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Nantucket travel guide: What you need to know before going there

This small picturesque island boasts several beaches, and it is a summer destination famous for its exciting waterfront activities. The island is relatively small, spanning fourteen miles in length and only three and a half miles wide but with a natural coastline of over eighty miles. It’s accessible by ferry or by plane from Cape pod. Nantucket embodies summer life, but unfortunately, it shuts down during the colder months. However, this changes quickly during the summertime when the island comes alive, bubbling with activity with charming homes painted in historical colors, sandy beaches, and a very welcoming townsfolk.

It’s truly a remarkable vacation destination for visitors worldwide, with lots of activities, cuisine, and culture to indulge in. Visitors can choose from outdoor dining, numerous boutique shopping, and walks through the quaint pre-civil war homes. Nantucket boasts a rich history and houses the highest number of these pre-wartime buildings earning the phrase a ‘postcard in real life.’ Time around Memorial Day to Labor Day, the weather is quite favorable. From May to September, it’s best to avoid the multitude of people who crowd the island, especially revelers from Boston.Its most visited neighborhoods are the downtown historical sites and Siasconset, located east of the island. Exploring the island by bike is much more enjoyable since there are well-defined bike trails in Siasconset, also called Sconset, Madaket, and Surfside. While here, there are various festivals to enjoy in April, May, and June hosting the Daffodil, wine, and book festivals, respectively.

The small island is home to about ten thousand residents, but numbers can go up to a staggering fifty thousand during the summer, including residents and visitors. Having some inside help to assist in navigating around this frustration is crucial, which is why it is advisable to book early. With this much activity, it’s hard to decide where to start, and I have compiled a small list that might seem insightful when deciding on this.

Nantucket’s Beaches

The beaches are a primary tourist attraction site with a vast pristine shoreline of over 80 miles and cool waterfronts. All beaches are ideal for a specific demographic, whether adrenaline-pumped surfers or just a family with kids. The Children’s beach is on the island’s north shore and is the ideal spot for families. It’s conveniently close to the town where they offer family-friendly pursuits for kids, such as music and yoga. Nobadeer beach is usually popular with teenagers and adults. There are no lifeguards, and the waves around this shoreline are intimidating. Off-roading on the beach is allowed, a popular sport for 4WD car owners, which adds to this awesomeness. Siaconst beach is much more tranquil for sunrises and seal watching and is less crowded than other beaches.


The Nantucket beaches are the perfect surfing grounds for beginners. The waves here are not as intimidating as those plaguing Hawaii and Australia. The Northshore focuses on light paddleboarding in the relatively calmer waters, but adrenaline junkies frequent the south shore, boasting a smooth bottom and more gigantic waves.

Whaling Museum

The Whaling Museum is open most of the year, from April to December. Once, this quaint island was a whaling capital, and the museum is the perfect visit to relive this history. With recent upgrades to the expanded exhibit hangs an approximately 46 feet long sperm whale hanging from the ceiling, numerous artifacts on display, and 11 modern galleries. They offer interactive displays for children while the adults tour around.

Brant Point Lighthouse

This historical monument, now owned by the United States coastguard, was established in 1746 to guide and keep ships safe during docking and anchoring. It is, however, closed to the public, but the surrounding grounds offer a perfect view for the luxury yachts cruising around at sea. It’s a common occurrence for visitors leaving the island to toss a coin for good luck at this place.

Shipwreck and life-saving museum

This iconic destination features several unique exhibits from life-saving antiques, quarter board collections, and a lighthouse lens. Although it opens seasonally, visitors are welcome to picnic on the lawns and soak up the lush atmosphere. Memorabilia in the museum pays tribute to the gallant townsfolk who risked their lives to save shipwreck victims while offering a rich history of the island’s time as a maritime industry. It is a one-stop attraction perfect for families since it caters to adults and kids. Kids enjoy knot tying, a virtual reality experience, and a guided tour around the museum.

Coskata-Coatue wildlife refuge

The vast land spreads over 1000 acres across the island. The diverse wildlife here makes it a top-rated attraction for visitors coming to the island. It is a protected area, and its beautiful landscape offers dunes and draped maritime, beaches blanketed with grass, a forest of red cedars, and oak forest. One of its two conspicuous peninsulas stretches out to the Atlantic Ocean, while on the other side lies the Nantucket life. The wild woodlands are home to numerous wildlife like the ospreys gracing the skies, deer galloping in the forest, grey seals and harbors on the beach, and crabs walking along the coastline. Off-road driving is allowed in this part of the island between May and October as long as off-roaders get a valid Over-sand vehicle permit from the local authorities.

The Atheneum

The Nantucket Museum is a conspicuous Grecian building with massive columns that opened in 1847 as a free public library. However, the library was established earlier in 1834 formed by a small conglomerate of neighboring libraries that joined up to form Nantucket Atheneum but burned down later in 1846. The new building that now stands replaced the old ruins. It was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, attracting over 169000 visitors yearly. The library offers well over half a million books to the public for free and CDs and DVDs. In true Nantucket fashion, this colossal place provides fun activities for very interactive kids, including dance and live performances, book clubs, and the famous Cold Turkey Plunge.

Image Credit: Mohan N/Pixabay

Jitaditya Narzary

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