The island of Nantucket
Nantucket Island is 30 miles south of Cape Cod. The island is 14 miles long by 3 ½ miles wide. It is one of the two major islands of “The Cape and Islands” (the other being Martha’s Vineyard) and is accessible only by boat and air.
Nantucket Town and harbor is where most of the island’s population lives. Nantucket has a rich maritime history. Nantucket Boat Basin is the premiere destination for New England-area sailors and yacht captains. Stroll along Nantucket Town’s cobbled stoned main street and down the picturesque wharves. The charming seaside village of Siasconset (called ‘Sconset by islanders) on the island’s southwestern side has picturesque streets alongside a stunning, sandy beach.
Nantucket has changed from a near-hundred year reign as Whaling Capital of the World to a premiere summer resort. It is a wonderful destination with magnificent beaches, numerous well-groomed bicycle paths, charming scenery and good shopping and dining. The island has been an art colony since the 1920s.
Nantucket Island’s original Native American inhabitants, the Wampanoag people, lived undisturbed for centuries. Settlement by the British began in earnest by 1659. In the pre-1672 colony, a whale entered the harbor and was pursued and killed by the settlers. This event started the Nantucket whaling industry.
By 1850, whaling was in decline. As a result of depopulation, the island was left under-developed and isolated until the mid-20th century. The isolation kept many of the pre-Civil War buildings intact. By the 1950s, developers created an upmarket destination for wealthy people in the Northeastern United States, by restoring many of these buildings, among other things.
Nantucket Town is designated a National Historic Landmark District, being the “finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town”.
Highlights of Nantucket Town
Nantucket Town and Harbor – http://www.nantucketonline.com
The Nantucket Whaling Museum – 15 Broad Street
This outstanding museum illuminates the stories of Nantucket’s people over four centuries. Rooftop observation deck http://www.nha.org/sites/index.html Price varies
Historic walking tours:
– Guided historic walking tours depart from the Whaling Museum twice daily. Price $10
– A self-guided (free) Historic Walking Tour is available in pamphlet form. Visit the Nantucket Visitor’s Center for a pamphlet at 0 Main Street, Nantucket Town.
Sail aboard the Friendship Sloop Endeavor – Established in 1982, this United States Coast Guard certified vessel, is the largest operating sailing charter on Nantucket. It is docked at Straight Wharf, a short walk from the ferry landings. $45 for 1 1 /2 hour sail. Www.endeavorsailing.com 508-228-5585 (call for schedule)
Highlights of Siasconset Village
Siasconset – http://www.newenglandtravelplanner.com/go/ma/nantucket/sconset/
From Nantucket Town, ride a bike 7 miles or take The Wave bus to the village square. Here you will find the Sconset Cafe, Claudette’s Sandwiches, and the local Siasconset Market. To the right of Claudette’s is the downhill road to the pristine beach, about 100 yards away. At the square, walk or ride toward the beach (not the road down to the beach) to see a row of 18th/19th century quaint cottages overlooking the ocean. There are also other streets with charming homes you may want to see.
Beaches of Nantucket Island
Vast stretch of stunning natural beaches around the island are open and free to the public. The coastline is ever-changing – shifting with the sands. For a map of Nantucket beach areas visit: http://www.nantucket-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/117
Jettie Beach – http://www.jettiessandbar.com
A wonderful sunbathing beach about a mile from town. Ride a bike, walk, or take the public bus which departs regularly in front of the Whaling Museum. A historic lighthouse is visible along the way. Have a great lunch at the Jettie Sand Bar right at the beach.
Steps Beach – http://www.beach.com/beaches-nantucket-massachusetts-usa-steps-beach-beach
Next to Jettie Beach there are many steep steps down to the beach. Here you will see beautiful views of Nantucket Sound and Great Point.
Madaket Beach – http://www.newenglandboating.com/destinations/madaket-nantucket/
The summer colony of Madaket has a secluded and peaceful harbor and beautiful beach with one shop and restaurant. Madaket was where the first European settlers of Nantucket landed in 1659 and quickly set about “procuring” land from the resident Wampanoag Indians. In the following centuries the area served as a farming and fishing community, until modern transportation transformed it into an idyllic vacation spot in the mid-1900s. Easily reachable by bike on paved bike path from Nantucket Town or the Wave public bus
Surfside Beach – http://www.travel.usnews.com/Nantucket_MA/Things_To_Do/Surfside_Beach_62039
On the south side of the island, Surfside Beach is a beautiful, wide beach. Take the lovely, flat 3 1/2 mile bike ride from Nantucket Town or ride the Wave public bus.