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A Tour Through the Provincelands Dunes

Written by Laura M. Reckford

PROVINCETOWN – Recently the Cape Cod Wave crew decided to take a dune tour through the Provincelands with Art’s Dune Tours, just as the area hit the news because of a controversy over the dune shacks.

Art’s Dune Tours is a Provincetown institution having been around for more than 75 years and remaining in the same family. Art Costa, a Provincetown native, started the business when he returned from serving in World War II back in 1946 and now his son Rob runs the business.

The tour takes passengers in off-road vehicles into the Provincelands, a landscape of rolling dunes and scrub brush that is part of the 44,000 acre Cape Cod National Seashore, preserved as a national park by President John F. Kennedy back in 1961.

Around 1998, we took a dune tour led by Art himself. He passed away in 2006. This year, on a beautiful June morning, we took the one-hour tour. We were fortunate to have as our tour guide and driver Chris Cotugno, who has lived in Provincetown since 1980 and who gave an excellent overview of the history of this beautiful area.

In addition to the Cape Cod Wave crew and our driver/tour guide Chris, our SUV passengers included an artist from Canada looking for inspiration in the dune-scape and a couple from Wisconsin visiting Provincetown for the first time.

As our Arts Dune Tour vehicle entered the Provincelands, there were about a dozen demonstrators along Route 6 with placards and signs protesting the Cape Cod National Seashore’s recent decision to lease out some of the rustic dune shacks that dot the landscape.

The Town of Provincetown and Seashore officials have not always agreed on what is worth preserving in the Provincelands. The dune shacks were designated as a National Cultural Resource, called the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, back in 2012, and many in Provincetown want to be sure these rustic lodgings that have housed and inspired renowned artists and writers, including Eugene O’Neal and Tennessee Williams, remain as part of the dune landscape.

Taking the tour gave us insight into what all the fuss is about–this is indeed a precious landscape. Our drive through the dunes with Chris as our guide was like entering a magical wilderness of surreal beauty. We oohed and ahhed at the panorama of sweeping hills of sand and scrub with the occasional view of a sweet dune shack tucked into the remote landscape.

The steep trail through the dunes provides a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. As you crest each dune, there are views out to the Atlantic Ocean or back towards Cape Cod Bay.

As you look back towards town, over the spires and rooftops of Provincetown, the sight of the towering 252-foot tall Pilgrim Monument provides a reassuring reminder that civilization still exists beyond these ethereal dunes.

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Cape Cod Wave’s Provincetown stories

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About the author

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years in magazines, newspapers and radio. She has also authored numerous Frommer's Travel Guide editions on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

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