Old Nantucket lives in the Nantucket you visit today. The combination of 18th and 19th Century buildings and the cobblestone streets will make you feel as though you have stepped back in time. Antique shops, historic sites, charming inns and interesting museums are yours for discovering; with the added bonuses of dramatic scenery, miles of unspoiled beaches and plentiful nature preserves.
With few cars and no traffic lights, beach-goers and sightseers, cyclists, strollers and happy ice-cream eaters lend to the charm and personality of Nantucket, making it a popular destination for people fleeing larger cities for vacation and weekend getaways.
The Historic District is the hub of Nantucket Town and what you first enter when stepping off the ferry. Walk up and down Main, Federal and Center Streets. You'll see cozy bed & breakfasts like the
Take note of the small, round plaques by some doorways, issued by the
Siasconset and Madaket
Beyond the residential and touristy side of Nantucket Town are two villages: Siasconset, seven miles to the east, and Madaket, 6 miles to the west. In the days when factories rendered whale oil, Nantucket Town residents would flee to Siasconset (locally known as 'Sconset) to avoid the heavy smells. Today, 'Sconset is mostly a summer community with a few choice lodging options and several restaurants, like the
Madaket, on the west coast, is basically a large
A pet-friendly island, dogs are welcome on most ferries and on shuttle buses to and from the beach. Some hotels also accept your canine friend, such as the
With all its museums, beaches, outdoor activities, festivals, celebrations and nightlife, it is sometimes hard to understand why people consider this a relaxing destination. But of course, all the activity just contributes to the Nantucket experience that draws visitors back year after year.
The island is steeped in history: every cobblestone street and old home has a story. Centuries of Nantucket history have been preserved in numerous museums. A few are scattered around the island but most are in the center of town. Favorite spots include the Whaling Museum; Maria Mitchell Association's Aquarium; the Nantucket Atheneum, and the Oldest House, also known as the Jethro Coffin House, not to be confused with the Jared Coffin House.
Spring is greeted by the Daffodil Festival, with some 3 million blossoms the last weekend of April. Spring is a great time to partake of the Island's numerous outdoor activities, such as biking, hiking, bird watching, fishing, and nature study. You can even take a seal cruise.
Summer is peak season when throngs of vacationers flock to the pristine beaches to take advantage of the serenity and charm the isolated island offers. The island is ringed by some 50 miles of publicly accessible beaches, and, besides just lying about; you can also rent equipment to kayak, fish, sail or windsurf. The August Antiques Show takes place each spring.
In the fall, streets that were bustling in summer have quieted down a bit, yet there is still plenty to do, without the waits and crowds. October is the prime month for harvesting cranberries, an event not to be missed. Fishing aficionados will love Nantucket in the fall, when striped bass, bluefish, yellow and white perch and cod start to bite, and the Nantucket bay scallop harvest begins (visitors can participate in the harvest by obtaining a license from the town's Marine Department). October is also the month to sample the work of local artists, and also Nantucket's famous chowder. The Nantucket Arts Festival is the week before Columbus Day, while the Nantucket Chowder Fest is the following weekend.
Although a large number of inns and restaurants are closed during the winter, numerous shops, museums, and galleries and, of course, all the beaches are open. Exploring the streets and island in isolation is an incomparable experience. Visitors return year after year in the beginning of December for Christmas Stroll, an old-time celebration that includes tours of historical homes, crafts fairs, caroling and theatrical performances.
Summer nights, local and international bands can be heard crooning at numerous watering holes around the Island. Downtown finds a slew of nightspots providing live music, DJs and dancing. Among them is the Brotherhood of Thieves, a cozy bar with an extensive drink menu and live folk music year round. The Rose & Crown is a local favorite for live music, dancing, karaoke and its friendly beer-hall ambiance. The Tap Room offers live jazz many nights and an inviting bar every night.
Band concerts are held at Children's Beach from July 4 through Labor Day. Bring blankets, chairs, and snacks, and get some space in front of the bandstand. The third weekend of August usually finds the Boston Pops in town.
If fortunate enough to have scheduled your trip in the beginning of the summer, be sure to check out the Nantucket Film Festival, held for six days mid-June, and purchase your week-long passes ahead of time. After the festival is over, there are three movie theaters: Gaslight Theater and Dreamland Theater in town, and 'Sconset Casino. Only Gaslight is open year-round.
For art enthusiasts, there are a number of impressive art galleries in town, and the Island's Artist Association features year-round art exhibits. Several theatre groups and musical organizations also offer a variety of concerts and performances throughout the year. Listings can be found in the Inquirer and Mirror.
Perhaps you thought that Nantucket, being an island off the coast of New England, could offer the hungry traveler nothing more exciting than clam chowder or broiled seafood. You are to be pleasantly surprised. If, on the other hand, you have come expecting the island to live up to it is gourmet reputation, you will not be disappointed. Nantucket has managed to attract and retain world-class culinary talent. The options are impressive: from fabulous French fare to a comforting cup of clam chowder, from the freshest, raw Sushi to the perfectly grilled steak. Nantucket is far from the troubles of your daily life on the mainland, but certainly not so far off that the world's finest provisions can't be brought in.
Not to be missed, according to Island residents, is 21 Federal. Housed within the gracious walls of a former private residence (as are many restaurants on the island) the food works hard to match to quiet elegance of the room. Menu items read like a gourmand's idea of heaven: sautéed halibut with crepes, lobster and red wine risotto, followed by chocolate lava cake with caramel sauce anyone? To give you a sense of how seriously the foodies here take their feasts, visit L'Ile de France French General Store on Federal Street, a gourmet market where you can find unique, imported French products.
Other formal fine dining options include the Brant Point Grill at the newly refurbished White Elephant Inn, and right in Nantucket Town are DeMarco Restaurant on India Street, Le Languedoc Bistro on Broad Street and the Boarding House on Federal Street.
There's no shortage of eateries that cater to those with a discerning palate but who would also rather not wear a jacket. Black Eyed Susan's on India Street welcomes you as you are (as long as that does not mean gym shorts or bikinis) and presents luscious offerings with an international flair. Other more casual favorites are the Centre Street Bistro, Sushi By Yoshi, and Arno's at 41 Main Street - all right in Town.
Though most dining establishments are right downtown, visitors don't even have to leave the harbor to enjoy a variety of dining options. Most of these restaurants offer indoor as well as outdoor seating and the outdoor option comes with the added benefit of prime people watching. Directly on the harbor is Cap'n Tobey's Chowder House, giving those who seek a waterfront view a full range (formal to casual, American to International) to choose from.
Beyond Town and the Harbor there's always your cottage or beach. A wonderful variety of food purveyors offer gourmet goods to go. Try the full-blown clam bakes from the Lobster Trap - either delivered to your door or available for take away.
Nantucket is hardly known as a wild, party-to-the-wee hours kind of destination. In fact, most establishments close by midnight; however, those who'd like to enjoy a few drinks with friends have plenty of options. In Nantucket Town, Brotherhood of Thieves, Tap Room, and the Rose and Crown all qualify as friendly watering holes, and many of them feature live music (again, think more along the terms of a folk guitarist and banish the idea of an all-night disco or rock bands).
The Chanticleer is perhaps the best-known fine dining option on the Island. Year after year, this French restaurant receives the highest awards and praise, with the wine list alone garnering its own attention and awards. This should be expected as the wine cellar holds 40,000 bottles and the wine list boasts a selection of no less than 1200 French and Californian wines.
So not to worry—defying geography, Nantucket manages to please even the most discerning gourmets.
The Nantucket native is sure of two things: the island is a special place and locals are thrilled to see you and wish to accommodate your every need. Seeing everything on Nantucket is easy if you plan ahead. Many attractions can be found within walking distance of one another.
Madaket Beach The Madaket Bike Path leads to Madaket Beach. This path offers bikers beautiful views, a handsome final destination and two offshoot bike paths. The first is the Cliff Road Path and the second is the Eel Point/Dionis Beach Path. The nearly one-mile path to the Beach is recommended. Heading south is the shortest of all the bike paths, Surfside Path that leads directly to Surfside Beach. Head over to Nantucket Town for dinner at the traditional American restaurant Black Eyed Susan's.
Whaling Museum Most visitors allow plenty of time to leisurely stroll the winding cobblestone streets of Nantucket Town. The Whaling Museum on Broad Street chronicles Nantucket's long history of whale hunting. The First Congregational Church and the Jethro Coffin House, the oldest house on the island, are within a few blocks of one another. You can also wander down to Swain's Wharf or grab a bite at the Brant Point Grill, famous for its lobster dishes.
Nantucket Aquarium The Nantucket Aquarium is uniquely located inside a cottage, and has information about the sea life on the island. The architecture at the nearby Atheneum, Nantucket's public library, is worth a look. The Life Saving Museum is just up the street. Dine at the comfortable Atlantic Cafe, then head over to the landmark Brant Point Light Station and take some photos.
Children's Beach The welcoming Children's Beach is popular with adults as well. Many choose to come here to swim because the waters are never rough. Stop into the Sailor's Valentine Gallery a few blocks away or drive up to Steps Beach. Dine at 21 Federal then do some star-gazing at Open Night Loines Observatory.
Historic District There is much to do in the Historic District. Stop into the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) for maps, pamphelts and other information about historic places. Shops like the Golden Basket and restaurants such as Cioppino's make walking through this neighborhood a pleasure. The Maria Mitchell Association offers educational summertime activities for children.
Nantucket is a lovely, small island ringed by white sand beaches, dotted with quaint, historic towns. All this makes it a fine island to tour by bicycle or by foot. Luckily there are plenty of ways to get around Nantucket without your car, and each provides the visitor with a more fulfilling experience.
Walking Tours Nantucket Visitors Services and Information Bureau ( +1 508 228 0925 )
Van and Bus Tours Nantucket Island Tours ( +1 508 228 0334 )
Bike Tours Young's Bicycle Shop ( +1 508 228 1151/ http://www.youngsbicycleshop.com/ ) Island Bike & Sport ( +1 877 228 4070/ http://www.islandbike.com/ )
Carriage Tours Rosewood Carriage Company ( +1 508 228 9252 )
Ghost Walks Nantucket Ghost Walk ( +1 508 228 4572/ http://www.nantucketghosttour.com/ )