Cape Cod Day Trips:
A Day Trip to Nantucket
So you’re considering a day trip to Nantucket? The island is located 30 miles offshore from Cape Cod. There’s lots to see and do on a day trip to Nantucket, and a visit to the island can be perfect anytime of year!
The first step for your day trip to Nantucket is getting there, and there are plenty of great options. Nantucket is easily accessible by ferry or a small plane from Hyannis. Ferries also run from New Bedford, and between Nantucket and nearby Martha’s Vineyard. To make the most of a day trip to Nantucket you’ll want to take one of the first boats of the morning to the island, and be sure you’re booking a ticket on the fast ferry to maximize your time on the island!
What to do on a Day Trip to Nantucket:
Once you disembark from the fast ferry for your day trip to Nantucket, spend a little while walking around downtown. You’re sure to feel the island vibe as soon as your feet hit the cobblestones, surrounded by buildings of gray shingles and bricks and streets lined with tall elms. Town is filled with great shops, restaurants, and historic sites. Swing by Island Coffee to grab a hot or cold drink while you stroll.
You’ll definitely want to stop in at the Nantucket Whaling Museum on your day trip to Nantucket. The Nantucket Whaling Museum is dedicated to the island’s illustrious eighteenth- and nineteenth-century whaling history. The museum occupies a former spermaceti candle factory, where workers converted sperm oil from hunted whales into candles. The museum includes numerous artifacts from whaling vessels, portraits and photos of sea captains, and the reassembled skeleton of a massive sperm whale. While you’re visiting, be sure to climb up to the museum’s roof to take in the view of the harbor and downtown Nantucket!
If you’re visiting in the summer months be sure to also pay a visit to the Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum. The Lifesaving Museum explores the heroic rescues undertaken by the members of the Humane Society, U.S. Lifesaving Service, and U.S. Coast Guard. The museum features artifacts and exhibits on famous shipwrecks and rescues throughout the 19th century, and pays tribute to those who charted their course through the waters known as, “the graveyard of the Atlantic.”
The Jethro Coffin House is, most likely, the oldest surviving residence on Nantucket. The Coffin family built the wooden saltbox house as a wedding gift for Jethro Coffin and Mary Gardner in 1686. At that time, only several hundred English settlers lived on Nantucket and Coffin and Gardner came from rival families. Their marriage helped soothe tensions between the island’s original proprietors and its tradesmen.The Jethro Coffin House is slightly outside of town, but is a perfectly walkable distance. In the summer season, the site of the oldest house, operated by the Nantucket Historical Association, is open daily for visitors to stroll through the gardens and small historic home.
On your way to or from the Oldest House during the summer season be sure to check out the tower of the First Congregational Church. You’ll get stunning views of the island from the high vantage point.
Sankaty Head Light is located on the eastern tip of Nantucket island, in Siasconset. The island completed the brick and granite lighthouse, which is still in operation, in 1850. Like other lighthouses in the area, Sankaty Head Light was one of the first American lighthouses to use a Fresnel lens. While, today, the automated lighthouse uses new technology, visitors can view the original Fresnel lens in the Nantucket Whaling Museum.When you’re visiting the iconic lighthouse keep an eye out for the round circle of benches indicating a former location of the lighthouse before it was moved in 2007 to avoid the eroding shoreline.
Brant Point Light is located on Nantucket Sound, facing Cape Cod. The island built the first lighthouse on Brant Point in 1746, although it had to replace this original lighthouse and eight others on the point because fires, strong winds, and erosion destroyed the structures. The island built the current lighthouse, which still stands, in 1901. Today, Brant Point Light is both a popular tourist destination and a working lighthouse.
There are many beaches on Nantucket, but Madaket Beach is one of the island’s most beautiful and serene. The beach is located on the west side of the island, where the waves are higher and rougher, which makes it a favorite spot for surfers, windsurfers, and boogie boarders. The beach is usually less crowded than others on the island, although, in the late afternoon, locals and visitors often gather on Madaket Beach to watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
If you want to explore the island further than walking distance, consider renting a bike. Youngs Bicycle Shop is located just a short walk from the ferry terminal is a great option. You can also join a van tour of the island to see the sights and get some local commentary.
And finally, though you’ll never want to leave, board an afternoon or evening ferry back to Cape Cod. They say that if you toss a penny into the waves as the boat rounds Brant Point Light you’re sure to be back to the island after your unforgettable day trip to Nantucket.