Few towns in America have a greater variety of romantic, historic guest houses and B&Bs than the internationally renowned gay resort playground of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Famed as the spot where the Mayflower first dropped anchor before sailing on to and settling in Plymouth, and then as a prolific fishing community, Provincetown steadily grew into an artsy, bohemian summer hideaway during the early 20th century, at which time it began attracting a visible - for that era - cadre of LGBT visitors and, eventually, residents.
Provincetown's High, "Shoulder," and Low Seasons
Easily reached from Boston by car, plane, and ferry, Provincetown is still one of the great gay seaside vacation getaways in the world, with among the highest number of LGBT-owned B&Bs, guest houses, and hotels anywhere - virtually every property in this town with a year-round population of about 3,000 is completely welcoming toward lesbian and gay visitors. During the summer months, the scene is particularly LGBT-centric - this is high season, and rates at area hotels can be quite steep in July and August, a time when many properties also impose five- to seven-day minimum stays.
Slightly less busy, typically with fewer minimum-stay requirements and somewhat lower rates are the spring and fall "shoulder" seasons (mid-May through late June, and then early September into mid-October, while the late-fall, winter, and early spring "off-season" can be a real bargain, especially midweek. Just keep in mind that many of the town's restaurants, shops, and gay bars do close or keep more limited hours during the off-season. Still, Provincetown can be surprisingly welcoming, beautiful, and romantic, even during stormy winter nights, and it's an absolutely lovely place to visit in late spring and early fall, when businesses are in full swing, but the weather is mild and the crowds are fewer.
What to Expect of Provincetown's Guest Houses
Very few accommodations in town draw a predominantly gay clientele, although during the action-packed July and August months, the percentage of LGBT guests at many of the gay-owned properties is very high. Other times of year, expect more of a mix. And keep in mind that, as opposed to in Palm Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, and some other gay resort towns, you won't find clothing-optional accommodations here, or, for that matter, most of the smaller guest houses lack pools (and relatively few have hot tubs). Guest houses and B&Bs in Provincetown have largely been fashioned out of historic Colonial and Victorian homes - many have fairly tight quarters and limited crowds, as they're often tightly spaced on narrow lanes in the historic village center. What these properties may lack in space and common areas, they typically more than make up for in elegant room decor and vintage charm.
Many of the smaller properties located nearest the town center, along narrow streets, have very limited off-street parking. If you're arriving by car, check ahead to learn about your potential accommodation's parking situation. If your inns lacks dedicated parking, you may have to park at one of the municipal lots in town, which run about $30 per day. Properties farther away from the town center, especially larger motels and condo compounds in the far West End and East End, generally have ample free parking.
Where to Stay - Provincetown's Geography
If you're keen on staying in the heart of the town - within easy walking distance of restaurants, gay bars, and shops - consider choosing a property in the central area (roughly within a few blocks on either side of the main town wharf, MacMillan Pier). The central-most properties are especially popular with social butterflies and fans of bar-hopping and shopping, but they can feel a little overwhelmed by crowds during busy periods.
As you move farther away into the West End, you're still within walking distance of nightlife and dining, but you'll have a bit farther to go (many inns have bikes for guest use, and there are also several bike-rental shops in town). The West End is more bucolic and much quieter than the center of town, and it's also closer to Herring Cove and Race Point beaches - it's a good choice for couples seeking seclusion and romance, and outdoorsy types.
The town's East End is a good compromise between the West End's seclusion and the town center's bustle. The section of the East End extending for a half-mile-or-so east from MacMillan Pier is relatively quiet yet still close to dining and nightlife, and also home to quite a few art galleries - here you'll find some lovely old guest houses as well as some rental properties along the beach. Farther east, past where Bradford Street (Rte. 6A) and Commercial Street intersect, you'll find the one area of Provincetown dominated by beachfront motel, condo, and cottage compounds - this windswept, breezy, and open stretch along Rte. 6A is a long walk from the center of town, but it's popular with families (many units have more than one-bedroom and kitchenettes or kitchens), beach bums, and those on a budget (as several of these spots are quite affordable). Continuing on over the town line into the next community, Truro, you'll find still more motels and beach condos.
Last-Minute Hotel Bookings and Other Lodging Resources in Provincetown
Below and on the following pages, you'll find descriptions of many of Provincetown's best accommodations for gay visitors, from luxury B&Bs to economical guest houses with shared baths to larger beachfront motels. This is by no means an exhaustive list - you can find full listings by consulting the lodging section of the LGBT-oriented Provincetown Business Guild, and also the accommodations page of the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, Especially helpful if you're planning an impromptu visit are the Last-Minute Availability pages at the Provincetown Business Guild and Provincetown Chamber sites, Both sites also have plenty of tips on and links to businesses that can help you plan a gay wedding and honeymoon.
Provincetown Gay-Friendly Condo and Vacation Rentals
If you're planning a longer stay, traveling with a family or group of friends, or seeking a bit more space to spread out, consider renting a vacation house or condo in Provincetown. The Provincetown Business Guild lists a number of extended-stay apartment and condo rentals - just check the "apartments cottages" box in on the site's Lodging "search" page. At the Provincetown Chamber site, you'll find an entire section on Provincetown Apartments, Cottages, Condos, and Houses for rent, as well as a list of Real Estate and Reservation Companies.
White Porch Inn
A design lover's favorite among Provincetown's gay-owned inns, the White Porch Inn was opened in 2007 by friendly and knowledgeable innkeepers Thomas Bantle and Tom Skirk. The beautifully renovated property has been a terrific addition to the town's upscale guest-house scene, its nine rooms (most in the Victorian main house, and three in a neighboring carriage house) decorated with contemporary, unfussy furniture and with plenty of plush amenities like flat-screen TVs with DVD players, music/MP3 systems, free Wi-Fi, and bedding (including goose-down duvets and pillows, and pillow-top mattresses) done in tasteful beach-house inspired tones. Higher-end rooms have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs.
Guests can also book in-room spa services from Provincetown's highly reputed Jonathan Williams Salon & Spa. Rates include a European-inspired Continental breakfast and 24-hour access to coffee service. Probably the nicest aspect of this unpretentiously elegant house is the balance between romantic guest accommodations and comfy common areas, from the kitchen to the piano room to the large porch for which the property is named. The White Porch Inn is across the street from another highly recommended, gay-friendly inn, Christopher's by the Bay.
Anchor Inn Beach House
The gay-popular and luxurious Anchor Inn Beach House sits along a particularly scenic stretch of Provincetown's Commercial Street. This grand Victorian-style property has a wide range of room types (most have balconies with views overlooking Provincetown Harbor, and whirlpool baths and fireplaces are commonplace in many of them). With summer rates starting around $250 or so nightly (and closer to $350 for a water view), the Anchor Inn is one of the more upscale options in town, but it's also a first-rate property.
It's also a hotel, casual (lunch-only) restaurant, and bar, with many rooms overlooking water. That being said, it's always been more a spot for revelry than luxury, although the Boatslip has significantly revamped its rooms in recent years. Either way, if you're a social butterfly bent on staying in the middle of the action, this is a good bet, as you have access to the lively pool and all the fun that goes on here during tea dance. Hotel guests receive free admission to the tea dance as well as use of a chaise longue and towel around the pool and deck. It's the largest waterfront deck in town, so definitely a fun place to mingle, cruise, and tan during the day.
Christopher's by the Bay B&B
One of Provincetown's, and even all of Cape Cod's, best values, lovely and gay-owned Christopher's by the Bay has terrific owners, small but comfortably furnished rooms, and a terrific, central location just a half-block off Commercial Street.
Christopher's isn't the fanciest gay-owned guest house in Provincetown, but it's reasonably priced and attractively furnished, its rooms named for master artists. If you're willing to stay in one of the rooms that share a bath, it's a real bargain (just over $100 per night in high season, and as little as $70 per night off-season). Factor in that Christopher's allows dogs in some rooms (for an extra charge), has limited off-street parking, and has Wi-Fi, LCD TVs with DVD players and A/C in every room, and it's quite a find. The East End's many fine restaurants and shops are a short walk down Johnson Street (less than a half-block off of Commercial Street), and owners Dave and Jim are friendly, laid-back, and exceptionally helpful.
Crown & Anchor
Rebuilt following a major fire several years back, the Crown & Anchor has become Provincetown's most dynamic and popular full-scale gay resort, with several popular bars, a huge pool overlooking the bay, an excellent restaurant, and nicely furnished rooms (just keep in mind that it can get loud here—it's not a place to stay on weekends if you're hoping to get to bed early!).
The best rooms at the Crown & Anchor have stunning views of Provincetown Harbor. Nightly rates start around $200 in summer, and accommodations include A/C, CD alarm clocks, and–in the top rooms–kitchenettes and waterfront balconies. Of course, the main reason for choosing this property is direct access to the bustling gay bars here, including Paramount Nightclub, Wave Video Bar, and Vault leather bar. Plus there's on-site dining at the Central House restaurant, which serves reliably good American fare, with an emphasis on seafood and local ingredients. This is a perfect choice if you're seeking both an upscale vibe and a lively social scene. If you're up for a smaller, more off-the-beaten-path getaway, you'll probably be better off elsewhere, although during the off-season, the Crown & Anchor mellows out (and offers some great deals).
Crowne Pointe Historic Inn and Spa
Elegant, posh, and with among the most beautiful rooms in town, the Crowne Pointe Inn redefined the gay resort scene in Provincetown when it opened a few years. The rambling, 40-room property is gay-owned but has a decidedly mixed gay/straight, and quite discerning, clientele. Amenities include a pool (rare in Provincetown), a first-rate dining venue (the Pointe Restaurant), and an intimate but sumptuous full-service spa and boutique called Shui.
Positioned on a bluff near the towering Pilgrim Monument, the Crowne Pointe has rooms in several buildings and available in a wide range of configurations. Even the least expensive rooms are quite plush, with DVD and CD players, full closets, coffeemakers, refrigerators, and lavish Victorian-inspired furnishings (including beds with custom mattresses and linens). As you move up the ladder in room style, expect more space (suites have separate sitting areas) and such added perks as private porches or sundeck access, whirlpool tubs, and gas fireplaces. Rates are at the top of the tier in Provincetown, but they're in line with other high-end resorts on Cape Cod.
Amenities for guests include access to the spa facilities at Shui, complimentary full breakfast (it's a pretty lavish buffet) and afternoon cocktails-and-cheese social, free high-speed Internet, a pair of huge outdoor hot tubs, a lovely outdoor pool and sunning area, and highly competent and friendly concierge service.
Shui Spa offers a wide range of treatments, including warm-stone massage, vitamin C infusion facials, chakra balancing, and many others - it's an attractive, unfussy spot with a top-notch spa team. And the highly recommended Bistro at Crowne Pointe serves some of the finest contemporary American cuisine in town, in a romantic yet unpretentious dining room. All in all, this is one extremely impressive resort - a perfect hideaway if you're seeking luxury or celebrating a special occasion (the resort is also a popular wedding locale).
The Crowne Pointe's operates the similarly elegant Brass Key gay resort, just a few steps away down Bradford Street; they run that property with the same exacting standards.
Inn at Cook Street
The first-rate Inn at Cook Street, a smartly decorated B&B in Provincetown's East End. The elegant yet unprepossessing property, which is run by amiable couple John Jay Wooldridge and Patrick Flaherty, welcomes a mixed gay-lesbian-straight crowd, as the majority of Provincetown's inns do. The beautifully restored 1836 Greek Revival house contains seven rooms and suites, and there are also two detached cottages behind the inn. The airy, light-filled rooms have an attractive mix of contemporary and vintage country-inspired furnishings and quilts (plus super-comfy linens), and rates include a well-executed breakfast. The inn is close to the galleries and shopping in Provincetown's East End, but a block off Commercial Street, making it a bit removed from the bustle of summertime crowds (on the other hand, Bradford Street fringes one side of the inn and receives slight car traffic, although rooms are well-insulated). This is a terrific all-around B&B.
Lands End Inn
Here's a scenario plenty of Provincetown visitors can relate to: it's a special occasion, and you and your honey are seeking an ultra-romantic, over-the-top-posh, distinctive accommodation to celebrate. Perched on a bluff in the picturesque and relatively quiet West End of town, the stunning Lands End Inn ranks among the most singular, and handsome, buildings on Cape Cod. Built in 1904 and then known as Gull Hill, the rambling structure with its iconic cupola was initially owned by confirmed bachelor and avid supporter of Provincetown's then nascent arts scene. Over the years, different owners have added verandas, additional towers, more guest rooms, and a smattering of modern amenities (including cable TV, free Wi-Fi, and plush robes), but the house still contains a wildly wonderful assortment of fascinating antiques, fine paintings and other artwork, and colorful objets d'art—including gorgeous Tiffany lamps and stained-glass windows—from around the world.
No two of the 18 rooms and suites are even remotely alike, and the majority of them enjoy exceptional views of Provincetown Harbor to the southeast, and Herring Cove to the southwest. Others have gorgeous views of the lush gardens, and rooms on the ground floor, in fact, open directly to the meticulous landscaping. You could fill a book with detailed descriptions of the opulent architectural elements, artwork, and furnishings in each room. The top-end accommodations are especially fabulous. There's a romantic loft sleeping area with a huge window as well as an additional bedroom in the gargantuan Schoolman Suite, while the Bay Tower has two balconies, a domed ceiling, and nearly 360-degree views of the sea. But every room in this fanciful, beautifully restored inn is quite special, and many have deep whirlpool tubs and oversize showers.
Rooms at the Lands End Inn are on the pricey side, but they're completely in line with others in town relative to their size and amenities. Smaller rooms start in the mid $200s nightly, with the top suites generally running $500 to $700, depending on the season. Some rooms can accommodate pets. The rates include a significant perk in the form of evening refreshments (wine and beer, cheeses and crackers) and an expansive Continental breakfast buffet that you're free to enjoy while relaxing in the gardens or in the inviting common areas, but you can also bring your morning meal back to your room.
The West End location is perfect if you're seeking quiet from the crowds, although it's not far to stroll into town, the Boatslip gay resort and nightclub, for instance, is just 10 minutes away on foot. And across the street, you can dine at the elegant Red Inn.
Moffett House Inn
Several narrow alleys lead off of Provincetown's Commercial Street, including the one to the nicely remodeled Moffett House B&B, which is a charming and reasonably priced 1890s clapboard house that was once home to artist Ross Moffett. From the outside, it looks pretty small for a 10-room B&B, but I poked my head inside here a couple of summers ago and was surprised to that, while the rooms are on the cozy side, the place doesn't feel crowded or stuffy at all. Serious bargain-hunters should also note that even in summer season, for rooms with a shared bath, rates start at just $75 per night, which is almost unheard for anything so charming in Provincetown. There's also a/c, flat-screen TV, and DVD/CD players in all rooms, plus Wi-Fi throughout, and guests can use up to two bikes (per room) to pedal around town for free. It's easy to see why this place has such a loyal following. Hidden from busy street traffic yet practically in the shadows of Provincetown Monument, the inn is also close to tons of shopping, dining, and nightlife options.
In terms of proximity to key attractions, dining, and nightlife, and overall value, it's hard to bat the Pilgrim House, which is set back off of Provincetown's main thoroughfare, just a stone's throw from the municipal parking lot at MacMillan Wharf, which is also where ferries come in from Boston. Eco-conscious, open year-round, pet-friendly (for a fee, in certain rooms), and occupying a handsome pitched-roof three-story building, Sage Inn has 19 contemporary rooms, all with a clean, unfussy aesthetic and all the essential amenities you'd expect for a comfy getaway: king or queen beds with plush linens, Keurig coffeemakers, individual climate control, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. There's also a pleasant common area on the third floor, with outdoor seating, too.
Also included in the rates is a Continental breakfast buffet each morning. And the rates are reasonable by Provincetown standards, starting a little over $200 in high season for one of the more compact rooms, up to nearly $400 for a king suite with sitting area. During the spring and fall shoulder seasons, however, rates fall by considerably, and in winter you get snag the least expensive rooms for under $100.
One major advantage to staying here is that Sage Inn is one of the few (and nicest) accommodations in Provincetown with its own on-site nightspot, the Sage Lounge, which is great for option in the evening for cocktails and light dining. You could easily make a full meal by ordering a few small plates of creative, contemporary dishes—perhaps lobster flatbread with heirloom tomatoes, truffle fries, or gnocchi served with marinated shimeji mushrooms, arugula pesto, and poached egg. There's also a vast wine list, plenty of rotating local ales on tap, and an impressive cocktails list (the "hot box" with Reposada tequila, amaretto, burnt grapefruit, ghost chili reduction, pineapple juice, and mole bitters packs a nice sweet-and-spicy punch).
Secret Garden Inn
Set down a quiet lane just off bustling Commercial Street, the warmly furnished Secret Garden Inn is a very short walk from MacMillan Wharf and Provincetown Harbor, where the ferry boats come and go. In this moderately priced but upscale hideaway (rooms with shared rooms start around $135 in summer), each of the elegantly furnished rooms is decorated with a warm and inviting color scheme, and all have either shared or private balconies. The inn is aptly named, given the beautiful redbrick courtyard fringed by hedges and flower beds. Small refrigerators, Wi-Fi, cable TV, mobile charging stations, and a/c round out the amenities here, too, which also include the use of bikes and helmets. It's a great choice if you're looking to save a little money while still enjoying a fantastic location and charmingly romantic accommodations.
On one of the highest points in Provincetown, the Snug Cottage is surrounded by enchanting gardens and contains several handsomely furnished rooms. It's one of the town's most romantic gay-popular properties, a beautiful Arts and Crafts house. Snug Cottage has a mix of standard rooms and suites with large sitting areas for a total of eight accommodations all together, with rates starting a little under $250 in summer. For a luxury getaway at a small property, this is one of the town's best choices. Amenities are many, including a lavish breakfast buffet each morning, and in-room free Wi-Fi, daily newspaper, and Aveda bath amenities. Several rooms have fireplaces.
The management also rents out some a penthouse apartment that's ideal for longer stays.