If you want to get away from it all, Nantucket is a charming vacation destination with attractions and activities to delight in for days. Exotic dunes, stunning beaches, picturesque lighthouses along rugged coastlines, and exotic charm await you in this 100-square-mile strip of island. The world’s former whaling capital is now a popular haven for travel enthusiasts.
If you plan to visit, you’ll love it here during the fall. The weather is pleasantly crisp and cool, free of tourist crowds, and the beaches are flawless. The prices also tend to ease up during this season, and you can still join in a decent selection of festivals.
Read on to find exciting distractions to indulge in during the “shoulder season” in Nantucket. Moreover, you’ll discover the best places to stay and dine.
1. Explore the Whaling Museum
Historical fans will love the striking display of the 46-foot-long giant whale skeleton that washed ashore in the late 90s. There’s also a stunning collection of scrimshaw art, and you’ll marvel at the distinctively engraved pieces from whale bones and teeth.
Nine innovative galleries are packed with over a thousand artifacts and treasures on display. The museum is also home to a remodeled 1847 candle factory and a picturesque rooftop that offers stunning views of the Nantucket harbor.
You can’t miss exploring the Museum Shop located in Hadwen & Barney Oil and Candle Factory for an eclectic mix of Nantucket’s history and now.
2. Visit Cisco Brewers
Discover what’s brewing at the famous Cisco brewers and sample its world-class cocktails, beers, wines, and spirits. There’s a distillery, winery, and brewery on-site with multiple taps to quench all kinds of thirst. Vodka is the signature drink here, and you can sample a variety, including cranberry vodka.
What’s more, you can take a tour and learn everything about the processes and operations of the winery, brewery, and distillery. This alcohol amusement park serves some delectable local seafood in an open-air setting. Plus, you get a tasting glass to keep as a souvenir.
3. Pumpkin Painting
Showcase your artistic side at the Nantucket Island Fair. When participating in the pumpkin ring ross, you can bring your pumpkin or win one at the Atheneum Garden. The pumpkin painting event takes place at the sideyard of the Whaling Museum on North Water Street.
The pumpkin painting and carving event reawake your inner child. You can paint, bedazzle, or carve; anything goes!
4. Join the Cranberry Festival
2023 will mark the 19th Annual Anniversary of the Nantucket Cranberry Festival. A series of exciting events will draw crowds to the Milestone Cranberry Bog during the “cranberry month” in October. You’ll learn everything about cranberry from farm to table and sample tantalizing cranberry treats.
The event is also marked by hayrides, live music, Bog tours, and Nanpuppet & Barnaby Bear shows for the kids.
5. Tour Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Explore the ruggedly stunning coastal destination tucked in the wild where raptors, deer, shorebirds, and seals play. The dunes and tidal ponds are nothing short of phenomenal.
There’s also a variety of native vegetation such as beach grass, bayberry, beach plum, heather, and red cedar savannah, among others. You can also indulge in surf-fishing, visiting the Great Point Lighthouse, and hiking. But, the most popular activity in the wildlife refuge is off-roading along the 16-mile trail.
6. Go Golfing
Even though Nantucket is famous for its stunning cobblestone streets and sand beaches, this pristine island also has scenic golf courses. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a memorable golfing experience while practicing their ranges at the island’s phenomenal golf courses.
They include Miacomet Golf Course, Sconset Golf Course, Sankaty Head Golf Club, and Nantucket Golf Club. The golf courses are open round the year and only close during winter when there’s snow or frost.
Nantucket is a little piece of paradise dotted with stunning sand beaches kissed by crystal clear waters. Sunset at the beach is an almost surreal experience.
Visit the popular Surfside beach along the island’s southern shore for surfing. As the name suggests, Surfside is one of the best beaches for this activity and other watersports.
Surfside beach aside, there are other popular beaches in Nantucket with strong turf and massive, choppy waves, such as; Cisco beach, Fisherman’s beach, Madaket beach, and Miacomet beach.
A tour of Nantucket is incomplete without sampling the island’s succulent seafood. Grab a bite of the tasty, tender, and sweet bay scallops.
Also, join in the thrill of “family scalloping” in October before the commercial harvest starts in November till March.
No fishing gear? Not to worry, Brant Point Marine will provide you with the supplies. Don’t forget to pick up your permit at the police station before heading out to Madaket Harbor for a delightful pastime.
Perched on the entrance of breathtaking bays and natural harbors, lighthouses have been a lifesaver for ships ensuring they don’t run aground. But with the discovery of navigation systems, lighthouses have become distinct landmarks against the surrounding landscape.
Nantucket has three lighthouses with unique personalities, outlooks, and history; The Sankaty Head Lighthouse, Great Point Lighthouse, and the famous Brand Point Lighthouse. These iconic attractions offer breathtaking views and alluring backdrops.
10. Sailing Excursions
Nothing screams adventure like a sailing excursion. You’re out in the sea, the wind tossing through your hair and the waves crashing against the waters. Sailing on the ocean or sea is a great adventure that should top your bucket list.
Sailing is a must-try pastime when you visit Nantucket. Get on a boat tour with one of the many sailing excursions, such as Capt. Tom’s Charters, Secret Spot Nantucket, Jetties Sailing Center, Albacore Charters, and many more. The fishing adventure is exciting, and you get to load up on big seals and bluefish amidst the breaking waves.
Bring your entire family on board a private charter for photoshoots, celebrations, and whale watching while soaking in the island’s breathtaking views.
11. Fine Dining
Fall is no doubt the best season to visit Nantucket. The prices of everything plummet, including restaurants. Plus, it’s scallop and cranberry season. Other delicacies worth sampling are retsyo oysters, striped bass, bluefish, albacore, and lobsters. You can wash them down with innovative cocktails and beer brewed on the island.
During the Nantucket restaurant week, enjoy exceptional multi-course dinners in the island’s best restaurants like Oran Mor, Ventuno, Club Car, and The Proprietors Bar & Table.
12. Bike Rides
The best way to explore Nantucket is on a bicycle, as the island is marked by up to 35 miles of bike trails. Three main bike trails connect to Siasconset in the east, Surfside in the south, and Madaket in the west.
This makes it easy to sample the beaches, wetlands, harbor, wildlife, and dunes. Biking is also cost-efficient and sustainable.
Rentals are available if you don’t own a bike at Young’s Bicycle Shop, and the friendly staff can guide you on where to see iconic attractions. Other bike rental shops include Easy Rider Bicycle Rentals, Cook’s Cycle Shop, and Nantucket Bike Shop.
So far, we’ve seen that Nantucket can be viewed on foot, making the pristine island a perfect getaway for scenic hikes. If you’re an avid outdoor explorer, prepare for some epic adventure as you stroll through Nantucket’s hiking trails as the tides crush the shore and the sun peeps out from the clouds.
Some of the stunning and peaceful trails on the island include Sconset Bluff Walk, Tupancy Links, Miacomet Pond, Masquetuck Reservation, Madaket Land Trust Trails and many more.
14. Fishing and Kayaking
The adventurous spirits and Kayaking lovers will enjoy paddling through the waters of Nantucket while catching some bluefish or striped bass.
Sport fishing boats, kayaks, and day sailboats are available for charter. Some of the available options include Nantucket Blue Moon Charters, Shearwater Excursions, and Topspin Fishing Charters, among others.
15. Dreamland Film & Performing Arts Center
Yet another island masterpiece, head over to Nantucket Dreamland Film & Performing Arts Center to view the island’s enriching, inspiring, and engaging culture. The arts center is more than a movie theatre.
You can expect world-class entertainment, educational programs, and year-round films. The non-profit organization is dedicated to building the local community and sharing experiences through art, film, culture, and education.
Events and Festivals to watch out for in 2022
Nantucket Half Marathon
Join one of the most alluring half marathon events on the East Coast. The route cuts through sandy sections, tree-lined bike trails, and wooded terrain with captivating ocean views.
Nantucket Halloween Parade
Take part in Halloween, a beloved tradition on Main Street. The date and activities for the day are yet to be publicized. But islanders assemble for the parade on October 31st. There is trick-or-treating at Main Street and prizes for the one with the best costume.
Nantucket Island Fair
The island fair will still be part of this year’s fall activities. You can enjoy some pumpkin painting in the side yard at the Whaling Museum. Or visit the public display of local fruits, vegetables, and preserved treats.
You can also grab a souvenir bag of cornmeal ground at the Old Mill and attend the events showcased by the Artists Association of Nantucket.