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2021 Nantucket Travel Guide

By Kate Ruddell | Jun 1, 2021, 11:30 AM

Nestled away, 30 miles out to sea, lies the small island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. What used to be a quiet, small-town island in the middle of the ocean has exploded with summer visitors over the past 10 years. The year-round population is about 10,000 people, while in the busy season of June through October, you can expect over 60,000 people visiting the island known as the ‘Grey Lady.’  What makes Nantucket so special? Between the unbelievable sunsets, pristine beaches, award-winning restaurants and the welcoming residents, the best answer is a big mix of everything.

How to Get There

Nantucket is located off the coast of Hyannis, Massachusetts. To get to the island, there are only two options: flight or ferry. There is not a bridge that connects Nantucket to Hyannis, however, you can bring your car over on the ferry. There are two ferries that travel to the island – the Hy-line and the Steamship Authority. They both offer two types of ferries – the slow boat and the high-speed ferry. The slow boats are used for cargo, vehicles, and passengers, while the high-speed ferries are for passengers only. Both ferries sell out in the high season, so be sure to book your tickets in advance.

The island has a small airport which is serviced by several airlines including Delta, American Airlines, United, Jetblue, and Cape Air. The island often gets foggy, and with fog comes flight delays. If you intend to fly in or out of Nantucket, be patient as delayed flights are common.

Accommodations

You won't find a "chain" hotel on the island and nearly all businesses are local. As a result, Nantucket is often referred to as "frozen in time." In downtown Nantucket, there are many bed and breakfast hotels just steps away from Main Street.

Renting a house is another popular way to stay on Nantucket. For most vacation destinations, you might use a popular home rental website such as Airbnb or VBRO. On Nantucket though, it is most common to go through a property rental service. These services usually open up availability in early spring and book throughout the year. Renting a house comes with several perks such as access to cooking meals at home, more space, and parking. Some houses even come with bicycles so you can enjoy the gorgeous bike paths Nantucket has to offer.

Local to Nantucket house rental companies often release availabilities in early spring. If you are looking to rent a house on Nantucket, this is the best time to secure your preferred days to stay on the island. Great Point Properties, Lee Real Estate, and Fisher Real Estate are three of the top local home rental companies.

Things to Do

There is always something fun to do on Nantucket. Some amazing options include:

Shopping + Gallery Hopping

Spend an afternoon downtown checking out the local clothing boutiques and artist galleries. If you’re lucky, you might even catch an artist or two at work painting the Nantucket harbor.

Sailing the Harbor

Take a stroll along the wharf in the harbor to admire the mega yachts. If you watch carefully, you may even spot the OSCEARCH shark tracking boat, as featured on Shark Week. If you’re looking to get out on the water, you can’t go wrong with the Endeavor sailing experience with Captain Jim. Known for being the oldest sailing charter on the island, Captain Jim takes you throughout the harbor while introducing you to the history of Nantucket. If you have children with you, check out Captain Jim’s pirate-themed excursion. It’s an experience that the kids will never forget.

Museums and Aquarium

Nantucket is an island rich in history. Several educational spots include:

  • Nantucket Whaling Museum – located just steps from the ferry ports, you can discover all about Nantucket’s whaling history in this former candle factory
  • The Aquarium – learn about sea creatures that call Nantucket home. The kids will love the touch tank and aquarium exhibits
  • Maria Mitchell Association – this science museum introduces you to the history of the first female astronomer and Nantucket resident, Maria Mitchell

Visit the Old Mill

Stop by and see the oldest working windmill in the United States. Bring the whole family for a tour to see how the windmill works by grinding corn kernels into cornmeal.

Cisco Brewery

A trip to Nantucket is incomplete without a visit to Cisco Brewery. This family-friendly brewery offers daily live music, picnic tables, food trucks, spirits, wine, and of course, beer. Kids and pets are welcome. Stop by the local grocery store at Bartlett’s Farm, just up the road from the brewery, to pick up some locally-grown food items for the perfect afternoon brewery picnic. The brewery is open rain or shine, and it’s often said that it’s even more fun in the rain.

Beach Day

Nantucket is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast. There is a beach for every kind of activity:

  • North Shore Beaches - Jetties Beach – a kid-friendly beach with minimal waves due to the jetty rock formations. You’ll be able to watch the ferries come and go throughout the afternoon while your kids are busy searching for hermit crabs or building sandcastles
  • South Shore Beaches – Nobadeer/Cisco/Surfside/Madaket – the south shore of Nantucket gets hit with some great winds that produce fantastic waves. Nobadeer is known with the young adult crowd for its livelier beach atmosphere. Catch one of Nantucket’s stunning sunsets on Madaket beach. If you are lucky, you may even pass Mister Roger’s house in Madaket, known as the ‘crooked house’
  • Siasconset – great for seal watching and catching a beautiful sunrise. Check out the bluff walk, which leads you through backyards of the beautiful homes of Nantucket while overlooking the cliffs and Siasconset beach

Nantucket may be hard to get to, but it’s worth the trek. Time seems to move a little slower on the island, and the air has a crispness to it. Whether you are traveling for their spring festival, Daffodil Weekend, a glorious week in August, or even their beloved holiday celebration, Christmas Stroll, you will have a trip of a lifetime. When it’s time to head back home on the ferry, don’t forget your pennies - legend has it that if you toss 2 pennies into the ocean when you are passing Brant Point lighthouse, you will return back to the island. With a place as wonderful as Nantucket, you’ll want to come back every year.

Due to the popularity and limited size of Nantucket, make sure you book your trip well in advance. After you make your first trip deposit, don't forget an iTravelInsured travel protection plan to insure your nonrefundable, prepaid trip costs and much more. Learn more and get a quote here.

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