Coastal New England is home to many quaint seaside towns, each one more beautiful than the next, and all of them perfect for the ideal summer getaway. But perhaps one of the best seaside escapes in the northeast is Nantucket Island (nicknamed the Little Grey Lady), located 30 miles out to sea off the coast of Cape Cod. Beachgoers have been spending summers on the Faraway Island for centuries.
Eighty-two miles of pristine coastline, untouched dunes, and some of the East Coast’s finest seafood makes you not want to wait a minute longer to pick up your iconic Nantucket reds (Breton red sail canvas trousers that are practically the island’s uniform) and head out to sea to dine on the freshest catches of the day, explore downtown's pre-Civil War homes, and soak up the sun in one of the oldest whaling towns in New England. Nantucket has amazing attractions for every seaside traveler.
This magical island conjures up a kaleidoscope of perfection. When you arrive The Juice Bar is the first place vacationers see when driving off the ferry, and embodies everything that Nantucket is: sweet, sticky, and delicious. Most nights from June through September the line wraps around the block, but no line for this delicious ice cream is ever too long. Flavors such as Cookie Monster, Blackberry, Green Monster, Crantucket, and Dirty Grasshopper are just a few fan favorites.
Just a quick bike ride from town is Steps Beach. Known by both tourists and locals as one of the island’s best stretches of sand, you’ll get equal parts gentle surf and sweeping views of the Nantucket Sound. See if you can count how many steps there are (note: you might lose count, but the descent is well worth it).
Spending days at the beaches is the staple part of a trip to Nantucket. Beaches on Cape Cod Bay tend to be smooth and broad, with gentle surf, and, at low tide, hundreds of yards of tidal flats to wander and explore. These mellow Bay beaches are a favorite for kids and families. Some ocean-facing beaches lie between the water and vertical bluffs that jut high above the beach. Marvelous ocean vistas are visible from the bluffs, many of them crowned with waving dune grass and historic lighthouses.
There are several beaches around the island: Jetties Beach, Great Point Beach, Madaket Beach, and even a Children's Beach. A stop Jettie's Beach is a must so you can hit up Sandbar for frozen margaritas with an ocean view (priorities). The beach bar hosts indoor and outdoor seating areas, with colorful chairs planted right in the sand so you can still sunbathe while sipping your drink of choice. It's the ideal beach day location. Jettie’s Beach is also a easy bike ride from town or take the NRTA shuttle bus in summer. The water is calm and warm, perfect for swimming. There are volleyball nets, tennis courts, a skateboard park, and a playground. There are also windsurfing, sailboat, and kayak lessons and rentals available.
If you happen to visit in mid- August you must experience the excitement of nine days of regattas, award ceremonies, and parties hosted by Nantucket Yacht Club and Great Harbor Yacht Club to benefit Nantucket Community Sailing.
Another place not to be missed is Cisco Brewers. This local hot spot is a Nantucket staple and the perfect place to spend the afternoon. Beer, cocktails, food trucks, patio games, live music– what more could you ask for? It’s super group-friends, plus children and dogs are allowed too!
During your trip a walk through the Downtown District is as a must.The downtown area of Main Street, Broad Street, and all the tiny cobblestone streets in-between boast a ton of cute cafes, boutique shops, and markets to walk through. For a mix of clothing with stylish home accessories, Milly & Grace is the cutest ivy-covered boutique to step into. You will love walking through Bodega another chic home store with furniture, decor, and lot of unique finds to bring back as the perfect souvenir. And of course, there's a Polo Ralph Lauren store lined with white flowers on Main St—just to really achieve your peak preppiness before leaving the island.
As wonderful as the shops are, something quite magical happened at dusk when most of them closed and the day visitors departed. The town seems to wobble in time, and you experienced a delicious sense of dislocation. You feel like you are strolling through the 18th century, as long as no S.U.V.'s and Jeeps rumbles past.
While Downtown don't miss the Atheneum, the Greek Revival building that houses Nantucket's library, where Maria Mitchell worked as the first librarian and, rumor has it, read every book; and the Quaker Meeting House which sits in the heart of the town. Then head over and visit the Whaling Museum. Step inside and see historical artifacts and paintings, a restored 19th century tower clock, and a skeleton of a sperm whale from 1998 that stretches 46 feet.
Touring Nantucket’s lighthouses is another terrific way to see the 14-mile-long island. Three historic lighthouses grace the island’s shores: Sankaty Head light, Brant Point Light, and Great Point Light. The best way to see them all in a day is to get a jeep from a local renter (try Young’s Bike Shop or Nantucket Island Rent a Car).
No vacation in Nantucket is complete without a clambake. That’s what memories are made of at each vacationers hearts when they step foo set on the island. There is an abundance of things to do here on the island but having a clambake better be one of them. The Nantucket Clambake Co. can provide this classic island experience for you. They can meet you on the beach and will provide everything you need. All you have to do is come hungry. They also offer traditional New England Pit Bakes. Their classic menu includes Clams on-the-half-shell, Nantucket Clambake Chowder, homemade cornbread, lobsters with drawn butter, mussels in herb butter, corn on the cob, BBQ chicken and dessert and coffee to top it all off. Wow – what a mouth-watering experience! You simply have to try it!
Is golf your thing? Then try all 18 holes at Nantucket’s beautiful public golf course, Miacomet Golf Club. You’ll feel the fresh ocean breeze as you move down the course, as (no surprise here) the ocean is located only a mile away. It’s such a golf lover’s delight they just might play twice.
One of the most beautiful places in North America, Nantucket Island is at once sophisticated but welcoming, secluded yet accessible. Everyone from families to couples to solo travelers can enjoy what this New England paradise has to offer. It unlocks your deepest nostalgia of summer. Nantucket was the centerpiece of Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea. This comes as no surprise, this Island truly is a midsummer day’s dream.