Who hasn’t fantasized about living on a beautiful island? Escaping civilization to a sun-baked tropical retreat or retiring to a waterview luxury cottage amid rugged natural beauty?
Sadly, most of us can’t chuck it all to decamp to the island of our dreams. But you can visit, and if you’re off to the East Coast, don’t miss out on exploring Nantucket, located 30 miles by ferry from Cape Cod. Summer is high season, bringing a massive influx of wealthy seasonal residents, vacationers, and throngs of day-trippers. If you prefer to avoid crowds, spring and fall offer plenty to do and see.
Once on the island, you’ll find remnants of Nantucket’s storied past everywhere—from the native Wampanoag peoples, the island’s original inhabitants, to early European settlements and the island’s dominance in whaling during the mid-18thcentury. In the downtown district, chic boutiques and art galleries line cobblestone streets while upscale restaurants occupy historic structures. Nantucket has one of the largest concentrations of pre-Civil war era buildings and homes in the country (more than 800!) and the entire island has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Nantucket Whaling Museum
For a fascinating overview of the island’s past, visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum, containing a treasure trove of decorative arts and artifacts surrounding Nantucket history and the whaling trade. The museum houses a restored 1847 spermaceti candle factory with the only original whale-oil lever press still in place in the world. It also houses one of the world’s finest collections of scrimshaw art—images engraved on whale teeth, bone and walrus tusks. Visitors and locals alike participate in the full calendar of public programs and family activities.
Maria Mitchell Aquarium
If you’re into marine life, head to the Maria Mitchell Aquarium for a look at the amazing sea creatures found in the waters around the island. Situated on the shoreline of Nantucket Harbor, the aquarium hosts an array of interactive programs, from feeding the animals and birding walks to a science speaker series featuring leading experts in their fields. Named for the famed local naturalist who discovered a comet in 1847, the Maria Mitchell Association also operates a natural science museum, two observatories and Mitchell’s historic birthplace.
The Beautiful Beaches Of Nantucket
Nantucket is a sun and surf lover’s paradise with 82 miles of breathtaking coastline and acres of unspoiled beaches. Families with young children often favor the beaches of the north shore like Brant Point, Children’s Beach and Jetties Beach for the calmer waters and kid-friendly amenities. Popular Atlantic facing south shore beaches include Surfside and Cisco, the latter popular with the surfing crowd. Even at the height of summer, beach fanatics can find secluded swaths of sand on the beaches off Siasconset, Tom Nevers and in Madaket, a popular spot to take in the island’s spectacular sunsets.
Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Nature enthusiasts will want to explore the island’s Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, a pair of peninsulas with diverse habitats sheltering a wide array of coastal animal and plant life. Accessible by boat and oversand vehicle, activities in and around the refuge include saltwater fishing, 16 miles of trails, and seasonal tours to Great Point Lighthouse.
A Town Of Arts & Culture
With its perfect blend of picturesque settings and plenty of space for solitude, Nantucket just breeds creativity. Many award-winning writers and artists live on the island and the arts play an integral role in island life. Beyond world-class art galleries, Nantucket hosts a plethora of can’t-miss annual cultural events, including the Daffodil Festival (April 22-24, 2022), Nantucket Food & Wine Festival (May 18-22, 2022), Nantucket Book Festival (June 16-19, 2022), Nantucket Film Festival (June 22-26, 2022), Nantucket Comedy Festival (July 14-16, 2022), Boston Pops on Nantucket (August 13, 2022), The Nantucket Project’s captivating fall gathering of notable personalities and performers (Dates TBA), and festive Christmas Stroll Weekend.
MORE TO SEE & DO
EAT & DRINK
Sconset Market (try the blueberry muffin and brownie!)
High-speed ferry from Hyannis, MA on Hy-Line Cruises
High-speed ferry and traditional car ferry from Hyannis, MA on The Steamship Authority
Ferry from Harwich Port, MA on Freedom Cruise Line
High-speed ferry from New York City and New Bedford, MA on Seastreak
Airlines servicing Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK) include Cape Air/Nantucket Air, Jet Blue, Delta, United and American.
By Train or Bus to Hyannis Transportation Center
Seasonal train service from Boston on the CapeFLYER.