincetown.com
Sure, we wanted something sweet for dessert, but instead we checked in with one very salty broad in a lizard green gown.
GINGER MINJ AT THE ARTHOUSE: Odds are good that your favorite “RuPaul’s Drag Race” queen will circulate through Provincetown at some point during the summer, and lucky for us (well, at least “Drag Race” fanatic Christopher), Ginger Minj was performing her “Big Gay Cabaret” during our Outer Cape jaunt. The whip-smart, self-described glamour toad and crossdresser for Christ was robbed of the crown multiple times during her seasons on “Drag Race.” This is a comedy queen who can sing, dance (sort of), and crack wise in rapid succession. Her show was made up entirely of songs about rainbows, ending with her obligatory take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
214 Commercial St., Provincetown, 508-487-9222, ptownarthouse.com.
It was bittersweet to realize that our explorations were coming to an end. We decided to make the moment sweeter with our final peppermint stick ice cream tasting.
LEWIS BROTHERS HOMEMADE ICE CREAM: We were skeptical. An ice cream shop on the highly touristed and trafficked Commercial Street couldn’t be particularly special. They could serve orange sherbet covered in ice crystals and people would probably still line up. But no! Lewis Brothers came through with a minty treat that was comparable to some of the best we’ve consumed. We’re still declaring Four Seas Ice Cream in Centerville the king of peppermint stick, so perhaps it makes sense to make Lewis Brothers the queen of the category.
310 Commercial St., Provincetown, 508-487-0977, www.lewisbrothersicecream.com.
Here it is, the moment when our exploits nearly came to an end. Devra boarded a ferry and headed back to Boston. Christopher decided there was more to see. He stayed on solo, but continued to awkwardly write about his activities in the third person.
HARBOR HOTEL PROVINCETOWN: Christopher checked out of the Mercury and spent a night at this former 118-room fleabag which is now an affordable, poppy mid-century-inspired motel. The downside: It’s far from the action of downtown. The plus side: It’s directly across the street from a beach that offers sweeping views of the harbor. Another bonus is a massive parking lot which means there’s no struggle to find a spot. Did we mention it’s affordable? This is a more family-friendly version of Provincetown lodging with a giant pool and a splash pad for the kids.
698 Commercial St., Provincetown, 508-487-1711, www.harborhotelptown.com.
Another cloudless day meant another opportunity to break out the towels and the Coppertone. And perhaps a bit of public nudity for the brave.
BOY BEACH BY BOAT, HERRING COVE: Christopher learned that there are two ways to get to the gay beach at Herring Cove. He was already aware of the arduous way, which includes a Sherman’s March through the marshes, while sometimes wading through waist-high water and avoiding the crabs scurrying below, followed by a hike through the dunes. But on this trip, he found a better way! He located a friend who owns a boat. This kind soul took him to Herring Cove via the harbor, dropped anchor off the beach, and then produced sandwiches from Relish Bakery and Sandwich Shop. It was all the beauty of going to the beach, minus the sand and crabs.
Relish Bakery and Sandwich Shop, 93 Commercial St., 508-487-8077, www.ptownrelish.com.
THE CARRIE A. SEAMAN ANIMAL SHELTER (CASAS): We hit culturally important venues such as the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, but there was one nonprofit that we were really excited to visit, primarily because it’s filled with adoptable cats. CASAS encourages people to come by and play with its felines, at least the variety that don’t stare you down with psychotic eyes. Doing his civic duty, Christopher dropped by and played with a trio of criminally cute kittens, all the while wondering how to catnap them. But perhaps the most rewarding time was spent with an older, lonely cat named Wilbur who purred his way through every snuggle. The shelter is open every day from 2 to 3:30 p.m. for quality feline time. Call ahead to make an appointment. A donation isn’t required, but please, think of the cats.
5 Sandy Hill Lane, Provincetown, 508-487-4243, www.casasanimalshelter.org.
It was time to officially toast the Cape goodbye (at least until we both return this weekend). Let’s raise a glass...
TRURO VINEYARDS: Christopher found his designated driver (also known as his husband) and said good-bye to the Outer Cape with a glass of bubbly rosé in a commemorative stemless wine glass. The vineyards here are not extensive, but after several sips of wine, you’ll swear you’re in Napa. This is a prime spot to come with a multi-generational brood, plus your dog. Kids can run around on the yard, grandma can poke around the gift shop, and adults can take a tipple and kick back. Save this trip for a sunny afternoon when you have time to sit, feel the breeze, and watch the grapes grow.
11 Shore Road, North Truro, 508-487-6200, trurovineyardsofcapecod.com.
Now it’s time for you, dear reader, to hit the road and make your own Cape Cod discoveries. To help you, we’ve compiled a playlist of the music that inspired us through our month of adventures. Safe travels!
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther. Devra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.