Cruising Destinations

10 Reasons to Love Nantucket Island

Nantucket island, Nantucket

Nantucket Island in Massachusetts is popular with tourists, especially in the summer.

Nantucket Island has an impressive collection of fans. Maybe it’s the fact that Nantucket was the community in Massachusetts to lift a ban on automobile in 1918 or the city is so flat that nearly everything can be seen from the roads.

Let's look at 10 reasons visitors return year after year. Here are just a few things you can expect to find on your visit whether it’s your first time or you are a regular.

Nantucket Wine & Food Festival

Nantucket wine and food festival, Nantucket festival

The Nantucket Wine & Food Festival features more than 30 restaurants and 90 wine cellars.

The five-day Nantucket Wine & Food Festival is held in the spring (this year it was in late May) and attracts 3,000 attendees to the island. Participants include more than 90 wine cellars and 30 restaurants as well as vendors and exhibits. There are galas, dinners with world-renowned chefs and wine tastings on the schedule. This is the event and sells out fast.

Pick of Beaches

Nantucket, Nantucket beach, Nantucket lighthouse

Nantucket is a small town with more than 12,000 residents and 82 miles of coastline with a pick of beaches.

With approximately 82 (131.97 km) miles of coastline, it can be tough deciding which of the 10 Beaches to go to on Nantucket. North shore beaches have calmer, more protected waters (best for small children), and include Jetties Beach and Brant Point.

South shore beaches, such as Surfside and Cisco, get heavy waves and are popular with the surfing crew. Madaket is the only western-shore beach and has the best sunsets on the island. The more remote eastern shore beaches (e.g., Great Point) are more difficult to reach but are a good place to set up camp and stay with sunscreen and a good book.

Bicycles Trails

Nantucket bike trails, biking Nantucket

Nantucket Island has more than 33 miles of bicycle trails and most end up at the beach.

More than 33 miles (53.11 km) of bicycle trails lead to all parts of the Nantucket Island with most ending at a beach. The island is only 110' (33.53 m) or so at its highest, so you will not have to slog uphill; however, you might get a headwind of 10 mph or more.

You can rent bikes or bring your own. If you are renting, there are several reputable companies that offer well-maintained bikes, set up specifically for island riding (“comfort bikes”). Guided and group tours are also available.

Three Lighthouses

Nantucket Lighthouse, Nantucket lighthouses, lighthouse

Tourists have three lighthouses, including one built in 1746, to check out on Nantucket Island.

There are three lighthouses, each with its own distinctive look, personality and history. The 26’ (7.92 m) Brant Point Light was first erected in 1746 and is America's second oldest lighthouse. Small but mighty, its light is visible from 10 miles out. It is made of wood and the current structure is actually the tenth to sit in this location.

The red and white Sankaty Head Light sits 70’ (21.33 m) tall on a bluff on the eastern shore. This is the original 1850 lighthouse but was moved 400’ (121.92 m) back from the cliff's edge in 2007. Great Point Lighthouse is located on the northernmost point of the island. The existing lighthouse (circa 1986) is a 60’ (18.29 m) replica of the original 1816 tower.

Nantucket Whaling Museum

Nantucket whaling museum, whaling museum

A visit to the Nantucket Island isn’t complete without a visit to the Nantucket Whaling Museum.

The history-rich galleries, daily programs and museum tours at the Nantucket Whaling Museum make it a worthy stop. The museum is home to a 46’ (14.02 m) sperm whale skeleton, a restored 1847 oil and candle factory and countless Nantucket artifacts and treasures. Visit the rooftop observation deck for stunning views of Nantucket harbor.

Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum

Nantucket lifesaving museum, Nantucket museum

The waters surrounding Nantucket Island have led to more than 700 shipwrecks over the year.

Unpredictable storms, dense fog and strong currents combined with treacherous shoals have led to more than 700 shipwrecks in the waters surrounding Nantucket. The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum preserves the memory of the Nantucket islanders who risked their lives to save shipwrecked mariners.

Permanent exhibits are devoted to the history of Nantucket lifesaving, shipwrecks and rescues, life-saving equipment, the daily routine at a life-saving station and the workings of the present-day Coast Guard. The museum houses more than 5,000 artifacts, including period surfboats, beach carts, vintage photographs, a Fresnel lens from Brant Point Lighthouse and one from Great Point Lighthouse.

Nantucket Atheneum

Nantucket Atheneum, Nantucket

Few cities offer a library as beautiful as the Nantucket Atheneum, which was built in 1864.

The Nantucket Atheneum is worth a visit on architectural merit alone, but visitors will also find free WiFi, current newspapers and periodicals and solitude there. The institution was formed in 1834 as a private membership organization and became a public library in 1900. The iconic 1846 building is located in the heart of downtown and features art and artifacts related to the island's maritime history.

Nantucket Boat Basin

Nantucket Boat Basin, Nantucket boat harbor

If visiting by boat, the Nantucket Boat Basin offers 240 slips, complete amenities and concierge service.

The 240-slip Nantucket Boat Basin offers complete amenities, concierge service, two award-winning restaurants — Toppers at The Wauwinet and Brant Point Grill at White Elephant (the Boat Basin’s sister hotels) — and access to the White Elephant Spa. The concierge service can assist you with restaurant reservations, bicycle rentals, sailing excursions, golf outings and taxi service.

If you’re headed north this summer, or are close by, put them on your “must visit” list. (And bring your pooch along because this facility is pet friendly)

The Cottages at the Boat Basin

Nantucket cottages, Nantucket waterfront cottages

The Cottages at the Boat Basin offer great views of the water and are just steps from downtown.

Want to get off the boat or meet up with friends and family? Cozy up in a little cabin on the water watching the boats come and go. The Cottages at the Boat Basin offer studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom cottages and lofts with full kitchens and other amenities, all just steps from downtown. A free shuttle and bicycles make your exploration of Nantucket easy. Four-legged crewmembers are also welcome at the pet-designated Woof Cottages.

The Nautilus

Nautilus restaurant, Nautilus Nantucket

No trip to Nantucket Island is complete without some seafood and a visit to The Nautilus restaurant.

We like The Nautilus, a hot spot in Nantucket featuring global, seafood-centric small plates for dinner. The tapas-style small plates are served when ready and sharing is encouraged. If you are ravenous, they also serve larger plates and whole table-size feasts.

Nautilus begins taking in-person (only) reservations at noon and the phone lines open at 1 p.m. Bar seating is first-come, first-serve basis only. Go early and expect to wait awhile…It’s just that good.

Article courtesy of the Waterway Guide.