Find peace and solitude in the historic Dune Shacks of Cape Cod

When visiting Cape Cod, the Dune Shacks of Hill Bars Historic District offers a unique visual experience steeped in rich artistic history. Located near our Provincetown lodging along the crisp shoreline of the Atlantic, these shacks have served as homes to American artists and writers since the 1920s. Over the years, the Dune Shacks of Cape Cod have been beloved by treasured American authors and artists such as Jackson Pollock, E.E. Cummings, and Henry David Thoreau. Because of this, they are known by many as “Artists Shacks,” having inspired no small amount of now cherished works.

Visiting Cape Cod - dogs exploring the historic dune shacks

While hiking the many scenic trails winding through Cape Cod, you will find what appears to be endless dunes of sand within 2,000 acres of protected land. Nestled in these vast dunes are the 19 Dune Shacks. Owned by the National Park Services, these shacks continue to house and inspire artists through the various residency opportunities available to the public. Though several shacks are reserved for contemporary and aspiring artists and writers, some are available to the general public. Community Residencies are selected via a lottery system for 3-week stays, and applications for the lottery can typically be submitted in December and early January each year. If you plan to visit the dune shacks, you can book a trip with Art’s Dune Tours. Make sure you are a party of at least four because trips are only when 4-8 passengers are on a truck. Having at least four adults pay for the trip is also mandatory. You don’t need to pay any deposit, but if you haven’t bought your tickets 30 minutes before departure, tickets will be sold to those on standby. In the peak season, purchasing tickets 45 minutes in advance and making reservations at least a day before the trip is recommended. If you don’t want to book a tour, leave your car at the parking lot on Route 6 across from Snail Road and hike the path through the dunes – but be mindful of people’s privacy.

Historic Dune Shacks – Primitive in the best possible way…

Although these shacks may not be the originals, the current structures were built in the late 1940s to early 1950s, emulating their predecessors’ same rustic, simple energy. The original Dune Shacks were built to house and care for victims of shipwrecks, but it didn’t take long for artists to find the dunes, attracted to their solitary calm. These artists built many current structures using driftwood and other naturally found materials. There was a time when these Dune Shacks were nearly removed from the landscape. However, the artists who found their inspiration in the gentle quiet of these sand-swept homes strove to protect them so that others may experience that same magic. They are now protected and regularly maintained for historical posterity and visitor enjoyment.

Visiting Cape Cod - A dune shack during sunset

Dune Photography by Elizabeth Brooke

You won’t find electricity or other modern conveniences in your time within the shacks. Instead, you will find a world plucked out of the pages of history. Henry David Thoreau once said, “A man may stand there and put all America behind him.” A stay in these “Artists Shacks” provides a chance to find a sense of tranquility often lost in the day-to-day bustle of modern society. If you plan on visiting Cape Cod for a distinctly unique experience, a few weeks in the Dune Shacks Hills Bars History District is exactly what you’re looking for.

For those looking for the comfort of modern convenience before or after time in the Dune Shacks, book your stay at the friendliest year-round hotel in Provincetown.