A trip to Nantucket is an item appearing on the bucket lists of a growing number of people. The small-sized remote island, which is 30 miles south of Cape Cod, and at the same distance from Martha’s Vineyard, is a dream location for a summer vacation or a romantic getaway.
But it is also a beloved spot for people who want to admire the superbly preserved historic buildings, lighthouses, and infrastructure, or the iconic gray shingled cottages with blooming rose and hydrangea gardens. It is also the spot to go to spend time among unadulterated nature and endless beaches.
If you are planning a trip to this New England island, here are some ideas for the best ten things to do in Nantucket.
- Admire the Nantucket Architecture
Unlike other upscale locations on the east coast and in the New England area, the architecture and infrastructure of Nantucket are very strictly planned and controlled by the local authorities and historic preservation organizations.
As a result, you can walk the same cobblestone streets along the grand colonial-style mansions and buildings that people walked on during the whaling years of the island a couple of centuries ago.
The colonial-style homes and other buildings have been restored with care to perfection.
There are also charming weathered gray cedar shingled cottages surrounded by blooming gardens, covered with crawling roses on trellises and in window boxes which you can admire during your stay on the island.
Fortunately, many local homes are available for short-term rent, so you can book one for your stay to get a real feel of living on this magical island.
- Take a Stroll at the Sconset Bluff Walk
This is among the country’s most picturesque, romantic, and instagrammable walking paths. It is only a mile long but is a place where every single step presents a perfect photo opportunity.
The walking path is covered with white seashells. It passes through the quaint village of Siasconset, known for the postcard-like cottages with shingle sidings, covered with climbing roses and surrounded by the most beautiful gardens.
You will pass by these beautiful private homes and through the local market, where you can buy some snacks for the nearby Siasconset Beach.
Nearby is one of the three historic lighthouses – the Sankaty Head Light too.
- Go Fishing
While it used to be known as the whaling capital of the world, today, when whaling has long been abolished, Nantucket still remains a fishing paradise and hub too.
You can enjoy some fishing from shore at the south bay or on any of the coasts of Nantucket. You can also go on a fishing cruise, where experienced local anglers will take you to the best spots for catching the big game fish such as marlin, tuna, and Mahi Mahi.
There are fishing tours on the island itself. Luckily there are different ones suitable for people with no, little, or years of experience in fishing. The tour guides will provide you with all the gear you need.
- Visit the Lighthouses
There are three historic lighthouses in Nantucket which are still fully functional. They have guided ship crews and other mariners for centuries.
Brant Point Lighthouse is close to Downtown and is the first building you will probably see if you are arriving via ferry.
Great Point Lighthouse is at the northernmost point of the island. It can be reached via a 4WD vehicle and an over-sand driving permit through the beautiful Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.
Sankaty Head is the cutest red and white striped lighthouse at the easternmost point of Nantucket. You can reach it via the picturesque Sconset Bluff Walk.
- Rent a Bike
Taking your car to Nantucket is not only complicated and expensive, but it is frowned upon. Luckily, this 50-square-mile island is easy to explore via bicycle. You can rent a bike at a very reasonable price and then get around from any point of the island to another via the extensive network of bike lanes covering it.
Some of the rental residences and hotels even include bikes for free for their guests.
- Enjoy a Harbor Cruise
One of the best ways to admire the idyllic island of Nantucket is from the sea. You can hop on one of the many harbor cruises offered there in order to spend time in the sea and enjoy the panoramic views of the ocean, the super yachts in the harbor, and the island. There are various cruises available throughout the summer, including cocktail cruises, ice cream cruises, oyster cruises, and more.
- Visit Cisco Brewers
The only craft brewery on the island is a favorite spot for residents and guests of Nantucket alike. It has a wonderful big beer garden where you can taste the best local craft brews while listening to live music and munching on snacks for the many food trucks on site. Since the Nantucket Winery and the Triple Eight Distillery are right next door, you can also taste and enjoy some of the best local wines and liquors there too.
- Relax On One of the Many Beaches
The island of Nantucket may be tiny, but it prides itself on 82 miles of beaches, all of which are free and open to the public. There are more than 20 beaches to choose from, some of the most popular ones being Children’s Beach, Jetties Beach, Madaket Beach, Cisco Beach, Surfside Beach, Steps Beach, and more.
The beaches on different coasts offer different conditions. The north shore ones are more suitable for families with kids, the others on the coasts of the open Atlantic Ocean and a better option for surfers and more experienced swimmers.
- Indulge in New England Clam Bake
Nantucket is a foodie paradise, so don’t forget to enjoy some local specials such as freshly caught oysters, lobsters, and clams. Try the delicious clam bake at Brant Point Grill or Cru if you want a waterfront view. For a more casual snack, opt for the Straight Wharf Fish Store or Sayle’s.
- Don’t Forget the Whaling Museum
This may be the last one on this list, but the Whaling Museum is considered the most popular and top-rated place to go when visiting Nantucket.
The museum is housed in a beautifully restored building from the glorious whaling years, which has a rooftop deck offering a stunning view of the harbor.
The museum has hundreds of artifacts, paintings, and other exhibits telling the story of the times when Nantucket was the leading whaling hub of the world.
You can see a real giant whale skeleton there and learn more about the whaling ship and the captain, which inspired the writing of Moby-Dick.