If you grow up in eastern Massachusetts, summers in Cape Cod were a right of passage. I would spend months eagerly awaiting our trips to family-friendly Chatham or Craigsville for lazy days in the sand and calm waves. Once I hit my tween years, I wanted nothing more than another invitation to a friend’s “Cape house” for a few days of boating, tanning, and evening trips into town for an ice cream cone.
Over the past several years, my family has chosen Provincetown for our yearly getaways filled with fresh seafood and afternoons by the Atlantic. For those without a knowledge of Massachusetts geography, Cape Cod consists of the “flexing arm” that makes up the easternmost portion of the state, extending out into the ocean.
Provincetown is at the farthermost tip of the Cape, accessed by a single-lane highway crawling with cars packed with kids, beach gear, and towing boats. Provincetown is without a doubt the most colorful town on the Cape. Known for its large gay population, festivals, artists, and busy town center packed with restaurants, boutiques, and the occasional drag queen, it is undeniably a lively place for those who can stomach the crowds and excitement.
Just three miles or so from Provincetown center, on the ocean side of the Cape, lies Race Point Beach. Sand dunes line many of the main roads leading to Provincetown, and the path to Race Point is no exception. The beach is accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles with permits, manned by daredevil drivers. The occasional in shape, brave soul attempts the trek by foot. My cousins’ Jeep, with much of the air let out of the tires, rolls up and over the initial mountains of sand with relative ease, stopping from time to time to let another vehicle leaving the beach pass by.
The real rollercoaster ride begins as the Mt. Everest of sand dunes appears in the windshield. The Jeep gets a running start and the tires begin to whirl up sand as the car struggles against the steep ascent. Three-quarters of the way up, we get stuck and have to slide down in reverse to start again. Usually making it over on the third or fourth try, after a significant amount of stomach-churning, we are rewarded by the long stretch of sand, lined on one side by choppy, chilly waves and enormous dunes on the other. The journey isn’t for the fainthearted, so unlike most Cape Cod beaches, we have plenty of room to park and spread out in the warm sand. Our afternoons are spent sunbathing, reading, wading in the frigid Atlantic, and watching for the occasional seal popping out of the water. It’s simple, beautiful, relaxing, and an oasis from the hectic world left behind the dunes.
Story and Photo by Rachel Simon