A low-key, low-impact getaway to an Atlantic island paradise, Nantucket’s mythical beauty has inspired generations of artists, writers, beachcombers and stargazers.
With 82 miles of unspoiled coastline, the island paradise provides breathtaking views and seashell-strewn shores.
Visitors return year after year, beckoned by its nautical charm and understated elegance.
But dramatic landscapes and pristine beaches aren’t the only story. With no chain stores, fast food or traffic lights, an Americana spirit infuses the quaint downtown. The independently owned shops, eateries and boutiques are reminiscent of when life was just a tad simpler.
For visitors seeking low- impact travel, 32 miles of bike paths, the efficient islandwide WAVE shuttle and a compact, pedestrian-friendly village make it a fine car-optional vacation.
Nantucket is located 30 miles off the shore of Cape Cod, and getting there is part of the fun.
Catch the year-round ferry from Hyannis, with more than a dozen daily departures in high season, and you’ll be treated to striking seascapes along your breezy journey. The ferry docks at the picture-perfect harbor brimming with seaworthy vessels, and you’re just a short stroll from the island’s premier hotels, beaches and attractions.
The variety and quality of beaches on this 14-mile- long island are dazzling. Nearly all of its beaches, including private ones, are publicly accessible via designated entryways. If you’re looking for calm seas, stick to the island’s north side, where public beaches such as Jetties and Dionis Beach present tranquil waters.
The public beaches on the island’s southern fringe can have rough surf with powerful riptides. Kite fliers favor the stretch of sand on the western edge of south-facing Surfside Beach, so you’ll be sharing the beach with whimsical flying objects and frolicking families.
If you’re seeking aquatic adventures, surfers ride the break at south shore’s Cisco Beach, where surfboards and stand-up paddleboards can be rented. Novices can take a lesson from the experienced instructors at Nantucket Island Surf School.
If you’re partial to hops and barley beverages, Nantucket has its very own craft brewery, Cisco. Give one of their specialty Island Reserve beers a try or sip the English-style Whale’s Tale Pale Ale, a balanced thirst quencher.
If you require something more fortifying, clink glasses with a local crowd at the Rose & Crown.
Beyond The Beach
If the fickle New England weather doesn’t cooperate, you can still find engaging indoor diversions that highlight Nantucket’s rich maritime history. The Whaling Museum is not just for fans of Melville’s Moby-Dick.
If you’re curious about the folklore, traditions and history of Nantucket, you’ll find artifacts and exhibits that paint a vivid picture of the island during its heyday as a whaling capital.
Elegant hand-woven rattan and wood baskets — Nantucket Lightship Baskets — are a unique island-made craft and stylistically in tune with the island’s Quaker simplicity. You can find these tempting beauties for sale at a number of shops in town (though with astronomical price tags).
The best way to gain some insight into their heritage is by viewing the collection at the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum. Open seasonally.
Epicureans will find a range of global cuisines, but expect fresh seafood to dominate. Locals flock to casual Sayle’s Seafood to feast on the ocean-to-plate offerings. Order takeout and dine alfresco on their rustic patio.
Treat your taste buds to a confection at Petticoat Row Bakery, which serves nostalgic baked goods with a homespun edge, such as lemon squares and oatmeal raisin cookies. Morning buns — buttery croissant dough rolled in brown sugar — are a house specialty.
At Ventuno, house-made pasta, hearty meats and fresh fish are served in a romantic setting. The radiatori di farro is a lush tangle of woodsy wild mushrooms sauteed with pasta so light it could levitate off the plate. Open seasonally.
The 60-room Nantucket Hotel blends old-school charm with sophisticated comfort. Complimentary lemonade and cookies are an afternoon delight.
If you’re looking for lodging that blends Nantucket’s past and present with panache, consider the Jared Coffin House, located in an 1845 mansion downtown. The 30 rooms in the main building are available seasonally, while 13 rooms in the adjacent Daniel Webster building provide guests with an intimate experience year-round.
A Cycling Utopia
Family-owned Young’s Bicycle Shop has been renting two-wheelers since 1931. Owner Harvey Young will happily map out a ride to suit anyone but recommends the 20-mile round-trip ride to the adorable yesteryear village of Siasconset, locally known as ‘Sconset.