No matter how spectacular the scenery or splendid the weather, certain towns have so many intriguing shops that you'll be lured away from the beach, at least temporarily. The inventory is so carefully culled or created that just browsing can be sufficient entertainment, but slip a credit card into your capris just in case.
- Chatham: Old-fashioned, tree-shaded Main Street is packed with inviting storefronts, including the Chatham Glass Company (tel. 508/945-5547), where you can literally look over their shoulders as artisans blow and shape glass treasures.
- Wellfleet: The commercial district is 2 blocks long; the art zone is twice that. Pick up a walking map to locate the galleries in town: Left Bank Gallery (tel. 508/349-9451) tops the must-see list. Seekers of low-key chic will want to check out two designers, Hannah (tel. 508/349-9884) and Karol Richardson (tel. 508/349-6378). For local produce and fresh-from-the-water seafood, peruse the Hatch's Fish & Produce Market (tel. 508/349-2810 for fish, or 508/349-6734 for produce) behind Town Hall.
- Provincetown: Overlooking the import junk that floods the center of town, the 3-mile strip of Commercial Street is a shopaholic's dream. It's all here, seemingly direct from SoHo: sensual, cutting-edge clothing (for every sex and permutation thereof), art, jewelry, antiques, and more. And whatever you really need but didn't know you needed can be found at Marine Specialties (tel. 508/487-1730), a warehouse packed with surplus essentials.
- Nantucket: Imagine Martha Stewart cloned a hundredfold, and you'll have some idea of the tenor of shops in this well-preserved 19th-century town. Centre Street -- known as "Petticoat Row" in whaling days -- still caters to feminine tastes, and the town's many esteemed antiques stores would never deign to present anything less than the genuine article.
- Oak Bluffs: Circuit Avenue, chockablock with such fun stores as Third World Trading Co. (tel. 508/693-5550), has long been a destination for those looking for unique gifts. A short walk away on Dukes County Avenue, a new "gallery district" inhabits a cluster of six little shops awaiting exploration. From the Alison Shaw Gallery, with walls lined by the well-known photographer's vivid works, to Pik Nik, a store full of all manner of art, clothing, and unusual gifts, there is definitely a lot here for the discriminating browser.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.