Nestled 30 miles off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, lies the charming and picturesque island of Nantucket. This idyllic paradise boasts breathtaking beaches, world-class surfing, and picture-perfect spots to capture unforgettable memories.
However, its appeal goes beyond its natural beauty. Nantucket is steeped in rich history, known for its storied past in the whaling industry, vibrant culture, and unique annual events. It’s no wonder why this island is a popular destination for annual events that attract visitors from all over.
Summer is when this place really shines. You’ll find a wide array of fantastic accommodations, including chic hotels, cozy inns, and charming rental homes. And if you’re a foodie, you won’t be disappointed with the five-star restaurants. But there’s more to do than just eat and sleep. The area offers plenty of fun and relaxing activities and attractions to keep you entertained. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself dining outdoors – it’s the norm here!
In short, Nantucket is a gem of a destination that offers something for everyone. From its stunning landscapes to its fascinating history and culture, this island is a must-visit for anyone seeking an unforgettable getaway. Check out this article for more information on what to anticipate on your first trip to Nantucket!
Best Time to Visit
Summertime is Nantucket’s peak season, and the most fabulous weather may be found from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with comfortably warm temperatures up to 75° Fahrenheit and about 300 hours of sunshine monthly.
Nevertheless, we believe that May and September, just before Memorial Day and just after Labor Day, are the best periods to visit if you prefer to avoid the high season crowds.
But if you’re one of those folks who don’t mind a bit of the hustle and bustle, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Nantucket Book Festival in June, the Nantucket Wine Festival in May, and the Nantucket Daffodil Festival in April. These events bring in many visitors and are the perfect time to plan a trip. But don’t worry, we’ll dive into that topic more in just a bit!
How to Get to Various Places on the Island
The island is small enough to explore by bike, and there are several bike rental shops available. For those who prefer not to walk or bike, there are taxis and shuttles that run throughout the island. The Nantucket Regional Transit Authority (NRTA) also operates a public bus service that covers most areas of the island. Additionally, car rental services are available for those who wish to explore the island at their own pace. Whatever mode of transportation you choose, getting around Nantucket Island is a breeze.
The WAVE, a Nantucket Regional Transit Authority division, is the village’s leading bus network.
Across the town, there are numerous regular buses and terminals, which are all wheelchair friendly and equipped with bike racks.
Kids under six years board for free, and passengers over 65 years pay a discounted rate.
Taxis are also another way to take you to your chosen location. You will get them at the Steamboat Wharf, Straight Wharf, and Nantucket Memorial Airport.
You can also find a taxi stand on South Water and Washington Street. Navigate through your Maps application to get to these locations.
If there are no taxis around, you can use mobile services such as Uber and Lyft from anywhere in the town.
- Bike Rentals
Biking is a popular activity on Nantucket year-round. With over 35 miles of paved bike paths, the average visitor can easily cruise to all major beaches while enjoying paths that meander through meadows and marshland, safely away from traffic and noise.
Standard bikes can be rented from a multitude of shops across the island, with convenient delivery and pick-up options available. Mopeds and electric bikes are also available for rent to help everyone of every ability keep a similar pace, or for those who simply prefer an easier ride.
- Car rentals
While public transport and taxis are options, renting a car is the way to go. Not only is it cheaper in the long run, but it’s also more convenient. Plus, you’ll have the freedom to explore more places and feel like a local.
If you don’t want to waste your precious time waiting for a bus or hailing a taxi, take control of your adventure and rent a car. You’ll be able to access all the different parts of the island with ease. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to feel like a local while on vacation?
With a rental car at your disposal, you’ll be able to see more of Nantucket and create unforgettable memories. So why not take the plunge and rent a car? It’s a decision you won’t regret.
Top Leisure Pursuits in Nantucket
1. Take a Dip in the Blissful Nantucket Beaches
Nantucket, the easternmost piece of land in the US, gets to witness the sunrise before any other town in the country. During summer, the sun rises as early as 5 AM, providing a generous amount of daylight to enjoy the island’s beaches.
It’s a sight to behold, with the sun peeking over the horizon, signaling the start of a new day. Whether you’re a morning person or not, witnessing the sunrise on Nantucket’s shores is an experience that’s hard to forget.
Depending upon your preference for surf, there are multiple locations to choose from. Beaches close to town have the smallest and most child-friendly waves; favorites include Steps, Dionis, Watertower, and Jetties.
Jetties Beach is a favorite with those looking for convenience due to the casual beach bar and restaurant called Sandbar, which overlooks the water here, serving up the usual suspects like chicken fingers and hamburgers for the kids while lobster rolls and what is arguably the best mudslide on island delight the adults.
For those craving a little more action, Nobadeer is a fun alternative, a south shore beach with larger surf and a surf school from where one can rent a surfboard, paddle board, wet suit, or, of course, score a lesson.
Beachgoers can drive their vehicles directly on the beach here (although a permit is required), resulting in a family-style tailgate in which fun in the summer sun is the main event.
Kids can often be seen playing paddle ball or tossing a frisbee on this wide stretch of sand while parents dive into their favorite beach novel from the comfort of their chairs nearby.
For those looking for a little seclusion, a drive out to Great Point is in order. Great Point, the very northern tip of the island, is home to thousands of breeding seals, piping plovers, and 16 miles of beach road, which, with a permit and a four-wheel drive vehicle, is a popular spot for birding, fishing enthusiasts, picnicking families or just a nice place to spend the afternoon.
An ideal day would involve outfitting yourself with some supplies from your favorite sandwich shop, tossing a fishing rod and comfy beach chair in the back of your car, and heading out for some rest and relaxation in this unique wildlife refuge.
Air pumps are conveniently located near the entry gatehouse for easy airing up after you leave the beach. The required Oversand Vehicle Permit sticker itself is a highly desired accessory for local and tourists’ cars year after year.
2. Embark on a Sailing Expedition with the Endeavour Sailing Excursions
As you cruise through Nantucket Sound, you can either sunbathe or engage in sailing.
Captain James Genthner, a native with over 30 years of sailing experience, will be in charge of your safety.
Pay attention as he teaches you about Nantucket’s naval history and lets you in on the finest spots to watch native species.
A sailing excursion is a fantastic means for the whole family or a bunch of mates to see the island. You are welcome to bring snacks on board, so pack a picnic lunch to celebrate this memorable occasion.
If you’re traveling with kids, inquire about the Pirate Hunter Adventure, where you’ll be delighted with stories of Nantucket’s most disreputable pirates. You’ll also get the opportunity to experience pirate sports.
3. Take Part in the Nantucket Daffodil Festival
Usher in your weekend enjoying the traditional automobile rallies, floral display competitions, and wacky costumes at the Daffodil Festival.
For those wishing to get some cardio, there’s a Daffodil 5K where you get to race. This celebration, which happens on the last weekend of April, is the ceremonial opening of the summer period.
4. Stop by the Cisco Brewers
Cisco Brewers is the place where you can sample world-class beer, spirits, and wine.
This outdoor brewery has gained a loyal following of fans who appreciate its laid-back vibe and commitment to good times.
The visitors can expect a bustling atmosphere filled with live music, friendly chatter, and of course, plenty of delicious beer.
Whether you’re a local or just passing through, there’s always something to enjoy at Cisco Brewers. So grab a mug, take a seat in the open-air beer garden, and soak up the good vibes.
5. Play a round at Sconset Golf Course
The Old Sconset Golf Course, a 9-hole public course with a small clubhouse, was acquired by the Nantucket Land Bank in 2012. Back in the late 19th century, this property was known as Bloomingdale Farm, but it didn’t take long for islanders and summer residents to see its potential as a golf course with its open fields and meadows.
After the farmhouse was transformed into a clubhouse, an 18-hole course was established in 1899. Although the course has been reduced to 9 holes since then, it has always been open to the public, making it one of the oldest public golf courses in the country.
This golf course presents an amazing opportunity to appreciate a part of Nantucket history while enjoying a classic golf experience with your loved ones.
6. Take a Walk Along the Siasconset Bluff Path
If you plan on staying in town for a while, you can make this spot your go-to location for a morning or evening stroll.
Create a romantic date by bringing your companion here. You will feel relaxed in the embrace of the nature as the soft winds touch your skin.
8. Explore Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Coskata Coatue wildlife refuge is a hidden gem to add to your travel bucket list. With two stunning peninsulas boasting warm weather and breathtaking views, this 1000-acre land managed by the Trustees of Reservations is a nature lover’s paradise.
Hop in a four-wheel-drive vehicle between May and October and explore the soft-sand roads between May and October. Remember to stop by the Wauwinet Gatehouse to get your driving permit before hitting the road.
While some areas remain closed to protect shorebirds and other animals, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy, including surf fishing, bird watching, hiking, and photography. And for the adventurous traveler, off-roading on designated trails is a must-try.
Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to experience the beauty of nature at Coskata Coatue!
9. Go Fishing
Nantucket island is the perfect destination for fishing enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, this island offers a variety of fishing options that cater to your needs.
From June to mid-October, the island’s warm waters attract popular game fish such as stripers, whiting, and bonito, which are easy to catch from the shore or docks.
For those seeking a challenge, hiring a knowledgeable fishing guide or a small boat to sail further inland is the answer. With cod, bluefish, and bigger fish to catch, you’re sure to have an adventure of a lifetime.
For the ultimate fishing experience, Nantucket fishing charters offer the chance to target huge tuna, sharks, mahi-mahi, and marlin in the open waters of the North Atlantic.
With many well-established charters to choose from, finding the perfect one for your needs won’t be a problem. Book your trip to Nantucket now and experience some of the best fishing in the world!
7. Check The Great Point Lighthouse
If you are a fan of lighthouses and breathtaking views, look no further than the Great Point Lighthouse in Nantucket!
Built in 1784, this historic beacon has aided ships in navigating the treacherous waters between Cape Cod and Nantucket for centuries.
While the original tower was destroyed by fire in 1816, a new stone structure was erected the following year and rebuilt again in 1986 after a storm destroyed the beacon.
Today, the tower stands tall and proud, rising 60 feet into the air and flashing its light every five seconds to guide seafarers through the shoal-infested seas.
Located in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, this remote location offers stunning views of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t miss out on this must-visit destination in Nantucket!
10. Watch the Sunset at Sankaty Headlight
Are you looking for the best place to see the sun setting? Sankaty Headlight is a spectacular wonderland with historical value for the island.
It was constructed in 1850 to prevent ships from getting sunk by threatening shoals. It was rebuilt in 1965 and continues to function today.
In 2007, it was purchased and relocated from its original location inland to stop soil erosion along the shore.
The beautiful sunset and neighborhood view from the top has made this place a popular tourist destination.
11. Visit Brant Point Lighthouse
This iconic lighthouse has been a key navigation point for centuries, helping to prevent shipwrecks and guide sailors safely to shore.
At 26 feet tall, it may be the shortest lighthouse in New England, but it packs a punch with its vibrant colors and imposing presence on the island. Plus, it’s still functional and part of the National Register of Historic Places – a truly special distinction.
Whether you’re an artist looking for inspiration or a photographer seeking a breathtaking backdrop, Brant Point Lighthouse is a must-see. Don’t miss your chance to experience this incredible piece of history!
12. Watch a Show at the Theatre Workshop
Since 1956, the Theatre Workshop has been honoring the art form of theatrical performance. With around six plays and musicals performed each year, there has to be one or two that will rejuvenate your soul.
There have been performances for classics like Charlie Brown, You’re a Good Man, Oklahoma, and recent works like Seussical the Musical and 39 Steps.
Several shows are suited for the whole family, and some of the classics are performed on stage every Christmas. The Theatre Workshop is undoubtedly worth visiting if you enjoy theatre.
13. Visit the Whaling Museum
This top-rated museum is a creative hub of tradition and history, featuring a dazzling 46-foot sperm whale skeleton and thousands of priceless artifacts and prestigious art. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Whaling Museum has something for everyone.
Don’t miss the iconic Whale Hunt Presentation, which showcases how Nantucket earned its trademark as the “whaling capital of the world.”
With affordable entry fees and a tour of the 1847 Hadwen & Barney Oil and Candle Factory, this is a must-visit destination.
After exploring the museum, head up to the rooftop deck to enjoy the spectacular views of the Nantucket harbor. Plan your visit now and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Nantucket.
14. Whale Watching in Nantucket
Discover the magic of whale watching in Nantucket, an island that has been home to these majestic sea creatures for centuries.
With more whales appearing on the coast each year, there has never been a better time to experience the thrill of seeing these incredible animals up close.
The most common sightings include the humpback whale, weighing in at an impressive 79,000 pounds and measuring up to 50 feet long.
You may also catch a glimpse of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, with less than 350 remaining in the world.
With a range of other species to spot, including Finback, Minke, Blue, Pilot, Beluga, and Sperm, there is never a dull moment on these waters.
Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
15. Check Maria Mitchell Aquarium
Located right on the water’s edge of Nantucket Harbor. This vibrant aquarium is constantly changing its exhibits, showcasing everything from jellyfish and crabs to tropical fish and sea stars. Best of all, at the end of each season, all locally collected species are released back into the wild.
The aquarium is run by the passionate team at the Maria Mitchell Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing Maria Mitchell’s legacy as an educator, astronomer, naturalist, and librarian. Their dedication to enlighten visitors of all ages is evident in the wide range of educational programming they offer throughout the year.
The MMA is aiming high for its next phase of development. After more than a decade of planning, the big move is set to take place by the end of 2023. The new building will offer exciting chances for hands-on learning, as well as inviting public spaces and lush rain gardens.
Don’t miss out on the chance to explore the fascinating marine world of Nantucket at the Maria Mitchell Aquarium.
16. Visit Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum
If you’re seeking a unique and fascinating destination, look no further than the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum. This museum is a testament to the bravery of the Islanders who risked their lives to save shipwrecked mariners. With over 5,000 relics and artifacts on display, visitors can explore the rich history of Nantucket’s maritime past. From surfboats to beach carts, and even Fresnel lenses from historic lighthouses, this museum has something for everyone.
But the experience doesn’t stop there. The museum also offers visual media, films, videos, and lectures about the storms at sea that have caused over 750 shipwrecks near Nantucket. And with the museum located at the edge of Folger’s Marsh, visitors can take in the beautiful scenery and watch a variety of birds flitting around the marsh.
The museum is open for the 2023 season from May 26th – October 9th and can be accessed by car, The WAVE, or their free Shipwreck Shuttle service. Check out their Programs calendar for more information on events and programs designed to honor and promote Nantucket’s maritime past. Book your trip today!
17. Visit Jethro Coffin House: The Oldest House on Nantucket
If you’re a history buff or simply love exploring interesting historical destinations, the Jethro Coffin House on Nantucket Island should be on your must-visit list!
This iconic house was built in 1686 and has been standing on the same site ever since. Its history is fascinating, as it was gifted to Jethro Coffin and his wife as a symbol of unity between two different islands’ inhabitants.
Today, the oldest house is a National Historic Landmark and serves as a memorial to the island’s first English settlers.
With major renovations and partial rebuilding after being struck by lightning in 1987, the Jethro Coffin House offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience everyday life on Nantucket in the seventeenth century. Don’t miss out on this unique and educational experience!
18. Dine at one of Nantucket’s Opulent Restaurants
Nantucket is home to some of the best restaurants you’ll ever find, and you definitely don’t want to miss out on their amazing culinary offerings.
These gastronomic havens are renowned for their mouth-watering dishes, exceptional customer service, and stunningly beautiful decor.
The island’s culinary scene is incredibly diverse, featuring a fusion of flavors from all around the world. As you’d expect from an island surrounded by water, seafood is king, and you’re in for a real treat.
So why not come and take your palate on a journey through the flavors of Nantucket? You won’t regret it!
19. Get Some Fresh Vegetables from Moors End Farm
Finally, before leaving, stop by Moors End Farm to pick up some fresh flowers for your companion. The store also sells fresh-picked herbs and veggies.
A family owns the farm and specializes in growing garden-fresh vegetables and fruits. It began as a tiny self-serve garden in the 1970s and has since expanded to include a greenhouse and nursery.
Squash, beets, wasabi, arugula, kale, and chard, are among the crops grown at the farm. Also, lovely colorful flowers, shrubs, perennials, and annuals are available for purchase.
After a calming tour at Moors End Farm, grab yourself a dessert on your way out.
20. Come to the Nantucket Christmas Stroll
The Christmas Stroll is a must-do activity. Hundreds of passengers disembark from the ferries to sip hot chocolate at the downtown stores, only open on weekends.
You will also get to watch Santa make his way up Main Street, engage in search-for-golden-goose-egg sports, or admire the festively adorned trees.
A trip to Nantucket is unquestionably worthwhile. The thriving art and culture scene that runs all year, and incredible restaurants, are some of the things you’ll get to enjoy.
Also, the destination supports intergenerational travel by providing family-friendly accommodations.
If you’re looking for a great place to celebrate a honeymoon, birthday, or retirement party, this is the place to be.