I’ve been on the go this September, so it’s been taking me a bit longer to share my adventures than usual, but I wanted to make sure I highlighted my time on my favorite island: Nantucket!
I’ve been going to this island almost every year since I was a baby, so it truly feels like a second home to me. Even though I’ve visited countless times, it still holds so much magic for me and brings me so much joy as soon as I step off the ferry! I’m sharing this guide based on my latest trip to encourage you to visit this tiny island in the hope that it brings you as much happiness as it does for me!
How to Get There:
Nantucket is a small island located off the coast of Massachusetts, so you have the option to either fly or ferry. While I have flown when visiting in the winter, I always recommend taking the ferry ride during the warmer months – spending 1-2 hours resetting and preparing yourself for vacation just sets the tone of the trip for me! I use that time to finish up any last minute work emails or begin a new beach read.
While my family typically takes the ferry from Hyannis when we bring a car over, I actually tried out the New Bedford ferry for the first time and loved the experience! You get to stop over in Martha’s Vineyard (the sister island to Nantucket) midway through.
Here are my personal recommendations for getting to Nantucket:
- The Steamship Authority – Hyannis Ferry – great if you want to bring a car with you to the island (slow ferry), or want only an hour long ride (fast ferry)
- Seastreak – New Bedford Ferry – convenient prepaid parking since the ferry doesn’t hold cars, with a two hour long trip making a stop at Martha’s Vineyard
- Cape Air – the tiny local airport where you can get to Nantucket in under 20 minutes. They also have a bunch of airports across the country they connect to, so if you’re not in the New England area this may be your most direct route to the island!
Where to Stay:
My family used to rent a house when we drove up and brought our car over with the dogs and extended family. However, in recent years we’ve opted to stay at the quaintest in just three blocks outside of town. If you’re not bringing a car, I highly recommend staying at one of the inns just outside of town (staying directly in town can get a bit noisy at night, especially on weekends or during peak tourist season).
- Cliff Lodge Bed & Breakfast – the one my family has stayed at for the past few years and my choice for my current trip. They offer complimentary breakfasts, coffee, tea, and flavored water all day long, beach towels and umbrellas for the duration of your stay, a beautiful widows walk, and are about three blocks away from town.
- The Nantucket Hotel and Resort – a more traditional hotel for your stay on the island, this hotel has amenities such as a gym and in-house restaurant for convenience. I believe they also have a shuttle service to different spots around the island. It’s also just outside of town – around the block from Cliff Lodge!
- The Jared Coffin House – if you’re looking to stay at one of the most historic and recognizable locations on Nantucket, look no further than the Jared Coffin House! Once belonging to one of the wealthiest whaling families on the island, it’s not a historic inn that that remained true to it’s traditional roots.
- If you’re seeking luxury, I’d recommend the White Elephant (just outside of town with beautiful dockside views and a fabulous restaurant I’ll mention later) or the Wauwinet (much more private and you’d have to take a shuttle since it’s on a more secluded part of the island away from town – perfect for a romantic getaway).
- Carlisle House Inn – another quaint inn just a block away from Cliff Lodge on the edge of town that is over 250 years old! I’ve never stayed there but the location can’t be beat for easy access to the beach, town, or shuttles.
- Ship’s Inn – I’ve never stayed at this historic boutique inn before, but have eaten at the exceptional restaurant it houses. Located on the upper edge just outside of town, it’s a great respite from bustling main street and is so elegantly decorated inside!
- Veranda House – Another spot I’ve never stayed at but frequently pass by and am always in awe of how beautiful it looks! I’m obsessed with the exterior design and love the spacious gardens (complete with a fire pit) and love that it’s just a block from town for convenience.
While there are many other fabulous inns and B&Bs to stay at, these are my top recommendations! Please reach out if you have any questions!
Where to Eat:
I honestly recommend booking your dining reservations soon after you secure your housing, as restaurants can get booked up over a month in advance – especially during peak tourist season or for special holidays!
Here are my top picks:
- The Seagrille – quintessential New England fare – you get local produce and fish that tastes absolutely incredible! My family has been coming here for over 25 years and have never had a bad meal!
- Madaket Millie’s – the perfect combination of New England and Mexican food (I know it sounds weird but just trust me) located at my favorite childhood beach. The tacos and clam & corn chowder are always exceptional – you simply can’t go wrong at Millie’s!
- The Ship’s Inn – elegant, fabulous food with soufflés that are to die for! They only take reservations a week in advance, so I’d recommend calling at midnight/early in the morning to leave a message and secure your spot.
- Pi Pizzeria – if you have any pizza lovers, I highly recommend this spot for delicious pizzas, pastas, and eggplant parmesans! They also apparently hand make their mozzarella!
- American Seasons – I adore the seasonal, locally sourced cuisine at this charming restaurant! They always do an amazing job switching the menu to be attuned to the seasons in the best way possible!
- Brant Point Grill – This restaurant within the White Elephant Hotel is has fabulous views of the docks and incoming ferries. I do love their delicious dinners, but the Sunday buffet brunch is where they truly shine!
- Queequegs – an island staple – while they do have more sushi/international options available on the menu, I stick to the traditional New England dishes that they always knock out of the park!
- Via Mare – Italian meets New England seafood in this fun, creative restaurant. I love the small dishes (that honestly aren’t small at all)
- Galley Beach – have a luxurious dinner directly on the beach while watching the sunset – a perfect way to end your stay on the island or commemorate a special event! Reservations must be made 14 days ahead of time, so be sure to call first thing in the morning!
- Topper’s– located a the Wauwinet resort, you can either shuttle or take a boat ride to access this remote, romantic dinner. Have drinks on the lawn while watching the sunset then head to the restaurant for a delicious meal!
- Lemon Press – my go-to spot for healthy options like smoothies, salads, and grain bowls! They have a ton of vegetarian, gluten free, and vegan dishes for all types of needs and make delicious coffees to boot!
- Something Natural – best sandwiches, hands down! Warning – they are quite large, so I recommend going with a half sandwich unless you’re absolutely starving.
- The Downyflake – best donuts on the island, hands down!
- Nantucket Bake Shop – an absolutely delicious bakery! You simply must try the Portuguese bread, coco bread, and chocolate magees!
- Handlebar Cafe – another cute coffeeshop located right by the shuttle terminal to grab coffees and food on your way out to Mid Island or Sconset!
- The Corner Table – a great place for coffee and a healthy grab-n-go meal as you explore town. It was my first time visiting them during this trip and I went back at least three times for their delicious lattes.
- The Juice Bar – this iconic Nantucket staple is THE place for ice cream – they have every flavor imaginable and plenty of vegan options too! They also have homemade waffle cones and waffle cups made fresh every day (you can smell/watch them make it!) that are the perfect compliment to any scoop of ice cream!
What to Do:
There are honestly so many things to do on Nantucket that match with all different kinds of interests! From history and art to shopping and fitness, this island has it all! Here are a few of my personal selections to get a taste of all different kinds of island activities:
- Beach time – my personal favorite beaches are the less crowded ones, so it’s Steps Beach (a hidden gem) or Madaket (away from town) for me!
- The Whaling Museum – one of my favorite museums! They always have a great mix of the classic whaling history that made Nantucket a hub of wealth and culture, as well as relevant and topical smaller exhibits like women suffragists on the island and local artist features. As a bonus, your one ticket gets you access to go on historical house tours across the island!
- Visit Cisco Brewers – take a brewery tour at this fabulous on-island brewery famous for the Whale’s Tale Pale Ale (my fave) and the Shark Tracker. It’s a perfect rainy day activity!
- Sconset Bluff Walk – take a beautiful seaside stroll from the X Lighthouse to the
- Rent a Bike for exploring (you can also rent a car, but this is more fun)
- Mariah Mitchell Association Observatory – get an “up close” and personal view of the night sky and stars at Open Nights! You can reserve a spot to have an awe-inspiring and unique night out!
- Studio Nantucket – take a tough barre, bootcamp, or pilates class at this boutique studio in the middle of town.
- Take the Wave – this island shuttle is the perfect way to get around the island! At just 3 dollars per trip, you can go from downtown to visit Sconset or Madaket in about 20 minutes! They run about every half hour during peak season and every hour during the off season, but are the most convenient way to get around!
Where to Shop:
If you followed me along my trip via Instagram, you probably saw me hitting up a lot of small shops that I consider to be Nantucket staples. While there are plenty of big name brands like Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, and Lily Pulitzer, I definitely have a soft spot for the smaller, local businesses. I have my personal favorites for fashion as well as my must-visit stores when on the island. I hope you’re able to swing by and check them all out if you’re ever on Nantucket to let me know your favorites!
- Current Vintage – probably my favorite vintage store anywhere. The owner, Beth, has an impeccable eye for clothing, jewelry, bags, and wines! If you stop by, be sure to say I sent you – the whole staff is absolutely amazing!
- Vis a Vis – unique finds and fun patterns mixed with great not-too-touristy Nantucket apparel is the perfect combination!
- Murray’s – home of the iconic Nantucket Red apparel, you can find so many great styles here!
- Blue Beetle – I love the unique pieces that this store features – I’ve received so many compliments on my sweet Nantucket clutch that I got here!
- Eye of the Needle – I can always find great fun, vibrant statement pieces here!
- Peter Beaton – the most fabulous hats! Not it’s a part of Murray’s, but there’s a glam hat in there for every style. Think Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief vibes!
- Skinny Dip Nantucket – this seasonal store always has cute pieces!
- Dawn – a new find this year, but I love the luxurious patterns and beautiful fabrics at this shop.
- ACK 4170 – one of favorite shops in recent years. The owner is so genuine and nice (and knows all the best news about things happening on island) and her shop is full of fabulous finds! I always make sure to snag beautiful cards (she does the photos herself or features local artists) to send out for the holiday season and secure some of her fabulous candles themed around Nantucket landmarks and seasons.
- The Hub – it’s a true island tradition to grab your morning coffee and newspaper from this delightful little shop. I also snag calendars and cute gifts from here for my family!
- Four Winds Gifts – I would never call this a touristy shop since it’s been around for decades, but it’s definitely a fabulous gift shop for treating yourself and your loved ones to Nantucket themed items!
- Nantucket Bookworks/Mitchell’s Book Corner – my go-to bookstores! I found out you can actually order books ahead of time for pickup on island, so you never have to worry about finding the perfect beach read!
- Island Pharmacy – while this may not be an obvious pick, hear me out! Not old does the cute vintage diner have delicious food and make for the perfect photo opp, but I can always snag some great Nantucket-made soaps as gifts for myself and friends!
- Geronimo’s – the perfect store for animal lovers – bring back a present for your fur baby!
- Nantucket Perfumes – I sear by these perfumes – all natural oil based, they last longer and are less expensive that typical spray perfumes. They also have versions of all the most popular scents!
If you’re interested in getting dolled up for a night out, having an event, or want to have a photoshoot (for a special engagement, wedding, or yourself!), here are my top picks for where to go (especially for my fellow creatives/bloggers):
- Hair: Darya Salon & Spa or Emma Ross Hair & Beauty
- Makeup: Paolina Beauty
- Photographers: Georgie Morley and Emily Elisabeth – both were amazing at directing me for each shot and getting a ton of fabulous photos! Their energy was so uplifting and inspiring to get creative – I had such a wonderful experience working with both of them!
I hope this guide inspires you to visit Nantucket – it’s a truly magical place with so much to offer!