Nantucket is a 14-mile-long island situated 30 miles away from the shoreline of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s roughly 3 to 5 miles wide and is surrounded by the Atlantic on all sides, except for the Separating the island from the mainland is the Nantucket Sound.
Nantucket’s economy is driven by tourism, offering a range of luxurious accommodation options – from swanky hotels and inns to cozy rental homes. There’s an abundance of fun and relaxing activities, such as exploring picturesque beaches, historical lighthouses, museums, and boutique shopping. Plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, like surfing, fishing, and cycling on miles of bike paths. Also, the incredible restaurants, eateries, ice cream shops, and cafes. There’s something for everyone here!
The beaches around the island are outstanding, but the southwest side is famous for its big waves and great surfing. Head to the harbor side for some tranquility, where you can relax while watching boats come and go.
Nantucket in the past
Nantucket, a now popular tourist destination, was once a bustling whaling town between 1750 and 1840. In the early 1700s, islanders set sail in search of sperm whales, and Nantucket quickly became one of the most important whaling ports in North America due to its valuable whale oil, which was used to light homes. Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick” also immortalized this era of Nantucket’s history. Unfortunately, as voyages extended and ships grew larger, Nantucket’s shallow harbors eventually became too small to continue the whaling industry, resulting in its decline in the late 1800s.
Today, strolling the same cobblestone streets is an option. You could even stay at the home of a former whaling captain. Shopping on Petticoat Row is a popular activity, as is visiting the Whaling Museum. It’s interesting to note that many of the original Nantucket settlers and whalers were Quakers – the old Quaker Meeting House is still on Fair Street. So, if you’re looking to explore the past, these sights are a great way to do it!
Nantucket is renowned for its incredible fishing. Anglers flock to the island to cast their lines in the famous Nantucket Sound. Here, they find an abundance of bluefish, stripers, bonito, and false albacore – all of which can be caught from the beach, dock, or with the help of a charter boat. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, Nantucket’s waters offer something for everyone.
If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure and a challenge, you can rent a small boat and sail out to sea for cod, bluefish, and stripers. Or, if you want to go all out, book a fishing charter to take you out into the open ocean and chase after tuna and mahi mahi! There’s a huge range of incredible fishing opportunities here in Nantucket, so take advantage of a chance to experience the sport. Of course, fishing is one of many things to do in Nantucket – there are plenty of other water-based activities the island offers.
Brant Point Lighthouse
As soon as you sail into Nantucket Harbor, you’ll be met with the sight of Brant Point Light. It was constructed in 1746, and it has been automated since 1965. It’s still in use today and is the second oldest lighthouse in the United States, preceded only by Boston. The lighthouse tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The area surrounding the lighthouse is open to the public, and it’s only a short stroll away from the town center. So, make sure to take a look at the lighthouse when you arrive. It may be small, standing only 26 feet tall, but it’s a real sight to behold. Its red light blinks every four seconds and can be seen up to ten miles away.
Nantucket’s Main Street is a defining feature of the picturesque island. Its round, uneven cobblestones give an immediate sense of the past and create an intimate atmosphere, no matter if you’re exploring on foot, bike, or car.
Built in 1837, the renowned cobbled Main Street has been designated as one of the Great Streets of America by the American Planning Association, stretching from Straight Wharf to the historic Pacific National Bank. As you wander along, you’ll pass plenty of upscale eateries, shops, and plenty of benches if you’d like to take a break.
Main Street is also the site of several of the town’s celebrations, like the Daffodil Festival with its classic car show, the Fourth of July Parade, the Halloween Parade, the Christmas Stroll with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more.
The “Grey Lady” is a fitting name for Nantucket. Heavy fog often blankets our coastline early in the morning and late at night. But don’t fret; there are plenty of beautiful sunny days and breathtaking sunsets. Even foggy days can be lovely and more likely to occur. Though, you must be mindful when you take your boat out in the mist!
Nantucket Bay Scallops
For those seeking a seafood delicacy, Nantucket Bay Scallops are the way to go. Starting in November, when the commercial harvest season begins, small boats set out on the harbor to gather their bounty. The scallops are shucked and usually frozen to arrive on your plate in July or August. If you’re visiting the island in winter, take the chance to get your hands on a fresh catch. Nantucket Bays are scrumptious in all forms – whether you pan sear, wrap them in bacon, or grill them.
Cisco is a place where good vibes always stay in style. Established 30 miles away from the Massachusetts mainland, Nantucket is a destination that takes time to leave. That’s why so many tourists become locals, as this is a place where the days feel longer, and conversations are plentiful. Plus, you can’t find smiles like these anywhere else! Swing for a pint and stay for the live music, libations, and camaraderie. Before you go, be sure to check out their gift shop for some cool swag, like their signature blueberry vodka, wine, and of course, some awesome beer.
Nantucket has some great car-friendly locations for those who want to drive up to the beach. 40th Pole by Madaket, Nobadeer in Surfside, and Low Beach in ‘Sconset are all great spots for parking and enjoying a picnic. Or, for a real adventure, head out to Great Point Light or Coatue – this is a great way to get some sun, have a fun drive, and maybe even spot some seals! So grab a picnic, deflate your tires, and have a great time.
The Nantucket Daffodil Festival is a much-awaited annual event in late April to welcome the summer. Every year, thousands of locals and tourists alike gather in the warm spring sun to marvel at the millions of daffodils in full bloom. They join in the festivities, such as the Daffodil Antique Car Parade, the Children’s Bike Parade, the Daffy Hat Parade, and the Daffodil Dog Parade, with a tailgate picnic in Siasconset Village. Come 2023, and the Daffodil Flower Show will once again be hosted at Bartlett’s Farm. It’s an interesting event that will leave you with a lasting impression of Nantucket.
Nantucket Christmas Stroll
The Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce proudly hosts this much-anticipated and cheerful celebration annually on the initial full weekend of December. From around 50 years ago, the Nantucket Christmas Stroll brings back the wonder of the holiday season. You can take part in creating delightful memories as the island transforms into a Winter Wonderland this December.
The Stroll is a popular winter event, drawing hundreds of visitors who disembark the ferries to enjoy hot cocoa and explore the downtown stores, which open exclusively for this special weekend. You can also watch Santa march up Main Street and admire the stunningly decorated holiday trees.
The Rainbow Fleet
Every August, weather permitting, Nantucket Race Week brings a vibrant procession around Brant Point. Catboats, a classic New England sailboat used for both recreational and commercial purposes, are adorned with their signature bright sails. The Rainbow Parade, a Nantucket tradition since the 1920s, draws spectators to Brant Point annually. In 1930, H. Marshall Gardiner captured this festive scene in a postcard, and today, these colorful vessels can be seen on various merchandise associated with Nantucket.
How did we get to Nantucket?
Getting to the wondrous Nantucket is no easy feat, but those who make an effort to do so are rewarded with an experience that is sure to be unforgettable: the most popular option to get there is by plane. Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK) is the main gateway. If you’d prefer to take in the ocean views, two ferry companies offer trips to and from the island: Hy-Line Cruises and the Steamship Authority. Popular departure ports include Hyannis, MA; New Bedford, MA; New York City, NY; Highlands, NJ; Harwich Port, MA; and Martha’s Vineyard, MA!
This wonderful island offers many activities, from relaxing on the beach to exploring its many historic buildings. Enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities and take in the tranquil views of the sea. With its unique charm and laid-back atmosphere, it’s no wonder Nantucket is a popular destination for travelers.