Nantucket travel guide

Nantucket Tourism | Nantucket Guide

You're Going to Love Nantucket

One of America's greatest upscale vacation destinations, Nantucket may not currently be on your vacation radar, but that's about to change. This beautiful island, located just off the coast of Massachusetts, has something for everyone to enjoy.

It's hard to imagine anywhere more relaxing. Head to beaches like Surfside to unroll your blanket, open a book and spend all day listening to the waves break on the pure white sand. Rent a sailing boat and glide out into the bay, fish for the abundant bass and bluefish or head back to dry land and enjoy a round of golf with friends.

From fine dining options like the Boarding House in Nantucket Town to the boutiques on Main Street, all of the conventional needs of tourists are catered for as well. So, for a fusion of vacation essentials, sublime coastline and sporting activities, Nantucket is just ideal.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Nantucket

Beautiful Beaches

For many visitors, a week in Nantucket is really just a week on the beach. Thanks to its upscale clientele, you can be sure that beaches like Surfside or the Children's Beach won't be noisy or packed with tourists, and you can always find a patch to stretch out in.

Classy Restaurants and Places to Enjoy a Cocktail

Dining is another one of Nantucket's strong points. The people who visit the island demand a high standard of cuisine, and restaurants like Corazon del Mar or Boarding House never disappoint. Places like Galley Beach also provide beautiful places to unwind after dinner with a beer or a cocktail.

A Safe Place for Kids to Enjoy

Nantucket has an incredibly low crime rate and few vacation destinations allow kids to play so freely without parents needing to be too concerned. There's even a special Children's Beach with play areas and waves that never swamp the little ones.

Sporting Activities for Everyone

Active vacationers can exhaust themselves sailing, surfing, swimming or kayaking in Nantucket. On dry land, there are golf courses like Miacomet, tennis clubs and even places to ride horses like Emerald Hollow Farm.

A Chance to Fish until your Heart's Content

The name Nantucket is synonymous with fishing, which comes as no surprise for a community that started life as a whaling port. Nowadays, visitors can head to businesses like Albacore Charters and take a boat out into the bay with all the bait and tackle they need to land bluefish or sea bass.

What to do in Nantucket

1. Surfside Beach: Surfing On Pure Fun

Surfside Beach welcomes you to the beautiful and pristine stretches of sand and unique, thrilling adventures. Stroll along the beach during the day and let the soft sand massage your feet, and you'll hopefully get to see a few whales sitting on the beach. Build everlasting memories by collecting seashells, kiting, picnicking and creating sand castles. Explore further afield to the shifting dunes that present a perfect setting for spectacular photos or experience the ultimate thrill by surfing against the heavy and strong currents. As the day comes to an end, treat yourself to well-deserved burgers at Brotherhood of Thieves.

2. Brant Point Light: Scenic Views at Their Best

Built in 1746, Brant Point Light House commands captivating views of the sea beyond. This historic lighthouse was built to guide vessels into and around the inner harbor, and is still in operation to date. The inside is restricted, as it's an active post used by the U.S Coast Guard, but there's still a lot to see. Get a scenic view of the town's skyline and watch as yachts and ferries sail to and fro in and around the harbor, with passengers waving cheerfully. For the daring early riser, get to to the Brant Point Lighthouse before dawn and gape at the glowing orange sun making its first appearance.

3. Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge: Pride Of Mother Nature

Explore this savagely beautiful coastal nature preserve where deer, shorebirds, and raptors intermingle. Located in the remote, northeastern sand spits of Nantucket, this natural reserve opens its doors to breathtaking landscapes. Walk on 16 miles of trails through the waving marsh grasses, windswept dunes, and see a local fisherman grappling with harbor seals. Discover the extensive array of coastal plants including a maritime oak forest, heather and beach plum, and a savannah of red cedar. The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is open throughout the year from 5 am to 10 pm.

4. Whaling Museum: Home of the Lagoda

The Whaling Museum uncovers the fascinating maritime and whaling history of Southcoast Massachusetts. Gaze at the world's biggest ship model (Lagoda), five humongous whale skeletons, and the longest painting in America. The museum is a compelling destination for a vast collection of art and artifacts, and it also showcases the world's finest collection of Scrimshaw - the art of etching on whale bones and teeth. Buy unique gifts at the museum's gift shop and, before retiring for the night, head over to the Whaler's Tavern for a sumptuous lobster roll.

5. Cisco Brewers: Taste The Process

Take a tour with one of the guides through the vineyard, brewery, and distillery located in the fields of Cisco Brewers, located on Bartlett Farm Road. Sample various type of drinks and get an elaborate explanation about what happens in the brewery. Bask in the warm sunshine thereafter and sample some of the latest beer, liqueur, and delicacies, including dumplings and seafood, while enjoying the company of friendly bartenders and servers.

1. Surfside Beach: Surfing On Pure Fun

Surfside Beach welcomes you to the beautiful and pristine stretches of sand and unique, thrilling adventures. Stroll along the beach during the day and let the soft sand massage your feet, and you'll hopefully get to see a few whales sitting on the beach. Build everlasting memories by collecting seashells, kiting, picnicking and creating sand castles. Explore further afield to the shifting dunes that present a perfect setting for spectacular photos or experience the ultimate thrill by surfing against the heavy and strong currents. As the day comes to an end, treat yourself to well-deserved burgers at Brotherhood of Thieves.

2. Brant Point Light: Scenic Views at Their Best

Built in 1746, Brant Point Light House commands captivating views of the sea beyond. This historic lighthouse was built to guide vessels into and around the inner harbor, and is still in operation to date. The inside is restricted, as it's an active post used by the U.S Coast Guard, but there's still a lot to see. Get a scenic view of the town's skyline and watch as yachts and ferries sail to and fro in and around the harbor, with passengers waving cheerfully. For the daring early riser, get to to the Brant Point Lighthouse before dawn and gape at the glowing orange sun making its first appearance.

3. Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge: Pride Of Mother Nature

Explore this savagely beautiful coastal nature preserve where deer, shorebirds, and raptors intermingle. Located in the remote, northeastern sand spits of Nantucket, this natural reserve opens its doors to breathtaking landscapes. Walk on 16 miles of trails through the waving marsh grasses, windswept dunes, and see a local fisherman grappling with harbor seals. Discover the extensive array of coastal plants including a maritime oak forest, heather and beach plum, and a savannah of red cedar. The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is open throughout the year from 5 am to 10 pm.

4. Whaling Museum: Home of the Lagoda

The Whaling Museum uncovers the fascinating maritime and whaling history of Southcoast Massachusetts. Gaze at the world's biggest ship model (Lagoda), five humongous whale skeletons, and the longest painting in America. The museum is a compelling destination for a vast collection of art and artifacts, and it also showcases the world's finest collection of Scrimshaw - the art of etching on whale bones and teeth. Buy unique gifts at the museum's gift shop and, before retiring for the night, head over to the Whaler's Tavern for a sumptuous lobster roll.

5. Cisco Brewers: Taste The Process

Take a tour with one of the guides through the vineyard, brewery, and distillery located in the fields of Cisco Brewers, located on Bartlett Farm Road. Sample various type of drinks and get an elaborate explanation about what happens in the brewery. Bask in the warm sunshine thereafter and sample some of the latest beer, liqueur, and delicacies, including dumplings and seafood, while enjoying the company of friendly bartenders and servers.

Where to Eat in Nantucket

If you love gourmet seafood, Nantucket is the place to be. The town is studded with incredible restaurants. Some of the most prestigious include Boarding House, which offers a traditional, "farm to table" experience, the Latin-American influenced Corazon del Mar and the Pearl, probably Nantucket's best seafood restaurant. Sayle’s Seafood is a great place to order a takeout lobster while if you just need a snack to keep you going, head to the Downyflake for delicious doughnuts.

When to visit Nantucket

Nantucket in March
Estimated hotel price
$179
1 night at 3-star hotel
Nantucket in March
Estimated hotel price
$179
1 night at 3-star hotel

Nantucket is a superb summer destination. Between June and early September, temperatures are usually in the high 70s or 80s (with very occasional rainfall). Then again, high summer also brings the crowds and accommodation costs can go through the roof. As an alternative, try late spring (late April to early June).

Data provided by weatherbase
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Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Nantucket

Plane

Nantucket Memorial Airport might not cater for Airbus A320s, but flights arrive throughout the summer from New York JFK, New Bedford and Boston. After you touch down, the cheapest way into the city itself is by a Nantucket Regional Transit Authority bus which costs $2. There are also cab firms at the terminal and Hertz has an office at the airport if you need to pick up a rental vehicle.

Ferry

Aside from flying, the best way to reach Nantucket Island is by ferry. If you are taking your car, you'll need to catch a service from Steamship Authority Ferries which departs from Hyannis and cost $17 per person.

Car

Anyone driving to Nantucket will need to get to Hyannis, Massachusetts. From New York, take I-95 to Providence, then switch to Highway 195 then Highway 6 to Hyannis.

Bus

Megabus services to Hyannis run from New York City every day and can be a very cost-effective way to travel to Nantucket, while Bonanza Buses run from regional cities like Providence or Boston.

Airlines serving Nantucket

United Airlines
Good (2,854 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (4,395 reviews)
KLM
Good (355 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (3,061 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,219 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (317 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (549 reviews)
JetBlue
Good (1,298 reviews)
Korean Air
Excellent (255 reviews)
Royal Air Maroc
Good (131 reviews)
Hawaiian Airlines
Excellent (641 reviews)
EL AL
Excellent (111 reviews)
Cape Air
Excellent (16 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Nantucket

Nantucket Town – The town of Nantucket is the heart of the island and home to the vast majority of the inns and guest houses. With its quaint blue wooden houses and bay filled with sailing ships, it's also a beautiful place to spend time. If you stay in town, you'll be close to great eateries like the Straight Wharf Restaurant and cultural attractions like the island's Theater Workshop, so it's an attractive place to look for accommodation.

Popular Neighborhoods in Nantucket

Jetties Beach – Located a couple of miles north of Nantucket Town, Jetties Beach is an elite sailing community and, as the name suggests, one of the island's best beaches. However, the main attraction is the concert venue which overlooks the beach and regularly hosts classical and pop acts.

Polpis – Follow the road east from Nantucket Town and you'll reach Polpis, a beautiful coastal village. The village itself doesn't have much to offer beyond mansions and cottages, but around Polpis you'll find some of Nantucket's most attractive coves and beaches.

Where to stay in popular areas of Nantucket

Most booked hotels in Nantucket

Cliff Lodge
Excellent (9, Excellent reviews)
$202+
White Elephant Hotel
Excellent (9, Excellent reviews)
$572+
Jared Coffin House
Excellent (8.8, Excellent reviews)
$259+
Nantucket Resort Collection
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
$245+
The Beachside at Nantucket
Good (7.8, Good reviews)
$308+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Nantucket

Public Transportation

The main public transportation service on the island is The Wave, a bus network run by the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority. The Wave runs to all of the island's major beaches (with a fare of $2 each way) and to locations like Jetties Beach (for just $1 each way), so it's a very handy shuttle service.

Taxis

For a tiny island, Nantucket has a huge number of reliable taxi companies. Rates are fixed between the town and major destinations. For example, taking a cab to Polpis will cost $21, and it costs $29 to get to Hoicks Hollow.

Car

If you take your own vehicle or choose to rent when you arrive at the airport, getting around Nantucket is easy. The island is just 14 miles long by 3 miles wide, so it's hard to get lost. However, traffic in town can be a problem at the height of summer; gas costs are higher than on the mainland, and there is a lack of large parking lots in the center of town. If you don't mind hunting around for a spot, you'll be fine. Others might want to rent bikes and see the island by pedal power. Companies like Easy Riders Bicycles will be happy to set you up with a bike and rates aren't expensive.

The Cost of Living in Nantucket

Shopping Streets

Nantucket Town is the shopping center of the island, and Main Street is the town's best shopping street. You might actually be surprised by how many luxury boutiques and chains have a presence on the island. On Main Street alone you'll find a Ralph Lauren outlet along with independent stores like Benji's Boutique and Nantucket Looms. There shouldn't be a problem finding gifts with such a wide selection.

Groceries and Other

One of the side effects of being such a small island is that food prices in Nantucket are almost always higher than the mainland, so you might want to stock up before you catch the ferry. If you do need to shop for essentials, head to supermarkets like Stop & Shop of Fresh, which sells upmarket groceries, but don't expect any bargains.

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