Cape Cod in Winter – Dune Shacks

The Cape Cod National Seashore extends to Provincetown at the tip of the Cape.  Here you’ll find the largest dunes in an area called the Province Lands just north of town.

Parabolic Dunes

The dunes were sculpted by powerful northwest winds and along-shore currents which eroded cliffs to the south 5000 years ago, depositing loose sand and gravel.  The interior uplands were originally forested with hardwoods but most of those trees were removed by settlers.  Pitch Pines were later planted to protect the sandy soils, and beach grasses were planted in the 1930’s to stabilize the dunes and keep them from burying Provincetown.

Provincetown has a rich artistic heritage, and one of the most fascinating historic remnants are the 19 dune shacks from north Truro to Race Point.  These shacks were originally cobbled together to house the seamen who worked for the Life Saving Service which rescued sailors from shipwrecks along the coast.

Life Saving Station at Race Point

The abandoned shacks became summer residences used by some of the most creative people in the 1920’s, including the playwright Eugene O’Neill and poet Harry Kemp.  e. e. cummings, Norman Mailer, and Jackson Pollack also summered in the primitive dune shacks in later years.

A dune shack in the grip of winter

Today, some of the shacks are still on long term leases with private families, but some are available for rental during Spring through Fall (Provincetown Community or through Castle Hill.)

Fowler Dune Shack - a Room with a View

The Life Saving Station at Race Point was originally built in Chatham in 1897.  It was fated to dissolve in the sea, so to preserve the structure it was moved on a barge to Race Point in 1977.  In 1915, the Life Saving Stations evolved into today’s Coast Guard.

The Life Saving Station - Province Lands Dunes

Provincetown is a crazy fun place in the summer with carnivals, the infamous P-Town parade and of course don’t miss Bear Week (hairy men who love to party).  If you go in winter, most galleries

A cold morning on P-Town Harbor

and many business are closed since at least half of the population winters somewhere else.  A winter visit is about having a quiet getaway and taking long beach walks.  At the end of the day warm up by a fireplace and have a fabulous dinner at The Mews.


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