Geographically at the very end of Cape Cod, Provincetown was the original Cape Cod, given the name by Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602 because of the abundance of fish found in its waters. The name was later adopted for the entire peninsula which became a bridged island with the completion of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914.
Fishing has been at the heart of Provincetown's economy since the beginning and its protected harbor was and is unique along New England's coastline. Following the Revolution, Provincetown grew rapidly as a fishing and whaling center. "During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Provincetown was the richest town per capita in Massachusetts, with 54 long wharves, a mackerel fleet, ... and 56 whaling ships; at times, there were 700 ships crowded into the harbor, ... - Provincetown’s Golden Era."
By the 1890s, Provincetown had a small resident population of writers and artists, and summer tourism had begun. As the artist colony and experimental theater developed, so did the gay community in Provincetown which became significant by the 1970s, especially in the summer season. In 1978, the Provincetown Business Guild was created to promote gay tourism ... and the rest is history. "Today more than 200 businesses belong to the PBG, and Provincetown is perhaps the best-known gay summer resort on the East Coast."
All of that adds color, and charm to this small town - the fabric of which P'town is made, and this simply complements the 17 plus square miles of sandy land surrounded by 21 plus miles of coastline. The entire coastline of Cape Cod was preserved as a National Park by John F. Kennedy in 1961 and Race Point in P'town is a place that should be seen.
I grew up on Cape Cod and was visiting P'town on "Sunday drives" when I was young, enjoying the novelty of being surrounded so closely by so much water and of course the New England "narrow street" charm. One or two summers, I ventured forth in the '70s to see the hippies et al, but it's now that I truly appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of P'town.