Outer Cape Cod in Spring
In the morning, we drive a few miles to Rock Harbor Beach, tucked away like a postcard from Old Cape Cod. It’s shallow and serene, and nearby there’s a crusty lobster shack, Cap’t Cass Rock Harbor Seafood, that looks as though it was dunked in the sea and came up dripping with buoys.
It’s all a stone’s throw from the Church of the Transfiguration, a modern-day basilica-in-progress, with artwork from around the world. If you’ve ever wondered what 2.5 million glass mosaic tiles in 200 colors look like, stop at the gift shop and ask to check out the apse and the Eastern Orthodox-style depiction of Christ.
In Eastham, we drift through seas of daffodils, forsythia in bloom, bits of the sun fallen to earth. We wake up our legs at the Salt Pond Visitor Center, official gateway to Cape Cod National Seashore, where bikes spring up like crocuses in the parking lot. We walk Nauset Marsh Trail, an easy, one-mile ramble along kettle ponds (basins formed by the retreating glacier) and across wooden bridges. On the horizon, a thin crust of land separates cobalt sky from crisp blue sea.
It’s an equally fine line between collectibles and kitsch, and that line is too tempting to pass up at Collector’s World, a roadside institution for almost 40 years–a one-stop shop for Yogi Berra catcher’s mitts ($70), battered ship’s helms ($160), and carved wooden birds (under $6). “I’m the original one-knight stand,” says the sign on a suit of armor from Spain ($1,500). The groans are free.
In North Truro we find Pilgrim Spring Trail. This 30-minute stroll offers memorable vistas–a grove of moody pines rising like slender flames, opening out into distant views of dunes and sea. Snakes and rabbits dart across the path, and a plaque set in stone commemorates the first fresh-water source on New England’s shores found by the Pilgrims on a distant November day in 1620.
And then we slide into Provincetown, that wildly expressive, Auntie Mame of a place, ringed by water and pressed against spectacular dunes. Ahead stretches Commercial Street, the main, three-mile-long, one-way street that’s impossible to drive in the summer.
But on the first beautiful weekend of the season, the streets are lively yet not jam-crammed. We’re sharing a fabulous secret, all of us. Kids with ice-cream cones, older couples, boys with boys, girls with girls, middle Americans, bikers, cyclists … and we’re all meandering along Commercial Street, basking in the laid-back vibe.
We park at MacMillan Pier, dotted with tiny shingle-encrusted shacks advertising whale watches and treasure hunts, where boats are reflected in the water like Siamese twins. “Did you see any whales?” we ask people getting off the late-afternoon Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch. “Lots of them!” they say. We pick up a brochure and make a reservation for Sunday.
Meanwhile, the natives are painting, planting, raking, shaking off the dust, opening up, airing out. By mid- to late April, most of the shops on Commercial Street are open (art galleries are hit-or-miss), and we dodge in and out of the eclectic mix of stores and cafes, unfettered by crowds. For those who buy their jackets by weight, Marine Specialties offers vintage European leather for $4 a pound, alongside starfish, soap logs, hats with hidden mosquito netting, rubber sharks, and genuine pea coats, too.
A few more stops, and then, with an eye to the time, we head out to Herring Cove, seeking the sunset. Whales are spouting everywhere, little fountains exploding across the horizon. Some guy plays “Under the Boardwalk” on his guitar, and his kids cavort on the sand while we watch a dazzling sunset. The day ends with a quiet, light meal of ahi tuna at our hotel, the beautiful Crowne Pointe Inn, which crests a hill overlooking Provincetown.