Best Things to Do in Nantucket
According to the National Park Service, Nantucket is the “finest surviving architectural and environmental example” of a classic New England port. In the late-nineteenth century, the island’s shipping, fishing, and whaling economies collapsed overnight, plunging the island into an economic depression that lasted until tourists began visiting the island in the twentieth century. Much of the island’s architecture, then, predates 1900.
The Whaling Museum is a portal with an in depth look at Nantucket’s rich history over the past four centuries, much of which revolved around the whaling industry. The museum features numerous exhibits in its nine galleries showing off hundreds of works of art, artifacts and treasures not to mention the 46 foot-long whale skeleton, a huge lighthouse lens, and a 19th century candle makers’ workshop. To top it all off, visit the rooftop deck for incredible views of Nantucket Harbor.
Brant Point Lighthouse
Brant Point Light, a working lighthouse and Coast Guard meteorological station, is an excellent example of the Cape area’s iconic lighthouses. While there is no parking at Brant Point, it is only a pleasant 15 to 20-minute walk from downtown Nantucket. In front of the tower, Brant Point Beach has very strong currents and heavy boat traffic, but is nonetheless a popular destination – artists and wedding parties frequent the area for the view and the stunning sunrises and sunsets.
Siasconset Beach, also known as Sconset Beach, has a raw natural beauty and is a great place to spot seals and sandpipers. Big waves and strong currents run along the shore and lifeguards are present in the summer months, but swimming is risky. There is bus service to the beach in summer and off-road vehicles with permits may drive on the beach.
The Cottages at Siasconset
The Summer House Cottages at Siasconset reflect the timeless comfort of the English country cottage on Cape Cod. Combined with the private ocean beach, heated swimming pool, elegant restaurant for fine dining and a casual bistro right on the beach, the Cottages at Siasconset may be the perfect vacation spot, wedding venue or quite retreat.
Historic Downtown and Harbor
Steeped in its history as the leading seaport for whaling, Nantucket’s downtown district was overlooked for decades after the decline of whaling. Late in the 20th century when seasonal tourism began to impact Nantucket, preservation efforts were already well established. Now, downtown Nantucket has the look and feel of an old seaport community as well as all the trendy restaurants, unique shops and abundant art galleries you’d expect from this Cape Cod treasure.
Madeket, Dionis or Jetties Beach for Sunset
Nantucket has, arguably, the best beaches in the world for watching the sunset. Jetties Beach, located right outside of town to the north, is a large sandy beach with a long rock jetty reaching out into the open water. Dionis Beach, with views across Nantucket Sound to Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, is sheltered by tall sand dunes and secluded from the rest of the island. And Madaket Beach is beautiful and serene, with truly spectacular sunsets over big, beautiful waves.
4-Wheel Drive to Great Point to See Seals
Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is a safe haven for an array of wildlife that includes a colony of gray seals living just past Great Point Light. Join a scheduled 4×4 tour to get to know the area or venture out on your own to explore the refuge’s 16 miles of trails and sand roads along the beach. Vehicles must be four wheel drive and a permit is required to drive on to the property, but experiencing this coastal wilderness wonderland is worth the effort.
Watching Surfers at Cisco Beach
The heavy surf at Cisco Beach makes it a popular spot for surfers, windsurfers, boogie boarders and anyone who wants to watch the action. In season, there are lifeguards on duty and a nearby surf shop offers surfing lessons and rentals. Cisco Beach is accessible via the Hummock Pond Road bike path and four-wheel drive vehicles with permits are allowed on the beach.
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