Nantucket, a true gem nestled off the coast of Massachusetts, is the perfect setting for a summer getaway. Once known as the whaling capital of the world, Nantucket is now an elite vacation destination full of beautiful homes, lighthouses, and delicious seafood. It’s located next to Martha’s Vineyard right off of the Cape Cod coast, making it feasible to visit for a day trip or stay for the summer. This travel guide is filled with the best beaches, restaurants, and things to do for a perfect Nantucket vacation. Whether you’re staying for a weekend or a week, the quaint cobblestone streets and picturesque beaches will leave you wanting more!
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There are several ways to get to Nantucket, the first being from a ferry boat. From Hyannis, Massachusetts, either a traditional ferry which is 2 hours and 15 minutes, or a high speed ferry which is only 1 hour can be taken to the island. The traditional ferry is cheaper, at a rate of $41 round trip per person, with the option to pay more to bring your car or a bicycle on board. The high speed ferry needs to be booked in advance, and is $89 round trip per person. It is possible to visit Nantucket for just the day, in which case booking a high speed ferry is the best option to allow yourself adequate time to enjoy the island, with the earliest ferry leaving at 6:10am, and the latest at 9:20pm. Another option is to take a ferry from NYC or Highlands, NJ to Nantucket, which unfortunately is not operating in the 2023 season. Lastly, a flight can be booked directly to the Nantucket airport, through Cape Air, Southern Airway Express, Jet Blue, Delta Airlines, Tradewind Aviation, United Airlines, or American Airlines. Flights to Nantucket depart from JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Boston, and DC airports, all for relatively low costs!
If you’re planning to stay in Nantucket, The White Elephant Hotel is a timeless waterfront luxury resort with a pool and several dining options. It’s location is just seconds outside of the main historic downtown, making for a perfect location. If you’re looking for a “cheaper” hotel in Nantucket, the Cliff Lodge is a quaint bed in breakfast hotel located right in Nantucket Town close to Brant Point and the ferry terminal. Nantucket is expensive during the summer season, so more affordable options for enjoying the island include staying at a hotel in Cape Cod and taking the ferry for the day, or visiting Nantucket in the fall or the spring!
Once you arrive on Nantucket, one of the best things to do is wander around the heart of Nantucket Town in the Nantucket downtown historic district. Stroll around the cobblestone streets and admire the stunning homes and rose gardens, art galleries, boutique shops, and delicious restaurants. You will find high end shops like Vineyard Vines to unique, boutique clothing and jewelry stores, as well as a plethora of gift shops with so many cute souvenirs and gifts. One of my favorite things to do is to wander around the outskirts of Main Street to admire the beautiful houses and gardens full of roses and hydrangeas. Each home has a name plank, and it is so fun to read all of the creative names!
A quintessential experience on Nantucket is the Sconset Bluff Walk located in Siasconset, which is a walking path along the east shore bluffs behind private homes. This path not only provides stunning ocean views, but also a close look at the beautiful homes, many of which are covered in roses. Moving past the Bluff Walk is the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, a picture perfect active lighthouse most famous for its move in 2007 in which it was moved 405 feet from the original site due to its close proximity to the bluffs, which have been losing several feet per year due to erosion.
The best way to get to Sconset is either by bus (The Wave) or biking. Uber can also be used if you don’t have a car on the island, however, the costs can be very high making the alternatives more feasible. The bus can be picked up in town and taken to Sconset for $3 per person, however, be aware that only exact cash in singles is accepted, otherwise you will receive credit for the bus if a larger bill is used, with no option for credit cards. Biking is also another option, with Easy Riders Bicycles being a great option for either regular cruisers or E-bikes! Biking around Nantucket is a great way to capture all of the beauty the island has to offer, and the island is fairly flat making it enjoyable for all skill levels.
The beaches are an obvious experience that must not be missed! Nantucket’s beaches are some of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast. Some of my favorites include Surfside Beach and Jetties Beach, both of which are lifeguarded and have food and restrooms on site. I also recommend visiting the Brandt Point Lighthouse at Brant Point Beach, which is about a 5 minute walk from town. This is the iconic lighthouse seen when first arriving to Nantucket by ferry. While you’ll find people sunbathing, it is a bit rocky. It’s a perfect spot to see the lighthouse and enjoy the sunset, admire boats arriving to the island, great for photos, and a popular place for fishing.
If you’re arriving in the morning, be sure to stop at Lemon Press for coffee, which is an adorably designed coffee shop in town with incredible lattes as well as pastries and lunch. A great option for a casual bite to eat and drink is Nantucket Tavern and Gazebo, which is a popular place especially at night to socialize amongst the outdoor bar. Their lobster rolls are to die for! For ice cream, The Juice Bar reigns supreme as one of Nantucket’s most popular places to get homemade ice cream, however, be aware that the line starts early around 5:00pm and tends to wrap around the buildings, however, it is certainly worth the wait!
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, visit Galley Beach, a beach club and restaurant that can be reserved for brunch, lunch, dinner, or cocktails. It’s located close to Jetties beach and is about a 15-20 minute walk from town. Galley Beach is an upscale restaurant on the northwest shore with stunning ocean views and a perfect place to enjoy the sunset. As like everything else on Nantucket, the food and drinks are not cheap, but the views are truly priceless. I highly recommend stopping by for one of Galley Beach’s perfectly crafted cocktails in the evening for spectacular sunset views! Galley Beach is one of a kind on Nantucket and perfect for epicureans and cocktail lovers alike.
Nantucket is a timeless destination where time seems to stand still. Whether you’re seeking a family vacation, a peaceful romantic getaway, or a group of friends looking to make fun memories, it is a perfect place to explore. Though the island may be small, it holds endless adventures and beauty around every corner no matter the time of year.
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