Provincetown Life Information

Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown - Straight, Gay and Lesbian

Published: Sun April 09, 2006
By: Straight Dope in Life > Beach & Ocean
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For years the Provincetown (Ptown) nude beach scene has been at odds with the federal government’s National Park Service (NPS).  In 1996 and 1997 the situation degraded to the point where open animosity existed between the NPS and the local community - official, straight and gay.  A Provincetown Town Meeting voted that a remote part of Herring Cove Beach should be considered a clothing optional area.  Although Herring Cove Beach is part of Ptown historically, unfortunately, it and most of that part of Cape Cod are now controlled by the NPS.  In a rare and uncharacteristic attempt to defuse an increasingly volatile situation, the NPS quietly began to selectively ignore the nude beach section of Herring Cove Beach.

That does not mean that it is legal to be caught there bare assed.  Park rangers, acting as federal government police, usually patrol the nude part of Herring Cove Beach at night and in the early morning.  During the day they generally ignore the nude beach, except for possible remote surveillance looking for sexual activity.  Occasionally federal police will venture into the nude area during the day.  Word quickly spreads down the beach and most people cover up.  If federal police catch a sun worshiper uncovered, they usually give a warning and the nudist puts something on.  If they refuse to cover, they are arrested.

Sometimes there is sexual activity during the day in the dunes behind the beach or at night near the bathhouse in the straight part of the beach.  Some locals claim that the federal police remotely monitor these areas using high power binoculars and night surveillance scopes.  If they detect sexual activity, they arrest.

Some women go topless in the lesbian section just southeast (left) of the beach’s parking lot.  Full nudity is usually only found about 3/4 mile further down the beach at the end of the gay men section.  See the map below.  Although illegal, a tenuous truce with the National Park Service (NPS) generally ignores nudity there during the day.

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See the 360 degree photo of Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown here. Enlarge then scroll horizontally to see the full image.

By Bike

The Moors - Herring Cove Beach Access Trail connects from Rt 6A, Province Land Road, to the gay male part of Herring Cove Beach.  Continue southeast down the beach to the nude area.

There is no sign for the Trail on Rt 6A.  See the map above for the Trail’s location.  Look for parked bikes. There is no automobile parking nearby but bikes can be locked to the fence along the road by the Trail entrance.  The Trail is slightly shorter than walking down the beach from the NPS, Herring Cove Beach parking lot and is more interesting.

There are no markers along the Trail but by noon on nice days there are many hikers to follow.  Despite appearances, it is hard to get lost.  Bear to the left as you approach the beach dune ridge.

The path is mostly clean sand with occasional gravel, pebbles or grass.  Most people walk barefooted.  Some use rubber booties designed for the purpose.  Others use whatever footwear they don’t mind getting wet.  At low tide the Trail is above water but the sand is usually moist and will not burn your feet.  The dry sand on the beach and the dunes can be very hot.  At high tide the Trail is mostly under 6 to 12 inches of water and there is a waist deep, 100 foot wide section as you approach the beach dune ridge.  Walking through water is strenuous.

Once you get to the dune ridge by the beach, you can either go over the dune and walk down the beach or continue down the marsh side of the dune ridge.

The trek will take about 20 - 35 minutes depending on how far down the beach you go and your speed which is affected by the tide.

By Car

You can park your vehicle in the NPS Herring Cove Beach parking lot and walk down to the nude beach.  The summer 2001 parking fee is $7 per day.  On nice weekends and holidays the lot fills up quickly.  When you enter the lot park as far to the left as possible and walk down the beach to the southeast for about a mile.

There are virtually no amenities on this part of the beach.  Be sure to bring drinking water.  When walking around naked, it is advisable to keep swim trunks with you in case the federal police come through.  Consider keeping your folded Speedo hidden under your hat. 

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On Fri July 20, 2007, rcom wrote:

The comment on times of day for NPS beach patrols should not be implied to be by the clock, but rather by the tide.  The beach is rarely, if ever, patrolled at or near high tide times, owing to the narrow strip of beach on the bay side and the flooded moors on the east side of the dune.
Also, the implication that the NPS patrols are out there looking for illicit sexual activity is just not true.
A point of interest regarding fines for public nudity:  In June 2006 a male was fined $150 for the first charge of public nudity at HCB.  In July 2007 a female was fined $50 for the same charge, full nudity.

On Fri July 27, 2007, spikeit2 wrote:

I have been going here for years and the NPS was pretty tolerant of nudity on the beach (accessing from the bike path and going left down the beach) the last several years.  However, this year I went down during the end of bear week and many on beach said that NPS was patroling the beach and giving out fines.  I heard the fines were $300.  After spending four days on the beach I never actually saw the NPS patroling but word would spread up and down the beach that they had been spotted.  I am not sure if the $300 fines are true but that was the word on the beach.

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