Nantucket is an island and town located 30 mi (48 km) off the coast of Cape Cod and part of Massachusetts. The island offers quiet harbors, dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, lighthouses, beautiful old mansions and gardens, interesting history even a series of (sometimes bawdy) limericks about its residents. Whether you’re looking for a few nights out on the town with friends, a fun-filled weekend with the kids, or a little R&R, Nantucket is where you want to be.


Wharf shacks at Nantucket harbor

Nantucket is a small island, 3.5 by 14 miles long. It is frequented by CEOs, executives, lawyers, bankers, surgeons, and megastars or just average folks looking for a getaway. It gives them an opportunity, while enjoying a few Bloody Marys on the beach, to get away from the intense city and work atmosphere with their families and friends. They are able to enjoy many of the fine and casual dining restaurants the island has to offer. Many people come to Nantucket because they know that it is a location where five star service is quite common. Tourists are treated to the finest seafood and other cuisines. Nantucket also has some of the most exclusive golf clubs, lodges, restaurants, beaches, and homes.

While most popular in the summer, the island can be visited at any time of the year. The summer population of 55,000 residents dwindles to 12,000 during the off-season, making for a quieter visit. Be aware that smaller crowds also mean fewer services available, including more limited ferry schedules and fewer open restaurants and stores.

The local government and people of Nantucket are environmentally friendly and green conscious. There is a wonderful recycling system intact that must be followed by all visitors and residents of the island. About 36% of the island is protected and maintained by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. Protected lands include beaches, hardwood forests, dunes, shrublands, bogs, heathlands, marshes, grasslands, meadows, and ponds. The Nantucket Conservation Foundation also works to preserve the local wildlife of the island. To see the local sea life of the Island there is an aquarium, which is open to the public for a small admission fee. Whale, seal and bird watching are three very popular past times that many locals, vacationers and their families enjoy taking part in. In the olden days, Nantucket was central to the whaling industry. You will find many old whaling bars on the island as well as The Whaling Museum located in town. There is the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, many Banks, a Library, Town Hall, and Police Station if needed.

One factor that attracts many families to Nantucket is that it is a safe place for children to wander around on their own. Kids can ride their bikes into town with friends and grab ice cream at The Juice Bar or a bite to eat at the local Pharmacy. A lot of the restaurants on Island accommodate small children, infants and large parties, so the whole family can sit down together and enjoy a nice meal as well as a night out on the town. There is also a local strip with food vendors and gift shops, which is also a local hang out stop for all ages. A few of the popular tourist recreational activities and services include: biking, boating, fishing, water sports, boat charters, boat rentals, boating services and supplies, fishing charters, fishing supplies, mooring rentals, regattas, surfing, festivals, museums and sites, spas and clubs, beauty, fitness, massage, tours, eco-tours, kayaking tours, van tours, walking tours, and site tours.

Since Nantucket is a huge tourist destination during the summer season an influx of workers come to the island from all over the world to seek employment for the summer with intentions of returning home at the end of the season. Business is at its all time high and workers are needed to facilitate and administer stores, restaurants, clubs, and all other amenities on the Island that attract tourists. These workers are also tourist because while working they too are experiencing Nantucket for the first time and join in on many tourist activities. Many summer workers are internationals.

Nantucket is commonly abbreviated by its islanders as ACK, also used as Nantucket’s airport code.

Get in

Part of the island's appeal is its isolation; "Nantucket" is a Native American word that translates into "faraway island" or "land far out to sea." You can reach the island either by boat or plane. Nantucket's location near Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard lets visitors take the ferry over and spend either the day or a few nights on the Island to enjoy the sights, food and shops. Numerous local and national airlines provide regular service to and from the mainland, primarily to Boston and New York area airports.


By plane

For those who may get seasick or prefer to travel by small airplane.

Get around

A popular way to see the island is by bicycling on the two-way paved bike paths, which are located alongside every major road on the island. There are several bike shops located in or around town that either sell or rent out bikes to visitors and locals. All bike paths lead into town and out to Madaket, Surfside, Cliff road, and Sconset.

Most bike rentals are available right at the Steamship Authority ferry dock at Broad St. It is important to note that most main streets around town are cobblestone and bikes are difficult to ride until you reach paved roads.

If you're thinking about visiting Nantucket and you do not enjoy biking, you may take the shuttle bus service which serves all areas. Or you could rent a moped and drive around town. For the most part everything you may need during your stay on Nantucket can be found in town so walking is probably your best bet. There are also taxi cabs available.

A car isn’t really needed to get around the island. The difficulty of having a car is that parking is limited, lots are time checked, and driving in town is full of traffic and people crossing the road.

Boating around Nantucket is very popular. The harbor is full of personal sailboats, racing sailboats, motorboats, fishing boats, and private or company yachts in the marina. The town pier’s Harbormaster can be contacted for mooring or slip rentals. They provide many services to boats in the harbor including delivery of newspaper, donuts, and ice. They also provide a pump-out boat and a dinghy dock. Next door is Brant Point Marine, which sells boat gear, equipment, water sport tubes, and offers boat rentals. There is also a launch that can be accessed near the dock by The Tavern in town that runs all day and will bring people to and from their boats.


The island's long and rich history led the National Park Service to declare the entire island a National Historic District. Notable historical sites include the African Meeting House, Brant Point Light, the First Congregational Church, the Hadwen House, Main Street, the Maria Mitchell Association, the Nantucket Atheneum (local library), the Oldest House, the Pacific National Bank, the "Three Bricks" (which has a very interesting construction history), and the Whaling Museum. The majority of sites are within walking distance of each other.

Great Point lighthouse

Nantucket was once the whaling capital of the world. A number of the homes located on the Island are from the 1800s, including many of the red brick houses which were once the homes of wealthy whalers. The first settlers of Nantucket were the Quakers. The Island has a heavy Quaker history. It is believed that values of the Quakers allowed African Americans and women to flourish just as white men did in the olden days. The Island was one of the first places to abolish slavery in the United States. During the late 1800s and early 1900s women were given certain liberties they may have not experienced on the mainland. The first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell is a native of Nantucket. There are many beautiful sights to see in Nantucket. Whether it is the historical houses, colorful gardens, or pristine beaches, sightseeing is always a pleasurable activity.




One of the most favorite past times of travelers to Nantucket is going to the Island's many beaches. The crisp fresh air and cool water is quite lovely and the oceanic scene is an image that will leave you breathless. At every corner and end of the island you will find yourself a white-sanded beach. Sit back and enjoy the New England weather or take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. There are many water activities available, including everything from kayaking to surfing. Each beach on the island attracts a different crowd of visitors. You can definitely find a beach on Nantucket that suits and accommodates your personal preference! The beaches are the primary reason people come to Nantucket. Yes, the island has lots to offer, but the miles and miles of shorelines are what continues to attract visitors again and again.

Children’s Beach, Cisco Beach, Coatue, Dionis Beach, Jetties Beach, Madaket Beach, Siasconset (‘Sconset) Beach, Surfside Beach.

As a general rule, beaches located on the south side of the island (Cisco, Surfside, Madaket, Siasconset) have heavier surf and slightly cooler water than those on the north side (Children's, Jetties, Dionis, Coatue/Great Point).

Children’s Beach has a playground and faces the harbor. There aren’t large waves, so the beach is suitable for children, hence the name.

Jetties Beach easily accessed from town by bike, car, or shuttle. There is a building at the entrance for snacks and restrooms.

Surfside Beach highly populated with both locals and visitors in the summer. There are large waves for boogie boarding and swimming. There is a hill to get up and down to the beach, but there is a snack bar at the top with food, drinks, and beach supplies rentals.




Main Street is the center of shopping. Located right in town are several very expensive boutiques filled with glamorous summer dresses, custom made jewelry, exclusive handbags, and shoes designed to match every outfit. There are shops for everything from books to antiques to gift shops. Many tourists flocks to the stores located on Main Street for souvenirs, party dresses, bathing suits, beach towels (things they may have forgotten at home), or just to shop for the fun of it.

A few of the accessories and clothing shops located on Main Street are Judy Nantucket, Nautical Neckties, Vis a Vis, Float, Kiwi Johns, L’lle de France, Ladybird Lingerie, Murray's, Murray’s Toggery Shop, Nantucket Looms, Nantucket Reds, NantucKID, Ralph Lauren, Seth, Sunken Ship, and The Black Tick, Nantucket. Great stores to shop for gifts include Art Print of Olde Nantucket, Benji’s Boutique, Blue Beetle, Camera Shop, Flowers on Chestnut, Hill’s of Nantucket, L’lle de France, Majolica, Nantucket Baggs, Nantucket Knotworks, Nantucket Life Candle and Soap Shop, Nantucket Looms, Nobby Clothes Shop, and Olde Nantucket Candle Shop.

There are also many less expensive stores around town. The Sunken Ship has not only clothing but also great souvenirs and beach items. The Pharmacy (which has a pharmacy located in back), sells toiletries, toys, and small gifts, but most popularly sells ice cream and milkshakes at the front counter. Breezin’ Up has a lot of Nantucket labeled clothing. There is Island Breeze located on Main Street. Four Winds, is a great souvenir shop with clothing, jewelry, gifts, toys, and has an upstairs shop as well. Force Five Water Sports offers many surf clothing and gear. There is a great book store called Mitchell’s Book Corner.

Food/Drink Shopping






See Topper’s Restaurant and Brant Point Grill above – Wine Spectator Awards.






Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, November 15, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.