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Seven Decades In The Dunes

Art’s Dune Tours celebrates 70 years in 2016!

Art's Dune Tours

Photography by Josh Shortsleeve

Driving slowly through the dunes of Provincetown, Rob Costa serves a variety of roles for Art’s Dune Tours. First, he’s a driver and skilled at easing the large Chevy Suburban loaded with seven passengers along the twisting, turning, and soft-sanded roads running through the dunes. Second, he’s the owner of the company, continuing a legacy his father Art began back in 1946 of introducing visitors from far and wide to this scenic area on the Outer Cape.

Finally, Costa is the guide on this particular excursion, and after leading thousands of tours, he casually rattles off details, anecdotes, and one-liners while passing by different spots on the route. “We have the biggest dunes anywhere on the Cape,” he says while passing a 100-footer. “We were formed by ocean and wind coming up the dune, caused by the glacial sand spirit.” Passing some of the area’s famous dune shacks, he points out that “Annie Dillard wrote her last book there,” and that writers Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, and others had spent time at this shack or at that one. Pointing towards one oddly shaped structure, he asks his passengers what they think it might be. He offers some hints. “We call it the international house . . . When you go in there, you’re Russian. When you’re in there, you’re . . . European, and when you’re done, you’re Finnish.” Any questions?

This year, Art’s Dune Tours celebrates its 70th anniversary of bringing customers well off the beaten path to experience Provincetown’s beautiful dunes and beaches. “It’s truly an amazing area to see,” Costa says. “It can be spiritual, it can be inspiring, it can be historical, cultural, beautiful, so many things to so many people.” From mid-April to mid-November, the company offers several tours per day; some last an hour and include a drive through the dunes and along the Atlantic shore, while others are longer and come with dinner on the beach, a sandy sunset viewing, or a stop at Race Point Light.

Art’s Dune Tours hosted a group of Cape Cod LIFE staff members for a tour last September to experience some of the fun. Many photographs were taken throughout, and dinner consisted of a lobster bake and s’mores on the backshore near Race Point Beach.

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