Vacation Massachusetts – Nantucket

Just in time for vacation season, the last installment in the ‘Vacation Massachusetts’ trilogy, featuring the far-away, maritime island of Nantucket. Located thirty miles, south of Cape Cod and just seven miles from Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket is also referred to as ‘The Grey Lady of the Sea’, due to the islands frequent and dense fog. The island is renowned for its elegance, architecture, beaches, and unique maritime history and culture, which started with the Wampanoag Native American’s, millenniums before the first European settlers discovered Nantucket in 1650.

In fact, the specific word that the Wampanoag Native American’s choose to call the island, in their native Algonquian tongue, has since been lost to history. Still, it is believed that this particular Algonquian word meant, ‘in the midst of the waters’ or ‘the far away island’ which later translated to ‘Nantucket’. In general, the Wampanoag are a fascinating people who told, and still tell, many stories. Their story of the creation of Nantucket, involved the benevolent giant Moshup, who created the present shapes of, not only, Nantucket, but also Martha’s Vineyard and the nearby islands.

The island’s economy and ecology changed drastically, after the English settlement on Nantucket began in 1659, when Thomas Mayhew, a European investor, sold his interest in the island to a group of wealthy shareholders, otherwise known as the ‘nine original purchasers’, for the “sum of thirty pounds and two beaver hats”. These purchasers included Tristam Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleaf, John Swayne, and William Pike.

A few decades later, in the mid-1700’s to the late 1830’s, the island became known as the whaling capital of the world. Great wealth generated from harvesting sperm whale’s blubber, led to the construction of elegant mansions in town and elsewhere, and surged in the islands economy, otherwise called Nantucket’s golden age of whaling.

Consequently, in the late 1800’s, the islanders started to see the decline of their golden age, after the discovery of a cheaper and a less labor-intensive fuel alternative, petroleum. In addition, the Nantucket Harbor silted over, which led to a decline in whaling vessels entering to port, and The Great Fire of 1846 destroyed most of the infrastructure of the whaling industry. As a result of these conditions, the island’s population declined in the late 19th century.

Nantucket slumbered during the post-Civil War. Awakened only by the gradual rising of vacationers, drawn to the islands beneficial climate, thought to improve health and respiratory conditions. Many of these vacationers purchased summer houses, furthering the island’s economic revival. Today, Nantucket remains is the ideal spot for a relaxing vacation, and tourism is the principal source of income for islanders. The perfect balance of elegance and seaside-casual, the island is indeed a far-away holiday for those looking to explore locally and for overseas travelers. With a quaint downtown, maritime museums, unique seafood-focused fare, plenty of remote beaches and sea-side trails, and its fare share of hidden gems, Nantucket is no stranger to those seeking a little down time, and a lot of thrill and adventure.

In conclusion, final vacation Massachusetts guide is organized into eight categories, which are narrowed down by generally-known areas on the island. These include: Brant Point/Town, Dionis/Cliff, Madaket, Cisco/Hummock, Tom Nevers/Surfside, Monomoy/Shimmo/Shawkemo, Siasconset, and Pocomo/Quidnet, with subcategories in each, which include, but are not limited to: Reserves, Sanctuaries, and Conservation Land, Parks, Beaches, Lighthouses, Activities and Sports, Farms and Farmstands, Art Centers and Museums, Shops, and Restaurants, Cafes, and Bakeries. Entries under the subcategories are in no particular order, however, there are links to every place/destination and a small write-up, detailing why every single destination is worth the visit. I hope this guide, not only educates and inspires, but also motives you to get out there are start traveling again!

One last slainte: To places of much speculation and awe, dare to explore!

BRANT POINT/TOWN

Harbor

Nantucket Harbor

A well-protected, quaint, and historic harbor, referred to as the ‘Great Harbor’, with gorgeous views of Brant Point Lighthouse, Coskata Beach peninsula, and Brant Point skyline. The very first harbor was located on the Northern shores of the island, but after years of erosion, the harbor was moved to its current location.  At the dawn of the whaling industry, Nantucket became the whaling capital of the world, and as a result, one of the wealthiest communities.  Giant ships, such as the Essex, would dock in the harbor, with its giant catches to be harvested.  Nantucket harbor tells the tales of an industry that rose into the spotlight.  The harbor boasts five marinas, the largest is Nantucket Boat Basin, which is full-service marina with luxury amenities, pet-friendly locks, and concierge service.  The harbor moorings are maintained by Nantucket Moorings, Inc.  There is anchorage space in a designated area, but most of this area has already been covered with moorings. If you are in need of repair, Gray Lady Marine is located in the far-south portion of the Harbor.

Beaches

Jetties Beach

One of the most popular beaches, located on the north shore.  Jetties beach gets its name from the large jetty located at its point, that creates the channel into Nantucket harbor.  Nearby, there is a parking lot, café/restaurant, restrooms, tourist shop, park, boardwalk, pavilion, playground, and tennis court.

Children’s Beach

Located in Nantucket harbor, Children’s Beach has calm waters that are great for swimming.  There is also a café, playground, picnic area with tables, a parking lot and restrooms.

Francis Street Beach

A few minutes’ walk from Main Street, Francis Street Beach has wonderful views of Nantucket Harbor and calm waters for swimming; a great beach for families.  Nearby there is a jungle gym and restrooms.  Plus, there are kayak rentals for those seeking an adventure.

Activities and Sports

Endeavour Sailing Excursions

Nantucket’s oldest sailing charter, which is a United States Coast Guard certified vessel.  Captain James Genthner has over thirty-five years of experience sailing, and offers private charters and per-person fare sailing trips around the waters of Nantucket.  Sailing excursions are offered from May through October, including sunset sails.  View their website for fair rates and schedules.

Next Level Watersports

The ultimate watersports experience, offering premium kiteboarding and watersport instruction.  They specialize in kiteboarding lessons, hydrofoil instruction, efoil lessons and tours, plus wakeboarding and tubing excursions.  Bringing a big group?  Book their Watersport Camp or check out their various group events.  View their website for more information on rates and bookings times.

Classes

The Corner Table Nantucket and Nantucket Culinary Center (NCC)

A family owned, year-round, in-house café, and culinary school, offering group cooking classes, private dining parties, and culinary themed parties.

Library

Nantucket Atheneum

The islands only public library, open to locals and tourists year-round.  They have access to over a million books, plus a large collection of CD’s and DVD’s, including web-based services, free computer use, WiFi, and educational programs.  Their historic building, opened in 1847, is listed on the National Register of Historic places, and filled with various works of art and artifacts that celebrate Nantucket’s maritime heritage and history.

Lighthouse

Brant Point Light Station

An iconic light station, greeting visitors into the harbor.  The light station rests at the end of a small beach on top of an elevated wooden walkway, which provides access to the tower.  The light was established in 1746 and is the second lighthouse founded in colonial America.  The tower has been moved and rebuilt many times.  The present lighthouse is the ninth one built on Brant Point, as the original light was destroyed in 1757, in a fire.  In 1975, the light station was included in the National Register of Historic Places.  Owned and operated by the United States Coast Guard, the station remains an aid to navigation, and is closed to the public. 

Farm and Farmers Market

Sustainable Nantucket

A non-profit organization, founded in 2000, with a mission to preserve the community character of Nantucket, while sustaining it’s economic and environmental vitality.  The organization hosts a Farmers and Artisans Market that features forty-five farmers and growers, all produced on-island, by seasonal or year-round residents.  The market takes place every Saturday throughout the summer season; the selection includes a vast selection of goods, live music performances, and a kids’ activity table.

Museums/Observatory

Museum of African American History

The largest museum dedicated to preserving, conserving, and interpreting the contributions of African Americans.  The museum showcases the powerful stories of black families through exhibits, programs, and educational activities.  Their Black Heritage Trail features ten stops, and is divided into Downtown and New Guinea, the section of Nantucket where African Americans lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Other locations include, the African meeting house, the only public building constructed and occupied by African Americans still standing on Nantucket, now a National Historic Landmark, and the Seneca Boston-Florence Higginbotham House, owned and occupied by African American families for over two-hundred years. 

Whaling Museum

Run by the Nantucket Historical Association, the museum has both permanent and rotating exhibitions in nine galleries, displaying various works of art, artifacts, and treasures.  Also, the museum is home to a forty-six-foot sperm whale skeleton, a Fresnel lens, and a restored 1847 candle factory.  The rooftop deck, named Tucker’s Roofwalk, offers stunning views of Nantucket Harbor.  Check out the museum shop on your way out for some interesting souvenir finds.

Jared Coffin House

A historic mansion and one of the oldest hotels in Nantucket, constructed in 1845 by Jared Coffin, a successful ship owner.  The three-story mansion was the first built on Nantucket, and still stands today.  In 1961 the mansion was restored by the Nantucket Historical Trust and reopened as a successful hotel.

Old Goal

Built in 1805, the penal facility served the community for over a hundred years.  The goal was constructed using oak timbers with iron bolts and iron rods were put across the windows.  The last prisoner was housed in 1933.  The town closed the property and deeded it to the Nantucket Historical Association in 1946.  The goal was restored in 2014 and is open to the public during daylight hours.

Hadwen House

An elaborate Greek Revival mansion, built in 1946 by William Hadwen, a silver retailer and whaling merchant.  The mansion was donated to the Nantucket Historical Association in 1963.  In 1964, the mansion was opened to the public as a museum.  Many of the old mansion’s historical interior features remain intact and the various rooms display period furnishings and decorative objects, some of which are original to the home.  On the grounds of the mansion, there is a typical mid-19th century Victorian garden, maintained by the Nantucket Garden Club.

The Old Mill

The oldest operating windmill in the United States, still in its original location.  The mill continues to grind corn into cornmeal as it did in 1746 when it was built.  Today, the mil is owned by the Nantucket Historical Association and open seasonally every Thursday and Friday.  Inside, millers hold instructional demonstrations explaining the mechanisms of the old mill.

Greater Light – Nantucket Historical Association

A historical museum, once a summer home and studio of Gertrude and Hanna Monaghan, two Quaker sisters from Philadelphia.  Gertrude was a professional artist and Hanna was an actress and author.  They were a part of, what is now referred to as, the Nantucket Art Colony, which thrived on Nantucket in the 1920’s through the 1940’s.  The sisters discovered Greater Light, which was originally a livestock barn, that they transformed into a summer oasis, with architecture elements, decorative objects, and eclectic furniture.  The garden was also transformed into a with a beautiful patio with a place for both meals and gatherings.

Nantucket Aquarium

A seasonal aquarium displaying local marine species.  The Aquarium has a touch tank, an outdoor circle tank, and various aquarium rooms, each filled with over fifty aquatic species.  View their website for events and programming.

Loines Observatory

The only active research observatory and venue for public astronomical programs on the island.  The observation domes were built in 1968 and 1998.  They contain a refurbished antique 8-inch Alvan Clark telescope and a twenty-four inch research telescope.

Playhouses/Preforming Arts Centers

Theater Workshop

The Theater Workshop of Nantucket’s mission is to entertain, enrich, educate, challenge, and inspire performing artists and audiences.  The produce a variety of theatrical works throughout the season.  View their website for upcoming shows and ticket.

Dreamland Film and Cultural Center

A small arts, educational, and cultural community center, originally constructed in 1832 as a Quaker meetinghouse.  The building also hosted open meetings in support of the abolition of slavery.  Today, the Nantucket Dreamland organization provides year-round films, educational programs, and is a venue for the community to engage in activities of entertainment and education.  They have a three-hundred seat theater and a flexible meeting and theater space in the Studio theater, and in their beautiful Harborview Room.

Shops

ACK 4170

A popular, seasonal gift shop, named after the airport code (ACK) and the latitude (41) and longitude (70) geographic coordinates of the island.  Selling high-quality, Nantucket-inspired, accessories, apparel, jewelry, home décor, and art. 

Atlantic Nantucket

A high-end, designer clothing store, for women, selling a variety of home décor, jewelry, accessories, and clothes.

Murray’s Toggery Shop

A long-running retail store, known for selling the classic Nantucket Reds Collection™.  They also offer a wide selection of quality men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, plus gifts and home accessories.

Salt Boutique

A seasonal boutique, owned by Nantucket local since 2015, filled with beachy, one-of-a-kind apparel for women.

The Hub of Nantucket

A souvenir shop offering beach accessories, seaside décor, books, and magazines.  Plus, they have a full coffee and beverage bar; a perfect place to sit and enjoy a beverage with a book or people watch.

Toujours Midi Nantucket

A gift shop opened 1990 as a small French shop named, Le Cherche Midi.  With new ownership in 2008, the shop was renamed, but continues to pay homage to its French roots, while honoring the Nantucket style; selling an eclectic mic of timeless gifts, home accessories, jewelry, and ceramic pieces.

Nantucket Peddler

Open since 1990, selling classic Nantucket wear, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, and gifts, located across from the wharf.

Vis-à-vis

An eclectic boutique, selling one-of-a-kind finds and an assortment of clothing, accessories, and home décor, open since 1982. 

It’s a Shore Thing

Gift shop offering classic and contemporary hand-picked merchandise, such as home décor, apparel and accessories, and bath and cosmetics.  Many of their items are sourced from local artisans and designers.

Nantucket Clothing Company

Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team for the past twenty-five years.  They sell ‘Nantucket Wearables’ year-round, for adults and children, plus seasonal gear.

Aunt Leah’s Fudge

A popular, small fudge shop, located in a back alley on the wharf, selling over thirty distinctive flavors of fudge.  Started by Aunt Leah, who recently retired after thirty-five years of teaching; she now enjoys visiting the fudge shop and creating new fudge flavors.

Art Centers

The Artists Association of Nantucket

A non-profit organization supporting, sustaining, and enriching local artists and providing educational programs in the arts.  View their website for upcoming classes and events.

Travel

The Steamship Authority

Offering high speed, year-round, ferries to and from Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard.  Travel between Woods Hole and Hyannis terminals in Martha’s Vineyard and the Nantucket Harbor terminal.  The Nantucket steamship terminal is located downtown in the wharf/harbor area.  View their website for ferry schedules and rates.

Young’s Bicycle Shop

Opened in 1931 as ‘Harvey A. Young’s Bicycle Shop’, from the backyard of his home.  The store eventually relocated and has become quite popular over the years.  Still family run, they aim to make the rental process as quick and efficient as possible, seasonally leasing bicycles, cars, and Jeeps.

Affordable Rentals

A year-round car rental agency leasing cars, Jeeps, and mopeds.  Their Jeeps include a Great Point Permit for (OSV) over sand vehicle excursions.

Restaurants/Bakeries/Cafes

The Juice Bar

A seasonal, local favorite, first opened in the late 1970’s, and began making ice cream in the 1980’s.  Also, a full-service coffee shop and bakery, and juice bar, serving freshly squeezed juice and smoothies.

Something Natural

A seasonal, grab and go, bakery and sandwich shop, very popular with locals, open for over fifty summer seasons.  They also serve fresh baked bread, homemade soups, cookies and have their own line of drinks.

The Proprietors

A seasonal restaurant, opened in 2013 and housed in an historic Nantucket home, preparing internationally inspired dishes, family-style, for dinner and Sunday brunch.  The Proprietors is named after Nantucket’s original landowners, a group of men who bought the English settlement of the island in the mid-1600’s.

Breeze Restaurant

Part of the Nantucket Hotel and Resort, the Breeze Restaurant specializes in contemporary New England Costal and international cuisine.  They serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner in their cozy, nautical-inspired dining area.

The Nautilus

A popular rustic-modern bar and restaurant serving seafood dishes and tapas, small plates, with a creative cocktail menu for lunch and dinner.  They have two locations, one in Nantucket and the other in the Seaport District of Boston.

Black Eyed Susan’s

A seasonal favorite, American eatery, popular for breakfast, but also serving BYOB (bring your own booze) -friendly dinners.

The Sea Grille

Serving locals and visitors dinner for over twenty years, specializing in fresh and local seafood, known for their quahog chowder, lobster bisque, and bouillabaisse. 

Lola 41

A unique sushi and bistro restaurant, with international cuisine, influenced from the countries and regions that the forty-first latitude geographical coordinate resides on.  In its name, ‘Lo’ and ‘La’ stand for longitude and latitude, and 41 stands for the restaurants latitude coordinate.  The restaurants décor is also influenced by regions that align with the forty-first latitude.

Or, The Whale

A casual, New American style bistro and bar, with an outdoor patio, serving lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch; named after the classic American novel by Herman Melville, Moby Dick. 

b-ACK Yard BBQ

A popular, seasonal sports bar serving homemade BBQ, Tennessee whiskeys, bourbon, and craft beers right on the wharf.

Ships Inn Restaurant

Located inside the Ships Inn bed and breakfast, located in an old, 1831, whaling captain’s mansion.  The romantic American Brasserie-style restaurant, open seasonally for dinner, sources local ingredients and freshly caught fish.

Chicken Box

A local dive bar with live music and games, such as pool, ping-pong, and darts, open for over fifty years.   Started by Willie House, a young black man who moved to Nantucket from Kentucky with his wife.  Willie remodeled a small vacant shack for the purpose of selling southern fried chicken on the island.  The business grew in popularity and soon became known as the hot spot for Jazz and Blues, as Willie decided to bring live band entertainment to the island.  The business was sold to Robert ‘Cap’n Seaweed’ R. Reed, who then introduced Reggae to the island.  In 2000, the restaurant was sold again, to new owners, who continue to pay homage to the history and traditions the previous owners and their visions for the business.

Dune

An upscale American restaurant with modern decor and an ever-changing menu, sourcing local produce, fish, and meats.  The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, with three distinct dining rooms, an exotic quartzite bar and a patio. 

Oran Mor

An upscale New American bistro, located on the top floor of a charming and renovated house, serving native seafood, local produce, and naturally raised meats from select farms for dinner, seasonally.  They also have an intimate bar with an extensive cocktail and wine list.

Straight Wharf Restaurant

A rustic, upscale and seasonal seafood restaurant, with an extensive wine list, open for over forty-seven summer seasons, with views of Nantucket harbor from their waterfront porch.

Cru

A casual and elegant waterfront oyster and raw bar and seafood restaurant, popular amongst locals and tourists.

Via Mare

A recently opened, whimsical, Venetian-style, small plate dining restaurant, located in the Greydon House.  Serving locally sourced fare from the garden and the sea, alongside an eclectic and international wine list and exotic cocktails.  They have a unique Bohemian style living room/bar, and intimate dining room and, outside, a porch and street-style seating.

Galley Beach

Serving locals and tourists since 1920, overlooking Nantucket sound, originally started as a clam shack that evolved into a premier restaurant with event space.  This New American seafood restaurant, open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, has quite the unique dining experiences, with an open-air dining room with heated floors, feet-in-the-sand beach dining, and a canopied lounge with fire pits and a beach bar.  In 2008, they were recognized and praised for their gorgeous event space after extensive renovations.

American Seasons

A seasonal, intimate, and rustic New American restaurant with an eclectic seafood-focused menu and creative cocktail list, serving dinner, seasonally.

Brant Point Grille

Waterfront dining, located in the White Elephant Hotel, serving seasonal New England fare for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.  Their al fresco harborside terrace offers gorgeous views of Nantucket Harbor.

Venutno

A popular, intimate, and elegant Italian-inspired eatery, located in a Greek revival building, serving seafood, steak, and fresh pasta.

Handlebar Café

A year-round community space, coffee shop and bakery, with WiFi and lots of seating, plus an outdoor patio.

The Charlie Noble

A pub with nautical décor serving classic New England seafood dishes for lunch and dinner.  The name ‘Charles Noble’ refers to a smokestack from a ship’s galley.  The story goes, British merchant, Charles Noble discovered that the stack of his ship’s galley was made of copper, and he ordered it be kept bright.  The ship’s crew then started to refer to the galley smokestack as the ‘Charlie Noble’.

The Gazebo

A seasonal, lively open-sided bar, located downtown by the harbor.  A perfect place to enjoy the ocean breeze and grab a drink with family and friends.  They also have an indoor tavern, with outside deck seating, serving New England-style pub fare for lunch and dinner.

DIONIS/CLIFF

Nature Preserve/Environmental Literary Organization

Linda Loring Nature Foundation

A non-profit organization, promoting environmental literacy and preserving the biological diversity of their two hundred and seventy-five acres of property on Nantucket.  The also fostering learning through educational outreach, family programs, kids in nature workshops, and more.

Beaches

Dionis Beach

A popular, calm water beach, great for swimming, close to town and great for swimming, off Madaket Road, on the north side of Eel Point Road.  The beach is sheltered by dunes with a backdrop of steep bluffs and has wonderful views of Nantucket Sound.  Although there are no food concessions nearby, there are restrooms and some space for parking. 

Eel Point Beach

Eel Point Beach is on the most Western end of the north shore, a property of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation and accessible by foot or four-wheel drive, with appropriate permits.  The name ‘Eel Point’ came about due to the amount of sea grass in the area, which eels love.  The area is also a protected nesting area for shore birds.  Eel point is renowned for collecting seashells and watching sunset.  However, due to its remote and peninsula-like shape, the beach is subject to tidal flooding.  There are no lifeguards, restrooms, or other facilities.

Steps Beach

A gentle surf, sandbar-like beach with many steps that must be descended to get down to the shore.  Wonderful views of Nantucket Sound and Great Point Light with few grey-singled mansions surrounding the sand dunes, a quintessential Nantucket beach.  There are no facilities at Steps Beach.  In August and September, bioluminescent creatures can be seen in the water at night.

Washing Pond Beach

Also called ‘Water Tower Beach’, a great place to explore the many tide pools and collect seashells.  A dune path leads to the shores.  The water is very warm and shallow in the summer months, making the beach great for families.  There are no facilities at the beach, however, there is a small parking lot.

Parks/Trails

Gardner Park

The park is a Nantucket Land Bank property, purchased from the Gardner Family in 1995, once known as Gardner Farm, a forty-one-acre parcel actively farmed in the 18th and 19th hundreds.  Today, the park has many trails.  One of the trails allow access to the Massachusetts Audubon’s Lost Farm Sanctuary, possessing the largest pitch pine forest, with views of Hummock Pond, and the Land Bank’s Millbrook Road Property.

Sanford Farm West / Head of the Plains

Six-hundred-and-ten-acre property of the Nantucket Land Bank, the largest contiguous holding, that also abuts an additional four-hundred and thirty six acres of land, owned by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.   The area is mainly grassland, shrubland, and pine forest with a network of trails.  The property begins at Bartlett Farm Road parking area and has a series of short grassy loops that can be used to connect to the Head of the Plains trails that lead south towards Hummock Pond and eventually, the ocean.

MADAKET

Beaches

Madaket Beach

A popular beach with soft sand and a heavy surf, located on the far west coast of the island.  A wonderful location to watch sunset.  The beach has no restroom facilities or food services, but there is some parking.  The beach is accessible via a five-mile paved bike path, or a seasonal NRTA (Nantucket Regional Transit Authority) shuttle bus.

40th Pole Beach

A small wave beach, ideal for families, located on the north shore of the island, accessible by both foot and four-wheel vehicle with appropriate permit, issued by the Town of Nantucket

Smith’s Point

The Westernmost nature preserve, jutting out into the channel between Madaket Harbor and Tuckernuck Island.  Smith’s Point is extremely remote and is a great place to spot grey seals during the winter and nesting pipping plovers.  A full hike out to the point and back is at least ninety minutes, the longest hike on the island.  The point is renowned for its excellent fishing and views of Tuckernuck Island, a nine-hundred-acre island and a former whaling port.

Eel Point

A hundred-acre, picturesque, beachy point, and an important nesting area, with views of Nantucket Sound and Madaket Harbor, located on the northwest corner of the island.  The shoreline ecosystem of the point is one of the best locations on the island to watch shorebirds.  Four wheel vehicles are allowed to explore the point, with appropriate permit, issued from the Town of Nantucket.  There are no restrooms or facilities at the point, but there is parking at the end of Eel Point Road.

Restaurant

Millie’s

A relaxed, seasonal restaurant with a Baja-style menu, serving coastal fare, opened in June 2010, and popular with both locals and visitors.  Renowned for their Madaket Mystery cocktail, a rum punch drink, and their gorgeous views of sunset over Madaket Beach.  The restaurant is named after the iconic Nantucket resident ‘Madaket Millie’ Jewett, who spent her life caring for the beaches, animals, and people of Madaket.  She also earned the highest civilian rank from the United States Coast Guard.

CISCO/HUMMOCK

Nature Preserve

Smooth Hummocks Costal Preserve

Property of the Nantucket Land Bank, this coastal preserve provides a gorgeous walking location along the south shore of the island and serves as a gateway to some very popular beaches.  The property also has some of the island best examples of sandplain grassland and heathland plants on a relatively flat plain, running out the ocean.  The sandplain grasslands are a fascinating ecosystem and protected nesting habitat for both northern harrier birds and short-eared owls. 

Beaches

Cisco Beach

A popular, foggy, surf beach, with strong waves and current, and a large, submerged sandbar, located on the south shore.  The beach is accessible via Hummock Pond Road pike path, which also has a large parking area.  The beach has no restrooms or facilities.

Ladies Beach

Excellent surfing and boogie boarding beach, also ideal for strong swimmers because of the strong waves and current along the southern shore of the island.  The beach is located south of Bartlett’s Farm within the Smooth Hummocks Coastal Preserve, property of the Nantucket Land Bank.  There is nearby parking and a footpath through the dunes to access the beach.

Farm

Bartlett’s Farm

The islands oldest and largest family-owned farm, known for their farm-grown corn and tomatoes.  The farm has over hundred acres of field for growing produce and flowers.  Over the years, they have transitioned more than thirty acres of fields to certified organic produce.  The farm has an expansive market, full-serve kitchen, greenhouse, outdoor picnic area.  They also carry a sizeable selection of wines, craft beers and ciders.

Brewery/Winery/Distillery

Cisco Brewing

The islands only brewery, winery, and distillery.  The winery was started by Dean and Melissa Long, who founded the Nantucket Vineyard in 1981.  The brewery was founded by Randy and Wendy Hudson in 1992, after Wendy bought Randy a home brewing kit.  After the breweries rapid growth, they applied to license and manufacture high proofed spirits in 1997.  In the fall of 2000, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, gave Triple Eight Distillery a license to produce high proofed spirits.  Soon after, they tried their hand at making vodka.  Producing rum, gin and bourbon soon followed.  Today, their products are distributed in twelve states and their winery/distillery/brewery is open year-round and gets over two-hundred thousand visitors each year.

TOM NEVERS/SURFSIDE

Beaches

Nobadeer Beach

A beautiful, quiet, and wide beach, with plenty of surf, that stretches into Surfside and Fisherman’s beach, located near the airport.  A great place for a picnic, beach games, surfing, surfcasting, or to watch the planes fly in and out.  Parking is limited and the beach can be difficult to access due to its steep incline.  The Town of Nantucket allows over sand vehicles (OSV) access to Nobadeer beach, with appropriate permit.

Surfside Beach

One of the most popular beaches on the island.  Located at the end of Surfside Road, accessible by bike or NRTA (Nantucket Regional Transit Authority) shuttle bus, seasonally.  The beach has plenty of surf and is great for surfcasting, as well as, other activities, such as shelling.  Kite flying is also permitted on the West of the beach, but not during peak daytime hours, due to the number of people who frequent the beach.  There are restrooms, facilities, and food services available.

Miacomet Beach

A long beach with high surf and rip currents, located at the end of Miacomet Road.  The beach has no facilities or food service.

Fisherman’s Beach

A quiet beach, located next to Stone Beach, with dunes, dune grass, and a heavy surf.  Steep steps lead down to the beach below.  There is little parking, and no facilities or food services.

Stone’s Beach

Located on the south side of the island, the beach, maintained by the Nantucket Land Bank, has dunes, dune grass, and a heavy surf that local beachgoers love.  The beach is maintained by the Nantucket Land Bank.  Steep steps lead down to the beach.  There is a look out and bench to the right of the steps leading down to the shore after the small parking lot area Plus, a little free library for trading books.  The beach has no restrooms or food services.

Activities/Sports

Miacomet Golf Course

The only public eighteen-hole golf course on the island.  The other public golf course is Siasconset Golf Course, which is a nine-hole course.  The course was founded by Ralph P. Marble in 1956, when he bought four-hundred acres of land on the Southern shore of the island, with the intention of raising dairy cows.  This area of land was once inhabited by the Wampanoag tribe, who called it ‘Miacomet’ also known as ‘The Meeting Place’.  In 1963, Miacomet opened as a year-round course for islanders and visitors.  In the mid-1980’s Ralph sold the land to the Nantucket Land Bank, and the course was soon expanded to eighteen holes.  The course also has a functional putting green and a driving range.

MONOMOY/SHIMMO/SHAWKEMO

Park/Land Bank

Altar Rock

The Middle Moors is the largest expanse of undeveloped land on the island, with over three-thousand acres of protected open space.  There are three major areas in the Middle Moors, they are, Altar Rock, the Serengeti and the Pout Ponds.  Altar Rock is the most dominant feature in the moors at one-hundred feet above sea level, the fourth highest elevation on the island.  The highest is at one-hundred and eleven feet above sea level, located south of Sankaty Light.  On a clear day at Alter Rock, there are views of Polpis Harbor, Coatue, Great Point Light, Sankaty Light, and ‘Sconset Village.  The Serengeti is located in the Southern portion of the Moors.  The nickname ‘Serengeti’ comes from the low vegetation mixed with occasional trees, resembling the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.  Pout Ponds are kettle hole ponds in the Western region of the Moors.  Their name is a Native American word meaning ‘foot’.  Legend has it that they are the depressions caused by the footprints of a giant, named Moshup, that later filled with water.

Masquetuck Reservation

A compact reservation, roughly thirteen acres, characterized after the Wampanoag name for the Quaise region of the island.  The property contains a series of trails leading through grassy fields, shrubs, hardwood forest freshwater bogs all the way to the edge of the salt marsh, which overlooks West Polpis Harbor. 

Park/Land Bank

Discovery Playground

An inclusive STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) outdoor play, fitness, and gathering area, created in 2019 by the Nantucket Land Bank in collaboration with the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association.  The fully accessible playground includes a NetPlex structure, sensory wall, cozy dome, global motion and health beat fitness equipment, and a sixty-six-foot-long ZipKrooz, a ramped structure and collection of musical instruments.

Shawkemo Hills

A Nantucket Land Bank property, the Shawkemo Hills are sediment deposits left behind after the Laurentide glacier receded, approximately eighteen thousand years ago.  A network or trails that can be walked as loops, or used to connect the Middle Moors, illustrate the influence of the last ice age on the island’s topography.  The southern view has stunning views of the Moors and Nantucket Harbor.

Museum

Egan Maritime Institute

Also known as the Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum, open seasonally, with their grounds located at the edge of Folder’s Marsh open year-round, offers one of the best natural views on the island.  The museum preserves the memory of the Islanders who were devoted to maritime rescue and risked their lives to shave shipwrecked mariners.  The museum has both permanent and changing exhibitions, such as the history of Nantucket lifesaving, famous shipwrecks and rescues, life-saving equipment, the workings of the United States Coast Guard in modern day, and more.  They have a vast collection of over five thousand artifacts that includes surfboats, vintage photographs, a Fresnel lens from Brank Point and Great Point Lighthouses, and beach carts.

Farm

Moors End Farm

A family-owned farm, founded in the mid-1970’s as a self-serve farmstand.  Today, the farm has expanded to include a nursery and greenhouse operation and produce farm with over twenty acres.  The farm is well known for its corn in the summer and Christmas trees in the winter.

SIASCONSET

Activities/Trails

Sconset Bluff Walk

One of the most scenic public footpaths along the east shore bluffs, located behind private houses, also known as the Cliff Walk.  The walk is difficult to find and there is no parking specifically for the trail.  The trail starts in the village of Siasconset, also known as ‘Sconset, all the way to Sankaty Head Lighthouse.  To access the trail, walk down Front Street until you reach the end, make a right after 21 Front Street and a quick left.  Go straight after the sign that marks the Bluff Walk.   

Sconset Golf Course

The oldest and only nine-hold public golf course on the island, acquired in 2012 by Nantucket Land Bank.  Until the late 19th century, the land was once part of Bloomingdale Farm.  The farmhouse was concerted into a clubhouse and an eighteen-hole course was established.  Since then, the course has been reduced to nine holes but continues to remain open to the public.

Beaches

Siasconset Beach

A wide, and very popular, beach on the eastern most tip of the island with heavy surf and strong currents, accessible by foot, bike or NRTA (Nantucket Regional Transit Authority) shuttle bus.  Restaurants and restrooms are available in the village of ‘Sconset, a short walk from the beach.

Codfish Park

A Nantucket Land Bank property, donated by the Lockhart Family in 1995.  The original playground was located on the beach, but due to erosion, the structures had to be moved inland. There is no designated parking area, but the playground is easily accessible by foot or bike.

Low Beach

A quiet beach between ‘Sconset and Tom Nevers Pond, with sweeping views of the open Atlantic Ocean.  The surf can be heavy at times with strong currents.  There are no restrooms or facilities, and the shore is a bit of a hike from the village of ‘Sconset.

Lighthouse

Sankaty Light

An iconic lighthouse, maintained by the ‘Sconset Trust, sitting on a seven acre property.  The light was built in 1850, and was automated in 1965, and still remains in operation, at the easternmost point of the island in the village of Siasconset.  Sankaty Light was one of the first lighthouses in the United States to receive a Fresnel lens.  The lighthouse was moved in 2007 due to the erosion of the coastline, in which it still sits today, next to the fifth hole of the Sankaty Head Golf Course and two-hundred and fifty feet from the bluff’s edge.

Restaurants/Markets/Cafes

Sconset Market

A grocery store and market, selling ice cream, coffee, baked goods, and other treats.

Claudette’s Sandwiches

A seasonal sandwich shop, opened in 1968 by Claudette Pearl, a French-Canadian immigrant, who moved to Nantucket with her ten brothers and sisters as a young child.  Claudette’s son, John, now owns and handled the day-to-day operations of Claudette’s, for the past thirty years.

Sconset Café

An intimate and quaint beachfront restaurant, open for over thirty years, serving classics from both land and sea.  They also serve and sell wine by the bottle and offer free corkage to customers, as well as baked goods and desserts. 

The Chanticleer

Originally opened as a small tea house, The Chanticleer is now a romantic destination with a beautiful outdoor rose garden.  They serve seasonal, New England classics from land and sea and boast an extensive wine list.  They also take bookings for weddings, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, and other celebratory occasions.

WAUWINET/POCOMO/QUIDNET

Wildlife Refuge/Nature Reserves

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge

A one thousand one hundred and seventeen protected refuge, owned and regularly patrolled by The Trustees of Reservations.  The Coakata-Coatue, pronounced “co-skate-uh coat-oo”, is a remote barrier beach, made up of a pair of long peninsulas.  Rolling dunes cover hundreds of acres and gnarled wind-blown tree forest line the path to Great Point Lighthouse.  Gray and harbor seals are frequently seen in the ocean, feeding on fish and invertebrates.  The refuge is a unique, pristine hidden gem that can be accessed via foot or by four wheel, over sand vehicles (OSV) with appropriate permit, issued by The Trustees of Reservations or purchased at the Wauwinet Gatehouse, seasonally.

Windswept Cranberry Bog

Windswept Bog and Stump Pond, a human-made wetland, contain over two-hundred acres of retired cranberry bogs, shrub swamps, freshwater ponds, and hardwood forests.  Windswept Bog was once a certified organic cranberry bog, built in the early 1900’s.  The bog is currently in the process of being restored to a naturally functioning wetland.  The surrounding land provided miles of walking trails that connect to several other trails in the Middle Moors.

Parks/Land Banks

Holly Farm

A Nantucket Land Bank property, originally owned by Donal and Marie Craig, who harvested holly for local sales and export during the 1900’s.  The holly trees still remain along the southeast edge of the property.  The farm abuts Polpis Harbor and is intersected by a salt marsh.  There is a short walking trail that loops around the salt marsh through grassy fields.

Norwood Farm/Stump Pond

A two-hundred and seven acre Nantucket Land Bank property, once a component of Beechwood Farm, known for producing peat and cranberries, and grazing cattle and sheep.  Located in Polpis, which was originally the agricultural center of the island.  The Stump Pond, a man-made wetland, has an extensive trail system provides connections to alternate trails leading to the Windswept Cranberry Bog. The single-track trails, cross the easter moors and make connections with other paths, and access the Middle Moors.

Beaches

Pocomo Beach

A warm-water beach, great for kayaking and windsurfing.  There are no lifeguards or facilities at the beach, and parking is very limited.

Quidnet Beach and Sesachacha Pond

The hamlet of Quidnet is located on the eastern end of the island.  Quidnet offers two kinds of beaches, separated by a narrow split of land.  On one side, there is Sesachacha Pond, a warm, salt-water pond fed by the ocean during high tide.  A hundred feet or so over the dunes is Quidnet Beach, with gentle waves and no seaweed, a great place to collect seashells.  There are no facilities, or food services at these beach locations, and most street parking is banned

Lighthouse

Great Point Lighthouse

A must-see, extremely remote, lighthouse, located at the northern most point of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.  The first lighthouse, erected in 1784, was a wooden tower, officially named the Nantucket light, that was destroyed in a fire in 1816.  The second tower, made of stone, was built in 1818, and fell over in 1984.  The third lighthouse, constructed in 1986, was built as a replica of the original 1816 tower, and still stands today.  The light at Great Point continues to aids mariner’s navigation.  The grounds can be accessed by foot, although it is a seven mile walk in the sand, or by four wheel, over sand vehicles (OSV) with appropriate permit, issued by The Trustees of Reservations or purchased at the Wauwinet Gatehouse, seasonally. 

Restaurant

Toppers

Located in the luxury hotel, the Wauwinet, Toppers is a foodie destination, with waterfront views, offering an a la carte menu and serving seasonally inspired New England cuisine, along side an extensive wine list.  For more casual fare, Topper’s deck is located under a heated awning and still has wonderful views of the bay and a great cocktail menu.  Toppers is open seasonally for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner.

2 responses to “Vacation Massachusetts – Nantucket

  1. Nice work! Your readers might want to see Moby-Dick’s Chap. 14, titled “Nantucket” and packed with “extravaganzas [to] show that Nantucket is no Illinois.” (PS: An extra verb midway in paragraph beginning with “Consequently, Nantucket…”–“remains is.”)

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    • Thank you and thanks for reading and commenting! I actually, believe it or not, have not read Moby-Dick yet but after hearing so many stories in Nantucket I will have to pick it up this summer.

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