Nantucket, the historic summer destination, is a haven for many people’s favorite summer memories, but there are plenty of people living on Nantucket year-round. While most will only visit the island for a few days or maybe a summer, residents get to appreciate the beauty every day. Sure, a number of the restaurants and shops that summer visitors love will close in the winter, but there is still an extraordinary number of activities to do and places to visit during the peaceful, calm months outside of the summer. When the island goes from a bustling tourist hub to a small, isolated community, you will learn to appreciate the locals and the island’s natural beauty. If you’ve ever dreamed of joining the 14,000+ residents who live year-round on Nantucket, you’re in the right place to learn more!
Housing on Nantucket
The biggest barrier to living on Nantucket year-round is simply affordable housing. Many of the island’s residents struggle to find a place to live, and sometimes end up living out of their cars or vans. Nantucket measures about 14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide, and while the island is host to plenty of affluent people, real estate is difficult to hold for the average resident. You may have heard statistics stating some odd 30 billionaires have homes on the island, and celebrities and affluent populations often flock to the island as the prices are not an issue.
The median home value on Nantucket in 2021 was $2.78 million dollars, and the average value was $3.62 million dollars. While this may not be extraordinarily striking considering the limited real estate space, the average income on Nantucket comes to $100,000-$140,000 per household annually. Considering expensive housing and higher prices for things like food and gasoline, income is often an issue for those seeking an island home. While there are affordable housing programs, these are generally geared toward current residents.
It is important to remember that it is far from impossible to live on Nantucket year-round, but it is just as imperative to know that you are embarking on a challenging task, competing for affordable real estate on a premier travel destination. If you go into your journey with an open mind and understanding of the challenges at hand, you will eventually have no problem finding a housing option and career that will allow you to follow your dream of living on the island.
Other Housing Challenges for Living on Nantucket Year-round
For those who want to live on the island, there are other factors to consider before purchasing a home. Strict architectural rules govern most of the island’s buildings, and if you want a home built, you will do best to stick with a local contractor who understands the stringent and rigorous rule set to create a home on Nantucket. Some consider Nantucket to be one of the only places on Earth that still looks and feels like an old whaling settlement, and strict historical regulations keep it that way. The whaling museum is not the only place that brings the bygone days to mind, there is a reason the Quaker styled, simply styled, shingled homes, and cobblestone streets remain in place. Those familiar with the island have probably seen stickers saying, “Gut fish, not houses.” If you do not love Nantucket’s architecture, then moving there may prove an unwise decision.
Erosion is a significant challenge to the island as well. Powerful waves beat back the beaches, bluffs, and buildings that make up Nantucket Island, and rising sea levels are not helping either. Erosion rates vary anywhere from under a foot to about 12 feet on average annually, depending on what portion of the island is measured, and weather patterns. Some residents have had to move their homes back from the beaches, or at worst, completely demolish them. If you plan to live on Nantucket year-round, thoroughly research erosion in your area, and understand potential problems you may face.
Traveling to Nantucket
Since Nantucket is an island community, there is only two ways to get to the island: by boat, or by plane. Ferries regularly travel between the mainland and Nantucket, and you have the option of taking a passenger or car ferry, though you will have to pay extra if you want your vehicle with you on the island. Ferry trips take just over 2 hours, but there are catamarans that offer a trip at only an hour if you are willing to pay more. Planes are your other option, and they are convenient barring any weather complications. It is important to keep in mind that plane services to the island are not larger, passenger aircraft like you may be used to. Most planes to the island are smaller, propeller aircraft. If you are not one for air travel, or you struggle on a passenger jet, this may not be the ideal option for you. For all travel to the island, it is important to note that ferry and air services are in high demand. Also keep in mind that travel is often delayed or canceled due to inclement weather.
What it is Like as a Year-Round Resident
If you have visited Nantucket in the summer months, you are familiar with the wide array of tourist activities, ranging from beach visits, exploring the wonderful restaurants and shops, or visiting the brewery or museums. While some of these activities are still available in the winter months, many of the familiar summertime shops and eateries will close shop. While this may be concerning, most attractions remain open, including some of the museums, a movie theater, and amazing restaurants. The biggest thing to remember about being a year-round resident is that you are living in a small community. If you are not a fan of a smaller town vibe where most people will know each other and you will often run into people you are familiar with, then the island may not be for you. Winters are a time for locals to recharge and enjoy the smaller, day-to-day life, compared to the busy, swelling summertime population. For the outdoorsy, there is no shortage of things to do. Whether you want to walk the beaches when they are empty, surf, hike, swim, hunt deer or duck, go fishing, forage for shellfish, you will always have something to do. Weather will be more challenging in winter, and storms may limit your ability to leave the island. If you can relish the insignificant things, winter on Nantucket will be a wonderful experience.
While there are some significant obstacles to moving to the island, with a little effort and knowledge, you will be able to pursue your dream of living on Nantucket year-round. It is truly an amazing place to live, offering an amazing balance of a busy tourist destination, and the hominess of a smaller, isolated island. With such a storied history, each day can be a new adventure, knowing that you are treading land that has been home to everyone from Native Americans, Quakers, whalers, and even hippies. Sure, it may be difficult to consistently pursue a life on Nantucket, but once you are settled in, it is easy to see why a few of the wealthiest people in the world are willing to drop a considerable chunk of change for such a small amount of space off the coast of Massachusetts. Make Nantucket your new home, and you will not regret it.