image via wikimedia
today’s city guide completes writer andrea mchugh‘s look at two of my favorite islands: martha’s vineyard and nantucket. this past december andrea was kind enough to walk us through her favorite spots in martha’s vineyard and today she’s taking us through the beautiful island of nantucket. although these islands are typically known as summer destinations, it’s never too early to start planning a trip (or booking early hotel deals!) and andrea’s guide will take you on a tour of the best spots to shop, eat, stay and site-see. thanks so much to andrea for her great guide!
CLICK HERE for the full nantucket guide after the jump!
Nantucket City Guide
Thirty miles off the mainland, Nantucket seems a world away with 82 miles of unspoiled beaches and a downtown not much changed from its whaling days; where stoplights, neon signs, big box stores and restaurant chains are noticeably absent. This enclave of 8,000 residents grows nearly eight fold during the summer season, but all year long visitors are lured by the island’s iconic salt box-style cottages, cobblestoned streets, rich history and world-class dining. The ubiquitous grey, cedar-shingled homes and recurrent fog has dubbed Nantucket the “Little Grey Lady of the Sea,” and for many, her welcoming arms are the sweetest respite in an otherwise harried world.
Two choices: by air or by sea. Nantucket Airlines and Cape Air have the most flights into Nantucket Memorial Airport from Boston, Hyannis, New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; and Westchester, New York. Other major carriers accommodate travelers to Nantucket through JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington National airports.
Ferries to Nantucket depart from a number of ports including Hyannis via Hy-Line Cruises and The Steamship Authority. Both offer Fast Ferries that are generally passenger-only (bicycles and leashed pets usually welcome) and are the quickest way there by sea, as well as traditional ferries that allow vehicles but take nearly twice as long (and cost more). Do yourself a favor and leave the car behind (they weren’t even allowed on Nantucket until 1918); the island is foot-traveler friendly and even the outermost beaches are accessible by seasonal public shuttle, taxis, moped or bicycle. You can even embrace the nitty gritty thrill of free-wheeling across the windswept sand dunes by renting a Jeep (with the permits) and enjoy Nantucket’s beauty in an entirely new, adventurous way.
Considering Macy’s department store was founded by Nantucket native Rowland Hussey Macy, who’s pop owned a shop on the island’s Main Street, the Gray Lady knows a thing or two about retail therapy. More than a century ago, Center Street was better known as “Petticoat Row,” as the ladies of the island owned and operated the downtown shops while their husbands, most in the whaling industry, would be out to sea for years at a time. Today, everything from chic boutiques to island-style outposts, local art, nautical antiques and treasures from every era are peppered throughout Nantucket.
Murray’s Toggery Shop is a Nantucket institution and the birthplace of Nantucket Reds, the coveted faded red chino lauded by preppies everywhere. In addition to every rendition of the faded fabric possible (shorts, skirts, lobster-shaped Christmas ornaments), other popular sportswear and accessory brands can be found here.
Fashionistas find luxe looks and cutting edge designers at
Ceri, an uncluttered boutique with carefully chosen pieces for the confident woman.
Pageo brings the bling with pieces from local artisans and internationally acclaimed designers.
From nautical gear by Henri Lloyd and Helly Hansen to laid back threads by Tommy Bahama and the shop’s custom label, Nantucket Brand, Island Pursuit stocks casual sportswear, shoes and accessories for men and women.
Beautiful, hand-hooked rugs celebrating coastal living can be found at
Claire Murray, the eponymously named shop for a New Yorker-turned-Nantucker who never looked back.
“Independent & Out to Sea” is the motto at
Nantucket Bookworks; one of those warm and comfy book stores you should simply resign yourself to spending more time than you have in exploring the shelves.
Little ones are larger than life at Pinwheels, where familiar lines are interspersed among lesser-known up-and-comers, making for a tradition-meets-trendy vibe and a little something for everyone.
Leslie Linsley wrote the book on Nantucket (no really, her latest release is called “Nantucket Island Living”), 50 of ‘em actually, on crafts, home decorating and island style. Her shop by the same name is chock full of unique finds and special gifts.
Classic New England style thrives at Peter Beaton Studio with clothing and accessories for men, women and children in addition to a Signature Collection of hats and totes made from finely braided leghorn straw.
Plush pajamas and robes, monogrammed accessories and linens, cashmere pillows, chic stationary and charming signs, the Blue Beetle merges joy and elegance of island living.
Treasures from Nantucket’s nautical past, authentic quarterboards and house numbers made locally by master woodcarver Paul McCarthy and folk artist Jean Petty are worth the visit Nantucket Carving & Folk Art , an island institution.
At Four Winds Craft Guild, you’ll find iconic handmade Nantucket Lightship baskets, Nantucket lightship purses, and collector scrimshaw.
Fresh flowers, many locally grown, and fun home accessories make a visit to
Flowers on Chestnut, a memorable escape from the mundane.
SEE & DO
Meticulously restored in 2005, the
Nantucket Whaling Museum provides an in-depth look at Nantucket’s rich history and vital role in the whaling industry. Be sure to visit the rooftop deck for a panoramic view of Nantucket Harbor.
Just a few miles from downtown on a pastoral expanse overlooking serene Folger’s Marsh, the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum is a living tribute to the heroic actions of groups including the Massachusetts Humane Society, United States Life-Saving Service and the United States Coast Guard. This hidden gem is a must-visit.
One part fabulous accessory another part historical icon, the Bartlett’s Farm is more than just Nantucket’s oldest and largest family-owned farm, it is home to rolling acres of tomatoes, flowers, a jaw-dropping menagerie of greenhouses, a garden center, a bustling market and appetite-inducing kitchen serving up the spoils of the land.
The surest sign of spring on the island is
Daffodil Festival Weekend , when more than three million daffodils bloom across Nantucket. An antique car parade followed by a picnic, a daffodil show, the Daffy Dog Parade, Chidren’s Parade and The Daffy Hat Pageant round out the fun-filled weekend.
Tucked away on a bucolic winding country road you’ll find Cisco Brewery , the island’s prided small craft brewer distiller and winery. Following a major renovation and expansion in recent years, the trio of buildings is home to the brewery, Triple Eight Distillery and the Nantucket Vineyard tasting rooms. Make an afternoon visit (perhaps by bicycle) a priority.
For more than 35 years, residents and visitors have flocked to Jetties Beach for the annual Nantucket Sandcastle and Sculpture Day, featuring over 50 sculptures created by families, adults, teens and tweens, and children.
No need to wait for a rainy day to enjoy
The Starlight, the island’s only year-round movie theatre coupled with a full-service bar and cafe.
Hollywood’s glitterati descend on the island every June to be toasted and take in the annual Nantucket Film Festival,
screening independent, studio-produced, foreign, documentary and short films in every genre in addition special events, forums, readings and panel discussions.
Gastronomes and oenophiles reserve accommodations in advance of the famed
Nantucket Wine Festival, famous for its Grand Tasting, at which more than 125 of the world’s great wineries are featured. Wine and food seminars, celebrity chef lunches and dinners, and exclusive events are hosted throughout the island.
While other New England coastal communities hibernate throughout the winter, Nantucket celebrates the season with the much-loved
Annual Christmas Stroll Weekend. Plan early as this weekend sells out ferry rides and accommodations quickly.
Take a tour of island’s trio of lighthouses including the Brandt Point Light, the 2nd oldest lighthouse in U.S., the Great Point Light and the Sankaty Head Light. A handful of local tours to the lighthouses are provided; find more information at the
Nantucket Visitors Services and Information Bureau on Federal Street.
Take to the trails at the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, where you can go 4-wheeling on miles of beaches, watch wildlife, fish or picnic overlooking the sea. Experienced hikers will enjoy the Beach Trail, Inside Trail and Coskata Woods Trail, but hobbyists and novices may prefer the know-how of an experienced guide.
Built as a wedding gift in 1686 for Jethro Coffin and Mary Gardner, the Coffin House is the sole surviving structure from the island’s original seventeenth-century English settlement. Explore Nantucket’s historic past here and visit the beautiful herb and vegetable gardens.
More than a dozen diverse beaches can be discovered on Nantucket. Many are within walking distance to downtown and area inns, while others are accessible via the scenic, paved bike path or by the inexpensive NRTA shuttle bus (summer only). Perch yourself on one or explore them all, one extraordinary seashore at a time. Use THIS GUIDE to help you plot your course.
Siasconset Beach, best known as ‘Sconset Beach, is on Nantucket’s eastern shore (it’s actually easternmost point in the country); a stunning expanse in the midst of a vigorous protection and preservation effort. The surf at times can be rough, but its ample beauty and accessibility by shuttle during the season make it one of the island’s most popular escapes.
West of the harbor with a consummate ocean breeze, Pocomo Beach Point is a quiet departure from summer’s frenzy making it ideal for wading, kayaking or windsurfing. In nature’s glory, you will find neither amenities nor lifeguards, but peace and (usually) quiet abounds.
Perfect for a sunset picnic and a front row seat to ferries cruising to and fro, Brant Point, anchored by its eponymously-named lighthouse, is a quiet, sandy beach worth visiting. You won’t find lifeguards or snack shacks but you will find a picturesque place to unwind.
As the name implies, Children’s Beach (or Harbor Beach) is ideal for little ones, with lifeguards on duty, a park playground, showers, snack bars and picnic tables, and plenty of space for sandcastles. Located just steps from downtown, this beach attracts a large crowd in the summertime. Look for fun events, including concerts, throughout peak season.
Lapping waves, a snack bar with seating, a playground, volleyball nets, rentals, restrooms and access by shuttle make Jetties Beach on the island’s North Shore perfect for families.
Surfside Beach, on Nantucket’s South Shore, is accessible by paved bike path or the shuttle bus and is dotted with kite-flyers when the breeze kicks up. Surfcasting is permitted after 5 p.m.; beach accessible wheelchairs available.
On the westernmost point of Nantucket’s South Shore, Madaket Beach is best known for vibrant sunsets. There’s not much space to park so it’s best to go there by bike or shuttle.
The lesser known Lady’s Beach (formerly known as, gasp, Fat Lady’s Beach) on the South Shore always seems to have ample, sandy, prime real estate to offer. Pick up provisions at nearby Bartlett’s Farm and the day promises to be just about perfect.
If you’re not casting into the surf or digging for quahogs (town shellfish permit required) for dinner, Nantucket affords a lively culinary scene ranging from quaint seafood shanties to fine dining in world-class restaurants. Make a reservation at the island’s most coveted spots during the high season and don’t forget: an al fresco picnic by the sea can be just as unforgettable. Your best bet for getting the most bang for your buck is during
Nanticket Restaurant Week, held in both the spring and in the fall. Many restaurants remain open year round, while others shine only seasonally which for many, may be through the popular Annual Christmas Stroll Weekend.
Celebrating local fare and seasonal ingredients while paying tribute to different regions of the country with a creative, oft-revised menu, America Seasons, tucked away on Center Street, is a cozy, candle-lit, must-visit dining destination. Feast in the dining room, savor among the elements on the covered patio, or sip an expertly crafted cocktail in the tiny but chic bar.
Weekend breakfast is hopping at Black-Eyed Susan’s, where an in-season wait is not uncommon but worth it. Grab a stool and watch the chefs slice and dice up close or pick a seat in the courtyard. Dinner is also popular here with a creative, fresh menu. BYOB.
Named for the cannibalistic harpooner in Melville’s Moby Dick, Queequeg’s offers fine dining in a cozy, friendly setting. In the warmer months, try and dine on the patio, or for a more relaxed dinner, score a spot at the bar.
Dining at Company of the Cauldron is an absolute splurge but most will tell you worth every penny. Expect New American meets eclectic on the ever-changing menu and whether enjoyed inside or out, this humble hot spot has earned its enviable reputation.
Housed in historic Nantucket home found at the top of a flight of copper (yes, copper) stairs, Oran Mor is a charming bistro with an uncomplicated menu, handcrafted cocktails and lovely wine list.
For more than 20 years, 21 Federal, housed in a former mid-19th century rooming house, has been a consummate hub of award-winning, traditional American cuisine. Reservations may be hard to land but are worth the attempt.
Grog and pub fare rule at The Brotherhood of Thieves, which boasts a trio of settings including the upstairs dining room, the outdoor patio and bar and the über-rustic ambiance of the groud-level1840’s Whaling Bar.
Intimate, endearing and simply delightful, the Centre Street Bistro, located in the Meeting House Building, is best known for creative dinners, lovely lunches and breakfast on the weekends.
One group, three diverse restaurants. The Pearl, Boarding House and Corazón del Mar, brought to you by culinary luminaries Angela and Seth Raynor, might be best known for attracting the cheek-kissing set, but all pretenses aside, the trio of eateries deliver the goods. The chic décor of The Pearl and Asian-inspired menu, the appeal of the warmly welcoming Boarding House and the Latin flavor of Corazón del Mar (can you say ceviche bar?) should be on every foodie’s must-do list.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to proclaim you have the “Best Ever” New England Clam Chowder, but Slip 14 on Old South Wharf backs the claim up quite well. Enjoy lunch or dinner served from this cedar-shingled waterfront locale or perch yourself on a stool, order a cool cocktail, and watch the world go by.
Located at the landmark White Elephant hotel, the Brant Point Grill offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in an elegant, coastal setting (try to score a seat on the harborside terrace). For a truly indulgent spread, head to grill’s Sunday brunch buffet where you’ll find a make-your-own Bloody Mary station.
Lola 41 bills itself at a “global bistro,” boasting sushi, seafood and steak and a rousing following year-round. One of the island’s best loved bars and known for amazing burgers, if you can’t get a reservation, try their take-out place in town.
Hearty servings are de rigueur at the Fog Island Cafe open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Long lines in the morning are a testament to what some call the best breakfast in town.
Featured in Food & Wine Magazine, the Nantucket Lobster Trap has been a comfortable, casual institution for more than 30 years, where fresh seafood takes center stage. Dine inside or outdoors nightly (in season) in a family friendly atmosphere.
Not far from the Nantucket National Airport, Cinco invites the flavors of Spain with a tapas-style menu in a chic setting, best enjoyed with some savory sangria.
With a sister location in Manhattan, Sfoglia boasts a “Renaissance-influenced menu” celebrating traditional Italian fare and free-flowing wine.
Wood-fired, thin crust, Neapolitan pizza and Italian-American cuisine can be found at Pi Pizzaria, a beloved little eatery with a small dining room, glowing hearth and intimate bar—and take-out.
Serving classic French cuisine for more than three decades, Le Languedoc is a revered restaurant and inn where the bustling downstairs café is ideal for a casual supper from the bar menu and the formal dining room offers a refined experience.
Speedy, inexpensive and unfussy (and near the ferry docks on Steamboat Wharf), the Easy Street Cantina is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night. Tucked away inside, you’ll find the Nantucket Cookie Co.—‘nuff said.
Veteran restaurateurs Jeanne and Richard Diamond bring you two popular spots: Arno’s, featuring Nantucket’s only wine bar and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week; and
A.K. Diamond’s, a casual lunch and dinner spot known for steak and seafood.
MARKETS & BAKERIES and MORE
As picking up a bite before hitting the beach is practically ritual on Nantucket as is grabbing a jolt of java before your early morning passage, there are plenty of coffee shops, bakeries and markets to make life easy. Here are just a few:
An assortment of produce, fresh coffees, pastry and baked goods, ice cream and treats are interspersed between ’Sconset Market’s own line of lotions, soaps, dry goods, baskets, private labeled jams, salsas, pasta sauces, condiments, dressings, marinades and ’Sconset Market swag.
Follow the giant doughnut to get to Downyflake, where the homemade donuts seem to melt in your mouth. A cheap, good breakfast there is about all you need to start off the day on the right, albeit sugary, foot.
The aroma of freshly ground beans competes with the mouth-watering pastry in the cases at The Bean, a popular coffeehouse and impromptu meeting spot.
The island’s only full service bakery, the
Nantucket Bake Shop is quite simply, indulgent. Fresh out-of-the oven blueberry muffins, warm scones and piping hot coffee make getting out of bed worth the effort. Tasty take home dinners are available and of course, out-of-this-world desserts.
Previously mentioned Bartlett’s Farm boasts an expansive market and fabulous kitchen—the perfect spot to pick up fresh foodstuffs for a day on Cisco Beach.
Open year round, Daily Breads Bakery is the perfect place to break that pesky “no carb” New Year’s Resolution. From-scratch breads, pastry, scones and flaky croissants are irresistible and homemade pizza and sandwiches rock all day long.
Keep it healthy and wholesome at a Annye’s Whole Foods, where you’ll find poultry, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, and wines from Italy, France, and California in addition to all-organic bulk foods.
Grab a cup o’ joe to go at Island Coffee Roasters on Broad Street downtown—convenient spot before ferry boarding.
Sweeten your stay with a visit to Aunt Leah’s Fudge in The Courtyard on Straight Wharf, where you’ll find more than 30 varieties of the treat, chocolate covered Nantucket cranberries and chocolate covered strawberries.
is a full-service deli and butcher shop featuring organic, all natural meats including Angus beef, chicken, pork, Colorado and Australian lamb, and milk fed veal. Made-to-order sandwiches and prepared meals make it an ideal stop for a no-fuss meal.
Creative flavors wrapped in warm waffle cones are what make Juice Bar devotees come back year after year. The lines may be long but generally move quickly and make the frozen specialties all the more sweet.
The heaping sandwiches from Something Natural Bakery, near Jetties Beach, are outright belly busting, making them ideal for a day sunning yourself on the sand or the perfect pit stop from the bike path.
You’ll find just a couple of larger hotels among hundreds of inn and bed and breakfasts. Below we’ve highlighted just a short sample. Contact the Nantucket Visitors Services and Information Bureau for a full list. Of course, in peak season you’ll find the highest price points, because in Nantucket, you’re paying the price for unmatched beauty.
Quaint, private, and welcoming travelers for more than100 years, The Century House will bring new meaning to “bed and breakfast” when you lay eyes on the early morning buffet. Housed in a preserved Victorian, this spot aims to please the discerning traveler.
One of the most storied spots on Nantucket, The Summer House now has a number of properties throughout the island, the hub of which is the Summer House Beach and Pool Club in Siasconset.
There’s a reason the Union Street Inn has garnered the attention of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines. The inn’s dozen rooms are each elegantly appointed with décor merging it’s circa 1770 past with modern amenities. Centrally located right off Main Street, enjoying the island is a pleasure from this luxe spot.
Cozy, welcoming and casually elegant, The Brass Lantern is open year round and to many a traveler’s delight, welcomes pets. The inn makes visitors feel right at home offering fresh-baked cookies at afternoon tea and Saturday evening wine and cheese socials throughout the summer.
Providing a rare blend of large scale hotel amenities and personal service on this small island, the White Elephant is a luxury compound overlooking Nantucket’s harbor. Chic, light-filled guest rooms and suites, a full-service spa and fabulous dining keep guests coming back year after year.
The Wauwinet, a Relais and Chateaux retreat, is a luxury beach resort that if it weren’t in beautiful Nantucket, would give you no reason to leave the compound. Don’t worry about its location nine miles from town, the resort has its own private boat to taxi you to and fro.
Built in 1803 by a renowned sea captain, the Martin House Inn is conveniently located in the heart of Nantucket’s historic district. It’s grand exterior and nostalgic charm are warm and welcoming.
You’ll feel like a local staying at the Cottages at the Boat Basin, offering on the water cottages and lofts including the new Crow’s Nest overlooking the entire Boat Basin.
A small, sophisticated guesthouse, the Nantucket Whaler is conveniently located next to the whaling museum and welcomes guests to relax in their manicured gardens.
Perched on the north shore of Nantucket Sound, the Cliffside Beach Club boasts a private beach, lap pool, an outdoor hydrotherapy spa, a leisure pool, and a members and resort guests only bar/café. Done and done.
There’s just something inviting about a place named The Barnacle Inn. Situated in quiet garden surroundings on Fair Street downtown, the inn has been maintained by the same owners for more than 40 years. Inside, each no-frills room bears the name of a whaling vessel that sailed from Nantucket more than a century ago.
Just a short walk to Jetties Beach and the Brant Point Lighthouse, The Brant Point Inn and Atlantic Mainstay is quietly tucked just two blocks from town and celebrates country living. The innkeepers are happy to recommend the best spots on the island to dine.
*ACK: what frequent visitors often call the island, picked up from the airport code for Nantucket
The truth is, there are a lot of fabulous watering holes throughout Nantucket. Whether perching at a wine bar sounds divine or a cold beer at a relaxed dive is more your style, there’s something for just about everyone here.
The Muse: Unfussy, live music, DJs, dance floor, pizza and pool tables, and the (in)famous Sunday night AirBand performances.
Chicken Box: “The Box” is an island institution. Live bands, cheap drinks, big crowds.
The Club Car: Sing a song with the piano man here, where show tunes and sidecars go hand in hand.
The Boarding House: Once dinner wraps up, this hotspot keeps the drinks flowing.