Nantucket sits approximately 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. It's most commonly accessed by Ferry using either the Hyline or The Steamship Authority's ferries. The "slow boat" can take around two hours while the "fast ferry" will get you there in one hour. The other option is to fly in, which is, of course, faster, and if you're traveling directly to Nantucket outside of Cape Cod, this makes more sense.
We, of course, live and work here on the island and often get asked by new visitors to this charming place, "What should we do?" We wanted to take the time to craft a list of things you can do while staying on island.
Here is our guide of eight "must do's" while visiting Nantucket!
1. Rent a scooter or bike.
Explore Nantucket in full with a leisurely ride on a bike or scooter. Nantucket Bike Shop has given tourists and residents the best view of Nantucket since 1976 and continues to provide top-quality equipment and quick, courteous service to every visitor. You can witness the entire island in the fresh open air and enjoy the full, rich seaside panorama from the seat of your bike or scooter.
Their bike fleet includes only top manufacturers of cycling equipment, including Specialized and Giant Bicycles. The resilient structure and comfortable design provides a superior ride and accommodates the needs of every new or experienced cyclist. Their bikes are outfitted with thick, puncture-resistant tires to give you a safe, smooth ride and ergonomic seats to ward off muscle and back strain. If you’re looking for a faster open-air ride, try one of our Kymco or Lance single– and double-seat scooters.
2. Tour Great Point Light
Towering more than 60 feet, this historic lighthouse was established in 1784, destroyed in 1984 and rebuilt in 1986. Located on the Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge. You can get a tour of the lighthouse if you join one of the Trustees of Reservations guided natural history tours depending on the time of year and access to the lighthouse. Beach access is limited during storms and high tides. Always check the local Great Point tides and never drive through water! You can rent a jeep and drive out there for a once in a lifetime experience!
3. Marvel at History
Did you know Nantucket is home to many historic homes? In fact, Nantucket is home to one house that was constructed before the Declaration of Independence was signed! 11 Hussey Street is one of those homes! 11 Hussey Street, a large timber-frame home built in 1735, has recently been artfully renovated and restored. Many original features such as the historic winder staircase, original paneling, cooking fireplaces, beams, and "gunstock" posts have been preserved while incorporating every modern amenity today's owner desires.
4. Go Sailing with Endeavor Sailing Excursions
The Endeavor has been offering sailing excursions in Nantucket Sound for 30 years. Voted by Yankee Magazine as "Best in New England," the Endeavor operates from May-October. Per person, fares start at $45.00. Private charters are available for an outing with family and friends or as an activity for corporate meetings. Reservations are suggested. There is not much more 'Nantucket' than sailing around the harbor at sunset!
5. The Whaling Museum
The Whaling Museum, operated by the Nantucket Historical Association (founded in 1894), is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Featuring permanent and rotating exhibitions in 9 premium galleries, with over a thousand works of art, artifacts, and treasures on display, it tells the Island's fascinating stories over four centuries. Numerous daily programs by our interpreters, children's' activities in the Discovery Center, and intimate spotlight tours complement the visit. The museum is home to a 46-foot sperm whale skeleton, a massive Fresnel lens, a restored 1847 candle factory, and a relaxing, fully-accessible rooftop deck offer stunning views of Nantucket harbor. Maximize your visit by going to our nine historic homes and sites which are open to the public. The Nantucket Whaling Museum is located just steps from both of the ferry docks, so this is often one of the first places people visit when coming to Nantucket. Make sure you block off some time because there is a lot to see and to learn.
6. Visit Brant Point Lighthouse
Established in 1746, America's second-oldest lighthouse has been in service for more than 250 years. Brant Point Lighthouse is the lighthouse seen as you enter the harbor on either the Hyline or The Steamship Authority Ferry service. This is a great place to capture photos of you and your family. Very often, you will see families who hire professional photographers out here, creating long-lasting memories.
7. Visit Cisco Brewery
This is a must-do on island! Open every day year-round, dog, and kid-friendly! Cisco is home to not just a craft brewery but also a distillery and a vineyard as well! In the summer it can be quite busy here, but it is equipped to handle the traffic. Often there are multiple food trucks on-site as well as live music. The downside to some may be that there is not much place to seek shelter from the sun if you need a break from the heat, so bring a hat! Another impressive feature of the brewery is the shuttle. You can get a free shuttle ride to and from the brewery right from Federal St (just across from our office!). They pick you up at 23 Federal Street daily every 20 minutes from Noon to 6:30 pm in season (Starts May 10th!).
8. Go to Surfside Beach!
This is one of the most popular beaches on Nantucket. Very family friendly though the surf can get heavy at times. Lifeguards are on duty in-season at this beach. Located at the end of Surfside Road, a three-mile ride on the paved bike path or take the NRTA Shuttle in season. Easy to park your car in the lot near the beach, and this beach is easily accessible by bike path. Plenty of surf, wide beach is suitable for picnics, beach games, and surfcasting. Kite flying west of Surfside Beach is acceptable; for safety reasons, please do not fly kites east of Surfside toward the airport. Due to the number of people who frequent Surfside Beach during the day, it is inadvisable to fly kites during the peak beachgoing hours. Surfside is good for shelling in the early morning and famous in the evenings for surfcasting.