Nantucket Massachusetts – Island Hopping New England Style

Genie Davis February 16, 2011 1 Comment


One of our favorite island destinations was once a rugged whaling stop off the Massachusetts coast. Nantucket island is more than thirty miles off shore and it’s a longer ferry ride from Cape Cod to Nantucket than it is to the more frequented Martha’s Vineyard. Confession time: as much as my family and I enjoy Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket is our favorite New England isle. There’s more open space, less people. Longer walks, more encounters with sea birds and sea shells. The island seems more removed in time as well as distance. Heritage, history and beautifully untouched dunes are what makes Nantucket a special destination. 

The harbor of Nantucket town

The harbor of Nantucket town is relaxing and old fashioned – great for a stroll


We love its cobblestone streets, luxurious old fashioned sea captains’ dwellings, and even its fascinating whaling history. We love the slow, laid back pace of the island. As over half the island is designated as conservation land, you won’t find the development here that buzzes about the Vineyard. We liked that. And we loved the Sherburne Inn. We needed two of the simple, clean, antique-decorated rooms to accommodate us, but the reasonable prices made this a treat and not a budgetary stretch. Delicious breads and home baked cookies are available as snacks, too, throughout the day. Breakfast is simple but delicious, fresh baked goods and juice for the kids; fine teas and coffees for the adults. 

There are a number of excellent beaches to explore, Jetties Beach, gentle Children’s Beach, and Cisco Beach, and the magnificent, deserted Great Point to name just four beach going choices. Note that the waves are small and perfect for small children along Nantucket Sound; waves are big and more interesting to walk beside than swim in along the Atlantic ocean beaches. 

We took a taxi to Great Point Beach, which is a beautiful and very quiet spot nearly nine miles from town. The dunes seem to stretch for miles, and you’ll feel that you have the entire coast line to yourselves. There are no facilities, and there’s no place to buy food or beverages near by. We brought a picnic lunch in ourselves, and after dining on cheese, bread, and carrot sticks, we found a treasure trove of sea shells, and a secluded “valley” between dunes that became our temporary residence. Napping, reading, watching the cormorants and gulls wheeling in the sky in a private, nature-owned, roofless “cabana” – it doesn’t get much better than this. 

After so much lazing around, we attempted to walk back to town but we’d already finished off our stash of bottled water, and even with an umbrella stroller for the smallest feet, it was a long walk. We made it only as far as another inn, the near by Wauwinet, a luxurious alternative to staying in town, with emerald green lawns and private boat service. We had sodas at the elegant Topper’s Deck, where the waitstaff kindly scrounged up some left-over from lunch desert – delicious cobbler – for the kids. And we called another cab back to town. Someday we’ll be back to stay – the lawn chairs looking out at the ocean beckon. 

We had a deadline after all – making it to town for an hour and a half sunset sail around the harbor. The boat was smaller than I’d envisioned – we took up a third of its fourteen seats. Leaving directly from Stearn’s Wharf, you’re allowed to bring your own food aboard, and we did, fish sandwiches, lobster rolls, and potato salad from the Straight Wharf Fish Store. Many photographs later, we tumbled off the boat and back to dry land to stroll past shop windows – Nantucket goes to bed early – and get some delicious chocolate chunk ice cream at the Juice Bar. Yes, there’s fresh made juices too. 

Nantucket, a wonderfully timeless island vacation

We loved the quaint streets in Nantucket, a wonderfully timeless island vacation.


In the morning, it was time for more hectic activities – digging in the sand. We stuck closer to town and hit the appropriately named Children’s Beach with town-purchased shovels and pails. The shelling was not as magnificent as at Great Point but whiling away another day by this stretch of sandy coast was equally enjoyable. We were much closer to Main Street for lunch, so rather than bringing a picnic with us we made our way to the Keel Café for a late lunch. The veggie sandwiches were lovely, and since it was Sunday, the kids shared a stack of delicious buttermilk pancakes – served till three p.m. on Sundays. 

After lunch we strolled through town again, tasting plum jam in one store, learning about crocheting techniques in another. Just before sunset we took a shuttle from town and a kite out to Surfside beach, about three miles from town. Sunset is a great time for kites here, the proper wind conditions and dissipating beach goers give you plenty of room to run along the coast line. 

One caveat, Nantucket’s small airport is nearby, so you’re warned to fly your kites away from the flight path on the west end of the beach. 

We caught the last shuttle back to town and enjoyed the fish and fishing chatter at the Nantucket Lobster Trap restaurant. This is something of a hot spot in town, and the tavern end of the restaurant was packed. The kids loved the crisp fish and chips and the adults enjoyed the oysters from the raw bar – Nantucket plucked and fresh. 

Leaving the small town, old fashioned ambiance of Nantucket is hard, and you’ll want to make it easy on your family with a stop on the Cape before a return to true city life – even the mini-golf and picnic tables on Cape Cod seem like bustling urban enclaves after relaxing on this island. You’ll keep the sounds of sea birds and ocean waves with you for a long time after you leave.

avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Excursions
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