A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to explore one of the famous dune shacks of Cape Cod. A sandy path off of Route 6A—the main highway that leads to the tip of the Cape—led me to a series of sloping sandy mountains. After an hour of hiking the dunes, with no sign of the ocean or civilization on the horizon, I trekked up a final hill and was met by a humble wooden shack overlooking the ocean.
The collection of weathered houses along the Cape Cod National Seashore has been around for over 100 years. These dune shacks have no electricity or running water and those who inhabit them face absolute isolation. Currently, they are protected by the National Park Service (NPS) because of their historical significance as temporary homes for various famous artists. Norman Mailer, Jackson Pollock, Tennessee Williams and E. E. Cummings are just some of the names of those who found inspiration on the Provincetown coastline. Jack Kerouac even wrote part of his most famous work, On The Road, while staying in one of the homes.
If you’re ever on Cape Cod, try hiking the dunes—maybe you’ll stumble upon the refuge of a famous artist. However, you’ll only be able to look from a distance. The dune shacks are closed to visitors except for during the summer lottery, when the NPS partners with local nonprofits to provide seasonal residences for artists.