A Summer Guide to Nantucket Island, USA
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
If you’re reading this post because you’re thinking of going to Nantucket STOP. GO BOOK YOUR TICKETS! And then come back.
Perfect, you made the right choice.
Cobblestone roads, incredible beaches, island vibes, amazing food, stunning scenery, a party atmosphere as well as chilled relaxing settings there is literally nothing NOT to like about Nantucket Island.
I’ve travelled all over the world and my all-time favorite vacation destination is only 30 miles from my doorstep.
I mean, look at it…
Unfortunately, this kind of beauty doesn’t come without a price.
Nantucket is a little pricey as far as beach vacation go. But, there are ways to do Nantucket in a day and keep your costs relatively low.
Nantucket is an island 30 miles off of the mainland of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There is a small airport on the island with flights from D.C., Boston and New York City but majority of people get to Nantucket via ferry boats that leave from Hyannis, Cape Cod. There are two boat companies: Hyline and Steamship Authority that both run two types of boats, traditional ‘slow’ boats that take around 2.5 hours, and fast ferries which will get you there in just 1.
The price jumps pretty drastically from a slow boat to a fast boat so if I’m trying to save money I usually take the earliest slow boat there and the latest fast boat back (so that I’m not too wiped out to drive home).
The boat ride is smooth and usually pretty pleasant. I love taking the boat to Nantucket because it really drives home the fact that you’re going to and island and removing yourself from the ‘rest of the world.’ It kind of helps me start to relax and get into vacation mode, and what could be better than that?
All of the Hyline and Steamship ferries will deliver you straight into the middle of bustling downtown Nantucket which is lined with adorable boutique shopping and great restaurants with outdoor seating.
Hit up one of the many spots along downtown Nantucket for a sandwich for the beach. Provisions is a popular choice and it’s located right in town when you get off the ferry.
If you’re looking to save money the cheapest place in town for a sandwich is the Stop and Shop by the boat basin. Right as you walk in and to the right they have an assortment of pre-made foot-long sub sandwiches for about $5 that are actually pretty good. The all-time best place to grab a sandwich in Nantucket though?
It’s not really walkable from town but if you rent bikes it’s totally accessible. It’s kind of tucked away on Cliff Road but look for a mailbox with it’s logo flower sticker (it’s that same flower sticker you’ve probably spotted on about two dozen Land Rovers and Jeeps weaving through those cobblestone roads) and turn down the long gravelly driveway towards what looks like a little house with a giant lawn and a wraparound porch. I don’t even have any recommendations for what you should get there because you literally CAN’T LOSE. IT’S ALL DELICIOUS. But, do get one of their homemade cookies… and a Matt Fee Tea…. and maybe an extra loaf of bread for later… and definitely a flower logo sticker to put on your car… and ok, maybe a T-shirt.
Another great sandwich spot, although it is far out of town on the other side of the island, Siasconset (‘Sconset to locals) is Claudette’s. Try the homemade turkey salad.
If it’s rainy or you’re staying on Island for longer… don’t miss Black Eyed Susan’s for the breakfast of a lifetime! The line for brunch is always out the door and around the corner, and for good reason!! I highly recommend the pancakes.
Ok, now that you’re covered on food time to get to the beach. There’s an abundance of options but here’s a little run-down.
Nobadeer: The party beach! This is the cool beach you probably see on Instagram absolutely packed with people on July 4th. This is a drive on beach so you’re likely to see a bunch of Land Rovers, Jeeps and other 4WD’s lined up along the beach and people set up to stay out all day. There’s good surf and great boogie boarding conditions. This is the beach for games, people watching, and partying. Note: this beach is best accessed by car. If you’re relying on the bus take the bus to Surfside and walk down the beach for about 25 minutes.
Surfside: Surfside is super easy to get to by bus and even bike if you don’t mind a longer ride from town. Great boogie boarding and there is a snack bar at the top of the beach by the parking lot.
Jetties: While Nobadeer and Surfside have bigger surf Jetties and Steps are generally pretty flat and calm. A great family beach for families with younger kids or less confident swimmers. Jetties has a big beach restaurant at the top where you can get burgers and soda, etc.
Steps: Just down the beach from Jetties but much less crowded. Steps is truly stunning and rivals Nobadeer with my favorite beach in Nantucket. Perfect beach to ride bikes to from downtown ACK.
About getting to the beach… if you’ve got a bike, grab a little map of the island (you can find them free from pretty much everywhere) and head off. If you’re on foot, don’t worry, the NRTA Wave Bus is actually pretty awesome. It runs frequently and anywhere between $1 and $3 per ride.
After the beach there’s only one place to be and that is Cisco Brewery.
How to even describe this place? An outdoor beer garden located in the center of farm fields packed with families, locals, dogs, college students and everyone and anyone else enjoying a cold one after the beach. Live music, food trucks, freshly brewed beers, summery cocktails, AH take me bACK. This place is always PACKED so expect a crowd. Attire is anything from barefoot from the beach to a nicer sundress…anything goes.
Afterwards, have dessert before dinner and head to The Juice Bar in town before the after-diner line gets too long. You’ll be able to spot it by the GIGANTIC queue of people weaving their way down the street or the smell of freshly made waffle cones wafting out of the open window. FYI it’s cash only and its super delicious.
Looking for dinner? My #1 spot is beachy-casual Millie’s in Madaket for fish tacos with a stunning sunset view. I save room all day for the Step’s Beach lobster quesadillas washed down with Millie’s Margaritas, OMG I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Feeling a little fancier? CRU on Straight Wharf has incredible food and even better people watching but be warned, it will 100% break the bank.
Lost track of time? If you spent too long at Cisco and need to catch your ferry stop by Oath Pizza on Straight Wharf for a craft pizza. My favorite is the Spicy Mother Clucker.
In the mood for some FABULOUS Italian food? Head to Fusaro’s. Another favourite of mine. The pasta is always fresh and definitely rivals the ‘real stuff’ Mom and I had in Rome earlier this summer!
After dinner take a stroll down Straight Wharf and ogle at the super yachts parked along the tiny pier. It’s best at night because the insides of the boat are all lit up and you can really crane your neck and try to see who’s in there. It’s like watching an episode of Below Deck come to life.
If you’re only staying in Nantucket for the day this is around the time you’ll probably have to catch the last ferry back to Hyannis and head home, I feel for you, I really do.
This is an AWESOME day trip and if that’s all you can swing for right now STILL DO IT. YOU’LL HAVE AN EPIC DAY. But, if you managed to find a place to stay (Or if you desperately posted on Facebook while at Cisco brewery begging that one friend you know who has a house on the island to let you sleep on their garage floor—-may or may not be guilty of that one) get ready for Even More Fun!
*I’ve also had friends who have called some of the B&Bs around the island right before the last ferry left and asked for a last minute deal and they’ve had some major success but I’ve never had the guts to do that.*
Anyways, about the Even More Fun, Nantucket nightlife is without a doubt my favorite nightlife ever. People on Nantucket know how to party and after long, hot days at the beach a big night out is just what the captain ordered.
My ALL TIME #1 FAVORITE bar in the world is The Chicken Box.
Don’t miss it! It’s a total dive but I’ve never in my life had more fun on a night out than there. They have some really good live music nearly every night, I got to see Collie Buddz there two years ago which was awesome.
Other spots are...The Gazebo which is right in town by the Hyline Ferry dock. Straight Wharf is right by the Gazebo. Another iconic stop is The Club Car which is also in town. It really is a restored railway car right that turns into a booming piano bar after dark. This little list barely scratches the surface… there are so many great places popping up on the island, there is definitely no shortage of places to drink in Nantucket!
And that’s your day in Nantucket! Wake up the next morning and repeat for as long as you’re lucky enough to be living the #islandlife.
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Have you been to Nantucket before? What did you think!! Leave me a comment below!!
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