Cruising Destinations

10 Reasons We Love Nantucket Island

Boat docked, Nantucket Island

Nantucket has an impressive collection of fans. Let's take a look at 10 reasons we return year after year. Here are just a few things you can expect to find on your first visit.

  1. The five-day Nantucket Wine & Food Festival is held in the spring and attracts 3000 attendees to the island. Participants include over 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! Get tickets at
  2. With approximately 82 miles of coastline, it can be tough deciding which of the ten 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. The south shore beaches, such as Surfside and Cisco get heavy surf 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) is a bit more difficult to reach but is a good place to set up camp and stay with sunscreen and a good book.
  3. Over 33 miles of Bicycle Trails lead to all parts of the Nantucket Island with most ending at a beach. The island is only 110 feet 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.

    Sankaty Nantucket Lighthouse

  4. There are Three Lighthouses, each with its own distinctive look, personality and history. The 26-foot 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 feet tall on a bluff on the eastern shore. This is the original 1850 lighthouse but was moved 400 feet 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-foot replica of the original 1816 tower.
  5. The history-rich galleries, daily programs and museum tours at the Nantucket Whaling Museum (13 Broad St., 508-228-1894) make it a worthy stop. The museum is home to a 46-foot 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. See details at
  6. Unpredictable storms, dense fog and strong currents, combined with treacherous shoals, has led to over 700 shipwrecks in the waters surrounding Nantucket. The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum (158 Polpis Rd., 508-228-1885) 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 over 5,000 artifacts, including period surfboats, beach carts, vintage photographs and a Fresnel lens from Brant Point Lighthouse and one from Great Point Lighthouse.
  7. The Nantucket Atheneum is worth a visit on architectural merit alone, but you 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 (1 India St., 508-228-1110) and features art and artifacts related to the island's maritime history.
  8. 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!)
  9. 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.
  10.  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 really hungry, they also serve larger plates and whole table-size feasts. They begin taking in-person (only) reservations at noon and the phone lines open at 1:00 p.m. Bar seating is first-come, first-serve basis only. Go early and expect to wait awhile…It's just that good.