One of my favorite things about Boston is its close proximity to everything the Northeast has to offer: beaches, mountains, big cities, and small towns. No matter what kind of escape you’re seeking, it can likely be found within a 3 hour drive. After sharing a day trip itinerary for Brattleboro, Vermont, there’s been a request to share more of my tried-and-true day trip ideas. So today, I’m outlining one of my favorite excursions that is perfect for a warm weather escape: Provincetown, MA.
Provincetown, or Ptown as its affectionately known, is located at the very end of Cape Cod. If you were to drive from Boston, particularly during the summer, it could easily take upwards of 3 hours in traffic. Luckily, there’s a faster, more delightful way to get there… by boat!
Both Bay State Cruise Company and Boston Harbor Cruises offer a “fast ferry” from Boston to Provincetown, which is only 1 ½ hours each way. Admittedly, this is NOT a cheap option, as ferry tickets run about $93 per person round trip. But since it’s a day trip, at least you’re not on the hook for a hotel! Plus, this is an especially convenient option for locals who don’t own a car, or tourists who aren’t renting a car.
I’ve been to Provincetown about 5 times over the past 4 years, and in my opinion, the summer shoulder season is the best time to go: in late May, early-mid June, or early September. In July and August, Commercial Street is swarming with slow-walking tourists, and all of the crowds and chaos can take away from the ambiance.
Ready for a trip to Ptown? Hop aboard the ferry, then follow my lead…
You’ll arrive in Provincetown at MacMillan Pier. From the Pier, take a right onto Commercial Street and start wandering along the “East End” of Provincetown. If you had to wake up early to catch the ferry, you’ll probably want a coffee to perk yourself up. I always start my adventures at the Wired Puppy or the Ptown Cafe, both conveniently located in the East End. For tea drinkers, The Captain’s Daughters is a must.
Drink in hand, it’s now time to soak up the adorable New England charm and wander in and out of shops and art galleries. Some of my favorite stores are Utilities and Salt Supply, and if we’re being honest, Monty’s Christmas, because Christmas ornaments are my favorite travel memento.
Once you start getting hungry, turn around and start heading west on Commercial St, going a little past the pier. You can’t come all the way to Cape Cod and not get a lobster roll, and in that case, I recommend Canteen. Canteen is a bit pricey for such a casual spot, but the food is delicious and the ambiance can’t be beat. (Be sure to grab a seat out back, in the funky back patio overlooking the water.) The portions are large, so if you want a side, I recommend sharing with a friend. My favorite sides are the crispy brussels sprouts and the baked beans. If you’re lobstered-out, or are just looking for a lighter option, there are also a number of delicious looking salads and quinoa bowls. I say delicious-looking, because, uh, when in Rome 😉
With a hearty lunch behind you, it’s time to get some steps in. Continue strolling west down Commercial street, throughout the “West End” of Provincetown. The charming New England bungalows are prime Instagram bait, and it’s hard to walk very far without stopping for a photo. A mile west of Canteen, you’ll reach Pilgrim’s First Landing Park. From here, follow the jetty of large boulders (Provincetown Causeway) all the way across to the beach. The beach here is never crowded, and is the perfect place to sprawl out on a blanket and nap, read or play card games.
By late afternoon or early evening, once you’ve had enough sun, make your way back across the jetty, and walk to the Red Inn for a pre-dinner drink. Feel free to seat yourself in one of the white Adirondack chairs overlooking the water, and a waiter will come by and take your drink order. There are often happy hour specials around this time too. If you can stay here for dinner, all the better, but it’s a popular spot (and quite upscale too), so you really need to make a reservation several weeks in advance.
If you decide to head elsewhere for dinner, you’ll have no shortage of options. I’ve eaten at Mac’s Fish House (which was recommended to me by a vegan friend who made an exception for this fish), Nor’East Beer Garden (such a nice ambiance if you want to eat outside), and Squealing Pig, a casual pub.
If you’re taking the 8:30pm ferry back, you’ll have plenty of time for a leisurely meal. And if at any point in the day you still find yourself with extra time on your hands, you can climb to the top of Pilgrim Monument, relax by the water, or grab a frozen yogurt.
Below is an overview/schedule of what a day trip to Ptown might look like. I don’t think a swimsuit is necessary for this itinerary, but I do recommend bringing a blanket or towel (for sitting on at the beach), a pack of cards and/or a book (for the ferry ride and for the beach), and a water bottle, as well as comfortable shoes and a light layer (the ferry gets chilly, especially at night).
Provincetown Day Trip Itinerary (from Boston)
- 9:00am Board the Fast Ferry from Long Wharf
- 10:30am arrive in Provincetown
- 10:30-noonish From the Pier, take a right onto Commercial Street and wander along the “East End” of Provincetown.
- Lunch: Lobster rolls at Canteen
- 1:00pm-4:30pm stroll along the “West End” of Provincetown, over to Pilgrim’s First Landing Park. Walk across the jetty (Provincetown Causeway) to the beach, and relax on the beach
- 5:00-6:00pm Grab a pre-dinner drink on the back patio at the Red Inn.
- 6:00-8:00pm Enjoy a leisurely dinner, then treat yourself to any last souvenirs or an ice cream cone before boarding the ferry.
- 8:30pm ferry departs
- 10:00pm arrive in Boston
Have you been to Provincetown? What are your can’t-miss recommendations?