Things to do in Nantucket
June 5, 2023
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Nantucket is an island situated 30 miles away from Cape Cod. It’s a paradise for tourists and summer residents alike, bulging with visitors during the warmer months – the population rises to as many as 80,000!

The stunning scenery and idyllic atmosphere make it a must-visit destination. It’s a dreamy escape, with plenty of attractions to see and things to do, and experience Nantucket’s unique history and culture.

Nantucket is a destination for all sorts of activities – from sailing and sightseeing to simply basking in the sun. Filled with plenty of attractions for the whole family, you’ll never run out of things to do. Plus, you can find whatever kind of accommodation suits you best – from chic hotels and cozy inns to charming rental homes. And if you’re a food connoisseur, the restaurants here will be a treat!

This is truly a special place. The picturesque beauty and vibrant culture of this island make it a popular destination for all travelers. Embark on this magical journey and discover all that Nantucket has to offer! Whether you’re in the mood for relaxation or a thrilling adventure, this beautiful island is sure to provide a memorable experience.

When can you visit Nantucket?

If you’re looking to visit Nantucket, the summer months are the ideal time to go. However, March, April, September, and October are also great choices, as are the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. During these quieter times, the island is much more peaceful due to a decrease in tourist numbers.

In contrast, July and August are the most popular months to visit. As a result, the ferry and hotels are usually full of people.

November to February are also possible times to visit but be warned that the temperatures can be quite cold. Average temperatures range from 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Get to Nantucket Island

Getting to Nantucket can be a bit of a challenge during the warmer months. Ensure your journey is as pleasant as it can be, and best to plan ahead and book your trip well in advance. You have two options for your travels: sea or air.

By sea

Getting to and from Nantucket is both cost-effective and convenient, thanks to the ferry services. The Steamship Authority provides year-round transportation. The one-hour high-speed passenger ferry operates during the peak season. The traditional car-and-passenger ferry takes around two hours and operates year-round. Hy-Line Cruises offer a one-hour high-speed option departing from Hyannis. Additionally, Freedom Cruise Line, Seastreak, and Highland have seasonal, high-speed passenger services from Harwich Port, New Bedford, and New York City. Taking the ferry is an affordable and convenient way to get to and from Nantucket.

By plane

The most efficient and convenient way to get to Nantucket is to fly directly into the Nantucket Airport (ACK). There are a variety of flights available to choose from, both on a seasonal and year-round basis. Additionally, several companies offer private charter flights to Nantucket.

To make the most of your time in Nantucket, MA, here are some of the top things to do or to visit:

Nantucket Beaches

Nantucket Beaches

The alluring beaches of Nantucket are a sight to behold. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil spot to relax or a fun-filled spot to play, these beaches have something for everyone. From spectacular sunsets to peaceful strolls, the beaches of Nantucket are sure to bring joy and relaxation.

If you want to take the family for a seaside retreat, the North Shore of the island is your best bet. It’s close to town, the surf is gentle and tranquil, and there are gorgeous views of Nantucket Sound or the harbor to be had. Jetties Beach is a great option for convenience, with the Sandbar beach bar and Restaurant. And for those with kids, Children Beach is sure to be a hit.

For those looking for more of a challenge, the South Shore Beaches have cooler waters and are great for surfing. If you want to drive on the beach, Madaket Beach, Nobadeer Beach, and Low Beach are some of your options. Just remember that you’ll need a permit from the Town of Nantucket.

In Great Point, you’ll find solitude and a peaceful atmosphere. It’s the northernmost tip of the island, and it’s home to thousands of seals, piping plovers, and 16 miles of beach road. With a permit and a four-wheel drive vehicle, it’s ideal for birding, fishing, and picnicking.

Fishing

Fishing In Nantucket

Are you in search of that perfect spot to fish? Look no further than the breathtaking island of Nantucket! With its bountiful fishing spots, this idyllic island provides the perfect setting to enjoy a day of fishing. Whether you’re looking to catch the big one or just relax and take in the scenery, you won’t be disappointed with a fishing trip to Nantucket.

Nantucket is a fantastic place for fishing all year round, but June to mid-October are the ideal months when the waters are warmer, and you can catch striper, bluefish, bonito, and false albacore from the shore or docks. These species are easy to snag.

If you’re looking for a more challenging experience, charter a boat and head out to sea. You’ll have the chance to catch cod, bluefish, and other larger species.

For the ultimate fishing thrill, Nantucket fishing charters can take you out to the North Atlantic to pursue epic catches like tuna, sharks, mahi-mahi, and marlin. Nantucket is home to some of the best fishing charters, boasting years of experience and providing the perfect experience for their clients. There are also fresh water fishing options too in various ponds and inlets.

So visit  Nantucket during the summer months and enjoy the warm water and plentiful fishing opportunities.

Nantucket’s Restaurants

Nantucket is a fantastic culinary destination for both its residents and visitors. With beach restaurants where the sunset gets a round of applause, sensory experiences for every course, and world-renowned restaurants, this small island has it all. While some eateries are open year-round, others are only open for the season.

Dining in Nantucket is an unforgettable experience, with its fresh-caught seafood, distinctive cuisine, and traditional cocktails, all with the Atlantic Ocean as a picturesque backdrop. Moreover, the island’s drinking scene is unbeatable, boasting cult-favorite brews and remarkable twists on classic cocktails.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Alongside the popular local establishments, there’s always something new to savor and explore. Nantucket’s culinary scene is incredibly diverse, offering a fusion of flavors from around the world.

Whale Watching in Nantucket

Whale Watching Nantucket

Today, whales are a beautiful sight that mesmerizes us with their grandeur and grace. Nantucket was one of the key places where whaling was an industry in the early to mid-19th century. The whale watching season starts in mid-April when these creatures migrate to Massachusetts for their feeding grounds, and the best time for spotting them is from June to September.

The most common sightings include the humpback whale; adults can reach between 14-17m in length and weigh up to 40 metric tons. Their breaching and other unique surface behaviors make them a beloved sight for whale watchers. You may also catch a glimpse of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, which is now a rare sight. The biggest ever recorded individuals have been 18.5 meters long and weighed an astounding 106,000 kilograms!

Don’t miss out on the chance to witness these extraordinary creatures in their natural environment. Seeing these fills observers with joy and wonder.

Endeavour Sailing Excursions

The Endeavor is the most experienced sailing charter in Nantucket. With over 40 years of navigating the waters, Captain James Genthner offers private boat trips to explore the area’s maritime history and stunning sights, and you can learn more about the area.

Enjoy the picturesque waters of Nantucket Island aboard the Endeavor. Whether you join for a morning cruise or a sunset sail, the views will be breathtaking. From May to October, guests can bring refreshments for a truly personal sailing experience.

Private Charters are perfect for family and friends to spend quality time together. If you’re traveling with children, ask about the Pirate Hunter Adventure and be entertained with stories of piracy. Experience Nantucket in a unique and memorable way with Captain Jim’s private sailing charters.

Coskata Coatue wildlife refuge

Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge, Nantucket

Set at the northern end of Nantucket, the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is a haven for hundreds of animals and rare plants and birds. Its two long peninsulas make it an ideal summer destination for both wild adventurers and those looking for an off-the-beaten-path beach. Activities to be enjoyed here include surfing, fishing, hiking, and visiting the majestic Great Point Lighthouse. For the more daring, off-roading is also an option.

Exploring the refuge is possible through sandy roads that demand a 4-wheel drive vehicle. You need a valid Oversand Vehicle Permit, which you can get from the Wauwinet Gatehouse on Wauwinet Road between May and October. Certain areas of the refuge are off limits to vehicles from May to August, and pets are banned from April 1st to September 15th in order to protect endangered and rare nesting shorebirds.

Also, you can check out the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge Tours on the This over-sand Vehicle (OSV)  beach tour will allow you to explore the beautiful and unique habitats the refuge offers. Each tour lasts around two hours and only runs during the season. So don’t miss out on learning about the fascinating flora and fauna of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.

Brant Point Lighthouse

Brant Point Lighthouse

For over two and a half centuries, the Brant Point Lighthouse has been a beloved Nantucket icon, standing guard at the entrance to the island’s inner harbor. Established in 1746 and automated in 1965, the current tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places  and continues to serve as a navigational beacon.

The lighthouse has no parking lot, so visitors must park elsewhere and walk over the loose sand to the point, a journey of approximately one-tenth of a mile. At 26 feet, the lighthouse is the perfect place to watch the tides come in and out and the ferries sailing back and forth.

It is no wonder that the Brant Point Lighthouse is one of the most photographed spots on Nantucket. Its picturesque setting provides a stunning backdrop for visitors looking to take photos.

Great Point Lighthouse

great point lighthouse

Going to the northernmost point of the beautiful island of Nantucket, past Wauwinet,  within the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Reserve, you will find the powerful light of Great Point Lighthouse. It was first constructed in 1784, a wooden tower that was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1816; the new tower was built out of stone and stood until 1984, when it fell. The current lighthouse stands 60 feet tall,  last renovation1986 and is a replica of the  1816 tower, providing mariners with a flashing beacon every five seconds.

You can access the grounds either by taking an adventurous seven-mile walk in the sand or by a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a beach permit sticker. This lighthouse affords an awe-inspiring view of where Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean stretch as far as the eye can see. It’s a sight to behold, with a beauty beyond compare. It’s a sight that is definitely worth the effort to get there!

Sankaty Head Light

Sankaty Lighthouse

The Sankaty Head Light is situated on the easternmost tip of the Siasconset village, offering a breathtaking view of the sunset. Constructed in 1850, it underwent automation in 1965 and still shines brightly today. It was one of the first lighthouses in the United States with a Fresnel lens and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

In 2007, the Sconset Land Trust acquired the lighthouse and took the necessary measures to protect it by shifting it roughly 400 feet away from the eroding beach. To this day, the lighthouse remains a popular tourist destination, renowned for its spellbinding views of the windy landscape from the top.

The Cisco Brewers

Cisco Brewery, Nantucket

At Cisco Brewers, the only brewery on Nantucket Island, you can indulge in a world-class selection of wines, beer, and spirits. Experience the joy of live music, from local favorites to beloved regional talent. Dance the night away or just relax and sip on a local drink; it’s always a good time at Cisco.

Are you a local or just visiting? No matter – you’re sure to find something to love at Cisco Brewers. Their outdoor beer garden provides the perfect backdrop for a refreshing glass of your favorite beverage. Join the fun and enjoy the unique atmosphere at Cisco Brewers.

The Old Sconset Golf Course

Sconset Golf Course is the oldest golf course still in play on Nantucket and one of the oldest courses in the USA. It is located at 260 Milestone Road and, in 2012, was acquired by the Land Bank.

Originally part of Bloomingdale Farm, this 9-hole public course has been enjoyed by islanders and summer visitors since the late 19th century. The old farmhouse had been transformed into a clubhouse, and an 18-hole course was set up in 1899. Today, the course consists of 9 holes and is open for all to enjoy.

This property is a great chance to experience a little bit of Nantucket history while having a delightful golf outing with the family. It is open during the season, seven days a week, from 7 am to 7 pm.

Siasconset Bluff Path

Take a walk along the east shore bluffs in ‘Sconset, a town on the eastern side of Nantucket. This winding path is quite narrow at times and not very level, but it’s worth it for the breathtaking views of the beach and ocean. It’s also unique because it’s a public path that goes right through some home’s backyards. Sadly, years of erosion have caused the path to end right at Baxter Road.

Strolling this picturesque path is an unforgettable adventure. If you’re in search of a tranquil afternoon or simply want to bask in the beauty, this trail is sure to provide an unforgettable experience. Discover the sights and sounds this trail has to offer and make some unforgettable memories. So take a break from the every day and enjoy the beauty of this public footpath.

Whaling Museum

Whaling Museum Nantucket

Take a step back in time and visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum. It’s located in the original candle-making factory in Nantucket and is one of the few museums in the country to have been granted accreditation by the American Association of Museums.

With nine premium galleries, the museum houses over a thousand works of art, artifacts, and treasures that tell the story of Nantucket over the past four centuries. Get up close and personal with a 46-foot sperm whale skeleton, explore the rich galleries, and take part in daily programs, spotlight tours, and films. Plus, the Discovery Center offers plenty of interactive fun.

Capping off your visit is the spectacular harbor views from the rooftop. Experience the history and grandeur of Nantucket at the Whaling Museum!

Maria Mitchell Aquarium

Maria Mitchell Aquarium, Nantucket

Head to Nantucket Harbor and experience the wonders of the Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium! This is the perfect place to learn about the incredible sea life that inhabits the island. It boasts a variety of ever-changing exhibits, including jellyfish, crabs, tropical fish, and sea stars. At the end of each season, all of the locally collected species are released back into the wild.

The Aquarium is part of the Maria Mitchell Association, a local non-profit organization that is dedicated to honoring the legacy of the 19th-century American woman scientist and educator Maria Mitchell, America’s first female astronomer and Nantucket native. The MMA offers a variety of science and history-related programming that is suitable for all ages.

Bring your family to MMA’s Aquarium and explore the fascinating marine creatures that call Nantucket home; this is an experience your kids will never forget.

Loines Observatory

After a day in the sun, treat yourself to a breathtaking tour of Nantucket’s night sky with the astronomers at Loines Observatory. Get the chance to marvel at the moon, planets, stars, nebulae, and even distant galaxies through their powerful telescopes! That you can make it at 59 Milk Street Extension, and you can go if the weather permits. Loines Observatory is an integral part of the Maria Mitchell Association. Home to two domes, it houses a beautifully restored 8-inch Alvan Clark and 24-inch research telescope.

With knowledgeable guides, learn how to traverse the night sky in one of their astronomy workshops and stay informed on the universe’s latest discoveries with their Science Speaker Series, featuring renowned astronomers from universities and observatories across the world. The Maria Mitchell Astronomy Department also offers supervised research opportunities to carefully chosen undergraduate astronomy students.

Bring your family to the Loines Observatory and let them explore the unknown world beyond our own. With a range of activities, it’s the perfect place to introduce your children to astronomy.

Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum

Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum

The Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum, operated by the Egan Maritime Institute, is a small yet impactful seasonal non-profit museum. It is dedicated to the history of shipwrecks along the Nantucket coast, and it’s situated on the edge of Folger’s Marsh.

The museum holds over 5,000 artifacts and memorabilia collected from local shipwrecks in the past 300 years. These include period surfboats, beach carts, Fresnel lenses from the Brant Point and Great Point lights, vintage photographs, and models of lifesaving stations on Nantucket. Exhibits and programs include images, films, videos, and lectures about storms at sea that have caused more than 750 shipwrecks near Nantucket.

When you walk through the museum’s hallways, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the paintings depicting the sea’s austerity and models of ships that now lie on the ocean floor.

Those with an eagerness to learn can visit the museum and join a range of activities that honor and promote Nantucket’s nautical past. No matter their age, all curious minds can partake in these fun and informative programs.

Nantucket Atheneum

The Nantucket Atheneum is a historic landmark and a source of knowledge for all ages. It was formed from the merging of two institutions with a history dating back to the 1820s and was officially incorporated as the Nantucket Atheneum in 1834. After a fire destroyed much of the old Atheneum and it’s over 1,200 titles, the current building was reconstructed at the same location in 1847. It became a free public library in 1900 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Atheneum provides a range of materials and services, such as special collections related to Nantucket’s history and culture, popular books for children and adults, access to over 1.6 million books, a varied selection of CDs, DVDs, web-based services, free computer use, WIFI, and more than 1,300 educational and cultural programs a year.

Outside, visitors can take a break and enjoy the Atheneum’s peaceful, private gardens. The Atheneum is open six days a week, year-round. Enjoy a peaceful getaway and go home with a great read!

The Oldest House on Nantucket

Jethro Coffin House, Nantucket

The Jethro Coffin House, more commonly referred to as the Oldest House on Sunset Hill, was constructed in the year 1686 and is believed to be the oldest residence on Nantucket still situated in its original spot. It was a wedding gift for Jethro Coffin and Mary Gardner. The house symbolizes the union of two of Nantucket’s oldest families, which helped to reconcile old disputes.

In 1923, the Nantucket Historical Association managed to get its hands on the Oldest House. Four years later, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities set about restoring the house to its original appearance. In 1968, the house was deemed worthy of being bestowed the prestigious title of National Historic Landmark. But in 1987, a lightning strike caused extensive damage, and extensive repairs were necessary.

Currently, this house serves as a reminder of Nantucket’s early English settlers, allowing visitors a glimpse into the everyday life of the seventeenth century. It stands as a remarkable testament to the past.

The Old Mill

The Old Mill, a striking windmill located at 50 Prospect Street in Nantucket, holds the title of being the oldest American windmill still running. This remarkable feat was recognized in 1992 when the mill was named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The Old Mill is the sole survivor of the four smock mills that once provided a picturesque view of Nantucket town.

In 1828, the condition of the Old Mill had deteriorated so much that it was sold for use as firewood. Fortunately, the carpenter who bought it, Jared Gardner, was able to restore the mill to working order, and it began to grind corn once again. In 1866, a Portuguese miller, John Francis Sylvia, bought the mill and operated it until 1892, when it fell into disuse.

Fortunately, the Nantucket Historical Association was able to save the mill being sold at auction in 1897. With some minor repairs, as well as major overhauls, the Old Mill still can to grinding corn just as it did two hundred and fifty years ago. This is an exceptional opportunity for those interested in Nantucket’s history.

The Old Gaol

One of the oldest jails in the United States, the Old Gaol, located at 15R Vestal Street, still stands in Nantucket. Built in 1805, it comprises sturdy oak timbers, iron bolts, iron rods across the windows, and heavy wooden doors reinforced with iron. This solid construction forced inmates to come up with creative escape plans – many of which are documented in the NHA Research Library. 1933 was the last year of occupancy for the jail before it was closed and given to the Nantucket Historical Association in 1946.

The Old Gaol is a remarkable example of colonial architecture, with its reinforced structure and sturdiness, and is a unique piece of American history and a must-see destination for those visiting Nantucket. Its unique architecture and history will continue to draw visitors for years.

Bartlett’s Farm

Bartlett's Farm Nantucket

Just a few steps from Nantucket’s seashore, Bartlett’s Farm welcomes you to explore Nantucket Island’s oldest and biggest family-owned farm. They are especially known for the farm-grown corn and tomatoes, but that’s only a fraction of what they offer. With over 100 acres of open fields for growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers, the farm has recently turned 30 acres of land into certified organic.

The Garden Center is a must-visit, as it has all the supplies you need to create and maintain your own garden. The Farm kitchen serves up delicious takeout options, like sandwiches, muffins, pastries, coffee, tea, lobster rolls, and clam chowder. They also have dinner specials. Don’t forget to check out the fully-stocked grocery store!

When the weather’s nice, you can bask in the sun while enjoying the bucolic view at their outdoor seating area. Kids can have fun at the outdoor playground.

Moors End Farm

moors end farm

If you’re in need of the freshest produce, healthy plants, or eye-catching flowers, Moors End Farm is the perfect place for you! Located on 40 Polpis Road in Nantucket, they bring the best of the land to their customers.

This family-run business has been providing farm-fresh produce since the 1970s. Starting as a small self-serve farm stand, Moors End Farm has since expanded to include a nursery and greenhouse. With responsible farming methods, they grow and harvest over forty different fruits and veggies throughout the year. You can find freshly-cut herbs, flowers, and veggies at their stand, with specialties like chard, kale, arugula, wasabi, beets, and squash.

The greenhouse is filled with vibrant and beautiful flowers, such as annuals, perennials, shrubs, Mandeville, and vegetable plants. And if you’re looking for a Christmas tree, you can get one here too! Moors End Farm is the perfect place to get fresh, healthy, and stunning products.

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

Nantucket Daffodil Festival

This celebration, which takes place on the last weekend of April, is a time to rejoice in the change of seasons on Nantucket. Millions of daffodils light up the island, reminding us that spring is finally here.

Residents and visitors of the island come together to share in the joys of the season. Events such as the Antique Car Parade, Children’s Bike Parade, Daffy Hat Parade, and the Daffodil Dog Parade create a festive atmosphere. Also, they make a picnic in Siasconset. This weekend is the perfect time to experience and appreciate the island’s beauty.

Theatre Workshop of Nantucket

Located at 62 Centre Street, Theatre Workshop of Nantucket is a professional, non-profit theatre located 30 miles away from Cape Cod. Since 1956, the Theatre Workshop has been preserving the art of theatrical performance. They entertain, educate, challenge, and inspire both performing artists and audiences of all ages. They make plays and musicals of the highest artistic standards.

In the past, they have held productions such as We Will Rock You, Scrooge (book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse), and Mamma Mia! For their 2023 lineup, they will offer Boeing Boeing, Elf the Musical, James Gallagher, and more.

If you’re a theatre enthusiast, the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket is a must-see. Here, audiences can experience the wonder of live theatre, brought to life by passionate actors and directors.

Nantucket Christmas Stroll

Nantucket For Christmas

The holiday season on Nantucket starts after Thanksgiving with the Nantucket Noel Tree Lighting on Main Street. Enjoy the sight of dozens of Christmas Trees, each one decorated to perfection for the occasion.

Then, from the first weekend in December after the Thanksgiving holiday week, the Nantucket Christmas Stroll Weekend will take place. Also, most activities occur on Saturday, so even if one is able to do a day trip, they could see and do a lot on that day with the various festivities taking place, but best to reserve boats and flights well in advance as it’s a very busy and popular travel time.

It’s an event-filled few days that includes a visit from Santa Claus, a Santa’s Village Marketplace, live entertainment, craft shows, tours, and local specials. Make sure to plan ahead, as accommodation and restaurant reservations fill up quickly for this special event!

Visiting Nantucket is always an enriching experience. There’s something special about the island that enchants everyone who visits. It’s a place of natural beauty and culture, filled with unique moments that are sure to be remembered. Nantucket is a highly sought-after destination, and it’s no wonder why! Many people find the journey to this dreamy island to be incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.

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