A vacation to Nantucket island? Some of the main attractions there are the spectacular beaches.
Here is a brief overview of some of the best beaches on the island. Read on for the essential safety rules and information you need to know before visiting.
Please, remember to follow the local regulations. Also, please respect the private properties and the environment in the area.
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, is 14 miles long, 3 to 5 miles wide, and about 30 miles from the Cape Cod coast. The popular vacation spot has many fantastic beaches, some suitable for families, people with mobility issues, and senior citizens. Other beaches are preferred by surfers, youths, and adventure seekers.
The easiest one to access if you are going on a holiday with your family is Sconset Beach. The southern beaches, such as Surfside Beach, Madequecham, Cisco, or Nobadeer, are better if you don’t mind colder water and heavier surf.
For those open to adventures, we recommend the Coatue and Great Point.
Some beaches allow leashed dogs, and all allow service animals. During the high season (from April 1st to August 31st), you can enjoy beach time on any designated lifeguard beach with your pup before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
There is a charge for accessing the county beaches and no charge for the private ones. The parking charges will vary per beach.
Of all the 82 miles of beaches in Nantucket, less than three miles are public property, meaning that the rest of the beaches are private or owned by conservation organizations.
The beaches are open from sunrise to half an hour after sunset. Alcohol, smoking, and glass are not allowed on public beaches.
The Nantucket lifeguard season begins on June 15th and goes till September 1st. Most of the best beaches for swimming have full-time lifeguards, while others are supervised only on weekends or holidays.
All Nantucket Beaches – whether public or private – have signs posted. There are also flags that show the swimming and surfing conditions.
Here is a list of the main Nantucket beaches, which will hopefully help you plan your vacation. All are family-friendly, but remember that all beaches have dangers. We have included information about the most important rules and regulations for beachgoers. These include the safety conditions for surfing or swimming, driving restrictions, and more.
North Shore Nantucket Beaches
To the north, the island of Nantucket borders the Nantucket Sound. This is a triangular-shaped area, part of the Atlantic. It is between Nantucket on the South, Martha’s Vineyard on the West, and Cape Cod on the North.
Since the Nantucket Sound is semi-enclosed, the surf there is gentler and calmer. The ocean water is warmer too. This makes most of the island’s northern beaches suitable for family vacationers and children. The beaches in the north are perfect for calm swimming, floating, and playing.
Most northern beaches of the island are easy to access from town. They offer stunning views of the harbor, the Nantucket Sound, and in some cases, to Great Point.
Dionis Beach is set at the end of Dionis Beach Road on the western part of the island’s north shore. You can easily reach it from the north side of Eel Point Road and will recognize it by the Dionis boulder. It is a three-mile ride with a bicycle from town. It is a county beach with available parking, restrooms, and with lifeguards in season. You can get there via the bike path. There is a 300-foot sand path with ropes and posts, which is suitable for the visually impaired.
Washing Pond Beach
Washing Pond Beach is also known as Water Tower Beach. It is another excellent choice if you are on holiday with your kids or if you prefer calmer and warmer water. There is parking available for up to 25 vehicles. The beach itself can be reached via a steep dune path. You can also pedal to the beach by bicycle. There are no lifeguards and no facilities there. The seashore ends at a retaining wall and has great tide pools and small or no waves.
As its name suggests, you must go down many steep steps to enjoy spending time on Steps Beach. You can reach this beach via Cliff Road by bicycle or car. But keep in mind that there is very little parking available.
There are no facilities or lifeguards on this beach. But the water is calm and warm, and the shore offers beautiful views of Great Point and the Nantucket Sound.
This northern beach is set between the Dionis and the Jetties beaches and is a perfect spot to visit at night in August and September. Then you can experience the stunning view of bioluminescent ocean creatures swimming by the shore.
Jetties beach is among the best choices for families, seniors, and kids.
It has convenient restrooms, changing rooms, and in-season lifeguards. There are plenty of off-beach parking spots.
The Jetties beach is easy to access by bike or shuttle bus.
There is a playground for the kids, as well as a takeout food service and a restaurant, meaning you can spend all day on the beach without worrying about lunch and snacks.
The water has little or no waves and is warm and pleasant for games, swimming, and floating.
Francis Street Beach
This is one of the smaller northern beaches located near Main Street. In fact, you can reach Francis Street Beach on foot in only three minutes.
The beach has no lifeguards but offers fun facilities for kids, including a Jungle gym and a kayak rental.
There is a restroom for your convenience. Omit, the beach is an excellent place to spend some time admiring the calm ocean and the amazing view of the harbor.
This is another family-friendly beach on the northern shore of Nantucket. The water is warm, and there are very few waves. The 40th Pole beach is often called “the bathtub” due to the high water temperatures and the lack of waves from July to September. This, though, means you can expect to share the beach with many other beachgoers during the peak season.
There is off-beach parking available. If you are an adventure seeker, you can enjoy beach driving at certain hours. You will need a 4WD vehicle and a permit to do so. There is no lifeguard on duty at the beach.
Brant Point Beach
Brant Point Beach is an exception from the other northern Nantucket beaches. Unlike the others, the ocean there has a much stronger current. There is also high harbor traffic. However, Brant Point Beach is one of the best spots to choose if you are looking for a scenic beach to take some holiday or even wedding photos. There is a view of the second oldest US lighthouse – the Brant Point Lighthouse. You can also enjoy watching the steamships and boats.
While swimming is allowed on the beach, it has no on-duty lifeguards. In fact, it is more suitable for admiring the view of the boats in the harbor. You can reach the beach by bike and by walking from town.
You can probably guess from its name that Children’s Beach is among the best beaches to pick if you have young kids. The beach is also known as Harbor Beach. You can get there via car, bicycle, and walking via Beach Street off Harbor View Way. It is also accessible with the NRTA on the Jetties Route.
The beach has a playground, a park, a bandstand, picnic tables, showers, and restrooms. There is available parking by the beach, but beach driving is prohibited.
The Park and Recreation Commission organize many fun activities during the season.
South Shore Nantucket Beaches
The island of Nantucket borders the Atlantic on the south. This is why the water on that side of the island has bigger waves, heavier surf, and is colder than that of the northern beaches.
The southern Nantucket beaches have stronger currents, rip tides, and shifting sands. This makes them more suitable for surfers and more advanced swimmers and adventurers.
Even though it has surf that can be heavy at times, Surfside Beach is among the most popular beaches for families and other island visitors. It can be reached via car, a shuttle, a three-mile bike ride on the dedicated bike path, or a walk on Surfside Road.
This wide beach has a lot of surf and is perfect for playing beach volleyball or other beach games or for a nice picnic by the shore. It is also great for surfcasting and for flying kites. Please do not fly kites toward the airport or during the peak hours of the season.
During the season, there are lifeguards on the beach. There is also parking available next to it for easier access.
There are restrooms, showers, and a diaper-changing station. Foodservice is on-premises, so you can spend all day on the beach without worrying about packing snacks or lunch.
If you are looking for a wilder beach, we recommend you visit Stone’s Beach. This south shore beach has pine trees, grass, dunes, and surf. There is no lifeguard service or bathrooms. Since the available parking by the beach is limited, walking or cycling to the beach is better than driving. Keep in mind that some steep steps must be ascended to reach the beach.
Once you get down there, you will love the small lookout and the benches at the entrance. There is also a small but charming free library on the beach, where you can check out a book and enjoy it while spending time on Stone’s Beach.
This south shore beach is set at the end of the Miacomet Pond and Miacomet Road. Visitors can use a convenient ramp during the summer season to walk from their cars to the beach. The parking space, though, is limited. There are no lifeguards or facilities, but there are porta-potties during the peak season.
This is a beach located by the Miacomet freshwater pond. While there are no facilities and no lifeguards, the beach is an excellent choice for families with young kids. It has beautiful natural surroundings and offers brilliant views. You can even encounter snapping turtles when visiting this south shore Nantucket beach.
Cisco Beach is among the favorite spots for surfers or youngsters in Nantucket. It has soft sand and heavy surf, rip tides, and an undertow, making it unsuitable for parents with young children. There is a lifeguard during the season, but no facilities on the beach. At the same time, it is an excellent spot for surfing.
You can reach Cisco beach by car or via Hummock Pond Road with a bike. It is four miles away from the town.
This south shore beach is set between Nobadeer and Surfside and is quieter than its surrounding beaches. This seashore is a preferred destination because of its superb surf, dunes, and dune grass. There is little parking available, but beach driving is allowed in hours other than 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.
You can access this beach by walking or biking, but there are steep steps that you will need to use to get down to the shore. There is a small free library on the beach, but no restrooms or food services are available. There are no lifeguards, and there is a risk of an undertow, so be careful!
Madaket Beach is located at the far west end of Nantucket Island. It is an amazing spot to pick for romantic dates and photos or if you want to enjoy a breathtaking sunset.
Since the surf can be quite heavy, check the weather conditions and the flag signals on the beach. There are lifeguards who cover parts of the Madaket beach.
There is no food service on the beach, so take some food with you when planning on spending the day at Madaket Beach. There are no restrooms either. But the sand is nice and soft, and the view is one-of-a-kind.
You can reach this stunning beach via the NRTA shuttle or a 5.5-mile bike ride via the paved bike path.
Low Beach is 7 miles from the town of Nantucket and is situated between Tom Nevers Pond and the village of Sconset. There is plenty of room on this long and wide beach, so it is perfect for people who want to avoid crowds and like some privacy. There are no lifeguards or food services, so pack some food and drinks before taking off to this beach.
It has heavy surf with strong currents but offers a stunning view of the Atlantic. Plus, unless posted otherwise, beach driving is allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Western Avenue Beach
Owned and maintained by the Nantucket Land Bank, the Western Avenue beach is absolutely gorgeous. Keep in mind that only three parking spaces are available by the beach. Also, there is a long set of gradual stairs and a lengthy sandy path you must pass through to get to the beach. Still, it is within walking distance of Surfside Beach.
At the beach entrance, there are some benches where you can sit to rest and enjoy the incredible view. There are no lifeguards on duty.
Nobadeer Beach is a wide beach near the Nantucket Memorial Airport and is particularly popular among younger people. Very little parking is available, and you will need to walk down some steep steps to reach this beach.
But once you are there, you will be impressed by the wide beach with soft sand and a lot of surf. It is an excellent location if you like to play beach sports and games or enjoy surfcasting or surfing. It is also perfect for beach picnics, and there is even an occasional food truck where you can buy snacks and drinks. It has a lifeguard, and beach driving is allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
This beach is located on the other side of the local airport and is beautiful but hard to access. It can be reached via a narrow vehicle on the long, sandy road. If you are going there by car, be prepared to deal with the “Nantucket Pinstripes” – the light scratches of the paint from the bushes along the narrow road.
Tom Nevers Beach
Also known as Pebble Beach, Tom Nevers Beach is among the top picks for surfcasting and is not so suitable for families. The sand is coarser than some of the other beaches on the island, and there is often fog and heavier surf there. This makes it less crowded than some of the more popular beaches in Nantucket. The access is not as easy, and the parking is limited.
East Shore Nantucket Beaches
These beaches include the outer beaches and the inner harbor ones on the eastern shore of Nantucket Island.
The eastern shore beaches are the best choice for more adventurous visitors of Nantucket. They can be harder to access, as some of the roads to the outer beaches require a four-wheel-drive vehicle and special beach permits to get there.
This beach is in the middle of the way from the harbor to the Head of the Harbor. It is an excellent choice for people who enjoy windsurfing and kayaking. Due to its location inside the harbor, the water there is warmer than on the outer beaches. Still, keep in mind that there are no lifeguards and facilities, and the parking is limited.
Codfish Park is a beach on one of the easternmost points of the island of Nantucket. It is accessible via the Sconset shuttle or car and has a playground and restrooms.
This beach maintained by the Land Bank is close to Sconset and the playground in the area. Even though there are no lifeguards, this is an excellent option for families with small children.
Coskata – Coatue
If you are looking for the most amazing views and want to enjoy admiring the natural habitat of Nantucket Island, Coatue Beach is one of the top locations to visit.
It is a part of The Haulover wildlife refuge system. The area is owned by the Conservation Foundation, the Trustees of Reservations, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Coatue is stunning. But please note that the access is limited only to four-wheel-drive vehicles with special over-sand permits. Plus, parts of the reservation are closed for vehicles during the nesting season of shorebirds from May to August.
There are no lifeguards on this beach, and no dogs are allowed from April to September 15th.
Sconset is short for Siasconset and is an old fishing village in eastern Nantucket. The ocean beach can be reached by walking or bike from the village or via the available shuttle. Sconset Beach is suitable for senior visitors and people with mobility issues, thanks to the lack of steps and steep inclines.
It is a wide beach with soft sand, a lot of space, and very often – heavy surf.
Restaurants, restrooms, and other facilities and services are located in the village of Sconset, which is within walking distance from the beach.
Quidnet Beach and Sesachacha Pond
The Sesachacha Pond is a saltwater pond that is an excellent spot for families and for beachgoers who like calm and clear waters with no waves and no seaweed.
There are no lifeguards or facilities on the beach. It is perfect for kayaking and sailing, but you must bring your own equipment.
Quidnet Beach is within walking distance from the pond and has soft, fine sand and nice shelling. The parking space is limited, and there are no restaurants or facilities.
Nantucket Beach and Ocean Conditions
The beaches conditions on Nantucket island are closely monitored by the local authorities and are indicated via flags.
For your safety, you must know what each flag color means before visiting the beaches of Nantucket.
Green Flag Conditions and Meaning
- Enjoy yourself and stay safe!
- The water is calm
- Make sure to use caution when entering the water
Yellow Flag Conditions and Meaning
- Use caution at all times
- The surf conditions are up to 3 feet
- The surf and wind conditions can change quickly and with little or no warning signs
- There is a risk of currents under the surface of the ocean
Red Flag Conditions and Meaning
- The beach is closed for the safety of beachgoers
- The ocean offers dangerous and rough conditions
- The surf and weather conditions can change abruptly
- The surf conditions are 3 feet or larger
- There are strong currents in the ocean
- Whitecaps can form due to high winds
Double Red Flag Conditions and Meaning
- The beach is closed for everyone’s safety
- NO swimming is allowed
Purple Flag Conditions and Meaning
- There is a risk of potentially dangerous marine life
- There may be sharks on or near the shoreline
- There may be Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish near the shoreline
- There can be dangerous fish near the shoreline
Nantucket Beach Safety Guidelines
Here are some other guidelines to keep in mind when visiting the beaches of Nantucket.
Dangerous Surf Conditions
These are the currents that are the most common causes of surf accidents. Rip currents are powerful flows of water that are rushed back into the sea. They can pull even good swimmers and strong people into the ocean’s deep waters. Stronger rip currents occur when there are larger waves. These currents can be located on one spot or on larger areas along the shoreline. You can spot a large rip current by the sandy water in the area.
Lateral (Longshore) Currents
These dangerous currents flow parallel to the beach and vary in speed and strength. They are easier to override by average and strong swimmers, but can cause problems for weaker swimmers.
This phenomenon usually happens when the tide is high and the backwash is far away from the water’s edge. Undertows are especially dangerous for young children near the edge of the water. In some cases, the backwash can easily knock down adults too.
This occurs during high tide with heavy surf conditions. It happens when the larger waves break on the beach shore with very little or no water underneath. The shore break is dangerous for people swimming in the ocean that gets caught in the waves, as they can get slammed on the beach. Such a fall can cause severe injuries to the neck, back, shoulders, and other body parts. It is important to avoid body surfing when there is a shore break.
Nantucket Safety Advice for Swimming
Beach Access Location Number and Signs
Please take note of the Beach Access Location Number posted at the entrance of any of the Nantucket beaches.
It will allow emergency vehicles and services to get to the exact location as soon as possible. So take a photo or write down the number when going to the beach and give it to the operator when calling for emergency assistance. Also, pay attention to the warning signs before going swimming.
It can cause injuries and drowning.
It means that the ocean bottom drops off suddenly and can cause drowning.
It can cause serious injuries even if the surf is small.
It can sweep away children and adults from the shore and cause drowning.
The stings can be painful and even dangerous, so stay out of the water.
General Info for Staying Safe on the Nantucket Beaches
- Use a buddy system and avoid swimming alone.
- Be careful when swimming, especially when the water is cold in the early summer. This is essential even if you are confident that you are a strong swimmer.
- Use rafts or flotation devices suitable for your swimming skills when performing beach activities.
- Never dive in water that has an unknown depth or in shallow water.
- If a big wave is approaching, dive under it and keep your body as low as possible until it passes on top of you. Dive under it just before the wave breaks. If it is too shallow, simply duck and keep your body low under the wave.
- In case of a rip current, avoid panicking. Relax and start swimming toward the shore at an angle of 45 degrees until you feel free of the current. In case of a strong rip current, swim parallel to the shoreline in the direction of the littoral current. Then swim toward the shore diagonally. If you cannot swim out of the rip current wave and call for help.
- Never ride waves in a straight line towards the shore when body surfing. Instead, try surfing at an angle and avoid the white water in the center of the wave.
- Don’t go into the water when intoxicated. Even if you are a strong swimmer, alcohol can impair your judgment and swimming abilities.
Nantucket Beach Rules and Regulations
- Always follow the directions of the lifeguards and flags
- Use floatation devices only when the lifeguards allow it
- Do not dig holes that are deeper than your waist, and fill in any holes before leaving the beach
- Do not drink alcohol or smoke on the beach
- No glass is allowed on the beach
- Unleashed dogs are not permitted on the beach
- Open fires, fishing, and kite flying are not allowed on most beaches
- No vehicles are allowed on the beach unless expressly specified
Lifeguard Whistle Alerts
Long whistle – exit the water immediately.
Short whistles – the lifeguard is asking for your attention. Follow their directions.
The beaches of Nantucket are spectacular and need to be preserved for the other visitors and the island’s residents. This means you should follow the regulations and rules for driving to and on the beaches. You must obtain an annual sticker from the town of Nantucket for your beach vehicle. Beach driving is allowed on only a few Nantucket beaches and in specific hours and days.