Last Updated on by Rodrigo @ OutofYourComfortZone
Nantucket is a small but enchanting island located 30 miles south of the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Also known as the “Little Grey Lady of the Sea,” the island has been declared a National Historic Landmark District and has some of the most beautiful beaches, vast areas of conserved land and wildlife, and unique sites to see and experience.
It has a wide variety of beautiful summer houses, cottages, villas, and other residences, which visitors can rent for the entire summer season on Nantucket or just for a week or a few days.
Even though the island is only about 3.5 miles wide and 14 miles long, it is home to over 700 historic buildings, including three of the oldest lighthouses in the country. It is also a place where you can enjoy some of the country’s most delicious seafood and delicacies and engage in all kinds of watersports and activities.
If you want to see and experience the best of Nantucket, then add these ten sites to your vacation plans.
1. The Whaling Museum
This museum has been voted the top site in Nantucket for years. The unique museum is housed in a building from 1846 which used to be a whale oil candle production factory. It is located in the heart of the historic Downtown. It displays thousands of artifacts and exhibits from the glorious years when the island was considered the world’s whaling capital.
Some of the most stunning pieces in the museum include a gigantic sperm whale skeleton and the first Fresnel lens in the USA, which was first used in the Sankaty Head Lighthouse.
The museum includes various crafted items, including scrimshaw, lightship baskets, art, and portraits from the whaling years.
You can learn more about the captain and crew of the Essex whaling ship that inspired famous American novels like “Moby-Dick” and “In the Heart of the Sea.”
The museum has another unique feature – an accessible viewing deck on its roof, where you can admire and take photos of the panoramic view of the Town, the Nantucket Sound, and the harbor.
2. ‘Sconset Bluff Walk
This short pathway passing through the village of Siasconset, called Sconset for short, is one of the most scenic walking paths in the country.
It is only a mile long and is covered with white seashells. The path will take you past the famous historic shingle-style cottages adorned with crawling roses and surrounded by beautifully kept gardens of the small village.
The path also offers some of the most stunning ocean views from the cliffs on the east coast of Nantucket.
You can walk to the top of the bluffs and then head to the Siasconset beach and to the nearby historic Sankaty head lighthouse.
3. Cisco Brewers
Cisco Brewers is more than just a local brewery. It was famously named “the happiest place on Earth” in an article from 2017 in Men’s Health.
The company comprises the local craft beer brewery, the Nantucket Vineyard, and the Triple Eight Distillery. So there is a beverage of choice for any taste.
Best of all, it is a favorite gathering spot for the locals, the millionaire, and the ordinary tourists and is much more casual than many of the upscale eateries and bars on the island. It is also child and dog friendly.
The venue has a spacious beer garden with many tables and benches. There are three bars and several food trucks on site where you can order the best local beverages, concoctions, seafood, and other delicacies.
Live music is played every day during the summer.
Plus, you can sign up for some fun tasting tours of the brewery, vineyard, and distillery and buy some of the unique local drinks like Grey Lady Wheat Ale, Whale’s Tale Pale Ale, or any of the other local spirits, beers, and wines as keepsakes and gifts from your Nantucket vacation.
4. Brant Point Light
Brant Point Light is the second oldest working lighthouse in the USA and has been guiding ships, boats, and other vessels and saving the lives of mariners for over 270 years.
It is the first structure that greets those arriving by ferry and by sea at the Nantucket Harbor.
The lighthouse, which was built in 1746, has been destroyed and rebuilt ten times through the years. Today’s tower is from 1901.
The Brant Point Light is famously decorated with a large daffodil wreath in April when the annual Daffodil Festival of Nantucket is held. At Christmas, the lighthouse features a beautiful Christmas wreath, and on the 4th of July, the tower is adorned with the American flag.
One of the local legends holds that when you are leaving the island and passing by the lighthouse, you should throw two pennies if you want to get a wish fulfilled and if you want to return safely back again to Nantucket someday.
5. Steps Beach
Steps Beach is less famous, crowded, and loud than some of the popular beaches of Nantucket, like Jetties, Cisco, Surfside, or Nobadeer.
This beach is considered “a hidden gem” even though it is set in between the popular Jetties and Dionis Beaches on the coast of the Nantucket Sound north of Town.
The only way to get to it is via a narrow set of steep wooden steps, which makes it harder to access, and, thus, less popular.
The beach itself is beautiful, and the water is warmer and has gentle surf.
But the panoramic view from the top of the stairs makes Steps Beach especially special and one of the top-ranked Insta-worthy spots on the island.
You can admire the fantastic view of the harbor, the boats, and yachts, the Nantucket Sound, and the lush green coastal plants from the top of the cliff above Steps Beach.
6. Jetties Beach
Jetties is one of the most popular Nantucket beaches because of its proximity to Town, its amenities, and the fact that it is on the coast of the warmer, shallower, and calmer Nantucket Sound.
There are lifeguards all summer long, and there is also a playground, a tennis court, a skate park, beach volleyball nets, restrooms, a pavilion, and a restaurant on the beach.
You can reach Jetties Beach on foot for just 10 minutes from Town and spend the entire day lounging, swimming, searching for sea glass and shells, and engaging in your favorite seaside activities there.
The restaurant and bar on the beach offer delicious fresh oysters, lobster rolls, snacks, meals, and amazing cocktails and drinks, which you can enjoy on tables and bars set directly on the sand.
7. The Juice Bar
The Juice Bar on 12 Broad Street has been selling the best homemade ice cream, smoothies, juices, and baked goods to the locals and visitors of the island for over 45 years.
Although it is a small shop, chances are that you will have to wait in a very long line if you want to buy delicious ice cream at the Juice Bar, especially at the peak of the summer.
The eatery offers over 40 different creamy flavors of ice cream and healthier options such as sorbet, yogurt, and low-fat ice cream. Everything, including the mouthwatering waffle cones, is made in-house at the Juice Bar.
You can also order various refreshing juices, smoothies, other specialties, and unique homemade ice cream cakes and pies at this shop.
8. Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum
This museum is not as big and famous as the Whaling Museum, but it is definitely worth visiting.
The Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum, located 3.5 miles from Town on Polpis Street, pays tribute to the hundreds of local people who have risked their own lives in attempts to help and save the crews and vessels which often were shipwrecked near the island’s coasts.
In fact, there are more than 750 documented shipwrecks in the last 300 years on and around the island of Nantucket.
The small museum, which the Egan Maritime Institute founded, has some fascinating exhibits, art, and models of the ships, and portraits and stories of the local heroes who saved them.
9. Straight Wharf Restaurant
This fine-dining harbor-side restaurant is among the best upscale eateries on the island.
It offers some fantastic takes on traditional American and seafood cuisine, with dishes prepared with the freshest, highest quality, sustainable local ingredients, including the day’s catch.
Please remember that you will need to reserve a table at least two weeks ahead of time if you want to enjoy an unforgettable meal at this classy restaurant. Straight Wharf is open only during summer and has been welcoming famous guests for 48 years.
For the best experience, you should arrive early and enjoy some of the tastiest handcrafted cocktails and other local beverages before your dinner or special event.
10. Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
The local conservation organizations and authorities have been working relentlessly to protect as much of Nantucket’s land, wildlife, and natural resources for decades.
Thanks to their efforts, almost half of the land on the island is protected and undeveloped.
The Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is among the most attractive sites for nature lovers, birdwatchers, and adventurers.
It is spread over the two peninsulas on the north shore of Nantucket and can be accessed by hiking, by bike, or with a 4WD vehicle with a beach driving permit.
Once you are there, you can stroll through the undeveloped barrier beaches and admire the shorebirds, seals, deer, raptors, and other wildlife and coastal plants and trees. The Refuge is home to the biggest red cedar savannah in the area and the historic Great Point Lighthouse, which stands on the island’s northernmost point.
To make your life easier, we made a list:
- The Whaling Museum
- ‘Sconset Bluff Walk
- Cisco Brewers
- Brant Point Light
- Steps Beach
- Jetties Beach
- The Juice Bar
- Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum
- Straight Wharf Restaurant
- Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Planning your next trip?