The all-em­brac­ing ap­peal of Cape Cod

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - WORDS GUY DIMOND

Alengthy spit of sand and hol­lows jut­ting into the At­lantic, Cape Cod has long been a place of ebb and flow. The land­scape it­self seems tran­sient, the shores of breezy dunes and fresh­wa­ter ket­tle ponds con­stantly shift­ing their bound­aries. Cre­ated from piles of glacial moraine as the last ice sheet re­ceded, its days are num­bered; it now has less than 5,000 years to go be­fore the ocean con­sumes it. But right now, it’s New Eng­land’s hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for vis­i­tors of all stripes: non-stop par­ty­ing week­enders from Bos­ton and New York, beach­comb­ing fam­i­lies from New Eng­land, and plu­to­crats and pres­i­dents who jet in from Wash­ing­ton to their com­pounds – a tra­di­tion be­gun by the Kennedys. Cape Cod and its two is­lands – Martha’s Vine­yard and Nan­tucket – is a place where you come to meet peo­ple, but also to es­cape; to eat the sea­side dishes our grand­par­ents ate, but also to push out the boat with some cut­ting-edge cui­sine.

Most strik­ing of all, though, is the light and the scenery; mile af­ter mile of white sand beaches, backed by the bleached-bone white of clap­board houses and weath­ered cedar shin­gles. Even­tu­ally you get to Province­town at the very tip, where the Mayflower first landed be­fore mov­ing on and leav­ing it for the Nauset In­di­ans. The Euro­pean set­tle­ment of the Up­per Cape came much later.

The Outer Cape be­gan at­tract­ing sum­mer vis­i­tors for its iso­la­tion and wild beauty dur­ing the 1930s

“Since the 19th cen­tury, Amer­i­can artists, from the am­a­teur to the avant-garde, have been drawn to Province­town as a site of in­spi­ra­tion,” says Chris­tine Mc­Carthy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Province­town Art As­so­ci­a­tion and Mu­seum. “The rea­sons for that are many and com­plex, how­ever the lure of the sea and the de­sire to ex­pe­ri­ence its nat­u­ral beauty are cer­tainly at the fore­front.

“This spit of land serves as a haven for all that is cre­ative and unique, spik­ing at 100,000 vis­i­tors in the sum­mer months, which drops to 3,000 year-round res­i­dents dur­ing the off sea­son. For those who are lucky enough to call Province­town home, the off sea­son is mag­i­cal.”

Mag­i­cal in­deed. My first visit was 20 years ago, with a new Amer­i­can girl­friend who wanted to show me her child­hood hol­i­day spots. I was bowled over by the beauty of the his­toric Cape build­ings, the daz­zling beaches and the chum­mi­ness of the lo­cals. We re­turned the fol­low­ing year. I was in­tro­duced to her fam­ily. Even­tu­ally, we mar­ried. We’ve been go­ing there nearly ev­ery year since – most re­cently with my ex­tended US fam­ily – each sea­son ex­plor­ing some­thing new: the seafood, the craft brew­ery bars, the cy­cle tracks, the se­cluded walks, the is­lands. We’ve re­searched buy­ing a home and mov­ing there, and we may do yet. The win­ters might be tough, but the sum­mers are long and idyl­lic, mak­ing the Cape hard to re­sist.


Province­town might be a tourist hon­ey­pot dur­ing the sum­mer, but its hin­ter­land is still re­mark­ably un­spoilt. The Outer Cape, as this fur­thest reach is called, be­gan at­tract­ing sum­mer vis­i­tors for its iso­la­tion and wild beauty dur­ing the 1930s. Mo­men­tum grew as Bos­ton bo­hemi­ans bought land cheaply dur­ing the De­pres­sion years, and fixed up shacks as sum­mer homes. Then things took a rather dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion in the sum­mer of 1937, when Wal­ter Gropius, founder of Bauhaus and then a re­cently ap­pointed pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Univer­sity near Bos­ton, stayed on the Cape and hosted a re­union of Euro­pean émi­grés who had fled the Third Re­ich; he started a trend. This com­mu­nity re­turned for sum­mer hol­i­days. These mod­ernist ar­chi­tects and artists be­gan build­ing hol­i­day homes on the shores around Wellfleet, while build­ing was rel­a­tively un­re­stricted. Some of these homes have been ac­quired and care­fully

For the most im­pres­sive his­tor­i­cal build­ings of all, take the day ferry to the neigh­bour­ing is­land of Nan­tucket

The dra­matic red clay Aquin­nah Cliffs are one of Martha’s Vine­yard’s must-see tourist at­trac­tions

ABOVE: Stars and Stripes dec­o­rate a shin­gle house in Province­town, Cape Cod, which was the site of the Mayflower’s land­ing in 1620

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