If you’ve ever been to Provincetown, you know what makes it the gold standard of Northeastern gay travel. If you’ve never been, it’s time to go and find out. Situated at the hook-tip of Cape Cod amid a cornucopia of beaches, lighthouses and cultural influences, this colorful, seaside town is the Wonderland to any queer Alice. P-town began to draw a gay and lesbian community in the 1920s, when artists and bohemians of all stripes converged there to think, write and create. By the 1970s it was making a name for itself as the LGBT Mecca that it is today.
“Provincetown is so laid-back and so diverse,” says Kristin Hurd, Jersey City real estate impresario and P-town weekend warrior. “You’ll be walking down the street and you’ll see a drag queen on roller skates followed by a group of teens on skateboards, people from Europe, Bostonians and so on. It’s an artists’ community, like New York City, but less edgy.” Hurd’s favorite P-town rituals include breakfast at Post Office (303 Commercial St, 508-487-3892) followed by some hang-time at the dunes, the daily 4pm Tea Dance at the Boatslip Resort (161 Commercial St, 508-487-1669), the post-tea dance party Pied Bar (193A Commercial St, piedbar.com, 508-487-1527) and a late-night trip to Spiritus Pizza (190 Commercial St, spir ituspizza.com, 508-487-2808).
Plan your P-town jaunt to coincide with the first annual Girl Splash (July 19-27, girlpowerevents.com/girl-splash), Girl Power Productions’ summer women’s week, which promises to be like Dinah Shore on the beach. “Provincetown is the gayest place on earth,” says Girl Power producer Lynette Molnar, “but there hasn’t been a midsummer women’s week yet, and it’s about time.” Molnar has planned a week of all-women beach parties, clambakes, dance parties, live entertainment and more, so visit girlpowerevents.com to purchase tickets and join Girl Splash’s e-mail list for more information leading up to the event. Girl Power’s weekly Saturday night party at Pied Bar is another major lesbian hub.
The beach is the obvious place to be by day, so head to Herring Cove Beach, a treasure trove of bathing beauties and languid ladies in the sand. For those who crave a bit more activity, a nature hike to any of three lighthouses or through the Beech Forest is any trekker’s treat. Cycling enthusiasts can rent bikes and pick up picnic lunches from Gale Force Beach Market & Bike Rentals (144 Bradford St, 508-487-4849, galeforcebikes.com) to explore the area on wheels.
Maritime marauders can rent boats and kayaks from Flyer’s Boat Rental (131A Commercial St, 508-487-0898, flyersboatrentals. com), or join whale-watching tours with Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch of Provincetown (307 Commercial St, 800-826-9300).
The salty sea air is bound to build your appetite, and when it comes to cuisine, P-town promises to keep you satisfied. A stroll through Commercial and Bradford streets will uncover dozens of dining options. If it’s lobster you’re after, The Lobster Pot (321 Commercial St, 508-487-0842, ptownlobsterpot.com) is where it’s at. This award-winning seafood eatery also features an excellent raw bar and overlooks the harbor, allowing you to see exactly where your impossibly fresh feast came from just hours before you ordered it. PS: don’t forget to try some award-winning Tim’s Clam Chowder—the secret recipe of Executive Chef Tim McNulty. For oysters, steamers, mussels and more, bop on over to Bubala’s by the Bay (183-85 Commercial St, 508-487-0773, bubalas.com).
Another good pick is Bayside Betsy’s (177 Commercial St, 508-487-6566, baysidebetsys.com), which boasts casual, waterfront dining and an ever-changing menu of American Continental cuisine. Join Betsy for a weekend breakfast from 9:30 to 11:30 AM, and don’t miss the lobster benedict. Some say Front Street (230 Commercial St, 508-487-9715, frontstreetrestaurant.com) is the best restaurant in town, with its Kobe beef and foie gras sliders, tea smoked duck and gorgonzola stuffed filet mignon.
For the ultimate romantic dinner, try Bistro at Crowne Pointe Inn (82 Bradford St, 508-487-6767, crownepointe.com/restaurant), the in-house restaurant at the Crowne Pointe Historic Inn and Spa (from $169 before June 22, from $239 Jun 23-Sep 10, 877-276-9631, crownepointe.com). The Bistro offers an extensive wine list and bar-none views of historic Provincetown, while the Inn provides full-service accommodations in a 40-room, six-building estate.
P-town is all about quaint, queer-friendly accommodations in a variety of prices to suit your budget. Shoestring travelers should head to the Pilgrim House Inn (from $109, 336 Commercial St, 800-525-8373, thepilgrimhouse.com) for simple, off-street digs in the heart of town, just a short walk from the beach. Best of all, The Pilgrim House Inn is home to Vixen, a women’s bar and nightclub (366 Commercial St, 508-487-6424, ptownvixen.com), which is newly renovated and reloaded for the Summer ‘08 season. Visit Vixen’s Bacchanal Wine Bar for wine, cheese and dessert, and then move onto the in-house Madeira Room Entertainment & Nightclub for dancing, full bar and live entertainment including standup comedy, drag performances and musical acts.
Ladies with a bit more loot to spare will like the Fairbanks Inn (from $145, 90 Bradford St, fairbanksinn.com, 800-324-7265), an authentic colonial mansion rendered in period décor, with a garden patio and a rooftop sundeck. The Fairbanks Inn offers a various accommodations, from standard rooms to the Fairbanks apartment suite ($275). The penthouse ($259) features a fireplace for some romantic downtime indoors.
For those who want to be right on the beach, the lesbian-owned Inn at The Moors (from $159, 59 Provincelands Rd, 800-842-6379, innatthemoors.com) is a 30-room, seaside property with a heated pool and breathtaking views of the moors and Wood End lighthouse. To visit the lighthouse, walk out across the breakwater or take a water-taxi ride to Long Point, P-town’s secluded sandbar tip.
For an in-depth lesbian’s guide to Province-town, visit provincetownforwomen.com.
NORTH FORK, LONG ISLAND
If you’re looking for a quieter, more affordable alternative to the scene at the Hamptons, look into Long Island’s North Fork, where wine touring is what it’s all about. The North Fork is home to 3,000 acres of vineyard and a variety of grapes. So, in addition to standard daytime activities like hiking, biking and beaching, visitors can tour the local wineries, sample goods and learn how they’ve been made.
For a very thorough explanation of wine- making from start to finish, try Pindar Vineyards (Route 25, Peconic, 631-734-6200, pindar.net), which shows every step of the wine-making process along its complementary guided tour, which takes place at 2pm daily, weather permitting. This 550-acre property is the island’s largest vineyard, and offers live music on weekends from 1 to 5pm. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy.
For more fruit-related fun, wend your way to Wickham’s Fruit Farm (Route 25, Cutchogue, wikchamsfruitfarm.com), a centuries-old family operation that prides itself upon its choice selection of mouth-watering, pick-it-yourself fruit, including cherries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches and more. Visit Wickham’s website for a complete harvest schedule.
When the shadows are growing long and dinnertime is drawing near, head to nearby Greenport for some gay-friendly nighttime fare. The small fishing town has enjoyed a recent rebirth as Long Island’s new gay haven. For innovative cuisine with French, Latin and Asian flair, dine at The Frisky Oyster (27 Front St, 631-477-4265), or simply, “The Frisky,” as locals call it. For seafood with a Mediterranean flair served in a relaxed atmosphere and , try Bay & Main Restaurant & Lounge (300 Main St, bayandmain.com).
The North Fork Women for Women Fund (nfwfwf.com), a community-based, nonprofit lesbian advocacy group, hosts several fundraisers each year; check out their Deadly Nightshade Reunion Concert on July 5 at Poquatuck Hall (Skipper’s Ln, 631-323-2601).
For a resort-style experience, try the Sound View Inn (from $190, 58775 Route 48, soundviewinn.com), situated along 1,400 feet of private beach. The Sound View Restaurant is on location, and features a $10 Friday night burger-and-beer special in addition to a full menu of seafood, pasta, steak and more.
The gay-friendly Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast (from $215, 34300 Country Rd 48, 631-765-1570, shorecrestbedandbreakfast.com) is a Victorian mansion with water views and antique décor. The owner, Marilyn Anne Marks, has hosted several commitment ceremonies on the Shorecrest’s lushly landscaped grounds.
For more luxurious accommodations, splurge on the Harborfront Inn at Greenport (from $289, 209 Front St, 631-477-0707, theharborfrontinn.com). This modern boutique hotel has 35 rooms, including five uber-decadent suites for big spenders. The Terrace Suite features a 1,000-square-foot private terrace for panoramic views.
Catch a ferry from Sayville, New York to nearby Fire Island, the oh-so-gay getaway that’s kept queer travelers coming back for years. Besides its beautiful beaches and oodles of gay life, no cars are allowed on the island, which makes for a charming, clean-air gay-cation the likes of which is hard to find elsewhere. “It’s like an entirely different universe,” says one Fire Island vacationer. “People pull their stuff around on little red Radio Flyer wagons.” Generally speaking, we recommend the bohemian Cherry Grove gay-borhood, which is more female-friendly than the male-oriented Pines section.
Dine at Cherry Lane Café (158 Bayview, 631-597-6820, cherrysonthebay.com) and enjoy the bay-front view, which affords a peek at new arrivals as they file off of the ferry. Cherry’s doubles as a nightclub after hours, with theme parties, contests, special guest DJs and cocktails until 4am, seven days a week. Shescape Events (shescape.com) will host two Diva Dodgeball beach tournaments at Cherry’s this summer on July 26 and August 23.
The Cherry Grove Beach Hotel (from $75, 516-597-6600, grovehotel.com) has a private pool and the Ice Palace disco, which draws a mix of lesbians and gay men, and is known for its wild drag shows. Rooms range from $75 to $500 per night, depending on when you go and the type of accommodations you choose.
If you’re planning on a week-long stay, consider Horizon Beach Apartments (from $1,600/week, 56 Lewis Walk, 631-597-6278), where you’ll get your very own oceanfront house with a backyard BBQ and private walkway to the beach.
Fire Island’s most colorful event of the summer is the annual July 4 Invasion of the Pines, which was born in 1976 when a local drag queen was denied service at an upscale Pines restaurant. In response, a sister queen organized the first drag queen “Invasion” of the Pines. Contrary to their expectations, the ladies received a surprisingly warm welcome, and thus began the annual commemorative parade through Pines harbor. Today, the Invasion is a mix of drag queens, kings and anyone else who cares to join in the revelry. For more information on the history of the Invasion, visit fireislandqnews.com.
A word about the Pines: while it is more male-friendly than mixed, it can offer a few things that you won’t find in Cherry Grove, such as rolling dunes, gorgeous landscaping and dispersed properties that allow for more privacy. The Pines is home to some palatial summer shares, so if you’re looking to go in on one with a group of friends, contact Pines Harbor Realty (pinesharbor.com/homerent, 631-597-7575) and ask for Ken Lesser. “There’s a beautiful community spirit and a sense of belonging in the Pines,” says Lesser. “We live by one rule here: to be considerate of our neighbors.”
KEEP ON CRUISIN’
For those who fancy full-service resorts but desire more than one destination, a cruise is just what the doctor ordered. If that sounds like your bag, look no further than Olivia (olivia.com, 800-631-6277), the travel and entertainment company designed by and for lesbians. This summer, Olivia’s ultra-romantic Discovering Provence and Burgundy river cruise runs in France from July 1 to 8, and again from July 8 to 15. Cruising the Romantic Danube will take you through Hungary, Austria and Germany the week of July 27, and repeats the following week. A river cruise is perfect for those who want to explore Europe from the inside out. Stop at new ports each day and wander through cobblestone streets and medieval architecture.
If you’re traveling with children in tow, Rosie and Kelli O’Donnell’s R Family Vacations (from $999 per person, 866-732-6822, rfamilyvacations.com) is the way to go. From July 13 to 20, join R Family aboard the Norwegian Dawn for a cruise through Canada and New England. The tour begins in New York and goes through Halifax, Bar Harbor, Provincetown and Newport with world-class entertainment on board every night.
As one of the only nations where same-sex marriage is legal, Canada is extremely progressive, making it an excellent choice for LGBT travelers. The options are myriad, but we recommend Montréal, a North American Paris, where French is the official language, but English-speakers can be heard throughout the city. This summer, the best time to go is during Divers/Cité (Jul 27-Aug 3, diverscite.org), an internationally recognized LGBT arts festival full of free, outdoor events including concerts, film screenings and exhibits. Host hotels include the Gouverneur Hôtel (Place Dupuis, 888-910-1111, gouverneur.com), which offers a special Divers/Cité rate of $179 Canadian per night, and W Montréal (901 Victoria Sq, 514-395-3100, star woodhotels.com/whotels).
“We are celebrating sweet sixteen this summer, and we expect to be kissed many times over,” says Divers/Cité Director and co-founder Suzanne Girard. “We take pride in putting on a hell of an LGBT event like no other. We are known for the diversity of the people we attract, the vast brochette of people on site, side by side, celebrating diversity together.” This year’s performers include The Cliks, Susan Morabito, Deborah Cox and Brazil’s Ana Paula, among others.
Explore “Le Village,” the hub of gay life in Montréal. The area will be closed to cars from mid-June to mid-September for 13 city blocks in order to create a street-fair-style pedestrian mall. A diverse array of gay restaurants, shops and bars await you on Sainte-Catherine Street, Le Village’s main gay thoroughfare. For excellent Thai food at reasonable prices, try the lesbian-managed Bato-Thai (1310 Rue Sainte-Catherine East, 514-524-6705). After dinner, walk a few steps over to Le Drugstore, (1366 Rue Sainte-Catherine East, 514-524-1960), a six-floor mixed club where Montréal’s lesbians go to dance, mingle and play pool.
The Latin Quarter that runs along Saint Denis Street below Sherbrooke is home to Restaurant La Paryse (302 Rue Ontario East, 514-842-2040), a cozy, lesbian-owned hamburger place par excellence. Venture above Sherbrooke Street for Paris-style French bistros with full, French service; we recommend L’Express (3927 Rue Saint-Denis, 514-845-5333), which is known for its late hours, its wine cellar and its authentic French cuisine. Save room for Chef Joel Chapoulie’s famous île flottante dessert.
Meow Mix is an artsy queer night for bent girls and their buddies, and it coincides perfectly on Sunday, August 3 at Sala Rosa (4848 Blvd Saint-Laurent, 514-284-0122). Check mimproductions.org the week before your trip for details about the entertainment lineup. The Sala Rosa family also owns nearby Casa del Popolo (4873 Blvd Saint-Laurent, 514-284-3804), a vegetarian restaurant, and the Pensione Popolo hotel (from $30, 514-284-2863, casadelpopolo.com), which offers cozy, super-affordable accommodations.
For more sight-seeing and une petite peu de la nature, visit Canal du Lachine (pc.gc.ca/ lhn-nhs/qc/canallachine), which links the Atlantic Ocean to Canada’s core. The canal once served as a shipping corridor, but is now a recreation area with hiking and biking trails along the banks. Canal du Lachine was named for the nearby Lachine Rapids, where whitewater rafting and jet-boat excursions are available through Les Excursions Rapides de Lachine (raftingmontreal.com).
Speaking of Frances away from France, wanderlusts who want to try the tropics should consider the tiny island of St. Barthélemy, a.k.a. St. Barts/St. Barth, a precious Caribbean paradise nestled among the French West Indies. As in Montréal, the official language is French (with a kiss on both cheeks), but English is widely spoken as well. St. Barts’ quaint esthetic and laissez-faire vibe make it a favorite among gay travelers willing to pay top dollar for the perfect tropical vacation.
There is no commercial airport on St. Barts, so visitors will have to take a small propeller plane from neighboring St. Martin. Rent a car upon arrival for easy exploration of the island. The absence of traffic lights and wealth of breezy island roads make for delightful jaunts from village to village and beach to beach.
Speaking of beaches, women typically go topless on most of St. Barts’ shimmering, white-sand shorelines – there’s that fabulous French influence, rearing its sexy head. Grande Saline Beach is a secluded all-nude beach with remarkable water clarity, while Grand Cul-de-Sac’s reef-enclosed bay makes it the best choice for sailing, windsurfing and other water sports. Grande Saline and Gouverneur Beach are the gayest picks, but as with the rest of the island, it’s a mixed crowd.
While St. Barts is extremely gay-friendly, be forewarned that there is no overtly gay scene about town. While you may encounter gay groups cavorting or same-sex couples strolling hand-in-hand from time to time, there are no designated gay bars or clubs on the island. This is more of an anything-goes place to relax, swim, shop, and feast on French-inspired cuisine. Reserve in advance for the casual-chic Maya’s (Public Beach, 0-590-590-27-75-73), the favorite French-Creole fusion restaurant of St. Bart’s repeat visitors. For more affordable eats, try La Marine (0-590-590-27-68-91), a deck-top, harbor-front bistro that caters to a hip, late-night crowd.
Accommodations are pricey on St. Barts, but more moderate rates can be found at Salines Garden Cottages (from $136, 0-590-690-419-429, st-barths.com/salines-garden), a peaceful five-room inn, and Village St. Jean (Baie de St.-Jean, 0-590-590-27-61-39, villagestjeanhotel.com) a centrally located cottage colony with a view of the bay.
Or, you could spring for a private villa at the gay-owned and -operated Island Villas and Hotels (from $1,100/week, 888-839-0550, go2stbarts.com), an especially good choice for those traveling in a group of friends. The company specializes in gay travel and rents over 135 of the island’s finest villas, many of which have private pools with breathtaking ocean views.
Those who are looking for the ultimate, four-star hotel experience can opt for the St. Barth Isle de France (97098 Saint-Barthélemy, 800-810-4691, isle-de-france.com), a 33-room beachfront resort complete with tennis courts, two pools and a spa.